Building credibility and trust is the biggest challenge every startup and small business faces.
You may just be a scrappy startup today, but with a little hard work and maybe some luck you may well be a leader in your industry or marketplace come tomorrow.
But today is what counts. You need to convince potential customers that you have what it takes right now. That you should be taken seriously. That you can deliver.
This means you need to act as if.
Act as if you are already that market leader. Act as if you’ve already helped 1,000 happy clients. Act as if you are already the business or person you want to be tomorrow.
Just to be clear, to “act as if” doesn’t mean misrepresent yourself, lie about the truth, or reimagine the past. To “act as if” is to start down the path of building the brand, the customer experience, the systems, and the processes that will be the foundation of the future successful you.
This list contains small business management software, tools, and services that help you act the part of a big company even while you’re still a growing small business. They’re not all free, but they each deliver a much bigger potential return compared to the time and cost to implement them. Use them to hack your current business and turn it into the one you want it to be.
Product and Content
The phrase “content is king” has become a cliche in recent years, but that’s no reason to dismiss it. Awesome content can help you gain credibility within your industry and get your name recognized outside of it.
In the WORK[etc] Stack:
- WordPress – Your small business needs a website, and WordPress is still the best choice. Thanks to the many free and premium templates you can find online, you don’t even need any coding or design skills to get your new site ready for launch. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Use WordPress to create a professional-looking website that can be tweaked and customized to grow alongside your business without paying for anything other than hosting services. There are all sorts of useful plugins (some of them free!) that let you do everything from SEO to turning your website into a shop complete with online payments. You can do all of this without shelling out thousands of dollars.
- InVision – InVision is an easy-to-use prototyping and collaboration app for web and mobile projects. Just upload your design, add hotspots to link static screens together, and you can have a working prototype within minutes. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Presentation is everything; if you’re a small business then the impression you make during a presentation can make or break you. With InVision, you don’t get to just show off your designs with boring image mockups and PDFs, you can let your clients experience them — something that used to be restricted to big companies with the time and resources on hand to build an interactive mockup.
- Wordy – Use Wordy’s copy editors and proofreaders to make sure every piece of content you post or print has been cleared of errors. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: It may seem like a small thing, but grammatical errors and misspellings can easily come across as unprofessional. Make sure to run all pieces of content past an editor. Wordy lets you do this for a small fee.
- SquareSpace – SquareSpace is a content management system (CMS) that functions as a website builder, blogging platform, and hosting solution.
- Lander – Need a cool new landing page for your website? Lander’s page templates are specifically designed to help you with conversions.
- Unbounce – You can create responsive website pages without knowing a lick of code by using Unbounce’s drag and drop landing page builder. Unbounce also has a collection of free and premium landing page templates that you can edit to your liking.
- GoMobi – This is another cool service that lets you quickly create responsive websites that look good on any device.
Act As If: For less than $30 per month, a service like SquareSpace lets you make your website’s branding look as good as — if not better than — any custom solution costing tens of thousands of dollars. Add in a few landing pages built using Lander or Unbounce and you have a professional-looking website that screams “big-time”.
- CoSchedule – CoSchedule lets you plan your editorial calendar months in advance. Perfect for when you want to keep your blog and social media accounts constantly updated (and why wouldn’t you?).
- Spokal – Spokal is an inbound marketing automation tool that lets you create and publish content even faster. You can drag and drop images (with automatic attribution), tweets, and calls to action; get SEO advice as you type; and quickly conduct A/B testing for titles.
- Content Launch – Content Launch is a content marketing software built for small and medium businesses. The app has tools that let you schedule, plan, create, publish, promote, and track everything from blog posts and ebooks to landing pages and social media posts.
Act As If: Once your website is good to go, you’ll need a constant stream of awesome content to keep visitors coming back. CoSchedule lets you plan and map out months’ worth of engaging content for your blog. It also integrates with WordPress, making planning, scheduling, and publication even faster. Spokal and Content Launch offer similar services, with the former including a quick way to conduct A/B testing on your website pages.
- Problogger Job Board – The ProBlogger Job Board is where bloggers looking for jobs and companies looking for bloggers to hire meet. It’s not just limited to writing jobs, either — some companies use the job board to advertise for designers, consultants, and webmasters.
- Scripted – Scripted provides on-demand writing services for a variety of content — blog posts, white papers, social media posts, product descriptions, local content, and more.
- WriterAccess – WriterAccess is another website that lets you hire freelance content writers. One good feature is a very extensive specifications tab that lets you quickly specify exactly what you want from your potential writers, from keyword usage to sourcing instructions.
Act As If: As a small business owner, chances are you’re already wearing a lot of hats; having to write a two or three posts a week eats up time you could be using to grow your business. Fortunately, sites like the ProBlogger Job Board, Scripted, and WriterAccess let you build your own team of regular writers. It frees you up to focus on other aspects of your business and it’s usually cheaper than getting a full-time blogger.
- Help A Reporter Out (HARO) – HARO is an online service set up for journalists to quickly gather feedback from the public. You have the ability to do the same thing from both sides as a reporter and/or as a source.
- ProfNet – Similar to HARO, ProfNet is an online community of communications professionals made to provide reporters access to expert sources — i.e., you.
Act As If: Use HARO and ProfNet to look for business queries where you can share your expertise. If your tip is used by the reporter, you can add that under the “Press” section of your website — plus you can get a juicy SEO backlink to your site. You can connect with journalists, bloggers and other communications professionals, helping you position yourself as a thought leader — the go-to source for expert quotes.
- Fiverr – If you have at least $5 to spare, you can get pretty much any kind of content done on Fiverr, from websites and blog posts to logos and videos.
- Envato Market – A collection of premium templates, themes, and designs for almost any project you can think of, from videos and websites to software code and assets.
Act As If: Don’t have a big design budget? No problem. You can get graphic design jobs done for cheap on Fiverr. Just remember: you often get what you pay for when it comes to quality. If you’d much rather do the job yourself but need a little help to get started, Envato Market is a gold mine of premium editable video, audio, ebook, code, and website templates.
- Glisser – Glisser helps you turn just another boring presentation into an interactive affair. The easy-to-use interactive presentation software supports live audience Q&A, polling, slide sharing, and attendee feedback.
- Marvel – Marvel lets you test your iOS app designs and prototypes without any coding required. Just drag and drop your designs into the app, build your prototype, and send it to your users so they can start testing. Marvel records all screens, taps, gestures, and even video and audio reactions.
A small business can’t expect to field a marketing team on the same scale as enterprise-level companies, but there are still a lot of ways you can maximize your marketing campaigns without driving your finances into the red. These apps and sites let you do just that.
For more tips and tricks, check out our article on low-budget marketing secrets for small businesses.
In the WORK[etc] Stack:
- AdvocateHub – Influitive’s AdvocateHub is advocate marketing software that helps B2B companies ramp up their marketing and sales efforts with the help of their loyal customers. In AdvocateHub, you can build a community and invite customers, partners, and employees to complete “challenges” like referrals, reference calls, product reviews, and more. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Word of mouth is powerful PR. With AdvocateHub, you can turn your customers into an army of product advocates without spending years and money building up a massive customer base.
- SocketLabs – SocketLabs is a reliable and scalable email delivery solution for businesses. Use it to send out newsletters, track emails, and more. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Big business takes performance very seriously — especially when it comes to their advertising campaigns. SocketLabs gives you enterprise-level performance, reliability, and insight.
SocketLabs also helps you crank up your email security, giving you the appearance of a big company who places a very high premium on data security. Add a confidentiality notice to all of your emails and you quickly elevate the level of seriousness beyond what is usually perceived for small businesses.
- Manta – Get your company listed on Manta, a free online directory for small businesses.
- Merchant Circle – Get your business listed on Merchant Circle to boost your brand’s visibility and take charge of your online reputation.
- Google My Business – Get your business on Google and be found by your customers whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps, or Google+.
Act As If: OK, so you have a website, but can your potential customers find you online quickly? Being easy to find online is essential to making your business appear huge. Get your company listed on Manta, Merchant Circle, Google My Business, and other online directories.
- ReTargeter – ReTargeter helps keep your brand on top of your potential customers’ minds. This service lets your ad “stick” to people who visit your website and follow them to other sites they visit, meaning your ad could potentially show up on big high-profile sites such as CNN.com.
Act As If: Retargeting your ads makes you look seriously larger as most people still think only massive companies have access to these kinds of advertising campaigns.
- Perka – Perka’s mobile customer loyalty programs help you turn one-time clients into regulars. It’s a digital punchcard that rewards both your business and your customers.
- Woobox – Woobox helps you spice things up for your customers and social media followers by letting you create marketing promos like sweepstakes, fan-only coupons, contests, quizzes, and polls.
- Canva – Canva makes design simple for everyone, be it for web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations, and more. Even without a big-budget graphics team, you can quickly create images for your marketing campaigns and promos.
- Piktochart – Piktochart lets you create cool infographics in as little as 10 minutes — even if you’re a non-designer.
- PRWeb – Got something to announce? Send out a press release on PRWeb to increase your brand’s visibility and marketing reach.
- PR.co – With PR.co, you can create your own newsroom, publish press releases, amd quickly distribute them to your presslists.
- SignUpFirst – Need to get more people to sign up for your new app or service? SignUpFirst will help you market your product and create more buzz about your exclusive signup rewards.
- GrowthGeeks – If you’re already wearing too many hats to handle marketing, give GrowthGeeks’ freelance marketers a spin.
Royalty-free Stock Images
Spruce up your website, social media accounts, and marketing materials with these image resources:
In the WORK[etc] Stack:
- Snapwi.re – You won’t find any boring, garden-variety stock images here. You can even ask Snapwi.re’s community of photographers to shoot the exact photo that you need. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Your website text might be even better than anything Shakespreare ever wrote, but you won’t be taken seriously if your site looks like a basic DIY job full of terrible imagery. Big companies pay big money to commission top photographers and graphic artists to design their website graphics. Thanks to sites like Snapwi.re, you too can do it on a modest budget.
If you’re in desperate need of a custom job, you can always turn to Snapwi.re’s photographer community and ask for custom images that look like they came from a big-time corporate art department — but without the massive price tag.
- Unsplash – Every 10 days, Unsplash will email 10 new, high-resolution photos straight to your inbox. If you can’t wait the 10 days, the site itself has a searchable image archive. All photos are distributed under a Creative Commons Zero license, meaning you can use them for commercial purposes.
- Snapwire Snaps – If you don’t have the cash for the premium images on Snapwi.re, check out Snapwire Snaps, their public domain photo collection.
- Pexels – One of the best sites for 100% royalty free stock images. Everything here can be used for commercial purposes.
- Death to the Stock Photo – Sign up for their free monthly image pack and get a curated collection of high-quality photos sent to your email. The site now has a premium section that gives access to all of their photos, past and present.
- Flickr – Flickr’s creative commons section is home to a massive collection of free images, some of which can be used without attribution. Just make sure to pay attention to each image’s usage terms.
Facebook Likes and Twitter followers may not always translate to paying customers, but a company with 50,000 followers is easily perceived as bigger than one with 50. Build up your social media presence with these helpful tools.
In the WORK[etc] Stack:
- Buffer – Buffer is a social media management app that helps you stay updated and on point across all of your major social media channels. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Anybody can post on social media, but not every business has the money to drop on a full-time social media manager. Thanks to tools like Buffer, you don’t have to. You just set and forget. Your social media accounts get a steady stream of content. Your company appears bigger than it is just because you seem to have the resources to put someone on social media all day, everyday.
- Mention – Mention is a real-time media monitoring app that lets you listen to what people are saying about you, your industry, and even your competition on the web and on social media. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Mention gives you a heads up whenever someone is talking about your brand or industry online, letting you fire off prompt responses to any inquiries and questions. Social media is fast-paced, so the ability to consistently stay part of or on top of the conversation makes it seem as if you have a team watching over your social media accounts 24/7 — even if in reality that “team” is just you.
- SumAll – SumAll is a one-stop social media analytics dashboard that combines social media, web traffic, sales metrics, and other data to give you key insights into how your social media marketing and e-commerce sales are performing.
- KnowEm – KnowEm allows you to check for the use of your brand, product, personal name or username instantly on over 500 popular and emerging social media websites. This helps you secure your brand reputation quickly and extensively.
- Socialight – Socialight is another comprehensive social media analytics solution that provides real-time analytics for content optimization and metrics tracking.
- Perch – Perch is a free app for iOS and Android that lets you keep a close eye on your reviews, social posts, and promotions as well as your competitors’. The app consolidates online activity across Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google+, Instagram, Foursquare and hundreds of deal sites.
Act As If: Social media analytics and tracking tools such as SumAll, KnowEm, Socialight, and Perch let you take things a step further. By tracking metrics like engagement and reach, you can further tailor your social media campaigns to better target current and potential clients alike. You don’t need a team to use social media effectively; with these tools you can do it yourself just by spending an hour or two each week.
- Hootsuite – Hootsuite is a social media management system that lets you track and schedule posts for social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and more.
Hiring and HR
When it’s time for your small business to grow, these apps and services will help you keep the hiring process streamlined without compromising on the quality of your potential hires.
In the WORK[etc] Stack:
- LinkedIn – LinkedIn isn’t just a way to connect with other industry professionals, it’s also one of the best sources of new talent that you can find online. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
- FlexJobs – Need a freelancer or part-timer? FlexJobs will help you find the best talent available — even if it’s someone who’s halfway around the world from you. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: LinkedIn follows the usual social media formula: the more connections you have, the bigger you seem. Don’t stop at building connections with the movers, the shakers, and the up-and-comers in your industry, though — use LinkedIn to find and vet potential new hires. Used in conjunction with FlexJobs, you stand to gain talent that’ll help bring your business to the next level.
- Bullhorn Reach – Bullhorn Reach lets you use your social media accounts to find and recruit talent. The paid team version supports unlimited job slots; social sharing over LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook; auto-posting to multiple job boards; a branded career portal; recruitment tracking and reports; and more.
- Plum – Plum helps cut down time spent reading resumes and hoping your potential new hires will fit your job opening. It analyzes your role requirements and creates a shortlist based on applicants’ replies and the criteria you highlighted during the role analysis phase. No more going through piles of resumes.
Act As If: Limited material and financial resources are ever-present realities for small businesses. That means you need to find the best possible employees that you can. Online HR services like Bullhorn Reach, Plum, and FlexJobs help you do that without making you spend too much of your precious time finding the right people for the job.
These process-oriented services also help instill confidence in your potential employees — a highly organized hiring process means you’re not some scammy fly-by-night operation.
- Fancy Hands – Fancy Hands is a group of US-based virtual assistants that’ll handle everything from your work schedule to booking a hotel for your vacation.
- Perssist – Perssist is another virtual assistant service that helps you with calls, research, reservations, appointments, and small personal tasks.
- TaskUs – TaskUs provides outsourced customer and back office support. Their services include online research, data input, analytics, content creation and moderation, omni-channel support, and more.
Act As If: Calendar booking and virtual assistant services help you appear exceptionally well organized and also in demand. Don’t make it seem like you’re just sitting around waiting for a call; route all your calls to an assistant first before you pick up.
Business and Data Management
Big data isn’t just for big businesses anymore. Use these apps and services to keep your data safe as well as analyze sales and customer patterns for more targeted marketing efforts.
In the WORK[etc] Stack:
- Google Analytics – You’re already getting a massive amount of information just from your website. Use Google Analytics to slice, dice, and analyze all kinds of data about your website visitors. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
- Segment – Segment lets you collect customer data using a single API and send it to whatever tools you use — Google Analytics, MailChimp, Marketo, etc. — for analytics, marketing automation, and raw data access with SQL. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Big companies have whole teams dedicated to customer data analysis. Google Analytics and Segment let you do it by yourself. The data you learn about your website’s visitors can be used to create better marketing strategies and targeted content, helping you increase your brand’s reach and visibility to a point beyond what a typical small business could have.
- DocuSign – Collect electronic signatures, manage digital transactions, and create templates for common tasks.
- eSign – eSign is Adobe’s electronic and digital signature service. It’s as legal as an ink signature but without the manual hassles of paper.
- HelloSign – If neither of the two electronic signing services appeal to you, check out HelloSign. Among its features is seamless integration with G Suite.
Act As If: Are you still asking your customers to sign contracts on paper? It’s a digital world, so you need to act like a fully digital company as well. Digital signature services like DocuSign, eSign, and HelloSign lets you do business faster and helps give you the appearance of a big, fully-digital company.
- Carbonite – You can keep your data safe through Carbonite, a backup solution that securely stores copies of your data in the cloud. The cloud-based storage means your data is always accessible, whether you’re at work, at home, or out in the field.
Act As If: Data security is a massive focal point for big business. Keep your and your customers’ data safe with services like Carbonite and you’ll build more confidence in your company as well as give your clients peace of mind.
- eFax – eFax lets you send and receive faxes from virtually anywhere through your own local fax number.
Act As If: Don’t be surprised; a lot of business still use fax machines. It’s another way for clients to contact you, plus it shows that your business is big enough to cater to both digital natives and those who want more traditional communication.
- Watson Analytics – IBM’s Watson Analytics makes advanced and predictive business analytics easily accessible to small businesses. It automates the process of data mining and analysis, so you don’t have to spend years learning the requisite skills.
- Tranzlogic – Use Tranzlogic to measure sales performance, evaluate customers and customer segments, optimize your marketing campaigns, and and more using proprietary data from credit card purchases.
- Qualtrics – Qualtrics is another way small businesses can use big data. It helps you gain real-time insights into your customers, your market, and your employees.
- Stitch – Stitch is an inventory management tool that centralizes all aspects of your inventory. You can view real-time info on what inventory can be sold immediately and what’s still in production, automatically synch availability across multiple POS channels, forecast inventory needs, and more.
- Proposify – If you’re constantly sending out proposals to your clients, Proposify can help you and your team collaborate on and create stunning proposals.
From keeping your financial records organized to getting much-needed capital, these apps and services will help you and your financial team ensure that every single dollar is documented and tracked.
In the WORK[etc] Stack:
- Xero – Xero is an online accounting platform built for growing businesses. It lets you manage and track invoices, purchase orders, payroll, expenses, and everything else you need to keep your company’s financials in the black. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
- QuickBooks – QuickBooks is another accounting app that lets small businesses manage their payroll, inventory, sales, and more. The software’s features include marketing tools, merchant services, product and supplies, and training solutions. It comes in three flavors: Online, Desktop, and Mobile. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Online accounting software like Xero and QuickBooks lets you get your bills out faster and on time, meaning you get paid faster too. Not only that, it also makes your company appear more professional, with its own accounting department.
- Braintree – Braintree lets you offer a number of online payment methods — Paypal, Bitcoin, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and more — that makes it easier for your customers to pay you, wherever they may be. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Not only does Braintree let your customers pay you faster, the sheer number of payment options you give them can make your one-man shop seem bigger than it is. You appear organized and doing enough business to actually need these options. You can also do this using Stripe and WePay.
- Kabbage – Bank loans giving you a headache? Try Kabbage, an online loan provider that caters to small businesses. No paperwork, no waiting in line, and it uses your real-life sales data (not just your credit score) to determine how big a loan you can take out.
- Fundera – Fundera doesn’t give out loans, but it does let you connect with a number of lenders so you can find the best possible loan rates to get some much-needed capital.
- AngelList – A must-have resource for startups, AngelList can help you find an investor or new employees for your business.
- VentureFocus – If you’re looking for a venture capital firm to help you kickstart your business, the VentureFocus directory should be one of the first places you check. Just sign up and start looking for the perfect VC to match your startup.
Act As If: Having someone pour money into your company doesn’t just give you a big shot of confidence, it also makes your potential clients more confident in your business. AngelList and VentureFocus are the go-to sites for startups, while more established businesses looking for a fresh injection of capital should try Kabbage and Fundera.
- Gusto – Having trouble processing your employees’ payroll? Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll) helps ease the stress of payroll processing by automating tax calculations, filings, payments, and more.
- Avalara TrustFile – Avalara TrustFile is an app that makes it easy to complete, file, and track your sales tax returns. The app also analyzes 12,000 U.S. tax jurisdictions so you can quickly determine where you need to pay sales tax and how much.
- Expensify – Expensify helps you track and report expenses without any hassle. Just link a credit or debit card to Expensify and all charges you make to the card are automatically added to an expense report.
- Trippeo – Trippeo is another expense tracking app that lets you track your and your team’s expenses and share them quickly with your finance team.
Act As If: Keeping track of tax filings and expenses can eat up a lot of your time. You can hire a full-time accountant, but if you don’t have the budget for that then these apps and services are the way to go. Everything related to your company’s financials is kept orderly and professional — just like how a big company would.
- Stripe – Another online payment option is Stripe, which focuses specifically on providing the technical, fraud prevention, and banking infrastructure.
- WePay – WePay is an online payment service provider similar to Braintree and Stripe.
- Square – Square for iOS and Android combines a number of inventory, sales, and finance solutions into one point of sale (POS) system. It lets you track sales in real-time, manage your inventory, email or print receipts, instantly populate a spreadsheet with your sales history for tax purposes.
Having your own attorney on retainer is great. Unfortunately, not every small business can afford it. These online resources can help you get started on the legal side of things.
- Docracy – You can everything from employment contracts to basic service agreements on Docracy, an open-source collection of legal documents. Don’t forget to have a professional review your legal documents once you can afford it, though!
- Rocket Lawyer – Small businesses don’t usually have in-house teams of corporate attorneys, but there’s always Rocket Lawyer. They offer affordable online legal services so you can avoid the hassle and save money when filing various important legal documents. Even if you can’t afford an in-house corporate counsel like a big company, you can get the legal protection that your business needs.
- ROSS – ROSS is an online legal expert built on top of IBM’s Watson cognitive computer. Ask it a legal question in plain English and ROSS will provide you with a cited answer alongside a number of readings related to the topic.
- Bonsai – Bonsai provides free contract templates created by real lawyers, e-signing, and integrated escrow services — although the latter is currently in beta.
Act As If: The beauty of these online legal tools is that once you use them all together, you end up with a virtual legal team for a fraction of the cost of keeping actual in-house attorneys on retainer.
Let’s say you’re getting a new employee on board. You can use Bonsai or Docracy to find an employee contract template, head off to ROSS to check any legalese you don’t understand, and then have someone from Rocket Lawyer look over your edits and make sure everything is aboveboard. Perhaps best of all, you could do all of this without even leaving your office!
VOIP and Customer Support
You can project a “big business” image for your small business by using VOIP technology to route calls to your business’ many different departments — even if your whole company is composed of five people working remotely from home.
In the WORK[etc] Stack:
- Zoom – Zoom is a video and audio conferencing service that lets you conduct meetings, presentations, webinars, and more. One particularly helpful feature is screen sharing, which also allows you to share your iOS device screens. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
- Join.me – Join.me is a simple online meeting solution that lets you share ideas and collaborate with others, whether you’re on your PC or using your tablet or smartphone. Join.me supports one-click scheduling for Outlook and Google Calendar, plus you can set up your own custom link so it’s easier for others to join the conversation. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Video conferencing never fails to impress. The technology is now commonplace, but there are still people who think it’s limited to companies with deep pockets. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Join.me not only let you show off your “high tech” approach, they also add a human touch to your dealings with your customers.
Remember to look the part before you jump on a video call, though. Never go on Zoom or Join.me while you’re still in your pajamas. Dress yourself up. For that matter, dress your “conference room” up, too. Your clients are less likely to take you seriously if they can all see that you’re just sitting in your kitchen — even if you’re wearing a nice suit.
- Grasshopper – Grasshopper is a virtual private branch exchange (PBX) that allows you to instantly set up direct extensions for your different departments and route those calls through to your remote team. If no one answers within a few rings, any call can be automatically forwarded to your personal phone — be it at home, at the office, or your mobile. Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
Act As If: Grasshopper makes your company appear to be bigger than it is simply by giving off the impression that you have more staff than you actually do. Setup different routing numbers for customer support, sales, and the like to make it seem your company consists of multiple departments — even if you’re the only one who mans all of those numbers.
- Skype – Buy some Skype credits and you can call both landline and mobile phones anywhere in the world for a typically lower cost that placing an overseas call.
Act As If: Use Skype to buy a number in countries where your customers are located. For example, even if you’re based in the US, you can set up a UK number that lets your UK-based customers call you at UK call rates. It makes you appear like a multinational company — even if your UK office consists of just one guy.
- RingCentral – RingCentral is a cloud phone system that makes it easy to do everything from take calls on your desktop IP phone to hosting a video conference over your phone.
- Pushover – If you have multiple devices, Pushover lets you get real-time notifications for all of them on one device. The app can be used on mobile phones, tablets, a desktop pc, and even wearable tech.
- Switch – Switch sends calls and texts to all of your devices – your mobile phone, desktop, and even your desk phone – at the same time. You can stay on top of every single call or text; just answer the one most convenient for you.
- Breakout Room – Share your screen and conduct video presentations, online training sessions, and webinars with Breakout Room. It also supports chat and Q&A for attendees.
- Olark – Olark is a live chat app for your website. Make it easier for clients to contact you, provide targeted chat for users who do a specific action such as add an item to their cart, and track customer interaction with your support and sales teams.
Virtual Mail Address
- Traveling Mailbox – Offers addresses in CO, NC, NC, TX, CA, FL, OR, DE, NY, IL, and WA.
- Earth Class Mail – Offers addresses in GA, MD, MA, IL, TX, NV, CA, FL, NJ, NY, PA, OR, VA, MO, CA, WA, DC, and DE.
- eSnail – Offers an address in Canada.
- UK Postbox – Offers addresses in the UK: BH16, N13, SW19, W1, G1, BH15, W1A, M61, CF11, B2, and BT1.
Act As If: Having a mailing address across a number of major cities in the US (and even overseas) even when you’re an online-only company can help build up your reputation. It makes you seem like a national company, for example. These services let you scan and select which packages are forwarded to you. Unlike a regular PO box, you don’t have to send anyone around to collect your mail.
There’s nothing wrong with a home-based business, of course, but bigger companies don’t usually operate from someone’s living room. Get a business address in a non-residential area (preferably somewhere that shouts “high-end business”) and you can quickly create the perception that you’re one of the big boys.
G Suite is Google’s cloud-based answer to the largely desktop-based Microsoft Office suite. The sheer number of apps and features in Google’s productivity suite as well as what you can do with them — from front-end to back-end — merits it its own section.
Used and recommended by WORK[etc].
In the WORK[etc] Stack:
- Gmail – Don’t settle for the free Gmail account; get a G Suite subscription and use your own branded email account instead.
- Mixmax – Mixmax isn’t a part of G Suite, but it’s one of the most useful Gmail plugins around. Use it to track emails accurately, know which recipients have opened your emails, quickly set up meetings, and schedule email sending.
Act As If:
- No big company uses a free email service. You build more credibility and brand awareness if your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com.
- A related tip when setting up your company email: most small businesses use the “firstname.lastname@example.org” approach. Go with the above naming convention (email@example.com) or at least an initial to make it seem like you’re a big enough company to need the last name distinction among your employees.
- Give your contractors and freelancers company emails, but set it so that you’re ultimately in control of their accounts.
- You can also setup multiple email addresses or aliases through Gmail. Make dedicated support and marketing email addresses for your business — even if you’re the only employee.
- Use Canned Responses in Gmail Labs alongside Gmail’s filter options to create auto-reply messages.
- Always advertise your business, website, and any other pieces of important content in your email signature. Fill it with as many contact details as you can.
- Include a confidentiality notice in your email signature to heighten the sense that you do serious business.
- Set up Google Alerts for your business to closely monitor your brand’s online reputation.
- Integrate Gmail with a CRM and business management solution to manage your business without leaving your inbox. Turn emails into actionable tasks, new contacts and sales leads, project updates, and more.
- Google Drive – Keep your documents, spreadsheets, images, and other important files in one place so you and your team can quickly access and edit them.
- Google Hangouts – G Suite comes with its own conferencing solution called Google Hangouts. Meet face to face with remote workers and customers while saving money and time on travel. Definitely a handy tool for your sales and support teams.
- Google Hangouts On Air – Google Hangouts On Air lets you broadcast live online and upload recordings to your YouTube channel. You reach more people, help your customers put a face to your company, and you don’t even have to pay any extra fees.
- Google Forms – You can streamline ordering and feedback collection on your website by using a Google Form that autopopulates form answers to a spreadsheet.
Great blog post, this is exactly the sort of advice our company (10-15 employees) can benefit from. In terms of proof-reading all communications that is essential… I would not trust a company for a second if their blog or press releases were full of grammatical inaccuracies.
Invisionapp looks very interesting we are currently using Balsamiq for wireframing during the scoping and quoting process but we will definitely take a look based on your recommendation as Balsamiq can only do so much.
In terms of voip we currently use Skype for Business but no-one likes it, so will have a look at your other recommendations. Finally we are using Google apps but don’t yet have a business account.
Thanks again for kickstarting some ideas for us!
Excellent post thank you Daniel. There seems to be a new “thing” available every day, and it’s very hard to keep up with them all – let alone assess whether they will be useful to your business. Thanks for your in depth research.
Well thanks for sharing such a log list of cool apps to manage our businesses. In our company all team mates we are quite excited about Trello. Trello it’s such an easy tool to use, combining brain-map concepts with business canvas that can be tailored to every need. It works across all teams and aspects of everyone life. From shopping lists no bookmarks, to task, to notes…etc. is like the notebook of ones life.
Great list of tools. I especially like the way you broke it down. In the first pass, I found 4 things to test/consider for our company. There will likely be several more passes until I get a chance to review everything we need to consider as a replacement for current one or new tool.
This is quite a comprehensive list. I haven’t even heard of half of them. But I can definitely throw my support behind Buffer. We’ve recently started to use that here at the office and it’s made (social media) things so much easier.
Yikes. My head is spinning. Great post that I am going to have to digest in small bites. In working with WORKetc, I have have personally experienced many of these services and am always impressed. I will take a closer look and will consider adding those that we’re not already using in our business. Thanks
This is a very comprehensive list of tools and services. When I have some time I will have to investigate some of these. We use several tools that fit into this list.
Again thank you for the list!
Not sure how we managed to miss YouCanBook.Me off the list – having used the service myself almost since it started, it was one of the first tools I brought to WORK[etc] when I joined the team here, and is still what we use to power all our support and training scheduling today. If you’ve ever booked a support call, demo or webinar with us, then you’ve experieced the power of YouCanBook.Me 🙂
We use some of the tools but our stack is Enterprise best of breed….you don’t have bill.com in you list and there a few other oversights…..one tool NOT to be over looked is zingtree.com
That’s a great post, and I already use some of the tools. Simple things can definitely make a big difference. My main 3 main advises for start-ups would be to: make a good website (and track google analytics!), use a 800 number and have a general email address (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
Such a comprehensive list of tools! I’ve gotta say there is really endless choice these days when it comes to your app suite.
My personal favs:
Thanks for sharing!