How to Run Your Small Business Entirely Online – For Free

doing business online
Managing business online
Today’s economic situation is challenging for small businesses. New policies, lower profit margin, tough competition, and low buying power are some of the challenges a small business owner must face. All of those affect your business’ bottom line. You need to find ways to cut cost the right way while maintaining – even improving – productivity in the process. Well, take heed – if you are looking for the Best free way to run your business, there is a way. Free? Yes – read on.

Web applications can help your business get things done – for free

Web applications are essentially web-based tools you can use without installing anything on your local PC or laptop. Just log on to the Internet, sign in to your chosen web services, and there you go – you can do business online, regardless whether your business is a brick-and-mortar, online, or “hybrid.”

Many small businesses have benefited from web applications due to the fact that many – if not most – of them available free of charge. You might ask, “Right – so how those companies make money if they offer things for free?” Well, they are adopting freemium strategy – offering free, “basic” service (please bear in mind, “basic” here will probably fulfill most of your business needs) while charging a certain amount of money – usually on subscription – to access advanced features.

There are plenty of web applications to help you run your business for free: Online project collaboration web tool to help your team work together regardless of the physical location of your team members; managing accounting and invoices online; managing your employees’ timesheets online; and many more.

Sounds great. Now, which applications to use and where can I find it?

Look for all-in-one web solution providers

One issue you should consider is to decide what kind of web applications you want to use. I understand that since they are free, you will have the urge to sign up with each and every of the web services. However, doing so you will face account management issue – something that if you mis-manage it, you will expose yourself to more issues, such as security and privacy issues.

I recommend you not to sign up with any web services you encounter.

Google Apps – free web-based business applications from Google, for example, allow you to use a single login info that will allow you to access many Google’s services, not only Google Apps but also Gmail, Google AdWords/AdSense, etc.

Alternatively, you might want to try Apptivo that offers free-hosted web-based online business applications. From one account, you can manage almost anything you can think of: managing leads and customers, generating invoices, managing timesheets, tracking your projects’ progress, even handling transaction and setting web store (or Facebook store) – all free of charge, done online, using one, single login info.

Some suggestions

Before going full-force, I recommend you to test the water first. Sign up with the web applications you are sure you will use them for a long time (remember, migrating to other web services is a real hassle and resource-intensive!) and test a couple of business functions first. Whenever you are sure and ready, you can move more business activities online.

Also, make sure that you will get the much-needed support from your chosen web service provider. Poor support can disrupt your business activities.

One more suggestion: When you decide to sign up with a web business service provider, please make sure that the web applications allow you to scale based on your business needs. Good web-based (and cloud-based) applications will allow you to scale up and down according to your needs seamlessly, without service interruptions.

Ivan Widjaya
Web-based applications are live-savers
Image credit: Salvatore Vuono /