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Useful sites for small business

Elsa Wenzel | Sept. 30, 2011
Whether you're running a business out of your den or from a penthouse in the sky, you don't have time or money to waste on second-rate tools. These well-designed services and resources are among the best the Web offers for small and midsize businesses. Some include apps for smartphones and downloads for your desktop, but all of them provide the bulk of their features within a Web browser.

Raising Capital

You're sitting on an out-of-this-world recipe for nano-cupcakes, but you lack the capital to whip them up in batches big enough to sell. Luckily, crowdfunding websites let you ask total strangers for cash to get your fledgling venture rolling. Kickstarter is the best-known option, but IndieGoGo has some advantages: Namely, IndieGoGo lets you keep most of the money you've raised, even if you haven't reached your initial goal. With Kickstarter, on the other hand, if you fall even $1 short of your $4000 goal, then no cash for cupcake batter for you.

Looking for more-traditional ways of securing small-business credit? MoodysBiz includes a helpful tutorial and risk-assessment tool. RaiseCapital aims to take the middleman out of the venture-capitalist-and-starving-entrepreneur relationship; post your business pitch there in hopes of attracting the deep pockets that be.

The Law

Legal Zoom steps you through common legal processes, such as setting up a limited liability company; an LLC setup, for example, starts at $99. Rocket Lawyer provides copious articles and free forms, such as for nondisclosure agreements. It can even help you create an employee policy handbook. Once you log in, its dashboard includes a calendar, access to advice from lawyers, and a numeric score of your legal health.

If you snubbed the attorneys at your cocktail party, where can you turn for a basic legal question? You might try Law Pivot, a Q&A site where lawyers specializing in everything from administrative law to workers compensation are available to answer.

Career Building

Are you offering your new assistant a competitive wage? Is your cubicle buddy making more money than you? Maybe they've reported their earnings to PayScale or Salary.com. When you tell each site your salary, it taps into its database of responses from other users to estimate if you're getting a fair shake.

GetRaised goes a step further by assessing, for free, if you're possibly underpaid; then, for $20, it guides you through a custom raise request with your boss. If you don't receive a bump in your bottom line within six months, you get your Jackson back. Next, JobSpice will step you through crafting a killer résumé.

Look Bigger Than You Are

Whether you need a virtual secretary, a Web app developer, or an SEO expert, BPOVIA has a stable of virtual assistants offering to help from afar. It starts at $120 per month for 10 hours of services, all the way up to ten times that amount for full-time help.

ZenDesk provides a virtual help desk for companies that require customer support and can't keep up with flooded inboxes and never-ending help-desk tickets. It charges between $9 and $119 per month, depending on how many support agents you enlist.

 

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