Developing a new business from the ground up can be challenging. Use a few tools to make it easier.

Tools, Software and Resources for Business Startups

Starting a company requires you check off countless boxes, so staying organized and on top of your to-do list is a must. Fortunately, you don't have to scramble. Check out these affordable and easy-to-use tools for keeping track of everything your budding enterprise needs – your future self will thank you.

Hand checking off boxes on a to-do list with text: "Starting a company requires you check off countless boxes, so staying organized and on top of your to-do list is a must."Check out these tools geared toward small businesses and startups

Shake

No matter what type of business you're starting, your company will need to create and fill out contracts. For instance, do you need a non-disclosure agreement fast? An employment contract drawn up in five minutes? Shake is an app for legally binding contracts, including employment, NDAs, renting or lending, buying or selling, and more. All you have to do to create a legal document is answer a series of questions, read the agreement, sign and send.

With free templates and access on multiple platforms (including your phone, tablet or computer), getting contracts through quickly has never been easier. 

Price
Shake is free for personal use, but a Pro subscription is $10 a month. Additionally. companies can contact Shake to get a customized estimate based on their individual needs.

Pitcherific

Getting others to believe in your business plan may seem daunting, but it's a huge part of growing a startup. If you need help honing your pitch, check out Pitcherific. This online tool lets you select a template, write a pitch, and practice it within your time and audience framework. You can choose from a variety of templates, from elevator speech to investor pitch, letting you hone your draft to your situational needs.

Once you're satisfied, you can print a copy to have on hand during the actual presentation. This resource is a huge time-saver for startups, but it retains its usefulness as your company matures.

Price
Individuals pay $54.99 a year for access. Companies should contact Pitcherific for an estimate based on their needs.

Startup Stash: Free

With hundreds of videos and a curated directory on everything startup-related, Startup Stash is a great place to look if you, well, don't know where to begin. This library of resources can be invaluable for any budding business and topics range from finance to CRM. No matter what you need to learn or simply brush up on, use Startup Stash to get your information.

The lessons come from all over the internet, from sources like Google, Twitter and Wikipedia.

Price
Startup Stash's service is free to use.

Squarespace Logo

Your logo says a lot about who you are as a business, so it's an important asset to perfect. However, when you're just starting out, you might need a little help visualizing the final graphic. Squarespace Logo, a product developed by Squarespace, helps businesses establish a brand image. The website features design tools such as icons and text editors that help you realize your logo. 

What's more, Squarespace Logo is simple, allowing you to only use a few elements. This ensures your final design is clear and concise. Graphic design trends are on the straightforward side, and this tool keeps you up to date. 

Finally, Squarespace Logo includes a preview option, showing you how the graphic will appear on T-shirts and business cards before you ever hit download.

Price
Free for Squarespace customers, Logo is an affordable tool. Don't use Squarespace for your website? Non-customers pay $10 per image.

The Name App: Free

"Your company's name should stand out."

What's in a name? Actually, a lot. Your company's name should stand out, communicate your vision and, perhaps most importantly, show up in a search. The Name App helps startups create the perfect title for their budding businesses by showing you which monikers are available where. Simply type your name into the app, and the site will show you whether it's available on various social media platforms and sites. 

The Name App ensures you come up with a title that you can use as your website and social profiles. After all, consistency across platforms helps your customers and fans find you.

Price
The Name App is free to use and available both online and in app stores.

SumoMe

Building your audience is one of the first things your startup must do to generate business. SumoMe helps you do that. This tool focuses on three main objectives: making it easy to share your content, getting more visitors to sign up for emails and showing you the most popular click spots on your site. The first two give site visitors an easy path to either learn more or spread the word, while the heat map allows you to update your website to better cater to user interaction.

In addition to these three primary tools, SumoMe has a host of features to help you get more traffic to your site. 

Price
The basic SumoMe package is free, but for more tools and bandwidth, your company can pay anywhere from $20 a month and up. You can even design a custom package. 

Looking for solutions to specific needs your company has? Stay tuned for the rest of our series on small-business resources.

Your marketing strategy requires different components. Use online tools to make putting it all together easier.

Small Business Marketing Tools

With limited time and resources, small business owners put on a balancing act in which they take on a variety of roles. If this sounds familiar to you, you're probably used to taking on a little marketing responsibilities now and then. However, getting help means creating more time for you to do other tasks. Remove marketing from your to-do list by checking out these small business tools – many of them are low-cost or even free to use.

123Print

Marketing runs the gamut of online and in print. When it comes to paper goods, you want high-quality products you can customize with your brand's chosen aesthetic. 123Print provides unique greeting and business cards, flyers, door hangers and more, all designed to reach your customers.

Still deciding how you want your company's paper materials to look? 123Print's create-your-own-business-card tool lets you try out new designs before purchasing them. That way, you know exactly what you'll get before you spend a dime of your business's budget. When you find a look you love, you can order products in bulk to save.

Price
Check out 123Print's website to learn about specific pricing for the hundreds of available products. Most start at mere cents per print.

Answer The Public: Free

Need help determining what keywords and/or phrases to target? Answer The Public is a search query data visualization tool that supplies users with lists of questions, prepositions and phrases all based on targeted keywords. Reports break down all of the popular ways your keyword has been used in search engines like Google and Bing, bringing you more insight into customers' minds than most analytics tools.

Use this tool in your content-marketing strategy. Targeting the right users with your language and presenting them with content they care about is more likely to land you with new viewers. Answer The Public ensures you market smarter, not just harder.

Price
Answer The Public is free to use. You can head to the site and create a report at any time or download existing ones.

Typeform

Want to find out what your customers or employees are really thinking and where you can make improvements? How about provide potential clients with a way to sign up for your newsletter? Typeform allows you to customize your online forms to collect the information you need in a beautiful, intuitive manner.

The tool creates any form you could need for any industry, from photography to retail to customer service. If you need information and a simple way to build forms and quizzes that actually help you out, Typeform is the right platform.

Price
Typeform offers a free subscription, although Pro+, which is designed for companies, costs $70 a month.

SpyFu

Keywords are at the crux of online marketing, so knowing which ones to use in your content and how your competitors have utilized them is important. Enter SpyFu: This tools lets you input your competitor's domain name to get a variety of metrics, including organic and paid search, and best- and worst-performing keywords. You can also look up a keyword to see what the search volume and cost per click are and compare how companies in your industry are performing online.

While seeing a bunch of data in one place is certainly helpful, SpyFu takes it a step further. Each metric includes a brief explanation, helping you understand and analyze the data so you can create a more effective strategy. 

Price
SpyFu offers Basic, Professional and Team plans ranging in price from $49 per month to $299 per month depending on your company's needs.

Marketing is a big undertaking, requiring print, search engine optimization and lead generation. These tools target different strategies, letting you create a comprehensive plan to spread your name and bring in more business.

Take the hassle out of accounting by using financial tools for small businesses.

Financial Tools Small Businesses Will Love

Small-business owners often have to don a variety of hats. However, the more you focus on nitty-gritty details like contracts, budgeting and project management, the less you get to develop and market your products. Take back some of your time by using these software tools that make the financial side of running a company easier:

Wave: Free

Between filing taxes and paying employees, you have to ensure the books are totally accurate. Fortunately, with Wave's free software, business users can create and send invoices, scan receipts, manage accounts and produce reports with ease. It can even help you with your taxes! Leave the financial details to the experts with Wave.

Price
Wave is free to use, but you can upgrade your account with Premium Tools as you need them. Most tools are $19 a month each, while credit card payments are charged 2.9 percent + 30 cents per transaction. As your company's accounting needs grow, you can update your Wave subscription.

Mint: Free

Need to know where your company's money goes so you can better plan how to spend it? This app, owned by Intuit (the company behind Quicken), helps individuals and business owners create budgets and keep track of cash flow, thanks to unusual charge alerts, free credit reporting, and money and budgeting tips. You can access Mint on any device, whether it's a tablet, laptop, phone or desktop. The service is also customizable, allowing you to create your own spending categories and set savings goals.

With an easy-to-use layout and intuitive user interface, Mint helps make money management simpler. The app can even help you find ways to save.

Price
Mint is totally free to use, but promotions offered through its website by third parties do cost money.

inDinero

inDinero users don't need to be financial experts. The company's intuitive dashboard design helps you ditch the tedious tasks of invoicing, sending financial statements to clients and vendors, producing expense reports and paying bills. Plus, with inDinero, you'll have access to a team of customer-service experts who will help you trial the tool and transition into using it.

inDinero's clear graphs and grids make understanding your company's finances in real time simple. This tool encompasses all of your business's financial needs so you don't have to mix and match services – with just one subscription, you can rest easy.

Stop worrying about tax season or budgets – let these tools make managing company finances easier.

Price
inDinero subscriptions range from $400 a month (if you choose annual billing) on up. It will design a program for your business, so what you pay all depends on what services you want and how big your company is.

Quickbooks

Quickbooks is one of the most popular pieces of accounting software for small businesses thanks to its many features. The program allows you to handle all of your accounting tasks – including bill and employee payments, expense tracking and invoicing – in one spot. You can even connect the tool to your business's bank accounts to further simplify money management. This means you don't have to manually keep track of charges, saving you time. What's more, because Quickbooks tracks all of your spending information, including filing receipt images, you'll know where to look come tax time. 

This tool also connects with card reader Square, automatically updating your account with transaction details. Stay organized and on top of your accounting with Quickbooks.

Price
Quickbooks starts at $10 per month for small businesses and increases in price with more features and employees. 

With financial tools at your disposal, you have one less hat to wear. Instead, step into your entrepreneur role a little more often. 

Give smarter presentations at work.

Giving Better Presentations at Work

Giving presentations is part of running a small business. You'll have to speak to investors, clients and staff on a regular basis. No matter what topic you present on, you want it to be engaging so your audience walks away inspired and educated. Of course, that's easier said than done, especially given that most people are scared of public speaking. With that in mind, here are some tips for giving more engaging and impactful presentations at work:

Make it Matter to Your Audience
Your audience is like your clients; they don't care unless it impacts them. Make sure your presentation focuses on your audience and has clear takeaways. Otherwise, they'll stop paying attention. When planning, determine your goals for the speech, then see how you can relate it back to your viewers. For instance, if you're pitching to investors, your clear goal is to talk up your product. However, don't just say why it's a worthwhile investment, but also how that product will provide ROI for your audience. 

To effectively appeal to your audience, you have to know who it's made up of – know your target demographic especially when speaking with clients.

Tell a Story
You don't have to provide a fun anecdote in your presentation, but you should infuse it with narrative qualities. This means saying what the audience's life is like now and how your product or proposal will change it. Basically, share your vision. 

Your presentation should also have a beginning, middle and an end. You might also follow the rising action, climax and falling action structure of a narrative by setting up your most important point as the "climax" of the speech.

Keep it Simple
The content of your presentation and the tools you use should both be simple and to the point. You don't need a detailed slide deck; instead, make your actual words the most important part of the conversation. In fact, if your audience can learn just as much with just the slide show, then you don't need to have the meeting. Use slides only if they add to your speech, and don't overload them with text.

Additionally, pare down your speech before you present. Cut out anything that doesn't relate back to the core of the presentation – that means avoiding tangents and getting right to the point. This keeps your speech short, providing less time for your audience to zone out.

Reiterate Your Main Points
Conclude your presentation by reiterating the key takeaways for your audience. This summarizes information they might have missed and re-engages them. If you are using a slideshow, list the bullet points on the screen so viewers can see them.

Stay Organized
Whether you're planning or presenting, make sure you are organized. Disorder can make your speech feel rocky or unclear. Get whatever tools you need to stay on top of the many important pieces of your speech, from presentation folders to note cards to slideshows. 

Designing an effective website can help your business.

Designing an Effective Small-Business Website

Your small business's website is ground zero for teaching new visitors who you are and what you do. It may also be where customers actually purchase your goods and services. With so much riding on this series of URLs, you want to make sure you design it with care and intention. With that in mind, here are some tips for developing an effective website:

Consider User Experience
The best websites make good use of prime real estate, meaning the most important information is located in the spots your eyes naturally want to linger. Effective sites are also intuitive, simple and easy to navigate. Ideally, visitors will have no problem figuring out where to go to find the information they want. To aid in this, you should limit the number of landing pages to the ones necessary, so as not to clog up your menus. 

Think about how you navigate a website you've never gone to before, and make note of the things you like or dislike. You can use that experience when designing your website. What's more, you can consult with web designers to further ensure your pages are user-friendly.

Incorporate Strong SEO
Search engine optimization isn't just for content marketing; it's also for your website. Using clean URLs, adding keywords to your landing pages, updating metadata and selecting tags all help search engines spot your website. In fact, these elements are essential for creating a modern and effective site. If you're not sure what SEO elements your site should have, consider seeking the help of a specialist. Otherwise, brush up on your SEO before building your site or writing landing pages.

Call Users to Action
Calls to action are sentences or phrases that prompt visitors to move on to the next step on your website, which is, in most cases, filling out a contact form. CTAs are imperative for effective design because they ensure visitors have clear paths and access to the information they need. You can build a CTA map that leads from one page to the next. For instance, on your "About the Product" page, you might include a link or button that says "For packaging details, check out our pricing guide." Or, on the price page, you might say "To find the best option for your business, contact us." Make sure to link on your phrases.

Maintain Your Brand Identity
Because your website is an easy-to-find representation of your brand, it should maintain a consistent image and voice that targets a specific audience. The language and design you use must be simple and clear so visitors know what they're getting into. If you try to please everyone, it'll be more difficult to discern what your message is and who you're trying to target. 

As your small business grows and changes, make sure your site changes with it. The website should always be current so visitors have the latest info about your brand and product or service.

Customer reviews can be a powerful marketing tool.

Turning Current Business Into Marketing Opportunities

As a small business owner, you're probably on the lookout for equitable marketing opportunities. After all, you want to get your name out there to drum up success. Of course, as important as marketing is, it can be tricky and pricey. To save on time and budget, utilize the resources you already have, including your current clients. Loyal customers are vocal ones who can recommend your company to others. With that in mind, here are some tips for making use of your client network:

Provide Marketing Materials
Offer your customers printed marketing materials they can pass out to others who are interested. For instance, if your company is renovating a home, give the owners yard signs that feature your business's name and contact info. That way, when people pass on the street or visit, they'll know who is responsible for the beautiful work.

Business cards and magnets are other inexpensive products your customers can keep on hand.

Encourage Reviews
When researching companies in any industry, potential customers often rely on and trust the experience of others. As such, having reviews about your company is imperative to the success of your marketing strategy. You can, of course, post reviews on your website, but also encourage clients to write about you on popular third-party sites, like Yelp. Accounts written there tend to come across as more credible – people will think reviews on your website are limited to only the best.

Whether customers had a phenomenal experience working with you or wish a few things had gone differently, reviews provide people new to your company with insight. Even negative reviews lend some credibility to your business – you're going to make mistakes, and showing that you changed your behavior based on feedback is huge for customer satisfaction.

Consider asking clients to review by posting links to third-party sites on your social media or adding a note in your flyers.

Stay in Touch
If your customers are going to recommend you to their friends or come back for more, they need to remember you're around. That's why staying in touch is so important. Fortunately, there are tons of ways to do this. For starters, invite current clients to follow your business on social media or sign up for email newsletters. In both cases, these actions ensure your customers see your online content on a regular basis and are aware of new products and services.

Additionally, you can mail postcards with coupons, product updates or sales announcements. Such correspondence incentivize​s clients to return and ensures your company is at the forefront of their minds.

Here are some tips if you're planning a summer wedding.

Tips for Planning a Summer Wedding

You've probably heard the term wedding season before, but when exactly does it take place? This refers to the peak seasons and months for couples to get married. Typically, it's between spring and fall, with June and September being the most expensive and popular months of the year, and summertime is a top choice for many ceremonies. Here are some tips if you're planning a summer wedding:

Consider the Weather
Unfortunately, mother nature has a mind of her own, and no matter how hard we try, we can't control the weather. But you can try to plan around it. Take the geographical location of your wedding into consideration. Are you a Southern belle? It's likely you won't want to get married in mid-August when the air is warm and sticky and the humidity is out of control. The last thing you want is you guests to be overheated throughout the entire celebration. Sometimes it's worth shelling out the extra bucks for the May or June slot at a venue so the weather is one last thing you have to worry about.

Also, do you plan to have an indoor or outdoor wedding? This can make all the difference. As you know, rainfall picks up a bit during April and May, so finding a venue with indoor and outdoor options may be beneficial. That way, whatever the forecast is, it won't make a difference on your big day.

Don't Forget Save-the-Dates
Summer is prime vacation time with kids being out of school and everyone in that "fun in the sun" mindset. Your wedding invitations are a must, but save-the-dates are also extremely important. Opt for a magnet so your guests can pop it on the fridge. That way, your guests will have all the reminders they need for your special day.

Keep It Cool
When it comes to the food and drinks, minding the weather is a must. We can guarantee your guests won't want to be sipping on hot coffee on a warm, summer day. Your guests will be yearning for an ice-cold drink, according to Bride Guide. Plan the meal and refreshments accordingly. Here's an example of a perfectly appropriate wedding food list for a June wedding:

  • Appetizers: cucumbers sandwiches, fruit kabobs, caprese skewers.
  • First course: strawberry spinach salad, yellow squash soup, Sicilian orange salad.
  • Meal: lemon chicken, mango habanero chicken, parmesan tilapia. 
  • Dessert: gelato, lemon custard, wedding cake (of course!).
  • Refreshments: pink lemonade, frozen margaritas, mimosas.

Don't Forget About Yourself
You've been keeping your guests in mind this whole time, but don't forget about the most important guest: yourself! You want to be happy and comfortable on your big day. Opt for a breezy wedding dress so you don't feel hot or sticky. You may even want to consider a second dress for the reception so you can move more freely. The same goes for the grooms. Don't feel constrained to traditional values. Groomsmen can look handsome and elegant in linen suits or khakis and button-downs. It's your wedding, after all. You call the shots.

Here's how to craft your perfect work from home space.

How to craft your perfect work from home space

Working from home can really come in handy if you feel a cold coming on or just don't want to venture into the office. However, most people who have this option find out the hard way that productivity in a nonoffice environment doesn't always come easy. What's one way to fix this? By creating a space that will help you stay focused. Here's how to do just that:

Let There Be Light
If you wake up in the morning and decide you're working from home that day, you may be tempted to do everything from your bed. Sometimes that means you can go the entire morning without even turning on the lights. According to Andrew Jensen Marketing, having proper lighting is crucial to productivity and overall mood. So set up your workspace in a room full of windows. Peel back the blinds, and let the light show through. Not only will this wake you up, but natural lighting is better for your eyesight than artificial lamps that can cause strain and headaches.

The Right Supplies
Have you ever put something off while you're working remotely because you don't have everything you need in your home office? Well, now is the time to stock up on supplies so that doesn't happen again. Invest in all the right materials, including stationary, letterheads, notepads and stamps. That way, you are providing yourself with all the tools you need to be successful.

Avoid Distractions
Just because you're in the comfort of your own home doesn't mean the television should be on. Try to treat the day as if you were in the office, even though you have plenty of devices at your disposal. The more you simulate a workplace setting, the better work you'll end up doing.

Don't Forget to Take Breaks
You probably don't forget to eat lunch when you're in the office so it should be no different at home. Give yourself a full lunch break to refuel and maybe even get outside for some fresh air. Working continuously without a break is bad for both your physical and mental health.

Get Comfortable
The physical constraints of an office desk and chair can have negative impacts on your body over time. Working from home can offer a nice break on your neck and back. Relax back in your comfiest chair, but be sure to practice good posture while doing so.

Get in Communication
The last thing you want is to go the entire day not speaking to anyone at all. Don't correspond over email, join conference calls instead having online chats. Decisions are made faster, and actual verbal communication can spur creativity.

Stay on Track
Even though you may be on your own computer, treat it as if you were at work. Limit your online web browsing; save the articles you want to read for your break. Too much web access with no one looking over your shoulder is a privilege – use it wisely.

Here are some ways to work as a stay-at-home parent.

4 Business Tips for A Stay-At-Home Parent

Just because you've assumed the stay-at-home parent role doesn't mean you need to put your dream job on hold. In today's age, there are plenty of ways to make money without leaving your house. Here are some business tips for the stay-at-home parent:

1. Earn Money Through Your Hobbies
If you're looking to earn some cash on the side, start with an activity you already enjoy. Do you love to sew? Well, it's easy to set up an account on Etsy.com, and sell your crafts. Or you can utilize some of your other skill sets. For example, if you were a teacher, you can always tutor without even leaving the house. Plus, it probably won't be hard to find kids that need some extra help. Inform parents of your kid's friends to spread the word that if anyone is looking for a tutor to give you a call.

2. Become A Blogger
Lifestyle blogs are all the rage on the Internet. You may even have a couple of them you browse on a daily basis. Well, that's because not only is blogging fun, but it can pay the bills, too. Running a blog can earn you money through clicks, sponsors, etc. According to Wisebread, banner ads pay upwards $300 to have content on bloggers' sites. Plus, if you build up a good following you could even get free things. Blogging has more than just monetary benefits. This can be a great way to archive your family's life through photos and posts. Perhaps one day when your little ones are older, they can look back on your posts and remember the younger periods of their lives.

3. Host A Daycare
Even as a stay-at-home parent, you probably know how hard it is to land the perfect and affordable nanny or babysitter. Odds are fellow parents in the area feel the same way. Childcare is expensive, and you can make your home into a daycare for other children. That way, your kids can socialize with others, and you can make some money while parenting even if it's only a couple of hours a day or times a week. Make promotional flyers to hang up around your community.

4. Become A Secret Shopper
How does making money while you're shopping for all the ingredients for dinner that night sound? Well, that dream can be a reality by becoming a secret shopper. This kind of job is perfect for stay-at-home parents because it allows you to make your own schedule. That way, you still have the flexibility of not having a full-time job. You could work part time, less or more. Plus, secret shopping has plenty of other perks. It takes you to plenty of stores and establishments you may have never been to before. Sometimes you can get assignments at restaurants, which allows you to bring the entire family along. Some of your assignments, like food delivery, don't even require you to leave your home. 

Here is some of the groundwork to being a successful entrepreneur:

5 Tips to Being a Successful Entrepreneur

Succeeding as an entrepreneur is no easy feat. It takes hard work, time and unwavering commitment. There are hundreds of books you can get on how to become succeed in the world of business. However, here's some starter advice to being a successful entrepreneur:

Be Passionate
It sounds simple, but loving what you do will take you a long way. Without the underlying passion, it's easy to get burnt out whenever you come across a few hurdles or barriers. Being an entrepreneur involves having a lot of tough skin. The more passionate you are, the easier it will be for you to bounce back. If you don't have the drive, you won't go very far, no matter what business you're venturing into. You get out what you put into a business, according to Entrepreneur.

Go Slow
Lots of entrepreneurs try to speed up the process. It's important to have patience. Rarely do people succeed within the first six months, or even a year, of being an entrepreneur. These things take time, and while it's important to not stall, it's equally necessary that you take smaller risks and learn along the way.

Represent Yourself
Now is the time to make your name known. Join social media, and get yourself out there. Create your own marketing materials, and place them everywhere you can think of. Always carry your business card around with you because you never know when a a potential opportunity will arise, and you don't want to miss out.

Take Yourself Seriously
Once you first get started, mistakes will be made. When that's the case, it may be a little difficult to take yourself seriously and have the confidence to keep going. But it's extremely important that you stay motivated and positive.

Manage Your Money
Now is not the time to be frivolous with your money. You're going to need the funds to do anything with your business, so it's vital that you stay on top of things. If you're not strong with numbers, consider hiring someone to take care of your accounts for you.

Be Creative
Being an entrepreneur means you're your own boss, so the sky is the limit. Use creativity and intuition to help achieve your goals. It's important to stay smart, but be sure to get out there and start taking chances. You will definitely run into situations where you need to think on the spot. Over time, you're going to gain experience and learn from your past mistakes. But if you don't take any chances, you'll never succeed or fail. Think outside the box, and let the creative juices flow.

Give Yourself a Break
It's going to become very easy for you to be on the go at all times. And because you're the boss, you might forget that you still need time off yourself. Make sure to take breaks and vacations. Life isn't always about working. And the more time off you take, the better focused you'll be at work. That way, you won't burn out.