Every business owner must fight to stay ahead of the competition. And contractors are no exception . We live in an age of incredible technology (much of it free) which you can use to elevate your business to the next level. We are kicking off
the new year in 2014every year here at General Contractor License Guide by highlighting a big list of essential tools savvy contractors should be using to get the edge on their competitors throughout the year.
Tools Contractors Can Use that are Web-Based, Available Online, and (Mostly) Free
- Google Docs. Create, store and share documents within your Google account with Google’s free online document management feature.
- With OpenOffice you get an open source software suite that allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. Buying commercial versions of these software packages can be quite expensive to license per machine.
- Zoho has it all, including Writer, Spreadsheet, Wiki, Virtual Office, Show, Project management, Planner and a chat tool. You can take advantage of all or just a few of Zoho’s many web 2.0 tools.
- Thinkfree. From content creation to storage and collaboration, Thinkfree uses web 2.0 tools to bring the functionality and features of a desktop office application to the Internet.
- BRL-CAD is cross platform, open-source modeling system. In development for over 20 years, it features interactive geometry editing, high-performance ray-tracing for rendering and geometric analysis, image and signal-processing tools.
- Another alternative is Archimedes, a free, open-source computer-aided design (CAD) software. It features a lightweight core, with plug and play modules that allow you to customize it for exactly what you need.
- Inkscape is an illustration tool for graphics professionals. Its vector graphics drawing program has lots of advanced features and is compatible with tons of file formats. The site also features a free-to-use clip art library to enhance your drawings. Also has a feature-rich text tool.
- Dia makes it easy to draw diagrams, organizational charts, flowcharts, systems diagrams, and many other types of charts and figures.
- Paint.NET is a light weight, intuitive, and ultra fast image editing software. Just like Photoshop, it features layers, history, and the ability to add brushes and plugins. Paint is a personal favorite given its powerful simplicity that lets it do just about what any photo professional would need.
- Gimp is a full-featured professional photo manipulation software. Feature a complete complement of image retouch, channels, layers, sampling, masks, animation, and file conversion tools and much, much more.
- PDFCreator can turn any file into a PDF without having Acrobat installed on your system. The program can also create image files like PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP, PCX, PS and EPS files. You can protect your files with encryption, digitally sign your documents and much more.
- Use Wufoo to create any kind of form you need. Take orders, administer surveys, collect payments, create event registrations and more. Data collected in each form is stored in a database in the cloud. Access your data anywhere.
- PBWorks. (formerly PBWiki). Their slogan is “online team collaboration to get work done.” Simple and free to use, PBWiki allows users to upload custom pages with HTML. Create a mini wikipedia to use in your contracting business (e.g. a FAQ or glossary of construction terms for clients).
- Wikispaces. Simplifying the process of making and using a wiki, Wikispaces allows anyone to create a public or private place for their content. Wikis are the original web 2.0 tools!
- Basecamp is a web-based project management tool from from 37Signals. Organize projects, data and people (team, vendors, clients, subcontractors) with ease. Thousands of companies are signing up each week to use their tools. They are doing something right.
- LinkedIn. Among web 2.0 tools, this is a must for many professionals, LinkedIn allows people to recommend you, find you via your location and expertise, and prompts users to advertise their experience and education for potential clients and employers.
- CardMunch allows you to photograph a business card and turn it into a contact on your phone. Because the app is pwoered by LinkedIn it also shows you their profile and connections in common. Otherers like Cardcloud geotag the location of the card when you scan it os you remember where you met the contact. Have a drawer full of card you’ve picked up at countless conferences? Trying to locate a contact or prospect you met recently but can’t locate their business card? Get with the times and use an app to instantly digitize the card and add it to your contacts.
- Biznik aims to connect people who have build or are building their own businesses. Use web 2.0 tools to connect with other entrepreneurs and take part in events and discussions.
- Professional On The Web. Add your profile and portfolio to Professional On The Web and become part of a growing number of agencies and freelancers who connect over this professional network with web 2.0 tools.
- Marketing Land aggregates search engine optimization and online marketing news. Stay up to date on what it takes to promote your business online.
- Use one of the many free QR code generators (like GOQR.me)to publicize your site, special discounts via text message or a portfolio of your best contracting work. QR codes are those oddly patterned black squares that are popping up everywhere from store front windows to business cards. Instead of typing in an address or an offer code, your clients can just scan the code with their phone and instantly be taken to what you’d like to share.
- GanttProject is a cross-platform, open source desktop tool for project management and scheduling. It runs onall the major operating systems and is free to use. Break down and assign tasks, milestones, and human resources. Create resource load, PERT and Gantt charts. Save charts as image files or export reports as PDF or HTML. Plus you can share projects with others via WebDAV.
- dotProject.net is a well-established web-based project management software. Features a clutter free GUI, the ability to create discussion forums, task lists, charts and more.
- Imperium has all the functionality of commercial programs like Peachtee and QuickBooks. For smaller and medium sized operations, Imperium is a complete web-based accounting software solution. Manage all of your business data with features like CRM, project tracking, invoicing. It can be used on any operating system and it also integrates with Google Apps.
- FrontAccounting is another terrific web-based solution for enterprise resource planning. With it you can track purchase orders, invoices, accounts payable, stock, general ledger, budget and so much more. Access your company’s database from anywhere in the world.
- TurboCASH prides itself on being more than simple small business bookkeeping, as it is able to handle that and a whole lot more, including stock control, outstanding invoices, suppliers, ledger, balance sheet, income analysis and more. It can handle multiple users and sites. The software can be downloaded for free, but is also available on a CD.
- Salesforce.com allows you to start small and manage your business contacts or scale up to be a complete CRM solution for your entire business.
- Sugar Community Edition is a Client Relationship Management used by numerous major corporations. It supports your marketing and sales efforts, social media and social networking, email marketing, mobile messaging and reporting. You can use the open-source community version or pay for premium supported versions.
- The award-winning Jaspersoft allows you to mine the data inside your business operations for better decision making and forecasting.It is used by all kinds of businesses, from large corporations to small businesses. While the commercial version includes paid support, a free version is available at Jaspersoft Community. You can also access the power of cloud computing through their Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, which you can order by the hour for $1.
- Pentaho is a data integration and data mining platform for businesses. It allows you to combine data from any source (such as Salesforce.com) and other sources of historical financial data to predict future revenue trends.
- ProcessMaker is an award-winning open source Business Process Management program. Use it to create workflows, diagrams, forms and more. totally web-based and works in any web browser, making your data accessible from anywhere. Also interact with other applications and systems such as ERP, business intelligence, CRM and document management.
- Fluxiom. Specifically designed for small or medium-sized businesses to store files and share them with whom they choose, Fluxiom provides a range of web 2.0 tools features that make online storage easier.
- Google Drive provides 30 gigabytes of free space to store files in the cloud that you can access anywhere you can sign into Google.
- Dropbox is another service that provides digital space and backup storage for critical files at a reasonable price (2 gigs free). Have a need for lots of storage? You can earn extra storage by sharing Dropbox with your friends or sign up for a reasonable monthly plan.
- .Docstoc (dot-doc-stock) compiles a wealth of legal, educational, technical and business documents for you to download for free. You can upload your own files in a number of formats.
- For consumers, Yelp is the fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what’s great -and not so great- in your area. For your business success, active management and engagement with your Yelp profile is essential.
- Citysearch. With reviews of just about everything, Citysearch is a great resource of information on businesses all over the United States. Like Yelp, be sure to claim, update and manage your profile.
- Technorati. Monitor your links and reputation through the world’s leading provider of blog information. Find new blogs to read and attempt to get into Technorati’s list of top blogs.
- While WordPress (and the open-source version for standalone installations) is becoming the standard platform for new blog and website creation, powering nearly 74 million–one out of 6 websites globally, you have other options, such as KompoZer. The software makes it easy to create HTML web pages with a what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) interface.
- Google (of course, right?) Find the location of virtually anything. Get directions, phone numbers, reviews and more with maps and aerial views of the world.
Office Productivity Software
Architectural and Drawing Tools
Documents and Forms
Project and Document Collaboration Online
Promotions and Networking
Business Management (Project Management, Enterprise Resource Planning, Client Relationship Management, Accounting)
Online File Storage and Sharing
Legal and Business Documents
Business Reputation Management
Goes without saying, but just in case…
There you have it! 40 web-based tools that every contractor should have in their professional toolkit to edge out the competition in terms of business productivity, profitability, efficiency, client acquisition, and professional development.
To your success in 2014!