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Virtual Assistant Angel - Raleigh NC

The first "Landing Page", click on to see current site.

Free Websites are good and consider starting with a good web presence for a Small Business first!

Free websites have true value for someone just wanting to have some content on the web for people to read but not as useful for being found on the web. Starting with a web presence and using a URL redirect from a domain name may be better. Then take your time to build a quality website in WordPress. For example if you see the value in a Facebook business page you may build it first for your business, then buy a domain name that is easy for people to type in, like BrossmanOnFB.com and give that out first as a way to connect with you. Creating a keyword driven Facebook page with outstanding content and clear ways to reach you may be a better low cost way to start. Go ahead click on BrossmanOnFB.com and see where it goes. You can use URL forwarding (buy domain name and point it to some web link) with a free website as well. The key is if you do this for something like your Facebook business page or your Linkedin page than after you build a real site (like a hosted wordpress site) you can just add the Facebook page to your site and you now have two web presences that are driving business.

Free and paid Template-based websites:

If you want to just have some fun and start with a free website here are a few ones I have tested:

http://www.wix.com/

http://www.weebly.com/

http://www.yola.com/

A few paid Template-based websites:

http://websitebuilder.intuit.com/

http://VeryAffordableWebsites.com

You can also start with a free WordPress site and make more of a community service site sponsored by your company by using WordPress.com

Learn more come to one of my classes or contact your local Small Business Center at your community college to schedule one of my classes. If you do make sure to bring business friends to the class!

http://NCSmallBusinessTraining.com

Free software for businessYou can almost completely run a small business without buying any software today. Below is a list of many of these free services and free programs. Some offer a rich free service that allow you to pay for greater utility when you need it. Thanks to my Virtual Assistant Angel for compiling this list ( http://virtualassistantsocialmedia.com ). A few items you have to pay for or only give you a short trial. These items are marked with at “$”

Core office tools like Wordprocessing, Electronic Ledger and Presentation tools

  • OpenOffice.org – Wordprocessing, Electronic Ledger, Presentation tools and more that are free to download and use. This is a Open-source version of Office.
  • Google Apps Free web-based Document, Presentation, Spreadsheet and Drawing.  After signing up you access it from docs.google.com

CRM – Customer Relationship Manager

  • Zoho.com – allows you to create invoicing, time tracking, contact management and it is free.
  • Highrisehq.com – database management, contact search, follow ups, reminders and free packages available Email
  • Gmail – Without a question Gmail offers you free email, document sharing, task options, etc.

Event Registration

  • Eventbrite.com – is a free resource that allows you to create a registration page for your event that works with paypal and other payment types. Also, Eventbrite easily integrates with Mailchimp.
  • Evite.com – free email invitation program that allows you to invite people to an event and see list of attendees. Lists can be easily imported into this site.

Document Sharing

  • Google Docs – when you set up a Google account, you have the option to share Google documents with other people by clicking on the sharing option.
  • Dropbox.com – allows you to share large documents from one pc to another. This is a good resource when you are emailing pictures and large video documents.
  • skydrive.live.com – Microsofts:”25 GB of free online storage for sharing Microsoft Office docs and photos.”
  • www.mesh.com – “Windows Live Mesh 2011 helps you access the stuff on your computers from almost anywhere. If you used one of these previous programs, here’s what you need to know before you start using Windows Live Mesh.”

E-mail Marketing

  • Mailchimp.com – is a free email marketing campaign program. Mailchimp works best on the Firefox platform. Mailchimp has many options for sharing your newsletter and database info on social media sites if you choose. Also works with Eventbright
  • Aweber.com – ($) is a very good program that has options for newsletters, database, invitations and event registration links. Aweber has many options for sharing your newsletter and database info on social media sites if you choose.
  • ConstantContact.com – ($) is a good program that has options for newsletter, invitations, and registration pages. Constant Contact works best on Internet Explorer. ConstantContact has many options for sharing your newsletter and database info on social media sites if you choose.
  • iContact.com – ($) is a local email marketing campaign company that many people use.

FBML Landing Page

  • Pagemodo.com – is a tool that allows you to create a Facebook Fan Page Landing with step by step instructions.

Hourly Rates

  • Freelanceswitch.com/rates/ – is a fill in the blank site that gives you insight into what your hourly rate should be to charge your clients.

Invoicing

  • Roninapp.com – is a handy tool that allows you to create nice invoices while also allowing you to track your hours and make them in a nice presentable manner for a client.

PDF Creator

Install PDFCreator carefully. Listeners have complained about PDFForge toolbar, which is included. It apparently directs users to urlseek20.vmn.net. You should have the option of not installing it. However, some people believe it installs regardless.

If you install the toolbar and have problems, it can be uninstalled. Click Start>>Control Panel. In Windows XP, double-click Add or Remove Programs. In Vista, double-click Programs and Features. In either, find the toolbar in the list and remove it

PDF to Word

  • PDFtoWord.com allows you transfer a .pdf document to a word document. You will need to upload the document to the site and they will email the document back to you (max 6 hours later).

Pictures (Royalty Free) [Very useful for Blog post]

  • Fotolia.com – you can find pictures royalty free or purchase for as low as $5
  • Photobucket.com – there are some free royalty free pictures (some are risque…FYI) but there is a paid program $3 per month that is another option to get better royalty free pictures.

Photo Editing Software

  • Gimp.org – “Image Manipulation Program” Open-source free software you can download that works like Photoshop to edit photos.
  • picnik.com – Web based photo editing program and also is integrated into Flickr.com

Photo on the Web (sharing photos and using your own on the web)

  • www.panoramio.com “Show your favorite places.” Owned by Google
  • http://picasa.google.com/ – Googles downloadable photo program that lets you post photos from you computer to the web at Picasa.
  • www.flickr.com – Yahoo’s free photo sharing feature with limited uploads for free. Paid upgrade to get more space.

Video sharing on the web

  • Youtube.com – 2nd largest search engine on the web and the most searched for videos.
  • vimeo.com – Video sharing that is very big in Europe.
  • SlideShare.com – Web based slide shows.

Press Release Distribution (NC Only)

  • PRSurvival.com ($) is an affordable website for Press Release distribution.

Screen Capture

  • Greenshot, is free screen capturing software that allows you to capture a screen into a .jpg file (http://sourceforge.net/projects/greenshot/)

Twitter Tracking (and other social media status updates including Linkedin):

  • Hootsuite.com is a great program that allows you to track your Twitter feeds for new posts, pending tweets and follow various Twitter follows in different programs. Hootsuite also allows you to pre-post on Facebook Fan Page (yours or one you are an admin on), LinkedIn, Twitter and various other social media sites.
  • Tweetdeck.com is fabulous program for tracking Twitter followers, direct messages, re-tweets and more.

Signature

  • Wisestamp.com – is a great way to get a free email signature. What I like about Wisestamp is that you can add a live hyperlinks and a Twitter feed to the bottom of the signature.

Podcasting / On-line Radio and Audio

  • AudacityFree Audio Editing  Open Source software.
  • BlogTalkRadio.com – Free to offer podcast and audio shows. Offers a advanced paid version too.

Accounting / Money tools

  • www.freshbooks.com – Limited free invoicing with a paid upgrade you can use.
  • squareup.com – “”Accept credit  card payments anywhere with your iPhone, iPad or Android phone”
  • Paypal.com – Except direct money and credit cards with out big merchant services.
  • gnucash.org – “Personal and small-business financial-accounting software, freely licensed under the GNU GPL and available for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.”

Phone

Project Management, information management and File Sharing

  • DropBox – File sharing what provides 2Gig free and syncs from your computer to the web
  • ManyMoon.com – Task/Project management that works with Google Docs.
  • EverNote.com – Like a card file or multi media note system that syncs with all your computers and your phone. Free and advanced feature paid.*****

Blogging

  • WordPress.com – Free Blogging software with free hosting
  • Networkedblogs.com allows you to post your blog to various social networks automatically. This is a free program.

Password Management

  • LastPass – “An online password manager and form filler that makes web browsing easier and more secure.”
  • keepass.info – “an open source password manager. Passwords can be stored in highly-encrypted databases, which can be unlocked with one master password or key.”

Bookmark Sync

  • www.xmarks.com -“Offers bookmark synchronization, search enhancement and web discovery based on sites bookmarked by users.”

This is a small list of thousands and we want to hear which ones you like and why?

Compiled by Martin Brossman NCSmallBusinessTraining.com and Angle virtualassistantsocialmedia.com
Share this with others: http://bit.ly/freetoolsforbusiness

New World Coffee - RaleighFive Reasons for Buying Local

By Martin Brossman – Success Coach and Author of Social Media & On-line Resource Directory for Business

You can’t help noticing the current buzz about buying local, re-inspired by deep concern for the environment and the necessities of the economic slowdown.   Restaurants are proudly announcing more locally-grown foods on their menu, and many of our friends announce their decision to shop smaller specialty retailers instead of chain discount stores.

Aside from the warm fuzzy feeling you get from helping your neighbor, there are some strong tangible benefits to buying from local merchants.  Buying local is beneficial to the environment in a number of different ways, while at the same time boosting the local economy. There are also political implications to your buying choices. Here are a few of the ways your family wins when you buy local.

1. Reduced shipping distance equals lower environmental impact

When you buy goods in your home town, you reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption by virtue of the simple fact that no one has to ship the goods to you from a long distance. When you purchase industrially-grown produce, for example, it typically travels 1,500 miles1 or more before reaching your dinner table. The environmental impact is staggering. A 2009 study2 revealed that in the state of Iowa alone, fuel consumption could be reduced by up to 346,000 gallons per year if 10% more of the state’s food were grown locally. The same study stated that annual carbon dioxide emissions would likely decrease by up to 7.9 million pounds.

2.Local dollars stay in your community

When your dollars go to local merchants, they are much more likely to buy from other local merchants than large corporate-owned stores. Most larger merchants are contractually obligated to buy from suppliers outside the towns where they operate. They often buy in bulk from central locations. The increased number of steps in the supply chain not only adds no intrinsic value, but often results in lower product quality. The reinvestment of business revenues into other local businesses generates local tax revenues.

3. The economic boom and bust cycle stabilizes over the long term

A locally-based economic infrastructure is less likely to suffer radical oscillations, due to the fact that it doesn’t depend on a small number of large businesses for the majority of its revenue. For example, suppose a factory moves into town and employs a large number of the town’s residents. The newly created jobs will attract more people and create a swell in house prices. Then, if economic conditions force the factory to close down or move offshore, there will be no cushion to absorb the economic impact of these lost jobs. The real estate market will decline, leaving affected families underwater on their mortgages.

When a local economy derives its income from a large number of small businesses, economic recessions are less extreme. Since small businesses move into town one by one, and economic growth occurs at a slow, natural pace, the likelihood of a sudden “gold rush” drops off, and prices are less likely to artificially spike.

4. Communities have a greater say in their own future

Economic dependency on a few large businesses shifts political leverage away from the local community. Companies who dominate local economies tend to get their way, whether citizens of their host communities like it or not.  Your everyday decision to buy from small grassroots entrepreneurs or big-box stores has an impact on the power structure governing your home town.

5. Local  pride increases as revenues improve the local environment

A Google search can show you exciting evidence of nationwide support for local independents.  Innovative Chambers of Commerce and merchants’ associations are implementing downtown revitalization projects, local currencies, networking events, joint advertising and community education efforts to bring small towns back to life.

“Shop Local” campaigns are so successful that Corporate marketers are climbing onto the local message bandwagon.  They may use terms like  “shop nearby” or “your local _____.”   It’s a trend that’s widespread enough to have gained the name “local washing.”

So how can you tell who is REALLY LOCAL in your home town? They are locally-owned AND independent,–and committed to making their community a better place to live. There are also many franchises with local owners that are important to support as well, keeping money in the community.

Just pause and think before you shop–can I get this from a locally-owned business? Help others become aware of the value of buying locally.  If you see the value, share it with a friend. I just invited a friend to lunch and said, “Let’s go to New World Coffee House for lunch; it’s good food and local-owned.”  Share your stories of buying  local!

Sources

  1. URL: http://www.localharvest.org/buylocal.jsp
  2. “What Exactly Is Local Food?” Sustainable Table, January 2009. URL: http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/eatlocal/
  3. Schuman, Micheal. “Why Buy Local?” Helios Resource Network. URL: http://www.heliosnetwork.org/Why_Buy_Local.pdf

Contact Martin Brossman: martin@coachingsupport.com or (919)847-4757. His business coaching and training website is www.ProNetworkingOnline.com . Thanks to Dave Baldwin for his help with this article. To learn more about classes offered for Small Business Centers and Chambers of Commerce see: www.SBCSpeakers.com and select Courses

Click here for a printable PDF of this article.