Sort of my “top 10” list of reading material, technology, communities and services/tools I’ve put to work for me and my business. Another post I should probably come back and update every now and then.
I read others, but these will really get your marketing To Do’s charted. But that’s just me… Look for communities of your target market and join their conversations, whatever the website and/or medium . You can also look for these communities on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Set up Google Alerts and follow specific keywords, trends, discussions. Find blogs nestled within and start reading.
* Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur: The kick in the ass that started it all.
* Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Changed everything I thought I knew about what it means to be an indispensable commodity, at work and in life.
* Seth Godin’s Purple Cow: Build the awe-inspiring product that changes the game and watch it sell itself, instead of exhaustively marketing a shitty product.
* Jason Fried’s (37 Signals) Rework: I’ll read this one day.
* Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start: I bought it out of fear of starting a business and not having one of Guy’s books, let alone this classic. I’ll get to it sooner or later.
* Chip & Dan Heath’s Switch: More about changing people’s mindsets within a company but can be applied just about anywhere.
* Ultra Light Startups: They have a site and a blog, but they also meet once a month. First hour has people stand up and pitch their business plans (you need a website and need to be the founder/pres/owner in order to pitch). Next 60 minutes has a panel that talks about a certain topic; e.g. SEO, social platforms… mostly tech-oriented. Great for networking. I met a client there.
* LinkedIn: Aside from the obvious, it serves up and connects you with startup groups from all corners of the entrepeneurial map. One I belong to is OnStartups (which also has a blog)
* Lavapeople: Just joined this one… another entrepreneurial playground, allowing business owners to network, pitch their busisiness, all that jazz
* Startup Nation: Great community with bulletin boards-style communication combined with lots of FAQs, documentation, references, etc
Business, Techy, Financial & General Administrative Services & Tools
* FreshBooks: QuickBooks what? FreshBooks is the simple, clean interface Microsoft could never dream to cook up. Add clients, team members, billable tasks, projects. Track and invoice time. Add contractors and sub their time out. Create professional-looking invoices. All web-based.
* Simply Invoices: Want something even more lean and straight-forward than FreshBooks? Simply Invoices is your accounting answer.
* Basecamp: Maybe it parlays nicely into the fact that I do Project Management for clients, but I think anyone building a business could leverage this organizational tool. Invite your team to use it, post messages, write & manage To Do lists, send messages, share files, set milestones. It also has a ton of add-ons and integrates with financial tools like Freshbooks and Simply Invoices.
* Grasshopper: Set up virtual, toll-free phone (or local) numbers which can then be routed to physical landlines or cell phones, with unlimited extensions. You can set up greetings and away messages, manage your calls online, receive textual voicemails via e-mail or SMS. You can even set your own on-hold music… I wasted at least 45 minutes picking a song “everyone would love”. I came up with Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”. I like it.
* Mint: This is more for personal finance balancing, but I’m sure any business owner would appreciate having all of their accounts (bank accounts, credit cards, income, loans, etc) in 1 snapshot. You can set up budgets, research spending patterns and get general financial advice and money-saving tips. Not sure whether them being bought out by Intuit is a good thing, yet, but I suppose we’ll keep a close eye.
* WordPress: My blogging software of choice. There are others, if you even like to write, but WordPress has all the features I need. If blogging is more your core business, you can download their application, install on your servers and skin it to look like your own site. I did this on FastenFinder.com (site will be up soon..).
* Adium (Pidgin for PC): If you live and breathe by instant messaging communication like most geeks do, these IM clients aggregate all the big protocols (Yahoo, GTalk, MSN, AIM, etc) under 1 roof. It doesn’t integrate with Skype, which is another must-have IM client, if for nothing else, it’s VoIP calling capabilities which allow you to make free long-distance (read: international) calls fo’ free.
* Dropbox: There’s no reason to lose data if your machine takes a shit. Dropbox makes it mindless to backup and sync your files. Just download the light app and it will back up all files on their secured server, which you can then access from another Windows PC, Mac or Linux operating system, as well as from mobile devices. You can get a free 2 GB account or get serious with a 100 GB paid account.
* Balsamiq Mockups: More a tool for the IT consultant, project manager, business analyst or web designer/developer.. Balsamiq is a refreshing tool, run on Adobe Air that lets you create painless wireframes. If you don’t know what those are, you don’t need this.
* XMarks: Backup and sync all of your browser bookmarks. If you lose your computer in a mudslide, no worries about trying to figure out all of those “favorites” you visit daily; just install XMarks and grab your bookmarks from their server. The Firefox plug-in is probably the way to go
Speaking of web browsers, I recommend Firefox, especially if you’re a customization freak like me. Some acceptable alternatives include Chrome or Safari (Macs only). If you use Internet Explorer you need a beating).
* Google Apps for Business: Google docs, e-mail, calendars, video and sites empowering and securing your business. Not sure what else to say. If you have any questions getting your business migrated onto this platform, ask. I’ve done it all for both of my businesses, Melfast and a client. It’s awesome.
* Gmail: Speaking of Google, Gmail is their email client. I really see no need to use another client. Tons of features, settings, add-ons. I love it so much I have 5 accounts, but then, I’m weird.
* Gmail Manager: And for those psychos out there like me, this little Firefox add-on gives you dashboard like viewing and control of your 10 million different Gmail accounts.
* Flux: A retina-saver if you’re someone that stares at a computer 24/7, flux adjusts your screen brightness/contrast based on the time of day. I haven’t had a headache since I started using it. +1 for flux!
* Pandora One: Because if I didn’t have music throughout my work day, I would be in the asylum. And while you’re at is, go grab the Bose Quiet Comfort headphones to dull out the retards yelling and bitching around you. Pandora One is the paid app which means no commercials and endless skipping of crap songs. There is also a free version.