Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
If you’re an entrepreneur, especially for a small, independent business, then you’re going to have to learn a few things. First, you need to learn how to thrive on peanut butter sandwiches (at least until you start seeing some financial success). Second, you need to know about the best apps and programs for helping an entrepreneur get his or her business off the ground.
You need programs and/or apps for communication, organization, and managing your finances. Luckily, it’s all out there, and whenever it’s not free, at least it’s affordable. Here are the five best programs and applications for any entrepreneur who’s scrambling to find his or her footing in a frenzied time.
Evernote – Evernote is a free-to-download program that lets you save ideas, pictures, and sounds. It’s available across multiple smartphones, tablets, and computers, including PC, Mac, iOS, Blackberry, Android, and Windows Phone. Evernote’s search function lets you find what you’re looking for without a hassle. Never forget a prospective client’s name ever again—unless you really want to, for whatever reason.
FlightTrack Pro – Available for iOS or Android, FlightTrack Pro is a must-have application for anyone who spends a considerable amount of time in the air. With the touch of a few buttons, you can look up your detailed flight information, including possible delays and gate numbers. FlightTrack Pro even informs you of cancellations and suggests alternative flights. If your flying experience turns into a scheduling nightmare, you’re going to want FlightTrack Pro by your side.
Skype – Free Skype-to-Skype phone calls with clients or other workers can save you a bundle in phone bills. More importantly, whenever you travel out of the country, Skype-to-Skype calls via smartphone apps will prevent you from having to give up your first born child in roaming fees.
Dimewise – Dimewise helps you manage your budget as simply as possible. You can record and categorize your purchases, then take a look at your spending habits with the aid of a handy pie-chart. Dimewise is web-based, so you can access it anywhere you can find a browser.
Trillian – Many companies conduct a great deal of business via IM (instant messaging) chats. Problem is, everyone has their favorite, and they’re often not cross-compatible. Fear not. Trillian lets you log into several of your favorite chat clients at once, saving you the agony of having to juggle multiple programs. Trillian supports AIM, Windows Live Messenger, ICQ, IRC, Google Chat, Facebook Chat, and much more. It can be downloaded as a desktop program, or as an app for iOS, Android, or Blackberry.
For more great suggestions on programs that every entrepreneur should have, visit:
Top 25 Apps to Grow Your Business at AvivaDirectory
10 Best Digital Tools for Entrepreneurs at Forbes
10 Must-Have Business Apps for 2011 at Entrepreneur.com
Gadgets are more than frivolities; in many instances, we need them to work and function alongside the rest of our connected society. Problem is, tech is expensive and nobody is doling out iPhones like free bowls of soup. If we want the smartphones and laptops that have become part of our day-to-day lives, we need to fend for ourselves. Luckily, with a little patience and research, it’s possible to buy the best tech and gadgets even when you’re on a budget.
From laptops to tablets, and from Android phones to desktop towers, you can find what you’re looking for on the cheap with some patience, sleuthing, and a little luck. Here are five ways to grab high-tech gadgets for cheap:
Join the FreeCycle Network – FreeCycle (TFN)is an organization based in Arizona that hooks up people with technology by way of free “gifts.” Looking for a computer monitor that’s in decent shape? FreeCycle may be able to connect you with a person in your area who just happens to have what you need. FreeCycle is one of several worldwide networks that aims to promote the “gifting” aspect of consumer culture. Not only will you save money by participating, but you’ll help keep toxic items out of landfills—and you might even make a new friend.
Buy the previous model of tablet/phone/laptop – Tech evolves faster than Pokemon, but yesterday’s laptop still needs a good home. Consider your needs before you go ahead and drop money on something that’s cutting-edge. For example, if you plan to use your iPhone for some serious processing and gaming, then you’re going to want your hardware to be up-to-the-second. If you’re looking to do some lighter work, like surf the web, read books, play Solitaire, or just make phone calls (who uses their phone for that anymore?), ask about pricing plans for previous models.
Buy refurbished/second-hand items – Never turn your back on the free/refurbished tech market. It’s huge. Big box retail stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy are always refurbishing used items and putting them up for sale at massive discounts. Keep an eye out for open-box items, too.
Watch out for “Deals of the Day” – Woot.com is the go-to site for Daily Deals, but you should also keep tabs on other major retailers’ websites, including Amazon. Manufacturers are constantly advertising blowouts and deals, though finding exactly what you need admittedly takes some luck and patience. Even so, keep checking back. You never know when you’ll score that magic item.
Learn to do minor repairs – Learn how to make small electrical repairs: There are hundreds of resources on the Internet. We’ve unfortunately become a bit of a throw-away society, and people discard expensive electronics because of a blown bulb or a loose wire. Not only will you be able to rescue these items from thrift stores, but you’ll also find it satisfying to work with your hands.
For more advice on buying affordable technology, visit:
How to Buy Used Tech Gear Cheap at BusinessWeek
The 20 Best Products Under $100 at PCMag
Can you run a business without a smartphone in hand? Sure, but it would make your life just a wee bit more complicated. Granted, maybe running your business puts enough on your plate, and you don’t have time to run around and conduct the research you need to make an informed decision. But when you narrow down what’s important, choosing a smartphone for your business isn’t as intimidating as it initially appears to be.
What’s keeping you from adopting a smartphone (or several smartphones) into your business? Fear of additional costs? Knowing that you’ll just grab the first smartphone you see off the shelf because you don’t have the time or energy to mess around? Don’t panic. Here are five tips to help you pick the best smartphones for your small business.
Research which phone is best for your needs – What do you need your smartphone for, exactly? Phone calls, primarily? Email? Twitter? Facebook? If you’re truly interested in only making phone calls on the go, you can buy a feature phone and save yourself a whack of cash. Feature phones aren’t brimming with apps, but many models still offer email, personal organizers, Wi-Fi capabilities, and even a GPS. They’re perfectly fine for getting the basics done while you’re on the road.
Find the right carrier – This is the trickiest part of buying a smartphone. The myriad commercials from American cellular providers don’t help, because they all claim to be the best. So which provider/carrier is the best? There’s no easy answer, but you should think about what you need. Are you going to be making a lot of phone calls? If so, which provider has the fewest drops and the clearest reception? Are you going to be fiddling with your apps a lot? If that’s the case, good data plans should take priority.
Evaluate which operating system you need – iPhone? Android? Blackberry? Windows Phone? Oh boy. Again, if you love apps, the iPhone’s your best bet, though Android isn’t shabby at all. But Blackberries are generally affordable and still command a loyal fanbase. If you’re having trouble choosing which operating system to take home, check out our iPhone vs Android buying guide.
Solicit feedback – Seems like everyone has a smartphone, doesn’t it? Well, put that factoid to good use and ask friends and acquaintances what they like and don’t like about their choice. Is the 3G network dependable? Is reception clear? How much did it cost? Will they upgrade their phone, or go with another model entirely?
What’s your budget? – Finally, think about how much you have to spend. Top-of-the-line iPhones aren’t cheap, but if you have a hefty chunk of change to spend on them, go for it. If you’re limited, and who isn’t, go for an older model of iPhone, or check out your options in the Android market.
Need more smartphone buying advice? Read:
How to Choose a Smartphone For Your Small Business at American Express’ OpenForum
3 Tips for Choosing the Right Smartphone for Your Business at Entrepreneur
Picking the Right Smartphone at Tales of a Travelling Salesman