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Relevant for: Entrepreneurs, Project Managers, Online Marketers, Real Estate Entrepreneurs

First off, I’m not going to be talking about your industries tools. You’ll know whether you need Microsoft Word, or Quark Express, or don’t have a website but what often kills small business creators is how to manage all the other essential parts of making their own income. Here’s a list of some greate core tools, both web and Mac for the state of business as it is now, for online entrepreneurs.

This article will focus on essential tools for managing income producing endeavors in 2010 that take little to no learning curve to use and will simplify how to do business. It also covers why doing them on Mac is a great choice.

If you’re already running a business or are interested in starting one, it has never been more possible, and the tools have never been more accessible at little or no cost.

This article is part 2 of a 3 part series including resources and tools for freelancers, entrepreneurs and small business owners. See part 1 for small business and part 3 for the freelancers.

Wait, Wait. Business applications on Mac?

The notion that business can’t be run on a Mac is something I’ve heard over and over. Fact is, for small businesses and freelancers, that’s just plain silly. When you look at reality, most of the management tools are actually online now a days, and the ones that aren’t, have Mac and Windows equivalents. Large corporations might be sluggishly behind on updating their infrastructure or use proprietary custom software, but there’s no reason you can’t benefit from the added security, reliability (that’s the kicker!) and ease of use the Apple platform offers. From invoicing to backup, to productivity, these tools are solid wins for your ideas.

What makes using a Mac a Good Business Solution Then?

Apple operating system (OS X) un-sexy truths

  • Reliability is big as the system runs on code called UNIX that creates an incredibly reliable and secure platform for the rest of everything to run on. This is what those commercials mean when they say things just “work.”
  • Continuity is also something non-sexy about the system but makes everything that much better. All the programs “talk” to each other. Your photo program talks to your e-mail, so a click is all it takes to format and send pictures, your chat program talks to your address book, that new accounting program you just downloading can load pictures, music, or contacts because everything in the system shares. It something I’ve particularly noticed that’s missing from the Windows systems.
  • Maintenance is NOT required, virus protection isn’t necessary. Arguments abound, but using a Mac doesn’t require weekly or daily or monthly virus sweeps, spyware scans or anything like that. Creating strong passwords is the most important part of security on a Mac. 10+ years of experience on a Mac, still not one virus. I know it can happen, but I’m saying it doesn’t.
  • Yes, it runs Microsoft Office, people still think you can’t open or create a Word document on a Mac, I’ll keep saying it until I stop getting questions about it.
  • Backup is built in to the Apple operating system in the form of popularized application “Time Machine.” The ease of use is the key point here. There are hundred of backup solutions for online or system specific set-ups. It takes literally a few clicks (4min how to) to back everything up using Time Machine on a Mac after plugging in an external hard drive. I’ll be releasing something special on the topic of backup in the near future.

Those points above are the big hitters, surfing the web and saving files is just about the same on any system, but with these foundations in place the experience as a whole is much better and thats just part of the reason so many Mac fans are avid about the system. It’s not one thing or the other, but the collective experience that is just as pretty as the machines themselves.

The Online Entrepreneur

E-mail Campaigns

The services below are the industries standards for maintaining and integrating e-mail lists online. I vote for Mailchimp because it has a free package and the easiest online instructions to absorb. Aweber is probably the most popular though.

Online Marketing Interaction

Become a social media guru, you have the most to gain here. Use these tools to to release special deals, coupons, new release content, make these followers feel special and they will flood you with traffic.

  • Tweetdeck – A desktop application for managing all the social network information. It links up with Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace and then provides scrolling columns for each website. It’s much more manageable when you just want to read what’s up and post a few items. It’s more about hearing responses and posts than sending information out.
  • Su.pr – This tool is vital for pushing out content quickly, tracking it, and engaging audiences. You link this site up with your Facebook and Twitter accounts and then post through this tool to multiple accounts at once. Any links included will be shortened and then tracked. Tracking includes how many times someone clicked on your link, if it was re-tweeted and how popular it was overtime. You’re also linked in to the host company’s social website surfing community “StumbleUpon” just by using the shortening links they build into the service.
  • Facebook Page – A page created on Facebook separate from a profile page. Easy to invite people to look at and gain “fans” that populate throughout the network if your publishing great content, coupons, and links to.
  • Stumbleupon
  • Delicious

Offline Marketing and Advertising

  • Apple’s “Pages” application puts together phenomenal ads for print, and works well as a decent online add creator. It doesn’t do raw graphic creation, but if you’re pulling in a logo or other images and adding text, it’s perfect, it’s fast, and has a zero learning curve. Hiring a graphic designer would be the next step here.

Online Presence

You need both a website and a blog. If you’re someone with a product, the web needs to be your playground. Showcase your products with a website and draw people from social media sites to your growing brand with a blog. The “tool” here is having a website in general, actually getting up is a much bigger project. Contact us for more information. Keep reading for tools on selling products online with your website.

Managing E-mail

  • Your e-mail should come from your domain, it’s much more professional than [email protected] The easiest way to do this is use Google Apps, or set up Apple’s desktop client “Mail” to do this.
  • Organizing e-mail is essential. Apple’s Mail program does a great job and syncs well with all devices, but this year I switched to Google because it provides everything I need, is always accessible online and offline, and more importantly has built in template responses and simple filters for common account type alerts or automated e-mails. I won’t go into detail about all the features, but knowing that you can use Google’s Apps mail with your domain, meaning “[email protected]” is really valuable, and still free. You’ll probably need to hire someone to set it up for you, but it’s a once and done thing. I’d do this ad-hoc type of work for $50 a set up. It’s also easy to manage multiple e-mail accounts from one Google e-mail interface.

Project Management

You’ll probably have a more one track goal orientation than the freelancers, but also collaborate with partners and new hire’s more. Basecamp works well for small teams, I’m partial to a shared Google Document, or using Action Method. As much as I’ve used different software, it’s more about your mental methodology and good documentation on getting things done than it is the tools.

  • Google Docs – An online, color coded, formatted document is simple and often times all you need.
  • ActionMethod.com – An online task management suite, free package available. Scales for cost, very intuitive.
  • Basecamp.com – I’d say this is the most popular web application available. Some learning involved, it starts at $24. Overkill if you just want to manage some tasks, the collaboration is very well done.
  • Evernote – A free, online syncing desktop application for easy thought collection and management. Task documents are easy to create and manage, along with pulling in screen shots or e-mailing out content. A simple but great all around tool. Set up multiple users with one account for easy note syncing.

Selling Products, Intermittent Invoicing, Accounting

This gets a bit complex, but it’s worth going into. If you’re still acting like a freelancer, you’ll need to use an invoicing tool. Otherwise you’re going to be selling products. You’ll need two things to do this, a “shopping cart” and then you’ll need a “payment gateway.” Shopping cart software acts as the glossy, or simple looking wrapper you use to get people to put their information into a payment gateway and accept a charge. Sometimes “payment gateways” include a very rough shopping cart, like Paypal. The go to examples are below. The nice thing about this sometimes messy integration is once it’s done, you typically don’t mess with it again.

Mint.com – You might have a company credit card, you might not. Traditional businesses immediately hire an accountant and buy expensive accounting software to manage a few hundred sales a month, this isn’t necessary. Proceed with caution here, do you just need to track your sales and expenses? mint.com, an online intuitive and free money tracking website might be all you need, stick to a business bank account and credit card and you shouldn’t need to break the bank as you figure out your tax requirements and accounting needs.