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The best things in life are free

11 Apr 2012

For most start ups money and time are tight. Before you even begin producing a product or service overheads and set up costs can drain your finances, and your energy.

Rather than simply being defeated by the sheer cost of doing business, why not look for alternatives to not just save you money, but help you be more efficient and effective in your daily life.  There are many no-cost and low-cost options around to help you do exactly that so don’t make the mistake of thinking that cost and value are automatically linked.

1. Google Apps

Free for up to ten users, Google Apps will have your cloud set up in under an hour and you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it sooner. Retain your domain name and emails but run them through Gmail and you’ll be able to access your mail anywhere, anytime, from any device.

Add in Google Docs and you can begin creating documents, spread sheets and presentations with ease. Hit the share button and you suddenly have a very powerful collaborative tool at no cost.

Because of Google’s open source nature, the platform is constantly evolving and offering new functions and options.

Once you have grown your team to more than ten, the costs are still very low (especially compared to the cost of the alternatives) and the simplicity doesn’t change.

2. LinkedIn

If you need to build a quality network and you need to do it quickly, LinkedIn is your first stop. If you sign up for the basic subscription, an afternoon of time will be the only investment needed to get you interacting with potential suppliers, colleagues, employees, investors and most importantly clients.

For a relatively low cost, you can upgrade to a paid subscription and add more functionality and power to your LinkedIn.

Don’t be afraid to join groups - a no-cost way to network with other business owners  - or to ask for introductions.

3. Drop Box

If you’re not ready to move completely to the cloud but would like some freedom when collaborating - or simply the ease of being able to access documents anywhere, anytime, from any device try the free version of Drop Box. It allows you around 2Gb of free storage which you can increase to around 16Gb simply by referring other people to the service.

There is also  a paid subscription available for large teams.

4. Xero

Xero isn’t free but the cost of the subscription is very attractive and affordable for small businesses, especially when starting up. Xero allows you to keep control of your financial position and takes the pain out of admin, freeing up time and energy for more important tasks.

5. Telecommute

Okay it’s not an app or a service but it can help free up valuable resources by allowing you to save on office space and utility costs. If you have a good team and a service that doesn’t require them to be onsite consider telecommuting and using video conferencing services like Skype for meetings.

Studies have shown the savings are real and most employees to be considerably more productive when telecommuting.

Do you know of other low cost or no cost services or products that might help a start up business? Have you tried them? Share your comments below.