cheap and free business software

5 top (cheap or free) software alternatives

Are you looking to benefit from top small business software and services (from call centre to Web design to accounting) while avoiding the high costs associated with leading software solutions?

Often, where smallish companies are concerned, software can be a grudge purchase. It's an expense you don't need, but the software itself can help save time, effort and money - or even allow you to do your work.

Choosing the right software can be a tricky process because it isn't always easy to know which software is the best quality, offers the best value for money, or has all the features and functionality you need.

This article will highlight 5 great alternatives to expensive software solutions that will do the same job (possibly better) at a fraction of the cost or completely free.

1. Accounting software

To grab a copy of QuickBooks Pro 2013 with a list price of $249.95 you are looking at forking out about $149.95 on Amazon (a $100 discount).

That's quite a big hit for a startup that might not need all the functionality that comes with Quickbooks - and other leading accounting software solutions.

Many companies need a lightweight accounting system to help them manage invoices, etc, without paying for unwanted features that they'll never use.

Over 5 million owners use a cloud based online accounting software solution called FreshBooks.

Freshbooks offers a free trial, and you can continue using it for free indefinitely. However, if you require one of the paid plans then prices start from $19.95 per month.

Using a cloud based accounting solution also comes with a host of additional benefits over purchasing traditional software, and the monthly payment is a lot easier to handle than a large once-off payment (for traditional software that will be out of date in a year or two).

2. Call center software

Having a professional phone service can help you to manage customer calls, convert more leads, and act as a 24/7 receptionist without costing much at all.

Buying a traditional call center solutions can be really expensive - not to mention the staff that need to come with it.

But, you can probably manage 95% of all your telephone and fax requirements using a cloud based VoIP phone solution.

Virual phone systems like the one offered by RingCentral can help you easily setup a complete phone solution with plenty of great features from around $10 per month.

Check out affordable call center software for more.

3. Website design software

One of the easiest traps to fall into when design and creating a website is thinking that you need to pay an expensive Web developer.

In fact, modern website builders can offer a far superior website design (including SEO, structural HTML, performance, and templates and themes) for a fraction of the cost - with no Web design experience required.

It is really easy to design anything from a blog to a professional website, to an awesome eCommerce site using an online drag-and-drop designer.

Many website builders offer the complete package from Web design to domains and hosting, and you can explore three of the leading website builders (and try out their free trials) at the best website builder free trials.

4. Office

Microsoft Office Home and Business 2013 is listed at $219.99. That's a lot of cash to fork out for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and a few other office software solutions.

On the other hand, Apache's OpenOffice project is completely free - and provides exactly the same thing.

I use OpenOffice on my Windows PC because I prefer many of the features that come with it, and to this day, I am not entirely certain why anyone would pay for MS Office instead of using OpenOffice? If you have a compelling reason, please share it in the comments.

5. Content & SEO software

Marketing online is not an easy task - there is a lot of competition in traditional media, and online. And, many people end up hiring 3rd party SEO companies and Internet marketing agencies to increase their page rankings and Web traffic volumes from organic search - in order to get valuable leads online.

Instead of paying expensive Internet marketing agencies, why not use SEO software that teaches your in-house staff how to make awesome SEO content that will capture high page rankings?

Check out what the best SEO software that provides a list of paid and free SEO software to help nurture in-house SEO & content marketing skills - and give you the tools to effect real growth and profits online.

So those are my top 5 alternatives to software for companies looking to take advantage of new technology by using it in a cost-effective and creative way.

What tips and advice do you have to help other small businesses save on software costs? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Selling online is getting easier and easier every day, from a technical point of view, because the technology to handle online transactions (like online shopping cart builders) is fast, easy to use, and cheap.

Home office furniture. Pic by Joey Parsons

The humble home office desk and chair have come along way. Now we have adjustable ergonomically designed swivel chairs that do everything but make the coffee. In fact, it can't be too long before we get a smartchair - an iChair - that can control the coffee machine.

But, as it turns out, making yourself as comfortable and supported (in all the right places) may not be as good for you as it seems. In fact, the less our bodies have to do the weaker they can become and more susceptible to injury and other problems.

Tips and advice to save money for small business entrepreneurs. Pic by GotCredit

Starting and running a small business almost inevitably means that money is going to be tight at some stage - often for a prolonged length of time - until the business can start generating a decent stream of revenue.

I'm a strong believer in growing earnings above every other strategy. Saving money doesn't put money on the table, so it is more important to earn faster than to save. But, without efficient use of your financial resources it may be that your startup never makes it to profitability, and that's where money saving tips can be useful.

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It's occasionally valuable to take some time to listen to the collective wisdom of entrepreneurs, great personalities, and leaders who have distilled their knowledge and experience into inspiring quotes.

If you are struggling to get a new venture off the ground, or keep your company on the path to growth and prosperity, take ten minutes to stop and read through this list - you might just find the motivation you need to keep going.

The perfect work from home companion

Today's modern workforce is placing ever-increasing demands on companies to offer them employment packages that suit their desired lifestyle - and work from home jobs are a huge part of that. After all, no-one dreams of one day joining the rat race and sitting in traffic for a few hours every day.

A lot of tech oriented startups have completely embraced the virtual office and it is quite natural to have employees all over the world, working office hours from home in whatever time-zone they're in.