It’s more affordable to run a small business (depending on the type of business, of course) than ever before, simply because of all the free tools out there to help you be more efficient.
Below are three of my all-time favorite free tools with which I’m having love affairs with at the moment. Each has drastically simplified my life. I’m certain they’ll do the same for you.
Tired of emailing various business documents to yourself every day and tripping yourself up trying to keep track of which version is which? Run, do not walk, over to Dropbox’s website and download immediately.
DropBox isn’t just for file backup anymore. They’ve added links to their website, so you can share your files with your coworkers in a read-only capacity, or give them editing permissions. You can install the program on any computer, and you can log into the website if you’re on a different computer. The free account gives you 2 GB, but there are tons of opportunities to win extra space; paid data storage starts at 50GB, and if you’re working with beefier files than relatively lightweight word documents or spreadsheets, it might be worth the small expense.
(DropBox bonus: link it up with your smartphone and have every picture you take immediately available upon booting up your computer—simpler than bluetooth, and definitely simpler than emailing them to yourself.)
If you’re still using your favorite pet’s name for all of your passwords (*shudder*), it’s time to make a serious change. The most secure passwords consist of a random string of characters—numbers and letter, upper-case and lower-case—with no recognizable words. You know this, but you also assume this only applies to other people. It doesn’t.
Of course, it’s hard to remember one random string of characters, much less one for each website or account you need to log into. (You do have a different password for each account, right?) This, my friends, is where KeePass comes in.
Think of it like that not-so-secret Word document full of account passwords sitting on your desktop right now, but a bit more . . . well, secret. You just need to memorize one master password to get into your file, and you have immediate access to all of your account websites, user names, passwords, and literally any other information you want to keep there for future reference.
And, as you’re probably wondering by now, KeePass’s security is practically unrivaled—total data encryption (not just the passwords). Even the National Security Agency swears by it. (Unless, of course, your master password is your favorite pet’s name. #facepalm)
(Hot tip: Keep your KeePass in your DropBox folder and access your passwords from anywhere!)
I’ve written about Square before when I encountered a food truck vendor using the credit card reader on his iPhone to speed through the line (which was very long indeed, since he was of course able to attract those paying with plastic, an Achilles’ heel among traditional food trucks), and I’ve seen them nearly everywhere since; from bands to food festivals to sidewalk vendors, the little white reader is on fire in the small business community.
While the service is not strictly “free”—you’ll pay a 2.75% charge per swipe—the company sends the Square reader itself to you at absolutely no cost to you, and everything about it is laughably simple: no setup fees, next-day deposits, and almost total spatial and geographical freedom (within the United States). Square gives any small business the versatility to take payments any time, anywhere, wherever their customers are.