Starting a new business with limited manpower means you will be taking on the operational tasks yourself. Fortunately, there are powerful and free tools available to you! Starting a company is an endless to-do list of tasks. I’ve compiled a list of free apps and resources that will help save you some time researching and signing up for services that are not going to be the right fit for your needs. Let’s get to lifting!
1 Social Engagement Tools
Your brand needs to be on social media, and that can be an intimidating prospect for many business owners. It is unchartered territory for many as they don’t know what type of content to post to what platform where. A platform like ZohoSocial allows you to schedule your posts to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram from one place. During the first month of your have a free trial for the Professional package level, you will have the opportunity to schedule your posts using their SmartQ, which collects data on your audience, giving you the opportunity to choose the best times to post your content.
Managing our social media through Zoho has been seamless compared to other platforms. The interface is intuitive and it’s really easy to see how your brand is doing at a quick glance. The only drawback is the lack of Facebook page/person tagging. I reached out to Zoho to request this feature and they let me know I can it is expected it in the next version. If I had to recommend one upgrade from this list, I would probably choose email marketing or ZohoSocial for $10 a month.
Assuming you have created your website, you should have a mailbox to go along with it. If you’re interested in a more powerful tool than using IMAP on a device like your phone to send and receive your mail, Zoho Mail is a fairly powerful mail application. Unlike Google, Zoho has focused on the needs of business. Mail is just one of the applications they offer, so if you plan to expand your business and want one company to help you manage all of your day-to-day operations and activities, you may like Zoho.
As you sit down to set up your mailbox in Zoho, plan to set aside a little time if you’re not familiar with desktop admin tasks like this. Fortunately, Zoho walks you through everything and while not initially intuitive, they have great support to answer questions and get you up and running.
3 Digital Backup & Filing Tools
There are so many great options in this space, but I prefer DropBox when it comes to collaborating and syncing with free tools. The syncing is seamless between desktop and other devices. For version control, you have the ability to check out our documents which is very helpful if you’re collaborating with others. I also use ZohoDocs, which isn’t a problem with OneDrive as the two are friends, giving you the ability to sync your Zoho Doc files on DropBox. There are so manya lot of strong players in this space, but I amhave been really happy with DropBox as my main digital backup and file management system. You may also want to consider OneDrive if you are a Microsoft fan or Google Drive if you have opted to use Google Mail for your business.
4 Tools for collaborating on ideas
Collaboration is more fun when you can splash your ideas all over the page as words, lines, shapes, pictures… Innovators don’t like to think inside of a word document! OneNote has an intuitive interface that allows you to organize your documented ideas like a folder system. Your note page allows for more than just text. You can sketch and use drawing tools, which is a nice feature for touchscreen users.It also seamlessly incorporates items/content/source material you find online, with the source link in tact. The sharing feature allows you to invite others and manage access
5 Scheduling Tools
Trying to schedule a meeting with more than 1 person can be like herding cats. I don’t mind sending my friends, family, or clients a doodle scheduling poll because you don’t have to go through a pesky sign up process. You drop your name on the line and pick your available times. As the scheduler, you can easily take the next step to creating a calendar event with your group. For groups of clients that aren’t on your server, finding times to meet can be cumbersome without an easy to use free tool for polling.
6 Project Management Tools
With two experienced project managers steering the business, this was probably the most scrutinized area where we researched and tested of the free tools. We were not looking for intuitive interface, but rather robust and feature heavy while still being free. You’ll find that when trying to find a project management tool that gives you the ability to create multiple projects and invite multiple collaborators the costs start piling up.
Turns out that the winner in this category managed to do what we needed for free and it was a beautiful interface. Freedcamp has a list of free features is too long for this blog, but I can tell you that my favorite free feature is limitless project entries and collaborators.
7 Expenses and Finance Tools
Keeping track of business finances is a source of a lot of anxiety for me. You can read more about that in my first post in the Financial Independence series. I have no intention of being hauled off by the IRS in my lifetime! Zipbooks has some great free features beyond just tracking expenses. This serves as your accounting hub where you manage expenses, payables, invoicing, and it even provides some insight grading the financial health of your business against competitors. This is truly free tool that packs a money punch.
If you’re not in marketing or sales, this may not be familiar to you, but you will need a system to manage your client relationships. A CRM is more than collecting customer data, it’s really about improving your customer relationships. When I think of CRM, I believe it is more than just technology or tool, I believe it’s a strategy. So much business happens through email, and with our customers, it’s the preferred method of communication.
Knowing this about my customer base, I knew immediately I needed a CRM that tied closely into email marketing. Zoho CRM is a completely free tool. And, if you’re already using their Mail app you’re ready to go with some light email marketing. This CRM has all the bells and whistles beyond your leads/contacts and accounts, including reports, campaigns, documents, and even integration with Zoho’s project management.
If you can afford Adobe Creative Suite, and are comfortable with it, go for it. That would certainly be my preference. But, if you’re in the market for something decent and free, Vectr is hard to beat. With a desktop and browser interface, there are plenty of built in tools to create logos, edit pictures, icons, infographics… you can do it!
You don’t want to wait until you get back to your computer to post pictures of your new store setup. You may want more than just that Instagram filter to post a picture of Cam Newton in your restaurant, but you want to post it NOW before the magic is gone! Well, you need Pixlr on your phone (or for use on your desktop). Available in both iOS and Android stores, you will have 600+ filters, among other editing features to help you turn your phone into a powerful photo editor.
Free Tools to Boost Your Education:
11 Coursera if you have time
and Podcasts if you don’t…
I take have taken so many free courses on Coursera over the years. From Mandarin to Child Nutrition classes, I push myself to learn outside of my comfort zone. Despite Coursera’s recent transition to focus on specializations (where they charge for courses), there are still many free classes available. The insights you glean from top tiered universities that can give you a competitive edge in the market. If you’re looking for something short and sweet on your way to work, check out podcasts on a particular subject. Take the opportunity That is always a good way to increase open your professional knowledge base by some doors to learn taking one of their many business courses. more about a topic.
Tools for Stock Photos
There are some very strong contenders in the free stock photography, but Pixabay takes the edge with quantity and also the availability of free stock video. It’s somewhat annoying to enter a catchpa for every stock photo, but it’s free, so I have to remind myself that someone is giving away their hard work for free. I have to also recommend Unsplash here, they have such wonderful quality and great contributors as well. They also have an app for your mobile device, which is very handy if you like to plan your social media posts on your phone or tablet.
Tools for Your Site and SEO
13 Google Analytics
If you’re using WordPress for you website, you may receive reports via your hosting site have on your domain’s traffic. noticed some data on traffic to your site. It is not enough. Google Analytics is a real-time analysis tool for your website that will is going to give you greater insight into your help you understand everything about your customers activity and behavior. Use this tool to understand more about, your business in the digital space, and the marketplace as a whole. This data and reporting are powerful tools that you can use to inform you on not only your marketing strategy and , but also your business strategy.
Whether you have never opened a web creation tool, or are a seasoned web developer, WordPress is one of the most popular and powerful free tools for blogging and website management systems available. With countless themes, plugins, and support, it’s probably the easiest way to get your site up and running.
Tools for Your health
The most valuable and overlooked free tool in your business is YOU! When you make yourself a priority, it is a force to be reckoned with. That means you are sleeping, eating, and taking care of your body with excercise. And, despite what you may think, you’re probably not “running around” all that much as you start your new business. Sadly, Americans average 5,117 steps a day. Between my AppleWatch, and my FitBit Blaze, I have found that the Fitbit helps me stay on track with my goals much better. With sleep reminders and tracking, that gives the Fitbit a distinctive edge. An entrepreneur that doesn’t sleep, loses the edge to innovate!