Basic Business Software – what will I need? The real secret is to know and understand how to use the software that is already available on your computer or available for free on the web. We have already discussed the first four things you will need before anything else, in the lines of protection and services. Those will all cost money, but are part of your start-up expenses and are all tax deductible.
Then you have your free software, for (6) office production, (7) marketing, (8) web production, (9) graphics, and (10) analyzing and testing. In this ten-part series, we are going to introduce you to all of them. I can’t think of any software used in marketing that does not fall into one of these categories.
The most indespensible office tool, and why
Above phones, copiers, and even staplers, you have to be able to work. If you don’t produce work, you won’t have reason to speak on the phone, copy anything, or staple anything together. For that you need software. It is entirely possible to make a living totally from your computer, and manage the records and files by sitting at a laptop on the floor in an empty room! Most of us will want more than that.
OK, so maybe the laptop is the most indepsensible tool. But definitely second to that is a set of tools and software on your laptop to produce and manage the work. One of the set of office tools that I find indespensible is the suite of free tools from OpenOffice.org. They call it a “Productivity Suite”, because in reality, there is going to be very little you can “produce” without them! They do everything that Microsoft Office does, including word processing (same as MS Word), drawing, spreadsheets (same as Excel and readable by both), presentations and slideshows (called Impress – same as PowerPoint, and readable by both)(also useful for some image editing), and a database (same as MS Access, and readable by both). Some will find fault with my saying “same as”, but I say that in reference to the fact that they do the same tasks. Yes, they may have slightly different features and maybe buttons are in different places, but in the things that count, they do the same jobs.
We all should know what word processing is… basically any kind of typing you used to do on a typewriter… only faster and easier… but a word processing program is more than that. The first obvious difference is that you can edit out your typos on a word processor, rather than resort to the old standard: WhiteOut!
But the word processor is also capable of much more! You can save not only your business letters, but also web pages! Also saved within any documents are links and pictures. Plus, because it is a digital document, you can email it! Most Word processors also have limited drawing ability built into them, so if you need to make a simple sketch or directions on how to get to your house, you can email that sketch as an attachment. You will find all of these things useful in web work and small business management, at one time or another, but just as importantly, even if you are using your computer only for home use, you should still be making use of these tools!
Another important thing that the OpenOffice word processor, presentation, and spreadsheet programs do is create .pdf files, which are a standard in the office and web industries. They are used for everything from reports to catalogs to ebooks, and making them is a necessity in any office or web work. For years, Adobe Reader was the standard for being able to read such files, and most computers come with it already installed. But many people want to do more than simply read the files. They want to create their own, for emailing contracts, creating downloable files for their web work, and for creating such things as reports and ebooks. Sure, there are fancier programs for making ebooks and emags, in which you can even flip the pages, just like a real book. Those are great if you are publishing a weekly or monthly magazine, but most of them come with a usage cost. For once in a while reports or even casual ebooks, the .pdf file is still the way to go, as it will always appear the same on any computer.
In OpenOffice, you simply choose “export” from the file menu and export your word document files to a new file as the new file type! Then you can send that file via email, or make it downloable in your web pages.
The second most important thing that you should learn is how to work with spreadsheets. I have heard many people say (especially those not in business) that they have no need for spreadsheets.
Personally, I couldn’t function without them, even in a home environment! We use them for our:
keeping approximate balances on loans
to do lists
lists of the affiliate progams and vendors we are associated with
doing projections based on expected income and expenses
tracking health concerns, such as blood pressure, sugar level and other things
grocery lists (including costs, comped items and who has what and where)
creating calendars for specific purposes (such as work schedules and hours)
home inventory (including item names and original cost, date purchased and when sold, for insurance records)
product inventory cost and sales proceeds for eBay
etc, etc. the list could go on through hundreds of uses!
They work extremely well for lists which require “adjusting”, such as to do lists, that may have to be rearranged for priority, or simply deleting an item when completed.
In fact, included with spreadsheets is also another very usefull drawing program, which works in conjunction with the grid. I use that for doing floor plans of buildings, both for customers and myself. We have several variations of floor plans for our own home in files right now, so we can decide which way we want to go with our own remodeling. It could also be used for store layouts, warehouse layouts, office layouts and much more.
The secret to using it is to create very small cells (the little squares on the page) and make them equal proportions both ways on the screen. Then each cell can represent anything from a sixteenth of an inch, to a foot or more, depending on the scale you need. You can even add color to a cell or to whole areas, add shapes and control their size, add text and dimension lines, and much more. I don’t understand how anyone can function efficiently without word processing and spreadsheets! If they only understood how they could make their lives so much easier, they wouldn’t live without them!
You have probably heard of PowerPoint. Many professional offices use it for slide presentations on large TV screens instead of the outdated overhead projectors and transparent sheets to draw on. I would bet that it was created for that alone and then other things were added to it. You may have even received “forwarded” emails at some time that required a slide presentation program to open and run them. You can even add prerecorded sound files to them with music or speech. For travelers, they can even do their vacation pictures on them, or other family pictures, and email that slide show to other relatives or friends. You can even do special effects on the pictures with it.
Being able to do office presentations that a whole group can see on a larger screen, and have them run either manually or automatically is almost indespensible in office management and sales presentations. But many people don’t realize that such a program is also helpful in web work.
You can manipulate images in a presentation program. Let’s say that you have a web theme with a nice graphic already on it, and you want to create matching stationery from it. You can copy the image into the presentation program and then add text over the top of it (called layering), resize it to exactly what you need, and then save it as a file type (such as .jpg) that you can then import into a program like Printshop, to make envelopes, business cards, labels and many more things from it. That is getting into basic graphics work. We will be teaching some of those methods as we get into this course, along with how to use other free graphics software.
You can also create some great headers for a web site or blog by using a presentation program with your own photos or downloaded images from the web, crop the image to size, add the necessary text over it, and then save to the proper file as a .jpg file. There are many more things you can do with a presentation program like Impress or PowerPoint, so don’t be afraid to experiment with it! Besides the built-in help with each program, there is also plenty of help on the web, from YouTube “how-to” videos to blogs and forums, so any question you can come up with will have an answer somewhere.
OpenOffice also has a database program similar to Microsoft’s Access program. Many people don’t know how to work with databases, and I myself have only limited ability, but my wife took training in Microsoft Access before she retired, and she has showed me some of the basics. A database is a form of spreadsheet, and can be used for many things, most commonly in business, for customer records and inventory work. It has the ability to sort files by nearly any parameter you set for it. If you want to see customers of a particular age range, gender, zip code, marital status or whatever, it will sort by whatever parameters you have entered for it. But think outside the box…
Let’s say you had a huge warehouse inventory or collection that you needed to keep track of. Or what about your prized library, movie or LP collection? In marketing, what about sets of documents like private label articles, which are typically obtained in large sets and must be sorted? Once entered into the database, you could sort by author, actor, director, genre, instrument, topic, word count, or any other parameter you set, and would know exactly what you had in your collection at any time, and maybe even where to find it. You can also install live links in the database to go straight to those articles (whether they are on your computer or the web). Those documents can then be copied to a blog, or an ebook. For physical collections, like CD’s, DVD’s, books and magazines, all you need is a way to locate them like libraries do, which would be a great resource for a music store, or almost any other kind of store! Warehouse operations can use it to locate by row number, shelf and/or bin number, etc. When a customer calls and asks “Do you have…?” you can look it up and know exactly what you have and where it is located!
You will find that there is a whole genre of software and products on the web produced by a process called “open source”, which simply means that no one company builds it for monetary benefit, but rather a whole group of people all over the world are working together on it for the benefit of all web users. One blog lists 480 such programs, and Wikipedia shows their available list on their site, with more being added all the time. The links on that site are clickable if you want any of the programs. Remember, they’re ALL free! The WordPress blog platform is one of those free products, as is the Kompozer.net, Joomla.org and Drupal.org web builders.
Even the government is turning over many of their most secret files to open sources. The argument is that with so many people knowing how to keep them secure it is actually more secure than any one person or agency being in charge of them! Would you attempt to steal something if you knew there were 100,000 other people looking over your shoulder?
Summary and expectations
In the next post we’re going to talk about some actual marketing software. Even if you have a marketing niche picked out and know what kind of product you want to sell (which by the way, is the backward way to go about making money, and goes against everything that marketing teaches), you will need that software to decide what keywords you want to use before you even come up with an “exact” product to sell, or a name for your site.
Keyword research is THE most important aspect of selling anything, whether on the web or not… so pay attention! After that, we want to show a little bit about how to work with graphics and images, and then we’ll discuss what to use for analyzing the traffic and other data from your site, how to test it to make sure you have included everything you should have, as well as to check the results of advertising efforts, so stick around!
If you have any questions, please contact me, and I will answer ASAP.