Top 10 essential free stuff for small businesses.

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So you’ve decided to open up a business, but like most people just starting out, your budget is probably lacking. Some startups may require a sizable investment to move forward, while others can get away with a smaller budget. But with everything from letterhead to office space to utilities, how can you determine what kind of capital you’ll need to get going? And what should you spend it on?

According to the Small Business Administration, you will have two types of costs: fixed and variable. Fixed expenses are those that recur at around the same amount, usually every month, e.g. rent and insurance. Variable expenses, like commissions, shipping and inventory, are related to the sale of a product or service and will differ each month depending on your sales. Then you’ll have one-time costs such as web design or signage. The SBA recommends creating a spreadsheet to help you calculate your startup costs, and be sure to note what is absolutely necessary, and what can be put on the back burner.

While you’re working on what you do need to spend money on, take a look at our list below of a few things you can get for free!

  1. If you’re jumping on the small business bandwagon, you’ll need business cards.
    1. Vistaprint will give you 250 full-color business cards for free. Choose from 45 cool designs, and pay only for shipping!
    2. Don’t need a ton of business cards? Just purchase printable business card sheets from your local office supply store, and check out these free templates from Brother and Avery!
  1. Need help creating a website? These vendors offer free services. Here’s the skinny:
    1. Weebly – Everything you need for a high quality site. Create unlimited pages and host your site for free. If you want Weebly branding removed, it’ll run you $4 per month. Still super cheap!
    2. Wix – 100s of fully customizable HTML5 templates in a ton of categories, like law, hotel, music, real estate, sports, and so many more! Featuring a drag and drop website builder. No coding skills needed. Connect your domain for $4.08 per month.
    3. Yola – With this service, using a Yola subdomain, you can build 3 pages for free with 1GB storage and 1GB bandwidth. Upgrade to their basic plan for just $4.17 per month and create unlimited pages under a custom domain.
  1. Did someone say free phone service?
    1. Call Ring Talk – 1 number with up to 3 users for free, with unlimited calling across the United States. Make and receive calls, transfer, hold, mute, conference and voicemail with just your computer.
    2. Google Voice – 1 number, personalized greeting, voicemail transcription, and more. Free calling from the United States and Canada. Check out Google’s international rates here.
    3. Specialty Answering Service – Get 2 weeks or 200 minutes of a free answering service. The live receptionist service is available 24 hours a day. No credit card required to sign up. If you like it, continue as a paying customer.
  1. Want to ask your customers how service is going? Send out a free survey!
    1. SurveyMonkey – Basic surveys include 10 questions and up to 100 responses for free.
    2. eSurv – Supported by donations, this vendor offers a broadened list of free features. Create unlimited questions, add pictures and images, enjoy an unlimited number of responses and more.
    3. KwikSurveys – Create free surveys, quizzes and video polls, with unlimited questions and responses.
  1. Running a promotion and need to send out an email blast?
    1. MailChimp – If you have under 2,000 subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month for free. No trial, no contract, no credit card.
    2. AtomPark – Send up to 3,000 emails per month for free, for up to 200 recipients.
  1. Everyone has a blog these days, and you want one, too. But you have no idea what to write about. These sites can help.
    1. HubSpot – Just pop a few nouns that you’d like to write about into HubSpot’s blog topic generator, and it’ll come back with a week’s worth of blog titles for you!
    2. Digg – This site features all of the most searched articles on the web right now. Check out the latest streams and maybe they’ll inspire a cool blog post!
  1. When it comes time to balance the books, take advantage of free online accounting software from this vendor.
    1. Wave – This software is 100% free all the time. Use Wave’s accounting tools as much as you want, with as many customers, invoices, expenses and reports as you need. No limits or tiers.
  1. Advertise your business online for free.
    1. You can use Google My Business to advertise your business in Google Search, which is the first place most people look for information. Visit this HubSpot page to download a free guide to advertising on Google, or take a peek at the info on their blog.
    2. Advertising on sites such as Superpages.com, Foursquare.com, YP.com and more is also free.
    3. And don’t neglect your social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter and Google+!
  1. Are you running a non-profit business? If so, you’ll want to keep this site on your radar.
    1. Grassroots.org features a ton of free tools such as website help, fundraising and marketing tools, project tools and more!
  1. Customer resource management is essential for every business.
    1. Insightly – So many great features with this vendor: it’s free for 3 users and up to 2,500 records (any stored item from contact to note), 200MB of storage, full product support for free, and more!
    2. Zoho CRM – Zoho also gives you free service for 3 users and up to 5,000 records. It has a mobile app, too.
    3. Freshdesk – One of the features of this vendor is that it integrates with Zoho CRM. It’s free for up to 3 agents per month, and you’ll get email and phone support, along with a knowledgebase.
    4. Zendesk – While not exactly free, it doesn’t get much cheaper than $1 per agent, per month. With the starter plan, you’ll get email ticketing, a knowledgebase, and more.

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Specialty Answering Service is a leading call center company, helping fast-growing businesses close sales and deliver amazing live customer support 24 hours a day. SAS' friendly virtual receptionists and customized call handling create an outstanding virtual office experience. There are thousands of small businesses already using our services. Try SAS for free today.

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