Great Free Online Tools and Apps for Startups and Entrepreneurs

When you are doing a startup, the first thing you look for is for efficient ways to keep the costs at minimum while increasing the productivity of your team and building a solid product that appeals to your customer base. This can be tricky as one needs to find the right tools that can help them achieve this!

Below we have shortlisted and handpicked some of the essential best free online tools that startups and entrepreneurs can use.

Google Docs

Online document collaboration doesn’t get easier than this. Introduced in early 2005 as Writely, the Google backed free web-based office suite is tightly integrated with Google Drive and has come a long way over the decade with new features being released every month. The tool allows you to create Documents, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Form, Drawings and Fusion Tables and lets your import/export files from Microsoft Office and the other great feature of this online tool is that it lets you connect 3rd party apps and services to your account.

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Trello or BaseCamp

For those who manage remote teams, Trello is the perfect little tool that can help you keep a track of your to-dos in a visual manner with help of “boards”. Trello is a simple app that will help everyone on your team collaborate better and it is flexible enough in a way that it lets you create multiple boards so you can manage your team effectively and communicate with them in a better way without having to email each other and follow up on tasks. BaseCamp is quite similar such that it also lets you manage projects and teams effectively and comes with a close integration of Google Docs.

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MailChimp

This one’s really useful if you are in the business of getting customers through email marketing. MailChimp is online email marketing solution to manage contacts, send emails and track results and you will find yourself using it a lot of if you have products to offer or if you want to keep your customers in loop with news, updates or discounts. Free for first 2,000 subscribers.

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Asana

Asana markets itself as “teamwork without email”. Hard to believe right? But that’s exactly what it does. Founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, this is the next generation project management tool that is being used around by small and medium enterprises to manage their teams, tasks, project deadlines, resource management – all without the hassle of emails.

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Zoom.us

Zoom will take care of all your online meeting, conferencing or group chat needs. What makes Zoom really useful for startups is that it allows conferencing with as many as 25 participants on its free account (more than Google Hangout or Skype) and this makes it an amazing tool for cross-team collaboration or doing webinars. You can not only host a video meeting but also do screen-sharing as well and there is an iPhone/iPad app available too so you can take your work anywhere and be mobile.

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OHours and Doodle

So you are in the business of meeting people a lot and find it hard to schedule your meetings? Meet OHours. Ohours is an online tool to schedule meetings with a lot of people by allowing you to make public slots available which people can subscribe to. This way you can schedule multiple meetings and never lose the track whether the meeting is on phone, on Skype or even in person. Doodle is another similar tool that lets simplifies the process of scheduling events, whether they’re board or team meetings, dinners with friends, reunions, weekend trips, or anything else.

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Google Analytics

Everyone knows about this. Google Analytics is a service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources and measures conversions and sales. Interestingly the target market for this tool are digital marketers as opposed to web masters and technologists and it is now the pseudo-standard for analytics and data collection on the web.

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Creately

If you wan to create mind maps, mockups or complex business models as simple connected nodes then Creately is the tool for you. It will let you do everything e.g. flowcharts, organisations sitemaps, wireframes & UI mockups, mind maps, network diagrams and even info graphics.

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Help create better education & learning solutions for refugees of Pakistan

What if I tell you you could win $500,000 in funding for submitting an idea?

A few months a very interesting opportunity came my way when I found out that IDEO.org was looking to hire an In-Country Community Manager for the Amplify program in Pakistan. As one would do, I looked at the job description and applied right away with little knowledge of what I would be involved in and little did I know that I would be selected to lead human-centered design community in Pakistan around one of the most important challenges on:

How might we improve education & learning opportunities for refugees and people displaced by conflict in Pakistan?’

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About Amplify and Amplify Challenge

Amplify is a series of challenges to make international aid more collaborative and human-centered and is brought to you by IDEO.org, OpenIDEO.com and DFID. Learn more at http://www.ideo.org/amplify

For 2015, the challenge is around finding the best solutions and learning opportunities for refugees and people displaced by conflict in Pakistan and we are calling out to all NGOs, non-profits, startups, think tanks (and even individuals) with love for education and design to tackle this challenge by coming up with ideas using a more human-centered design approach.

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If you would like to participate, here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Create a profile on OpenIDEO.com and scout the challenge
  2. Contribute to research phase (Before: April 31, 2015)
  3. Submit your idea to the platform (Starts April 21, 2015)
  4. Refine your idea based on feedback from designers
  5. Get selected in ‘Top ideas’ and get funded $500,000

Essentially those are the simple steps but we would like you to take your idea to the next level for which we will be providing design-thinking support by conducting workshops around human-centered design (in Islamabad and Lahore) so if you think you or your organisations can benefit from these workshops, please drop a word at saadhamid@me.com and I will keep you in the loop.

How To Get Involved with Amplify

What we are trying to do here is build a community of people who love design and would like to use it as a tool to create impact. Also, we believe, what we are trying to do with Amplify would build the building blocks of forming a community around human-centered design in Pakistan and therefore we would like all sorts of people and communities to get involved and support us in this initiative.

If you are an NGO, non-profit or startup or an individual with love for education and design, we look forward to your participation in the challenge. Amplify not only gives you the opportunity to get feedback from the worlds’ best designers about your idea but also gives you an opportunity to win $500,000 in funding if your idea makes it to the top.

For all other folks, we request you to spread the word about this challenge on social media so with your help we can reach out to the most relevant organizations and individuals in Pakistan who can contribute to this challenge.

Looking for ways to make money online in Pakistan? Here are a few!

Hello! If you are reading this I think there is a good chance you just saw me on Kay2 TV talking about online work, freelancing and entrepreneurship.

It is fascinating how the work culture has changed over the years (thanks to social media) and therefore the trends have mostly changed which is why work is no longer about a ‘place’ rather an activity that you perform throughout the day to keep yourself active. Much thanks to the internet now you can make money through various legal ways online and the best part about making money online is that you can do it from anywhere as long as you have internet.

But lets get down to debunking the myths first. Online work and freelancing is not about easy or free money so if you want to start this just because you think you will spend a few hours online and become Pakistan’s first internet millionaire, you are in the wrong boat. There are people in Pakistan who make $10 to even $100,000 a month through online work and freelancing but you can’t even imagine sheer amount of effort they put in to achieve this and most of the ones I know in this field work as much as 16-18 hours a day. That sound crazy but that’s the truth about online work that it’s no easy money.

And so let’s get down to how you can really make money online? Well! Ideally there are like more than 200 proven ways to make money from the Internet but I will touch base with only a few of them, the one’s that I and many others in Pakistan have tried personally.

Freelancing with Elance

This one’s my favourite and works for those who have a skill to offer e.g. IT services, graphic design, web development, admin work, writing etc. There are more than 1 million freelancers working from Pakistan and I definitely recommend everyone to use Elance.com as it is the most clean, user-friendly and high paying platform for freelancing among its competitors. Here’s why I recommend Elance.

  • Clean UI and a very clutter-free online work management portal
  • Works for high-value individual freelancers and companies.
  • Offers payment protection through Escrow.

How freelancing websites usually work is that you need to register, make a profile and offer a skill. Then you bid for projects that are relevant to your portfolio, write catch proposals and get selected to do a job. Most freelancers that I know from Pakistan started this casually and ended up getting fixed long-term clients and now they have quit their jobs and are doing freelancing full time.

If you wan to start freelancing, get online and register a profile on Elance.com

AdSense

This way of making money online has been around for quite some time and works well for publishers (whether those who own a website or a blog).

All you need to do is have a website or blog with significant amount of traffic on it and then you apply to Google AdSense and get your website approved. Once approved, you place the ads on the website and AdSense will automatically start displaying contextually relevant ads for your viewers and visitors and based on clicks or sales from the users on those ads you will make money.

This method is working quite well for publishers in Pakistan and the most amazing thing about this is that is not just restricted to English content only. Even websites with Urdu content seem to be generating quite a good amount of revenue through AdSense and Urdupoint.com is one such example which is one the top three websites in terms of traffic in Pakistan.

Affiliate Marketing

Thought you could make a business out of selling lawn in summer? Well it seems like its the trend these days but its not that simple. On the other hand what local publishers, website owners and bloggers have now started doing is that they market a particular brand to their audience and generate sales. This way, they get a ‘cut’ or commission out of those sales.

Here’s an example. Google Trends shows you that womens’ searches go high for ‘lawn’ related stuff during the summer. That’s an opportunity for you to create a website that could help women with their choice of lawn (perhaps an infographic or comparison chart) and then you can help market a particular lawn brand and generate sales for them. In the end you will get a commission out of all the sales that you generated through the website.

Sell Content

My friend Momekh gets a special mention for this. He calls himself a professional “add-venturer” and he is one of the few people from Pakistan who make money online by selling knowledge and content. Here’s a quote from his online store:

More than 95% of the content on this blog is for free. These products are those 5% which are not. They are here because I believe they can help you. Please do read the details on the sales pages to make sure you know what you’re buying. All products come with a 30 day money back guarantee (I don’t want to sell to you if you don’t get any advantage). Thank you and I wish you nothing but the best. God bless!

Sell websites

There are a bunch of other amazing people in Pakistan who are making thousands and millions of $ through online products.

A few examples are Farrukh Zafar from Gagism and Haris from ThemeFusion, both of whom have been able to generate revenue in millions by selling their software online (websites, products, software etc). There are sites like Flippa.com that give you the opportunity to sell directly and get connected to thousands of interested buyers from around the world who want to purchase and acquire such websites for business purposes.

Or perhaps the easiest of all, you could perhaps launch your own online store to sell your fashion label or setup an online bakery. The possibilities are endless!

Sell Gigs.

‘Gig?’. Yes, gig! Fiverr.com gives you the opportunity to sell anything for $5 and when I say anything, it literally means ‘anything’.

There’s this guy from Lahore who has made a business out of selling promotional banners in front of historic buildings. Crazy right? But that’s exactly what Fiverr is for. All you have do is come up with an amazing gig that you can do and sell it as a service and you would be surprised to know how many out there are just ready to buy such stuff from you.

And that’s pretty much it for now.

The whole point of this post is to introduce you to a few of the amazing ways of making money online and motivating you with examples of local individuals who have produced unbelievable results while living in Pakistan. You can do it too! 🙂

Good luck.

When in doubt, Tweet it out!

In June 2012 I took my first trip to Europe (Scotland, precisely) and I felt very excited as I disembarked from my Etihad Airways plane to catch the connecting flight from Birmingham to Edinburgh. The only problem was that I had only 5 mins at hand to clear through the immigration, walk across a few miles to reach the right gate and catch my plane.

It seemed impossible so I did exactly what a digital native would do, I tweeted it out. And booyah! The official Brimingham Airport saw this and sent an officer to the rescue who then approached me and prioritised my case and away I went.

Tweet to BHX

Coincidentally two years later, exactly on the same date, I ran into quite a similar situation where I was stuck in a limbo and had to decide whether to take or delay the flight from Dubai to Islamabad. Apparently the entire city of Islamabad was in a lockdown (or at least that’s what I heard) as Qadri’s party members had taken over the roads leading to and from the airport. Even my own friends and members of the family advised me to reconsider my options because of what they were seeing through media.

The only option I had was to tweet my concern to @AirportPakistan who provided me with the most accurate on-ground activity details and helped me clear my doubts.

Tweet from AirportPakistan

The Twitter account came into limelight recently when a terrorism incident at the Karachi Airport nearly left 23 people dead. What’s most interesting about this Twitter account is that it is NOT officially managed by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority and is run solely by an independent volunteer and aviation enthusiast named Jawad Nazir who is best described as a “community worker, aviator, speaker, mentor, policy maker, philanthropist and researcher” according to his profile on Twitter.

I reached out to Jawad to ask him why he does all of this and what’s his motivation behind running the @AirportPakistan account on Twitter and this is what he had to say.

Jawad Nazir

My motivation was strictly based on how to improve the image of Pakistan mainly on social media being it one of the highly influential spectrum’s of media that can influence today’s generations perception both on negative & positive aspects. I am looking forward to contribute my efforts to showcase the real hospitable, decent, relaxing & welcoming Pakistani attitude. We are totally not what we have become today. We have a great history of being all what I am trying to represent.

I am continuing it on personal grounds for now, take out time every day every moment to answer queries within my approach. Hoping if someone from CAA can get in touch and we can work this out as a formal opportunity.

It was because of this account that I decided to pursue the flight and landed at Islamabad airport safely with my family. While thousands use social media to just listen, only a hundred create information (which is mostly just noise) and out of those only a few actually make their mark by providing unbiased yet helpful information, just like @AirportPakistan. Now think of it beyond just airports where every body of the state is so active and aware that whenever and wherever there is a general crisis, they just tweet it out!

If the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority ever decides to come on social media, I don’t think they will have trouble finding the best person to do this job. Good luck Jawad!