If you are starting your business when the economy is not necessarily booming, you are probably trying to be very cautious about how you spend your start-up money. There are certain necessities to run and promote a business these days: a website, business cards, and marketing & promotional materials. This quick article shows you how to obtain these things inexpensively.
In a few weeks, Google will be launching Google Voice, which is an absolutely free service that allows you to select one number that your customers can call which can be routed to any or all of your existing phone lines. Voicemail, conference calling, call recording and call screening are just a few of the amazing features Google Voice will offer. To find out more visit www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html. Another option instead of signing up for a separate and expensive cell phone plan, or using your home phone for your business needs, is a prepaid cell phone. It offers you a different line – totally devoted to your business – for a fraction of the cost. You can record your phone’s voicemail to include your business name and web address. When that phone rings you can know to answer with your business name instead of people who use their personal phones and answer their calls with a simple “hello”. This does not give a professional first impression. It instills more confidence in potential customers when they call your phone (after seeing an online listing or receiving your business card) and hear a personalized answer or voicemail. All the major cellular service providers have prepaid plans that are inexpensive. Phones average at about $30, but some are free.
Internet fax account:
With an internet fax account you can start receiving and sending faxes immediately without having to buy a fax machine. www.fax.com, www.myfax.com, www.trustfax.com, and www.gofaxer.com are among the most reliable services of this sort online. Plans start from $4.95/month. When someone sends a fax to your number (which can be toll free or have a local area code) you will receive an e-mail with a PDF file of your fax; you can view the pages online, print them out, or just store them there for future use. Also when sending a fax, you can send it directly from the website of the provider you choose or you can send a Microsoft Word document or a scanned-in PDF document as a fax without even having to print it off. The great thing about online faxing is that people will never get a busy signal when faxing you and the fax machine will never be out of paper. Some providers have even added mobile faxing so that you can fax from anywhere, even in your car – not recommended if you are the driver folks!
These are a must. If you are telling acquaintances and strangers about your business and they are even mildly interested, they will usually ask for your business card. If you say you don’t have one, this automatically sends the message that you are not well prepared or not really running a legitimate business. Even if you start your marketing out with your close friends and family you should still invest in some business cards because it will send them the message that you are serious and professional. They will be more inclined to buy products or services from you and they will also be more likely to pass the info. along to their friends and co-workers. Websites such as www.gotprint.com will allow you to design your business cards with their easy online designer, and, you can get 250 cards for under $11 USD. You can also upload your own files if you already have something designed. Other sites for making quality business cards are www.overnightprints.com and www.vistaprint.com. These sites will allow you to fit your information into a predesigned template or upload your own work.
This is another must have. Sites like www.weebly.com and www.yola.com allow you to build a free website with no HTML knowledge at all. You can simply insert text and pictures into pre-designed templates to get your desired information and image out on the web. It is a simple and free process; there is no excuse to not have a website. You can use one of these sites as your temporary website until you have the time/money to hire a professional web designer. I further suggest that you go to godaddy.com or yahoo.com and buy the domain name you want (ex: www.(yourname)business.com) and then forward that domain to the site that you developed for free. That way when people type in www.(yourname)business.com they will be redirected to the free page you’ve made. This will give you a professional web presence and a web address to put on your business cards or e-mail to your friends.
Other Promotional materials:
Shirts- www.spreadshirt.com and www.cafepress.com allow you to import your own graphics or add text directly from their sites on to shirts and bags of all different colors and sizes.
Flyers and pamphlets- www.gotprint.com and www.uprinting.com are great sites to order all different sizes and styles of promotional hand-outs for your business.
Envelopes and Letterhead- a great place to get professional pre-printed envelopes is www.envelopesuperstore.com; other providers that have letterhead services as well include www.qenvelopes.com, www.actionenvelope.com or www.gotprint.com.
Don’t forget to register your business name with the county/city you live in (this can be as low as $17) and check on any other legal requirements (like if you need to charge tax or have liability insurance) before you start operating. Be very careful to keep accurate business records of expenses and revenue. Good luck with your business!