These days I’m secluded in my home office and get limited face time with my business partners, developers, and clients. So I end up on the phone or chatting with people all day long to stay connected. And even though I talk to people scattered all over the US and abroad, I’ve become fairly adept at coordinating operations from home with only the occasional business trip. One of the main reasons I’m able to do this is the tools below. Surprisingly, all of these tools are free and I haven’t found a need to pay for any alternatives.
Free Tools a Stay at Home Entrepreneur Shouldn’t Live Without
- Skype: I use Skype to chat with all my coworkers, friends, and other bloggers. It’s my lifeline to the outside world. And while I prefer a land-line for domestic calls, I use Skype for several international calls a day to my freelance programmers in Eastern Europe. It’s amazing how small the world seems when you can click a button and talk to someone on the other side of the world.
However, I don’t use Skype’s screen sharing tool because it only works with other Skype users and I always have a hard time trying to figure out how to start it. A much better option for screen sharing is…
- Join Me: Join.me is the simplest screen sharing program I’ve ever tried…and I’ve tried a lot of them, I even used to be a reseller of a few of the bigger names. You don’t have to register to use Join.me and it’s all browser based. I do software demos for clients on Join.me all the time and I love it.
- Free Conference Call.com: Did you know you could host conference calls for free without ads? Seriously. There’s no catch and it’s just as professional as any paid service. I use the Free Conference Call service every day with my clients. Many are shocked that it’s really free and ask me the details so they can stop paying monthly service fees to their own providers. Oh, and the jazzy hold music when you’re waiting for a call to begin really gets stuck in your head and you’ll be humming all day.
- Balsamiq: Balsamiq is a simple, web-based, drag and drop wireframing tool. What the heck is wireframing? A wireframe is a mockup of the layout of a website or application. I just created the example mockup below in under 10 minutes!
I used the free, web-based version for a while and recently upgraded to their paid version to get use of a few extra bells and whistles. Both versions rock! I’ll be posting soon about how to use a wireframe to relay your website design ideas to a web designer.
- Google Analytics: You have a website right? If so, you really need to track the who, what, when, and where of your visitors. How else are you going to find more visitors, keep ‘em reading longer, and increase your conversions if you don’t track your results?
- GIMP: PhotoShop & Corel are great for manipulating images, but they are very expensive. I try not to mess around with art files and prefer to find a graphic designer to do it for me. However, I occasionally need to tweak images myself and GIMP is an excellent, free Photoshop alternative.
Do you know any “must have” free tools for entrepreneurs that I’ve missed?