Most small business owners are on a tight budget, they don't have the money to hire designers, marketers, videographers, etc, so most look to learn how to do things themselves. And while using DIY software is great, paying for each one every month can add up pretty quickly.
There are so many tools available online for just about anything. Some are free and some are paid. The problem is figuring out which ones are worth your time and money and will do the job for you. You can waste countless hours trying to figure out how to use a new tool, only to find out it wasn't going to be much help.
Below are 24 free tools that every small business owner should have. They include tools for design, marketing, and productivity. I use all of these tools myself, many of them every day, so I know first hand the value they bring.
Canva is the design platform for non-designers. It's a drag and drop visual design editor that allows you to layer elements the same way you do in Photoshop, without the high technical learning curve. If you use social media then this is a must have tool. They also have a nice design course for beginners that is free as well.
Pic Monkey is my favorite image editing tool for fast and quick image editing if I don't want to open Photoshop. It's web based, has browser extensions, and is super simple to use. It's great for doing quick resizing, cropping and light touch-ups. The free version will be fine to use for most people and does the job for most general image editing.
Piktochart is a free design tool to create your own infographics without all of the design challenges traditionally associated with creating infographics. They have a large library of templates to start from as well as great tutorials on how to start creating amazing infographics. It uses a simple to use drag and drop visual editor so there isn't much of a learning curve.
Open Shot Video Editor
Open Shot is easy to use open source video editor that allows you to edit video. Many open source programs are difficult to use, but Open Shot has an intuitive editor that is visually similar to many paid video editing programs like Adobe and Filmora. While there are many free video editing apps available on phones and tablets, if you need to do extensive editing you will see the frustrations with editing video on a mobile device.
Audacity is free to use audio editing software that works just as well as any paid audio editing software. Audacity is one of the most popular audio editing tools around and many people prefer it to paid audio editing programs. We have used it for years to edit our podcast, The Small Business Express, and have found it very easy to use and very reliable.
Grammarly is a Chrome extension that I cannot live without. I'm not the best typer and make frequent typos when writing. Grammarly scans your writing and shows you not only spelling errors but also grammar errors as well. It also shows you the correction and replaces it with the click of the mouse. This is a must for anyone who wants to ensure their writing is error free. They have a free and paid version, but the free version is enough for most people.
Hemingway App is another app that helps with your writing. If you paste your article into the app, it will show you numerous ways to make your writing simpler to read and make your sentences shorter and more concise. The web version is free, the desktop version is paid.
Trello uses a Kanban style system that allows you to create cards and drag them across your boards until complete. Think of it like putting sticky notes on a wall and moving them left to right as you get closer to completing a task. It's a wonderful and simple to use productivity and project management tool and is great for small teams and solopreneurs. Best of all, it's simple to use and free.
Zoom is a video conferencing tool that is easy to use, reliable and has a generous free plan. There are many video conferencing tools out there but Zoom has the perfect mix of being very reliable and offering a super easy to use interface. It also comes with a mobile app and Chrome extension.
Loom is a free to use video screen recording app that is great for creating quick video tutorials. The browser extension makes it simple to use and created an instant share link when you are finished with your screenshare. Loom is great for creating quick videos for customer support as well as explaining tasks to other team members.
Asana is an easy to use project management app that is great for managing small teams. While I use Trello for most project management, Asana is a better choice for bigger teams and more complex project management needs. It's a great platform for group collaboration and for making sure the entire team knows what others are doing. They have a generous free plan for up to 15 team members.
If This Then That (IFTTT) is a free tool where you can create simple automation tasks by linking two services together. This is just an awesome app and a total time saver for redundant tasks. An example would be connecting your Gmail account to Evernote, so when you star a message in Gmail, it will save a copy of the email in Evernote. Or if you connect Twitter and Google Sheets, you can automatically save any tweet you star in a Google spreadsheet. The connection possibilities are endless and there are hundreds of different services you can connect.
Google Keep is a free note taking and to-do list tool that is simple to use but has powerful features. I prefer paper when it comes to creating to-do lists but Google Keep is the one app that I use every day. I love the ability to create multiple notes to-do lists with this app and to be able to color code and organize them how I want with a drag and drop interface. It also syncs with Google Drive and allows you to import notes into Google Docs. Has mobile and web app versions.
I included Feedly and Pocket Reader together as they go hand in hand. Feedly is an RSS feed app that lets you add the feeds of websites you want to track so you can get their content delivered to you instead of going to numerous websites each day to find their latest articles. Feedly is great for staying on top of what is happening in your industry. Pocket allows you to save articles for later viewing. You can then read the articles later in an ad-free, distraction free reader that only shows you the actual article and nothing else. I love the using the two of these together as I can scan my Feedly feed for anything of interest and save any of them to Pocket for later reading.
Evernote is my digital junk drawer. Anything I might want to remember in the future, I either write to down in Evernote or take a quick picture of it and save it. Evernote has tons of useful productivity features, but I mainly use it for saving stuff I might need later. Notes you have written down, business cards, phone numbers, receipts, are just a few examples of things you can and should be saving for future reference.
Buffer is my favorite social media tool for schedule posting updates. Buffer lets you curate content and share across your social media platforms according to any schedule you create with a touch of a button. You set up the schedule once and then just load your queue with posts and Buffer does the rest. It is easy to use, powerful and has a ton of features like social analytics. Buffer also integrates with just about anything so it makes sharing across your social platforms very easy to do. The free plan is enough for most people, with a paid plan if you manage a lot of social media accounts. And their customer support is fantastic.
Hootsuite is one of the original social media management platforms and is still one of the best. Hootsuite lets you manage your social media accounts in one dashboard, allowing you to create and respond to messages within the app so you don't have to log into several different accounts. The free plan allows one user and three social media profiles.
Google Alerts is a free web monitoring tool that will send you a notification is a keyword is found as it scans the internet. This is a great tool for monitoring mentions of your brand and personal name on the web so you can see where the conversations are happening online about you and your business. You can setup as many alerts as you want, you can even track competitors and just about anything else you want to set alerts for.
MailChimp is the perfect email marketing software for any small business just getting started with email marketing. it's super simple to use, integrates with just about anything and offers a generous free plan to get started (2oo subscribers). Email marketing provides one of the best ROI's out of any online marketing channel (way more than social media), and MailChimp makes it easy to get started. They also have great tutorials to get you started.
Rapportive is a free Chrome browser extension that will pull in the social media details of the person you are corresponding with. This is a great business tool and will give you more information about a contact as well as links to their social media profiles. LinkedIn purchased this tool so hopefully, they will keep it free in the future.
Soapbox is a free video and screen recording app from the team over at Wistia, which has a legendary reputation in the video marketing industry. Soapbox allows you to create screen shares and video presentations right from your computer. It also includes video editing software so you can record and edit your videos right inside the app. They also store all of your videos online for free.
QZZR lets you create online quizzes that you can create for your website and social media. Online quizzes are one of the best ways to create engagement on social media and for also building your email list. Quizzes are fun, interactive and interesting to use. QZZR offers a good free plan in addition to paid plans for a more advanced feature set.
Cyfe is an all in one digital marketing dashboard. It allows you to pull in your website, social media and a bunch of other data into a single dashboard. They have a solid free version that will be sufficient for most small business owners.
What tools do you use?
These are some of the free tools I use to help me run my business. There are plenty of other free tools out there that provide lots of value so if you have any suggestions you can let me know on Twitter @3BugMedia.
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