Top 5 tools & services every startup should use

Starting a small business is a lot of work so it is important to find and use the right tools and services that can help to save time and money during the startup phase.

Generating a stable flow of cash is one of the most important goals for any startup - especially online ones.

This makes it an imperative to get to the stage where you're able to find and convert people into paying clients and customers as fast as possible.

This article highlights important services that do just that, and explains why they are so valuable to a new home, or small business, startup.

1. Website builder

A website is an important component of any modern organization, but the technical skills required to create a professional website can mean a long learning curve, or expensive development.

Website builders offer a very affordable, fast, and easy solution to this problem by providing a hosted website solution that doesn't require any Web design skills.

In addition, good website builders allow you to stay on the cutting edge of Web technology and design without constant manual upgrades.

For a few dollars a month, website builders are arguably the biggest time and money savers for any startup looking to get a website online.

Website builders come in a number of flavors, from eCommerce sites (shopping carts) to professional sites and blogs.

You can view a comparison of all the leading website builders in these articles:

2. Business plan

A business plan is not only important for securing loans and financing from friends, family, banks, investors and venture capital firms, it also represents "due diligence" into the viability of your business.

Creating a fantastic business plan will put you in a strong position to make the right decisions moving forward, because you will be better informed about your industry and niche.

Check out our free business plan template for online startups.

While gathering information about a business, industry, niche, etc, is a useful exercise, it is also important to present this information in the right way.

Business plan software can not only help to present a professional plan, it can also tell you the type of information required, and where to find it - with tutorials, examples, and plenty of other time-saving resources.

3. Accounting & tax

As much as using a website builder can save time and money during the design and development of a website, so great bookkeeping software can save time and money on an ongoing basis.

Having well organized and managed accounting practices not only help you to manage things better, but also save on some of the most draining administrative chores imaginable.

After all, no one likes to waste hours and hours on accounting, tax, and payroll. So starting with a good accounting solution, from the beginning, will mean saving countless hours in the future.

Check out Is Quickbooks online the best accounting software? to learn more.

4. Content marketing

Any business that wants to find new customers and clients online will need to learn how to create great content.

As Google has evolved, so the way in which companies get found online are evolving. Currently, the single most important aspect to generating plenty of valuable organic search traffic is high quality content.

But not all startups come equipped with great content marketing and blogging skills. This makes it important to pick up Web writing skills as quickly as possible, and there are some tools that make this task a lot easier (as well as shortening the learning curve).

If generating Web traffic is part of your business model, then I also recommend you read:

5. Google

In some form or another, Google, can tell you just about anything you need to know and help any size enterprise accomplish virtually anything.

Some of the most important Google services and resources for startups are:

So that's my list of the top five services and resources that all startups should use. What do you use that makes you a success?

Share your startup tips and advice in the comments.

Top ideas from university entrepreneurs

Encouraging younger people to become involved in entrepreneurship by holding business idea competitions is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to innovate our way out of the current financial doldrums the world finds itself in.

The creativity and energy exhibited by the students who enter the top business idea competitions from around the U.S. have shown the rest of us just how easy they can make it look when it comes to generating a new idea, putting together a plan, and pitching it to the world like pros.

University business startup competitions. Pic by tableatny

Starting a business can be a daunting task - often made all the more difficult by a small advertising/marketing budget and an insufficient network of contacts to help get things off the ground.

It's a good thing then that there is always one fantastic, free strategy to generate some high-quality buzz and exposure for your startup that will not only put your idea in front of plenty of the "right" people, but also, potentially, lead to some much-needed funds, influential connections, and media coverage.

I'm talking about university business competitions.

Free beginner guides for entrepreneurs. Pic by James Jordan.

It’s hard work trying to find the time to develop a new business idea, create a business plan, build a website, create content, marketing, promotions, networking, investments, and everything else that has to get done.

home business ideas to make money fast

Finding a way to make money quickly is really not as good as finding a way to earn a stable income in the long term - get rich quick schemes tend to be a waste of time and effort (except for the people selling the scheme).

At least that was the point of my argument with a friend the other day. They ended up betting that I couldn't come up with at least one idea that would start generating cash within 24 hours.

In the words of Barney, "Challenge accepted!"

Real world elevator pitch example. Pic by Joe Penniston

Our earlier article on how to pitch big new clients touched on the importance of a good elevator pitch, and how this 30 - 60 seconds of info can mean the difference between success and failure.

I wanted to follow this up by showing how real-life entrepreneurs and startups used their own, unique elevator pitches to win new business or capture valuable publicity.