These are the websites you need to start a business. All of these sites are free and really useful.
Build a website
WordPress lets you build a professional looking website easily and quickly. It is not just a blogging platform and there are loads of plug ins for it to do cool things you might want. Simple.
A great site for more image/ design orientated people is Www.wix.com which used to use Flash but has since converted to html5 so is great for mobile sites.
The final one I will mention in this section -although there are lots more which may have particular features more suited to your needs- is Webs. I built our judo club website with it and it is very very easy to use with some nice features such as built in log-in areas.
Collect customer information and start reaching out to people
Wufoo – This website let’s you create forms for your website. It lets you highly customise, embed them and create auto responders. It’s free option is really good.
Mail chimp You need to keep in touch with your customers and leads. Remind people often and make your business add value to them. Use mailchimp. It’s free, really easy to use and connects with Wufoo to automate your newsletter sign up and sending.
Things to do list (otherwise known as project management)
Trello A fantastic free resource to create lists and add links, contacts, people involved, emails, notes and probably anything to so that you know what is happening, when, in what order and who is responsible. Really easy, really good.
Windows Live messenger. This could probably be swapped for a number of different email operating systems but I use Windows Live messenger. It lets me have three of my emails open all at once, save templates, and bulk send to a limited extent. It’s a fairly good day to day email operating system.
Open office You know you don’t need to pay for microsoft office right? Open office is exactly the same but free. You can save your files in any format you’ll need. Don’t quote me but this may have now turned into Ouvre Office, which does the same thing despite having a French name.
Dropbox Drag n drop to share files really easily. Put your files in Dropbox and then access them from anywhere on any computer. Makes sense.
To sell products
PayPal If you have something to sell, Paypal is an easy way to start accepting payments. You only pay a commission on payments so it’s great to begin with.
Shopify If your business is just an online shop, use Shopify. In their heads, people have visions for amazing websites, with unique user experiences and super effective marketing. You’ll probably never get there. Just use Shopify. Loads of apps available for it to make life easier too.
A traditional approach to business is that you create a brand, some products, a service or whatever. You do some market research, create a business plan, approach the bank for a loan perhaps. You take time to get it right and then launch.
Lean methodology says create a minimum viable product (MVP) and start selling. Get it wrong and learn from user feedback what they actually want. Maybe don’t even build a product! Write the idea on a webpage like http://launchrock.com/ and see if people sign up. Of course it exposes you to people stealing it, but if its an idea you have a competitive advantage on eg. local knowledge or particular skills, it doesn’t matter too much if they do. Once you have interest, use this to show a friend with a few quid spare to invest in it.
Don’t think you know, simply ensure you get as much feedback as possible and update your product inline with what people want. It makes life cheaper, more efficient, and gets your product better, faster. Test new things, measure everything. The Internet lets you do this.
Awesome site for listening to a guy called Andrew Warner interview the megastars of the tech world. You can pick up huge amounts of tips and strategy on here. Fascinating.
Seth Godin – sign up to his newsletter as he is a smart guy and awesome with business and creativity. He will help.
Become well known
Have you heard of Facebook yet? I think so. Make a Facebook page and use a widget to connect it to your website. When people click the “like” button on your website, all of their Facebook friends will see it.
I’m not bothering to link to these two sites.If you don’t know how to find them, perhaps you are actually dead.
Twitter puts a voice behind the brand. Use it to connect to fellow professionals and share best practise. Use it suck up information from experts in their field. Talk to potential customers about your service and see what they think. It’s a goldmine.
For more serious networking, use Linked In. Unlike Facebook and Twitter that can get clogged up with junk, Linked In is more professional. Join groups relevant to you and network with your peers.
Google has an Analytics tool that tells you all the information you need to see how people find and use your website.
Websites businesses can be analysed very precisely. Change a word and your click through rates can drastically change. Test and measure everything with Analytics. It also has some great advanced features to let you create sales funnels and goals.
Now all you need is an idea.
I hope this helps and please let me know if you want me to add anything to the list!