The Best Free (& Cheap) Business Tools
BY BIG CAT CREATIVE
The best free (& cheap) biz tools you need TO GET ASAP to grow your biz!
When I first started my business, I was (like most of you) weary about investing too much money. What if it doesn’t work out? I wanted to be able to say I didn’t invest a whole bunch of money on a whole bunch of things I really didn’t need.
It's crazy how many tools there are out there for your business. And all of them tell you that you NEED to invest in them to be successful. Being a clued up millennial, I realised that you can almost get anything for free on the internet (if you look hard enough), so I did my best to figure out what I really needed, by trial an error, and I did an ever better job of finding free and cheap tools.
The following list of tools are the tools I used in my business when I got started and that I'm still using. Most of them are completely free, and some of them I pay for (only after copious research, proof that they work and of course, and no long term contracts).
This isn’t just a list of free and cheap tools, this is a list of all of the tools I use that are responsible for growing my business into what it is today.
All of the tools I list below have played a huge part in my business growth, and as much as I don’t like paying for tools or investing too much, the ones that I have paid for I have continued to pay for because they have been totally awesome and worth every penny.
And no, this isn't sponsored!
Board Booster: FREE - PAID
Note: I’ve recently upgraded to Tailwind since BoardBooster no longer exists. Tailwind is amazing and I highly recommend it!
This tool has been a huge part of my success, and does so much behind the scenes marketing for me. If you’re using Pinterest for your business, I highly recommend investing in BoardBooster. Can you call it investing when it’s only like, $5p/month? If you’re not convinced, they offer a completely free trial period so you can find your footing.
Considering around 30% of my (increasing) traffic comes through Pinterest, I can confidently say that BoardBooster is in large part responsible for growing my business. I spend a few hours a week Pinning to BoardBooster, and it does the rest of the hard work. I swear by this one, people!
And if you’re like, what the hell is BoardBooster and why is she using Pinterest for business?...
Related Post > How to Grow Your Business with Pinterest
Dropbox: FREE - PAID
I’d be surprised if you didn’t know what Dropbox is, and if you’re running a business, especially an online business, you need to be using Dropbox. It’s a file management system that saves all your files to a magical cloud on the internet, so if the worst happens and your computer or external hard drive crashes, your files are stored safely on Dropbox.
It’s not only the peace of mind that makes Dropbox great. I specifically use Dropbox for transferring files to my clients. For example, when I’ve finished with their design projects, I package up all of the final files into Dropbox and share the folder with them. The cool thing about Dropbox is that once you share the file with someone, you can transfer the folder into their ownership and then you can remove yourself from the folder. It’s such a seamless way to send all of their files. Gone are the days of sending 20 different emails full of huge files or literally posting a USB stick in the mail.
Another cool thing about Dropbox is that it integrates with your computer. You can add it to your folders just like any other folder and you can work, open, save, move, delete files that are in your Dropbox straight from your computer, as you would any other files on your computer.
You get 2g of storage for free with Dropbox. I pay for 1TB of storage which is a small monthly fee of around $15. For the peace of mind knowing that my files are safe (aka my whole business), and also being able to transfer files (which is something I do very often) it is worth the cost!
Google Drive: Free - Paid
Google Drive is very similar to Dropbox in that it is an online file storage system. Though, they differentiate in a few specific ways, so that’s why I constantly use both.
You can back-up your files and use Google Drive via your computer exactly the same as you can Dropbox, so in that sense they are the same.
The one thing that is different about Google Drive is that you can have Google Docs. Google Docs are like Word Documents, but they are hosted in that ‘cloud’ and update in real time. For example, I’m writing this Blog Post in Google Drive right now. If my computer crashed, I could hop onto another computer, open up Google Drive, open up this Doc and it will be exactly the same as when I left it. No need to even save it!
You can have multiple collaborators on a Google Doc and you can literally be typing the same time as someone else, sharing ideas and making notes. Google Docs is an amazing tool.
The one thing Google Drive doesn’t do (that Dropbox does) is seamlessly transfer files. If I was to package up a clients final files and send the folder to them via Google Drive, it would still be under my name so I would be responsible for the folder. Whereas Dropbox makes it super easy to transfer the ownership to the client.
These are the main reasons I use both.
Google Drive is free up to 15g, but you need to have a Gmail address. If you have a G-Suite email address, you get up to 30g free (which is a lot!). And you can upgrade too 100G for just $3 per month!
G Suite Email address: FREE - $5 P/month
Another cheap goodie! I really shouldn’t have to explain how much more professional having a custom email address is, but if you’re interested, read more in this blog post.
Related Post > 5 Things Your Business NEEDS
For only $5 p/month I get a professional custom email address through Google, and like I said before, you also get an extra 15g of Google Drive storage which is super handy.
I love Gmail for personal use, and my G-Suite integrates seamlessly with my personal Gmail. I can just toggle between the two accounts, and Google Support is amazing if you ever need anything.
Squarespace: NOT FREE, BUT ESSENTIAL!
My forever love, Squarespace. Some wouldn’t consider this a “cheap” tool, but it’s by far the one that makes me the most money in return. So in comparison, it’s pretty darn cheap.
Squarespace is a website hosting platform, where I host this website that you’re currently on. Squarespace caters to DIY users and small business owners.
The importance of having a killer website is pretty huge, especially if you’re an online business. Squarespace is reasonably priced and easy to use, there’s no excuse not to have a great website.
If you have to invest in one thing for your business (still, it’s not really that expensive) a good website is where it’s at.
You can DIY it, or invest in one of my awesome templates to get you started (coming soon!)
Asana is an online project management tool that I use every day to keep track of my projects and clients. It’s completely free, unless you want to upgrade, but I have never seen the need to. You can create awesome to-do lists, deadlines, projects, upload files, send reminders, all of the good stuff!
If you’re running a biz, even a small one, it will pay to learn how to use a project management system and Asana is super user friendly.
Paypal Business: FREE
Paypal has literally been one of the best and easiest-to-use tools I’ve used in my business. I use Paypal to send invoices and collect payments for every job I do. It is completely free (except the standard credit card charges which you will find with any platform) and it’s so simple and intuitive to use.
You can send invoices straight to your clients and have them pay with their credit card, and they don’t need to sign up to Paypal, as long as you’re on the Business plan (the Business Plan is still free, just more business features. I don't understand how they can justify that, but it's great!).
There are a lot of free invoicing/payment tools out there today, but I really love Paypal because you can hold different currencies and charge in different currencies. It seems like a simple necessity these days, but you’d be surprised at how many different online accounting softwares only hold one currency.
This is a pain for me, because I’m New Zealand based, and my clients are from all around the world. I need to be able to charge my clients in their own currency. Then when I’m ready to transfer the money into my personal bank account, Paypal automatically does the conversion and voila, it’s in New Zealand dollars.
MailChimp: FREE - PAID
Note: I’ve recently migrated to ConvertKit because I surpassed the 2000 subscriber mark and was going to have to pay for MailChimp.
MailChimp is an awesome email marketing platform that is completely free for up to 2000 subscribers. It’s such a great introductory tool for building your email list. It’s pretty simple to use and because it’s free it encourages you to get started on building your list, which is really important when you’re starting a new business!
Once you surpass 2000 email subscribers, you have to pay for the platform. Most people would recommend changing to a different provider, as most of them offer much more for a similar price. The real appeal of MailChimp is that it’s completely free and simple initially, so great for beginners and getting started.
I have been steadily growing my list with MailChimp and have had no problems with it, and when I put into perspective how much it’s helping grow my business for completely free, I definitely have no complaints! As my business grows I will upgrade to different software, but for a small business, MailChimp is perfect.
Toggl is an awesome Plugin for Google Chrome that is free. It helps you track your time on projects. This is great if you’re trying to figure out your rates, or if you charge hourly. You just download the Plugin, and then it shows up in your internet browser. When you click it it’s starts timing, and when you click it again, it stops! You can save your time increments under different project names to keep track of them.