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As a marketing professional, I research every day for a living and know what small businesses can use to get started. There are many top name brands that offer design and marketing services for free or at least for very little. Is it the best way to started? Not necessarily But starting is better than delaying and missing opportunities.

So why would I be the ‘Cat’s Meow’ and point small business owners and entrepreneurs in this direction when my own business is built on full service? There are several reasons, but the obvious one is that new start ups require funds. New start ups can usually only afford less than professional services can offer. However, in defense of all of the experts out there, you will get better design and marketing results using professionals. But if you are starting out as even I did years ago with a shoestring budget, you may want to  look for industry deals to begin with and then later when funds are more plentiful, invest with the pros.

With that being said, I want to provide a few big name companies that have a heart for new businesses and entrepreneurs. These are top name brands that, like me, want you to move into a successful company. To get started in any business today you will require a few essentials. The basics are logo creation, business cards, email services, website design and cloud invoicing.  Of course social media posting is always free. However, mobile phone plans and laptops are never free, but at least they are more affordable today than ever before.

Business Cards – one name that is agreed upon everywhere for quality and affordability is VistaPrint. You can design your own business cards online, have them printed and shipped to your door. These are not custom design cards, but you can start getting your name out to the world in decent fashion with an appropriate business logo, at an affordable price.

Logo Design – Create a free logo online through Vistaprint and add to your business card for free or download an affordable print and web type file. Granted it’s not custom logo design, but it’s a good starting point in that price range.

Domain Registration – I would suggest using  everyone’s favourite, Godaddy.  As well, Google has now taken on this market. You need to carefully select one that complements your business name for your business email and your website. These are never free, but the cost is just the few cups of coffee that you may be spending at Starbucks.

Hosted Business Email – I highly recommend using a domain email address as personal emails appear unprofessional. There are many choices, but here are some I have found that start at ‘free’ and extend to paid month plan. Zoho offers a free hosted email service to get you started, but Google Apps for Work provides email, collaboration, web conferencing, free calling and file storage and sharing for only a few dollars a month.

DIY Website Design – Yes you can do these for free if you have the time and some good computer skills. Zoho and Google offer free website design. If you are using the free Zoho email, then use Zoho free website design. Should you choose Google Apps for Work, use their free site builder to build a external website.

Invoicing – When starting out, assistants and bookkeepers are not likely in your budget either. However, you will need to send quotes to win business and invoices to get paid. These new invoicing cloud services include mobile apps and range from free to a few dozen dollars a month. Zoho invoicing starts at no cost. Two paid versions to consider are Quickbooks Online and Freshbooks You should note that they all track your expenses for tax time.

As I was saying, this is just a starting point as professional services tend to have more pleasing results, create a better image and allow you to  focus on what you do best, “your business”. Now that I let the cat out of the bag, I trust my peers will forgive me for handing over our secrets!

Drop me a line with your thoughts!  I make a great scratching post.

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