1. Home Office Suite: For many solo and home-based businesses, the $279 Microsoft Office software suite is overkill. As a free yet powerful alternative try OpenOffice.org from Sun Microsystems. You can download for free, and it comes with word processing, spreadsheet, a draw program, database program and presentation software.
2. Free Invoicing for Freelancers: BillingBoss.com is a free online invoicing tool designed for small business owners and freelancers to create, send and track invoices. It’s easy to use and you can create your first invoice within minutes of signing up. If you’ve been getting by with spreadsheets, or use complicated accounting software only for its invoicing tool, BillingBoss might be for you. Unlike some free services, there’s no limit on the number of invoices you can create or send with Billing Boss. You can also set it up so customers can pay you online through Billing Boss. There’s also comfort in knowing this service is run by one of the world’s leading business software companies, and that your information is encrypted and securely stored.
3. A Virtual Office Online: Microsoft (http://officelive.com) is a free password-protected online workspace where you can store and share files and access your work from anywhere, even from other computers. Its companion site Office Live Small Business is a terrific, affordable place to build a professional-looking online presence, and get a free website and marketing help as well.
4. Customize Your Own Free Software and Tools Package: Google Pack is new from the global search giant. It lets you customize and download you own set of free software and web tools that includes everything you need to work more effectively both online and off. Dozens of choices – all free – include:
- Email, calendar and document creation applications.
- Anti-virus and spyware protection.
- Photo editing and sharing tools.
- Skype for making free voice and video calls via the Internet.
- Adobe Reader to view, print and search PDF files.
- Google Talk to connect with friends via instant messaging (IM) or free voice calls.
- A media player that lets you play and organize your music and videos.
5. Manage Your Customers: FreeCRM.com is a great tool for small business contact and lead tracking, sales and contact management, sales forecasting, customer service and business management. The free version is self-service, allows unlimited users and provides up to 10 MB of storage. If your customer base is not particularly large, it can be a quick and easy way to automate your sales, do a better job of tracking leads and even manage email and call campaigns.
6. Free Bookkeeping: QuickBooks Online Free is a simplified, free version of the QuickBooks accounting and bookkeeping system for small business. While it lacks the more powerful features of QuickBooks’ other versions, it still packs a nice punch for a solo business. You can instantly create invoices, track your money and manage up to 20 customers. The “easy accounting” features of QuickBooks Online Free are designed for people who don’t know anything about accounting. It helps you get and stay financially organized by gathering your important information in a central place. Your information is then available to you anytime, anywhere via the Internet.
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.