We all want to maximize personal productivity, especially if we’re small business owners. Well here’s a follow up to our post on free online calendars and personal planners care of Paul O’Brien of Outright.com.
With unemployment at record highs in parts of the U.S., one of the most crucial decisions individuals are making right now is whether to remain on a sinking corporate ship or to strike out on their own. For some people, of course, this decision has been made for them. They were laid off and unable to find new employment, so they’ve decided to try their hand at consulting, freelance work, or perhaps turning a hobby into an income stream. We call these people “unintentional entrepreneurs.”
The mere idea of business ownership is daunting, especially if you’ve spent your whole life defining yourself as an “employee of Company X”. And, if striking out on your own weren’t scary enough in an existential sense, then all the day to day minutia of running a business suddenly tackles you, too. There’s no more sales team to go out and find your clients, and as tempted as you might be to forward your expense report for that client lunch to accounting, guess what? The accounting department is you.
Luckily for unintentional entrepreneurs, a lot of companies out there know what you are going through. And while many entrepreneurs may feel like they aren’t getting the support they need as they contemplate a life of self-employment under the new Obama Administration, the good news is that the private sector is listening to some of those fears. And because we live in a digital age where access to services, that would have otherwise only been attainable by hiring staff or expert consultants, is just a mouse click away, I thought I’d share some of the best tools that I’ve come across that simplify life for the unintentional entrepreneur.
Free Web Tools For The Unintentional Entrepreneur
Outright.com, for example, understands that we aren’t all talented number crunchers and offers a free bookkeeping service for self-employed individuals and small business owners. Freshbooks makes it easy to generate and keep track of invoices. And, the busy entrepreneur in need of a receipt and contact management system should check out Shoeboxed. For further convenience, all of these applications are integrated, so that financial tasks become the least of your worries as a business owner.
Your next greatest worry? Let’s find some business. Today’s buzzwords are Twitter and Facebook but there is only one service which clearly and effectively connects your professional life with peers, customers, and partners. LinkedIn and its suite of event calendars, question and answer forums, and groups, is so attuned to your professional profile and your business that you might find you don’t know how you lived without it. Upon setting up your profile, you’ll find industry specific events and meet-ups to attend; you’ll note others in your industry asking questions or presenting solutions, and notice smaller groups around your location, specialization, or interests. Join in the discussion and make friends that matter!
Having fostered those customer relationships, you should work to maintain them. This is really where Twitter pays off; to make it work for you, think of Glen Allsopp’s 7 Uncommon Uses for Twitter as the 7 Common Uses. Twitter works when you share tools, foster the community, and interact. Simply sell yourself and you’ll quickly alienate your followers; work your community and it works with you.
While Twitter is the hot topic of late, innovations in traditional marketing tools mean the tried and true methods work even better than once was the case. MailChimp makes it easy to send email newsletters to customers, manage subscriber lists, and track campaign performance. They use the same tools that sophisticated marketers use (like segmentation, A/B testing, and ROI tracking) while making them accessible to everyone.
The number of people working for themselves is up to 20 million Americans. If you look at just freelance workers and consultants — people who tell the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics that they obtain work on their own but don’t own a business — their number grew by 27% from 1995-2005, and while the most recent numbers aren’t yet available, I’d be willing to bet that number is growing dramatically as of late. The good news for the unintentional entrepreneur is that technology fueled by a fierce passion for helping people strike out on their own is now available at either very low costs, or in many cases for free. This should be very encouraging for those who are ready to hang out their own shingle.
Starting right here in San Francisco at the innovative gallery Langdon Labs, on July 15, Network Solutions has partnered with Outright.com to host events around the country to support the needs of local business owners and entrepreneurs. The free networking and information session will be followed by workshops in New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles, throughout July and August. The local meet-ups will feature successful, local entrepreneurs who will share actionable tips and advice for those starting out or struggling with their existing business. For more information, check out UnintentionalEntrepreneur.com.