By Sheryl Smolkin
In September 2012 CIBC Economics reported that as of the previous June, more than half a million Canadians were in the process of starting their own business. Regionally British Columbia has the greatest start-up activity followed closely by Alberta and Saskatchewan.
If you are thinking about starting a small business or already doing so, saving money is a big priority. You may be surprised to learn how many free or low cost software tools are available to help you deliver a professional product with little additional overhead. Typically, enhanced versions of these products with more features are available for a monthly fee.
Here are some of the free resources I have used or become aware of since I started a retirement career as a freelance consultant and journalist three years ago. There are many other products with similar functionality available online so I encourage you to look for alternatives best suited to your business needs.
- Blogging software: A blog is a great way to promote your new business. You can be up and running for free in no time using programs such as WordPress or Blogspot. Depending on your budget and technical abilities, a blog can be incorporated into a more comprehensive website. For example, Savewithspp.com is an easy to update and maintain WordPress blog.
- Long distance calls: Using Skype on your computer or telephone for long distance audio or video calls will save you a fortune in long distance calls. Many recruiters now routinely use Skype for interviewing candidates worldwide. It has become an industry standard in many other businesses of all sizes.
- Google drive: Google Drive has a whole suite of free tools that gives you access to your work from anywhere on virtually any device. The feature I have found most useful is the ability to create shared spreadsheets with several clients to track publication schedules, release dates and billing. I haven’t tried it yet, but Google Hangouts which allows you to start or join an HD video meeting with up to 15 participants from wherever you are looks really interesting.
- Google doodle: If you think trying to schedule a meeting with a group of people is akin to herding cats then this tool is for you. It’s called Doodle and it allows you to create an event and invite people to fill in the dates and times they are available. Then you can go to the website and see how they all match up to select a common meeting time, or create an event that only allows them to select one time slot.
- Dropbox: Dropbox is another multi-faceted cloud-based solution. I use it for storing and sharing files with clients. It is particularly useful if you need to move large video or audio files which cannot be easily sent by email.
- Webinars: A WebEx basic account will allow you to set up meetings online with shared slides and audio for up to 100 people. A premium “for pay” account offers more features and can accommodate a larger group.
- Conference calls: Using this site you can set up free conference calls with a dial-in number. The only hitch is that the free product does not include toll-free (800) dial-in numbers Therefore, call participants out of the calling area will pay long distance charges. For pay services also offered on the site will set you up with a toll-free line and other features.
- Audio editing: I frequently do podcast audio interviews using an Olympus digital recorder plugged into my landline (yes, I still have one). Recently I turned my recorder on too soon and there were several seconds at the beginning that had to be edited out. Free audio editor for Windows saved the day!
- Newsletters: Paperlii is an intriguing free tool that allows you to pick a series of online sources and search terms which automatically run every day and generate an online newspaper which is delivered electronically to your client’s inbox.
There are lots of other free tools for small businesses including accounting, project management and sales management tools. We invite you to share information about free software tools available on the web that help you to run a small business with low overhead.
And remember, money saved is money earned!
The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is an easy way to save for retirement. There are many ways to contribute including via your credit card or automatic withdrawal from your bank account. Furthermore, as your company grows, Saskatchewan Business Plans are ideal retirement savings vehicles for small employers. Click here for more information.
Do you have any ideas for saving money? Share your money saving tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.