You’ve got the idea. You’ve got the passion. Maybe you even have the beginnings of a staff, and some startup capital. Don’t let the mechanics of starting a business slow you down!
You can take care of all the setup details fast — and inexpensively — thanks to modern technology, online tools, and cloud services. Just get your checklist out, and start knocking things off. I’ve used many of these services myself for startups and side businesses, and they really can work for you too. Here are some fast-acting resources that will get your business up and running today.
Set Up a Web Site in an Afternoon
Why learn HTML, or hire a pricey designer and spend weeks making layout decisions? Facebook Pages is free, it’s simple to use and customize, it’s in the middle of the biggest social network in the world, and – did I mention it’s free? Yes, Facebook is known as a social “What I ate for breakfast” site, but tons of businesses park there too, eager to get Facebook’s millions to Like them and their brand. You can join Pepsi and Coke, TV and movie studios, and the Wall Street Journal!
Get started at http://www.facebook.com/pages/ , click Create Page in the upper right corner, and fill out the forms to set up and then customize, invite your friends, and even get a custom URL for marketing purposes. Now you have your own business Web page, and it couldn’t have been simpler. There are lots of how-to guides for setting up and leveraging your page; Mashable’s is especially straightforward.
Get a Logo designed in less than a week
Describe the kind of logo you want, and 99Designs hosts a “design contest” on your behalf, resulting in dozens of designers submitting logo concepts for your review. Pick a design, refine it with the designer, and for prices starting at $299, you’ll have your own great original design.
Name Your Business in Minutes
BizNameWiz helps you come up with a name for your business, combining words you provide (and a few more they throw into the mix) into dozens of potential corporate names — and it’s free. Meanwhile, NetSubstance will generate brand names for your products for you, also free. These are only two of several such free online services to help you with what some consider the hardest part of starting a business — coming up with good, catchy, appealing (and URL-worthy!) business, product, and service names.
Get “Free” Business Cards in a Hurry
I use Vistaprint for my startups and for my hobbies too. Pick a design from hundreds, and get a box of a hundred free — plus shipping, which is well under ten bucks — unless you add on extras like embossed card stock, double-sided printing, or having them take off the Vistaprint promo from the back of the card. (I leave it there until I get funded; it’s faint enough not to be a problem, and anyway it shows I’m careful with my company’s money.) Or rush shipping if you’re really in an overnight hurry. The quality is excellent, even for the basic “free” version.
Survey Your Market Quick
Surveys can be a most valuable tool for your new business (and a continuing tool for your old business, too). Survey customers to find out what they want, to let them make choices, to give them the feeling they are in the loop, to test some nutty fun new idea — or just to amuse, entertain, or generate interest.
Online surveys are inexpensive–SurveyMonkey, for example, will send 10-question surveys for free (up to 100 responses, or choose one of their monthly paid plans), use easy Web forms to create the questions and then to analyze your results. Unlike the Old Days when surveys were sent by postal mail and results trickled in for weeks and took a month or more to figure out the results — with Web-based surveying and email, you can get most of your data back within two days, and have analyzed results minutes later.
Customers Can Start Calling You in Minutes
Of course, we love pointing out that setting up your business phone system — once an expensive, time-consuming, sometimes confusing process — with RingCentral‘s modern in-the-cloud operation, you can literally buy your phone system online and be receiving calls from customers in minutes, on your digital desk phone if you have one, or on your smartphone. You’ll look completely professional, with your company Caller ID on your smartphone, your professional call handling and greetings. And you can manage the whole thing from a Web form or our iPhone app. For the entrepreneur, RingCentral is especially handy since you don’t actually need a desk phone — or an office — because you can get the service on your smartphone!
Get Office Meeting Space through an Online Form
One of the challenges of running your new business out of your home or garage or car is meeting clients. Sometimes you really need a professional office-type environment for client meetings. Luckily, in most urban areas in the U.S. you can rent temporary office space — for as little as an hour — using the free iPhone app from LiquidSpace . It displays workspaces near you on a map and shows photos of the space, and prices that range from $20 a day to $20 an hour, depending on the space, amenities, demand, and location. It shows you available days and times, and lets you book through the app.
So take that brilliant business idea and get started — don’t let little details like getting a phone system, a meeting space, a Web page, business cards, logos, or anything else bog you down. It’s a new, Web- and Cloud-enabled world — take unfair advantage of it!