Incredibly Useful Sites for Small Business
Legal Zoom steps you through common legal processes, such as setting up a limited liability company; an LLC setup, for example, starts at $99. Rocket Lawyer provides copious articles and free forms, such as for nondisclosure agreements. It can even help you create an employee policy handbook. Once you log in, its dashboard includes a calendar, access to advice from lawyers, and a numeric score of your legal health.
If you snubbed the attorneys at your cocktail party, where can you turn for a basic legal question? You might try Law Pivot, a Q&A site where lawyers specializing in everything from administrative law to workers compensation are available to answer.
Are you offering your new assistant a competitive wage? Is your cubicle buddy making more money than you? Maybe they've reported their earnings to PayScale or Salary.com. When you tell each site your salary, it taps into its database of responses from other users to estimate if you're getting a fair shake.
GetRaised goes a step further by assessing, for free, if you're possibly underpaid; then, for $20, it guides you through a custom raise request with your boss. If you don't receive a bump in your bottom line within six months, you get your Jackson back. Next, JobSpice will step you through crafting a killer résumé.
Look Bigger Than You Are
Whether you need a virtual secretary, a Web app developer, or an SEO expert, BPOVIA has a stable of virtual assistants offering to help from afar. It starts at $120 per month for 10 hours of services, all the way up to ten times that amount for full-time help.
ZenDesk provides a virtual help desk for companies that require customer support and can't keep up with flooded inboxes and never-ending help-desk tickets. It charges between $9 and $119 per month, depending on how many support agents you enlist.
Managing the Paper Trail
You'll reduce papercut injuries by signing up with EarthClassMail--as long as you don't mind strangers' opening, scanning in, and uploading your snail mail to a private website for your online reading. The service will recycle junk mail, shred sensitive stuff, or ship items to you that you'd rather handle in person. It starts at $20 per month for 100 pieces of mail, or double the price for double the volume.
Alas, some people still insist on doing business via fax. If your fax machine already went under the sledgehammer, FaxZero lets you fax a .doc, .docx, or PDF file for free. An ad will follow your document out of the recipient's machine, but you can eliminate that with a $10-per-month subscription or a $2 one-time fee. HelloFax performs the same job, with no ad the first five times you use it. After that, the pricing is pretty much even with FaxZero's, but the service offers pricier options for power faxers.
Shoeboxed wants your receipts, expense reports, and business cards. Either snap a smartphone photo of each item and email it, or pack up your piles and mail them to the service. Shoeboxed will scan your pages and make the data available for export. It provides unlimited storage for free, plus paid and multiuser options with more features for up to $50 per month.
Time Tracking, Billing, and Accounting
Both Harvest and FreshBooks offer time tracking, billing, and bookkeeping tools ideal for service-based businesses. FreshBooks, $20 monthly, has a clean interface, plus integration with Basecamp for project management. Harvest also works with Basecamp, as well as with Google Docs, Outright, and other services; it costs $12 per month for an individual, and up to $90 for ten users. Harvest has more features.
Think of InDinero as Mint.com for small businesses. It imports data from your bank, credit card, and other accounts (including Harvest and FreshBooks), after which it spells out where your money is flowing, through handy charts. You'll pay from $20 to $50 monthly for more features. At $10 per month, Outright provides a similar financial dashboard. It integrates with other services for invoicing and payables, which are baked into InDinero.
Then again, for more features under one roof, you can always turn to another little name in accounting software that you may have heard of: QuickBooks. Intuit's accounting and bookkeeping package dominates the field, although reviewers often wish that its online versions better mirrored the desktop software.
When it comes to choosing a customer relationship managment service, Salesforce is overkill for smaller businesses. But you'll get a wide range of CRM features alongside usability in Landslide, which starts at $29 each month for a team of five. Insightly is a solid but lean option to add to your Google Apps suite--and it's free for three users.
Schedulicity lets your company pop an appointment-scheduling widget onto Facebook, as well as on your own website. The color-coded appointments integrate with your Google, Yahoo, Outlook, and iCal calendars. You can make recurring and split appointments, and even triple bookings. Smartphone and iPad editions are available, too. You pay $19 per month for one person, or $40 for up to 20 staff members.
Genbook, similarly, lets you add a 'BookNow' button to your site and then schedule appointments. It costs the same as Schedulicity, but its mobile components are iOS-only.
vCita provides a professional contact card that you can embed on other sites, featuring options to schedule a phone call or video meeting. It could use more creative design options, but it's a great way to offer your expertise to potential clients. vCita is free if you don't charge for your sessions, or up to $22 per month.
Storage and Backup
Dropbox, in just a few years, has made backup and file sharing almost sexy for consumers. But it isn't the best cloud-storage service for business.
That honor should go to Box.net. You get 5GB of storage free--more than twice the Dropbox free limit--or you pay $15 per user each month, up to 500GB and 500 users. The paid Business option includes role-based access and granular administrative controls. If you're looking for all-you-can-eat storage, its Enterprise plans are negotiable, and they toss in custom branding, group-based access, and dedicated support.
When we took a closer look at five DIY Web design services earlier this year, we noted that many offered similar features. But Weebly stood out for being the friendliest for beginners to get a website off the ground. In addition, it creates a mobile-optimized site without making you work any harder. You'll get a lot of features for free, or the option to manage ten websites for $4 per month.
Email newsletters aren't quite as old-school as direct snail mail is, and they're a surprisingly effective marketing staple for companies that play nicely and don't spam. MailChimp helps you design attractive newsletters, share them on social networks, and email up to 12,000 messages to 2000 subscribers in a month for free. You'll pay between $10 to $240 a month, depending on how many inboxes you reach.
Which Web services do you live, work, and swear by? Suggest more awesome options in the comments.