In the past, starting a business could almost break the bank.
Today, with the help of the internet and the plethora of resources available, anyone can have an online storefront in a few easy steps.
Lots of services are available either free or at a low cost to users, saving time and money.
Update: The original version of this piece was published back in 2016. With the change in technology, regulation and an unending search for even more productive and secure tools, it's important once in a while to look into ones' working habits and make changes where necessary. The Coronavirus health and economic crisis has had a huge impact on our activities and this has helped us take another look into our working culture. Most of the content in this piece is accurate though we've made the decision to stop using some of these apps.
This article is in the spirit of sharing both how much Expats Paris relies on automation to run its website and manage community endeavors (events and social media channels), and with the objective of helping any other entrepreneur out there running a business with a limited budget.
Just like we’re doing by sharing our social media marketing strategy.
This app has many robust features and integrations that enhance e-commerce capabilities and allows the user to do many things for products or services through its email marketing platform. This includes marketing emails, automated messages, and targeted campaigns to boost interest and sales. According to the website, “if you have 2,000 or fewer subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month absolutely free. No expiring trial, contract, or credit card required.” This is one of the few apps we pay for since our email lists (all combined) go beyond the above-mentioned 2000 subscribers’ figure.
A call-to-action is a great way to engage your followers on the web. Perhaps you wrote an article, and now would like the readers to check out your website, or link to a product that was mentioned therein. Sniply allows you to add a custom call-to-action on any page, engaging readers. Anyone can sign up for free, and you can try before you buy. We pay for this service too. It helps to spread a CTA in each and every post and link we share on social media or email.
OVH is a family-owned business, and offers a wide range of IT services at competitive rates. Anything from web hosting to dedicated servers and storage solutions is available. OVH has at least 700,000 customers in 16 countries and is the third-largest web hosting provider worldwide. This website and other Expats Paris online assets are hosted on there. The company was extremely helpful, professional and efficient when Expats Paris’s website was hacked this past April.
Using Buffer allows the user to save time by scheduling and publishing all social media posts in one place. You can choose to post the same message to all of your social networks (or just a select few). Customization for each social account can be done, too. Your content is shared in a way to reach followers at optimal times of the day so they get the most out of each post. Signup is free. The packages start with a basic free option and go up from there. You can do a trial to decide which you prefer. We pay for an awesome plan at Buffer.
Meetup can be used to form a local group and organize meetings, or find one that matches your interests. It’s the largest network of local groups in the world. Expats Paris utilizes this tool for events, and it’s free and very easy to use. Meetup is another place where you can find one of our largest community beside Twitter and Facebook.
Eventbrite, according to the website, is the world's largest self-service ticketing platform. Using innovative technology, the company created a platform where anyone can create, share, find and attend whatever event is of interest. There are no setup or monthly fees to host events on Eventbrite. You can post and promote your event for free, and track registrations for it. The cost of the tickets is typically passed on to buyers, for the most part. We use eventbrite to publish and manage a lot of our events.
PayPal is a digital payment phenomenon. It makes it easy for people to manage money for purchases, transfers and the like. Individuals to big businesses rely on this platform for secure transactions online and with mobile devices, to pay or be paid. It was founded in 1998, and as of 2015 has processed 4.9 billion payments. We use PayPal to generate invoices, send, receive and manage funds. Now, on top of PayPal we're using Stripe for our Business membership subscriptions.
For digital services, Fiverr can’t be beat. It has the largest marketplace in the world, with just about any service you can think of merely a click away. Buyers can choose anything from computer graphics to copywriting and everything in between. There are over 150 categories of services across 196 countries. Some of the content found on Expats Paris (especially images and eBooks) was produced by consultants and talented people found on Fiverr. This is a service any entrepreneur running a business with limited budget should try out.
9. Google Apps
Custom email, lots of storage, freedom to work from anywhere and with anyone on a project. These are just a few things Google Apps offer the user. You can access files from anywhere on any device. Video meetings are in HD. There is budget tracking capability. The world is at your fingertips. Prices are very reasonable and start at $5. You can try Google Apps free for 30 days. It has everything you need to “work on the go.” There are a variety of apps to meet your needs: Gmail, Hangouts, Calendar, Google+, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides, Vault. We don’t pay for Google Apps at the moment but we’ve thought of doing it sometime in the past. This article was actually written and edited on Docs (Google’s MS Word). Here’s how it looks like:
10. Pablo by Buffer
In addition to being able to schedule and publish all your posts in one place, Pablo by Buffer is another feature that makes your life easier. For free, you can choose from a library of over 50,000 images (royalty-free), utilize a variety of fonts, text boxes, add color and make your posts come alive. You can also upload your own photos and manipulate them, too. Using Buffer’s awesome plan, we use this app to easily share images directly from the buffer Dashboard.
Whether it’s a picture you took or a reminder you scribbled on a piece of paper, Evernote helps you manage it all and makes it easy to find and organize your notes. You can access these files anywhere, from any device. You can even search for words on handwritten words that you’ve uploaded. It’s easy to share with friends and co-workers, too, and free to sign up. The basic plan is also free, and it’s awesome; but there are other robust solutions at a reasonable price.
The site says you can “get your point across with fewer words using annotation, shapes, and sketches, so that your ideas become reality faster.”
Trello is basically a virtual board (a list with sub-lists, if you will) filled with cards. It allows you to post comments for instant feedback, upload files from literally anywhere, set notifications, create checklists, collaborate with others, or just work by yourself. It works in real time and is updated instantly when a change is made. Cards in your list can be dragged back and forth and reordered as needed. Signup is free, and each level above basic is reasonably priced for what’s on offer. From blog posts, to Marketing Strategy via products’ roadmap, Expats Paris’ cored business details are detailed in Trello. We’re not paying for this service yet.
Alexa is a digital marketing tool to help your site grow. Through its analytical products, Alexa can increase your website traffic and give you valuable insight for a competitive edge. You can try it free for 7 days. Services include SEO audits, keyword research, on-page SEO checker and competitive intelligence. We use alexa’s free chrome extension to get daily insights on our website’s Global and French rank. This tool was very useful for us when we recently got hacked as we needed to check how low we had gone.
Skype has text, voice and video capabilities that are used by millions of people worldwide. Anyone can start a chat or call on Skype. You can video or voice call anyone for free; have a group video call, share messages with friends, make plans; give presentations online. Skype Unlimited World is free for the first month.
With the arrival of Telegraph, WhatsApp Business and other encrypted business applications, our usage of Skype has shrunk dramatically. At times we even forget that it still exists.
Data charges can be ridiculously high, as you’re likely aware. WhatsApp Messenger allows you to exchange messages without SMS fees because it uses the same internet data plan you utilize for email and web browsing. It can be used on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia. You can also create groups, enabling you to send unlimited images, video and audio media messages. Working virtually, we use whatsApp to chat in a created Expats Paris group about everything work-related and personal stuff at times.
Get frustrated trying to remember the passwords for all your applications? Dashlane, a free app, enables you to manage them all. It imports passwords from your browser, and keeps them secure in a “password vault.” You can identify security breaches through the “security dashboard.” It’s easy to update passwords and create new ones. We have a premium account at Dashlane at 39.99 € a year.
There’s always something to do, right? Often, the list is long and unmanageable. ToDoist helps you manage tasks and projects anywhere across many platforms. You can also share your tasks with others, collaborate, and customize features. It’s free for the most part, but unlimited access to the most powerful features requires payment.
Do you have a video you want to watch or an article you can’t finish right now because of a meeting? Pocket is the best place to save these items, directly from your browser or other apps for viewing later, when you’re ready. According to the site, if it's in Pocket, it's on your phone, tablet or computer. You don't even need an Internet connection.
Pixabay “croissant” search result screenshot
On Pixabay, you can find and share images free of copyrights. All pictures are released under Creative Commons CC0 in the public domain. It gives you the ability to copy, alter and distribute images without asking for permission. You can even use these images in social media. Donations to image authors are appreciated.
Another application we've been using to get some great copyrights free pictures is Pexels.
Expats Paris Front End Events Joomla Dashboard Screenshot
Joomla! is a powerful website building application and content management system or CMS (which manages all your content so you don’t have to). It is the most popular website software available and is open source and free to everyone. A major advantage of using a CMS is that it requires almost no technical skill or knowledge to manage. This website is a Joomla one.
Roundcube webmail Inbox Screenshot
Looking for a user-friendly, free webmail resource? RoundCube is an open source solution that is easy to install and configure. It’s available in at least 70 languages, has drag and drop capability, HTML message options, great privacy protection, robust address book features, spell checking and folder management, just to name a few things. We don’t pay for this service since it comes with our host plan at OVH (mentioned above).
Deezer is a must for any music fanatic. Whether listening online or offline, on any device, you’ll be able to instantly access your tunes, with no limits. There are over 40 million tracks available to you, which can be accessed from one place (phone, computer, tablet, etc.), no matter where you are. We pay for this service.
We stopped paying and using Deezer a few years ago after realizing that Youtube could basically provide everything one wanted in terms of music. On top of Youtube, we also use Podcast Republic, one of the most powerful podcast platforms to discover, download and listen podcasts.
IFTTT helps you control the products and apps you utilize everyday through “Recipes.” Recipes are simple connections between products and apps. There are two types of Recipes: DO Recipes and IF Recipes. Among other things, DO Recipes help you create a custom button. This button can enable you to share your status, control the temperature in your house, turn on your coffeemaker, to name a few things. IF Recipes allow you to decide what to do when you press a specific app or perform a function. For example, perhaps you want a picture you’ve taken to be automatically stored somewhere or posted on Facebook. The IF Recipe allows you to do that. It’s free to sign up.
Monitoring websites, departments and anything you can think of on a regular basis can be time consuming. But cyfe can help you manage it all from one place with its dashboard app. This cloud-based service can help you pull data from places like Google, or display data (securely) from your company’s databases with widgets. It has real time reporting capabilities, and you can share dashboards with anyone. It’s free, but there are premium options, too.
We haven't used Cyfe that much over the last two years but we're willing to get back onto this great tool even as we're working hard to start bringing so many of our projects online.
Over to you.
Hopefully this article has given you tips on things you can do to make your life easier in business, or for personal pursuits. We love hearing from our readers, so please leave a comment below telling us if you’ve used any of these apps and also the ones you think we need try out. Thanks for reading!
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