Monthly Archives: December 2013

Logo and Branding Design

You’d think it’d be impossible to get logo and branding design done for free. And you’d be almost right. But not quite. There are logo editing sites which allow you to enter your company name and build a logo, often in just one or two clicks. If you want something more bespoke, you could hire someone from a budget pay-per-job or pay-per-hour site. Either way, here’s some of the best options we’ve found to get your logo done for free or not very much.

Free Logo Generators/Creators

Cooltext is a free logo creator which you can enter a company name and it’ll create a logo for you at the touch of a button. You can fiddle with a few variables then download a small but usable version of the graphic free of charge. Similarly, Flamingtext allows you to enter your text and get a cool looking logo in just a couple of clicks. For personal use, it’s free, for business use it’s $19.95 a year. Logomaker is a little more complex to use but allows you to create logos and text  together. When done, you can add your logo to your website for free by using their code (or screengrab the logo) but for a higher resolution version, they charge $49. They also give you the option to buy company stationery and promotional items. All three give very passable results that’ll get your company identity up in no time.

Bespoke Design Work

There’s a new generation of websites where professionals (and, it has to be admitted, unprofessionals!) offer their services on a pay per project or pay per hour basis. The great thing about these sites is that you can review the designer’s feedback and samples of their work before taking them on – and they often work for minimal fees. Working up in cost, with Fiverr you pay a fixed cost of $5 for a pre-set service. Generally you can see exactly what you’ll get – if you want more, each supplier has a list of paid-for extras. At PeoplePerHour suppliers offer a fixed price for an hour’s work. You can review samples of their work and see feedback from previous customers. Prices tend to range from £10-20 per hour. At Freelancers you can post up exactly what you’re after and freelancers can apply to do the work for you. Or you can search various freelancers in a variety of fields and pay a fixed project cost.

 

Social Media

Social Media tools are vital for marketing – especially for B2C businesses where they can put you right in front of prospective customers. Most social tools started off free, but in their quest to monetize things, they’re now more freemium than free. But some are free-er than others and some help you manage multiple social media tools in one go.

Free Social Media Tools

Facebook is the daddy – and it’s free to start using. Sign up as you, then create a business page linked to your personal account. It’s free to publish content to Facebook but takes a good deal of work to gain a following and start generating sales.

Twitter allows you to communicate using 140 characters or less. Other users follow you if you post interesting stuff but again, it takes time to generate a following.

If you have access to lots of interesting visual content, try creating a visual bulletin board in Pinterest. Post enough interesting stuff and people will share your pictures and follow your board.

A more B2B-relevant Social Media site is LinkedIn. Essentially, it’s a big contacts database where people can keep their contact details up to date and connect with each other. You can also create a company page and people can connect and follow you. It’s great for targeting prospective B2B customers.

Free Tools to Manage Multiple Social Media Accounts

Once you start using social media, you’ll probably find it useful to manage all your social media accounts in one place. Hootsuite is probably the best free tool that allows you to manage most popular social media accounts and post to them all simultaneously. The free version allows you to manage 5 different social media sites. If you want to manage more accounts or need analytics and reporting, there’s also a paid for pro (£7.19 p/m) or enterprise (£lots more) solution.

Another popular service is Buffer. Like Hootsuite, you can manage multiple accounts for free – one account from each social media account. There’s a (sorry about this) Awesome Plan version for $10 a month which is suitable for a small team and more social media accounts and there’s also a small, medium and large versions from $50-$250 p/m all with expanded functionality.

 

Cloud Storage

Best Free Cloud Storage

Storage used to be a hardware issue: you need more storage, you buy a new hard drive. However all that changed with the advent of online, or cloud, storage.

These days, digital storage for many businesses is best being cloud based. Online cloud storage is free/cheap, accessible anywhere and on any device and, since you don’t have to manage hardware redundancy or backups yourself, it’s much more reliable.

Data held on the cloud is also inherently easier to share and use. OK there might be concerns about data security, but for the startup and smaller business, we’d say the cost and usefulness of cloud storage makes it the best bet.

So where do you turn?

Let’s start with Google. Their Google Drive is great, allows you to access your storage on lots of devices and gives a free 15Gb of storage. It’s ok for business users too. Ditto Dropbox, the market leader which offers 2Gb of free storage – while Box is great for sharing stuff with colleagues and comes with 5Gb of free storage. And of course Microsoft offer OneDrive with 15Gb free storage and works across devices.

Mediafire gives 10Gb free in the basic, free account. Shared gives 100Gb, but uses your Facebook user/pass to give you access (which may or may not be a problem for you?). Surdoc also gives 100Gb and is great if you’re after backing up data because it has an auto-backup feature for Windows users – though the free version limits you to 10Mb file sizes (cunning devils!).

Best Cloud Storage up to 100Gb that Costs a Bit

All the above are great but if you’re a business user who needs more storage or needs to store larger files, then you can get lots of storage for not much money with these:

Best is Mediafire where you can have a pro version with 100Gb at $2.49 a month. Google Drive is happy for everyone to have a free account, but if you want more than their basic 15Gb, you can get 100Gb for $4.99 a month. Dropbox Pro is $99 a year for 100Gb and Box Starter is £3.50 per user per month with 100Gb storage. Surdoc‘s unlimited version is $8.33 a month.

Best Cloud Storage over 100Gb

Shared has a pro version with 1Tb of storage for $9.95 a month. Box will charge you £11 per user per month for their 1Tb storage, but best of all is Surdoc which will give you unlimited (yes unlimited!) storage for $8.33 per month.

 

Bulk Email Software

Free Email Software

There’s some great free mass/bulk emailing software out there. MailChimp is probably the best for small businesses wanting to try out bulk emailing for the first time. If you send to fewer than 2000 addresses and less than 12000 emails a month, it’s totally free forever. Can’t say fairer than that!

YourMailingListProvider also offers a free account, allowing you to send up to 1000 emails a month to 1000 contacts. It’s useful if you want a sign up form on your site to harvest contacts, though the free account doesn’t allow you to import your own contacts list.

These two are probably the best free emailing software to go with at the moment.

Email Software that costs a bit

Both the above email clients have paid-for versions which can be worth the money if your mailing list grows. MailChimp’s probably the best as their free account gives you lots of bang for no bucks – and if you want to send more emails to more people, then you’ve a choice of either pay as you go (1.25p – 1.88p per email) or monthly subscription (from £6.27).

YourMailingListProvider’s paid account starts at $2.65 a month for 500 emails so is worth a shot too.

Amazon came to the market recently with Sendy – a self-hosted bulk emailing service at a one-off cost of $59 but the lowest cost per email send.

For a more bespoke solution with some good, user-friendly tools, Dotmailer is a good service that charges a one off fee of £295 + VAT for their standard version then around 2p per email sent.