Bootstrapping – carrying out activities with minimum resources – is all too familiar to most small business and wedding start ups. Guest author Oli Wood of Wedding Tales talks about the productivity tools he has used to get his new business up and running.
“Since founding www.weddingtales.co.uk in January we’ve made use of a whole bunch of tools to help us grow our business quickly and with very little initial funding (the first few months were bootstrapped on my creditcard).”
Tools for getting organised:
We’re a small team (two) and both work from our own laptops often in different parts of the country. If we shared an office then traditionally we’d have put in a small server and shared everything via a shared drive which are very familiar to anybody who’s worked in
an office in the last ten years. However, the kit is not cheap, and it doesn’t work if you’re not in the same room.
We use Google Docs (docs.google.com) instead of Microsoft Office. There’s an online word processor, a spreadsheet and even presentation program. You can very easily share your documents with others in your business and even work on them at the same time without getting on each others toes (no more Document_version_1-new-newer.doc in your inbox).
The spreadsheet tool isn’t quite as powerful as Excel, but it’s not far off and getting better with every day. I now manage all of our finances, forecasts and technical management though it.
Oh, and it’s all free.
We use Google Apps for Domains (URL) to manage all of our emails. It plays with Google Docs perfectly too. No more having to have an IT company set up things for you and a very reliable service. New member of staff? Just add a new mail box and away they go. All of our emails come from @weddingtales.co.uk since day one, no more “running from hotmail.com to get started”. Look professional from the very beginning.
We use Dropbox.com for sharing large files and as a backup. Where we’ve been working on code or very large graphics files on our own laptops then Dropbox magically synchronises between the two computers. Also, everything in your Dropbox folder is available through their website securely and from anywhere in the world, so if you go to a client and you’ve forgotten something it’s there for you.
Tools for looking professional
Moo.com make really beautiful business cards (and many other printed products). They also do very short print runs at reasonable prices. Our first set of business cards were £10 for 100. It’s pricey per card, but when we changed our branding a month later we didn’t have 4995 wasted cards in a box.
Skype is our telephony provider of choice. It is free for Skype to Skype chats including video which is very handy where we’re working apart. You can also make cheap calls to landlines in other counties from it as well as have a physical “land line number” which redirects to your Skype client wherever you are.
Tumblr.com is a blogging service. We’ve used it to get blog.weddingtales.co.uk up and running in a couple of hours. Eventually we might out grow it but until then it works just fine. It’s very reliable, easy enough to use and copes with our 1000 hits a day without dropping a beat.
Social Media Tools
If you let it social media can eat you and your time alive. It can however be very important in growing your business. In the wedding industry we’ve found that for business to business relationships there is nothing better.
Tweetdeck is a stand alone program for managing twitter accounts (single or multiple). If you configure it’s settings correctly it becomes very powerful for only notifying you about things you need to see (such as mentions of the name of your service)
BufferApp is a tiny tool that packs a mighty punch. It lets you queue up tweets. Why is this important? Because if you post the five awesome things you’ve found and want to tweet about in one lump at 11:37am they will be seen by far less people (and be more annoying) than if you spread them through out the day.
if you’re building an online service there are a wealth of online tools to help but here’s not the best place to chat about them. Get in touch if that’s what floats your boat.
Using these tools and a few more we’ve taken Wedding Tales from an idea to a live and kicking online private photo sharing service for weddings in less than a year. Every day we see new brides and grooms coming on board and getting to share and keep their guests photos forever. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but using free online tools means that we’ve kept our capital expenditure as low as possible whilst never missing an opportunity, and so can you.