They say nothing in life is free, but for small businesses many services are free.
Below, listed in alphabetical order, are my favorite free online tools for small business owners. Keep in mind, that most of them will move you to a paid option once you reach a volume threshold for their services.
Keeping track of receipts, mileage and invoicing can be a hassle. Simplify the process with some automated tools. Wave offers a variety of small business accounting tools for free or very low cost. MileageIQ is an app that can effortlessly track your mileage through your phone.
Customer Service Automation
Think chat bots are only for big companies? Give ChatFuel at try. Their free account lets you automate your business’ Facebook page with basic question and answer options. Think of it as an automated FAQ, but much more conversational. And, if your WordPress site allows plug-ins, you can also use this on your website. The only limitation on their free account right now is the ChatFuel logo at the bottom of the chat box.
MailChimp is my favorite for small business email marketing. Their free account allows 10,000 emails a month with up to 2,000 email addresses in your database. They also let you set-up automated marketing messages.
Entrepreneur has a variety of forms you can download for your business. You can choose from an Employment application, Marketing Plan, Non-disclosure, Performance Review & more.
Did you know you can get a free phone number through Google? If you need one number for personal use and another for your business, add a second number through your Google account.
The FCC has a wonderful online resource to help small businesses create customized cybersecurity plans. They have everything from facility security to email and website security.
Graphic Design Software
I’ll be honest, I’m a big-time PhotoShop and Adobe user. But in the last few years I’ve grown to LOVE Canva for it’s user-friendly platform and sheer variety of templates. When it first came out, I wasn’t a huge fan, but they have improved so much it’s a no-brainer. Play with the templates and change colors to match your brand. Use animation to jazz up your social media posts. They have great free photos and templates, but you can always upgrade to a paid plan if you need even more flexibility.
Social Media Automation
Hootsuite has a free account that allows you to schedule 5 social media posts a week to 2 social media sites. The only caveat to any automated social posting service is that Facebook/Instagram prefers you to post organically. It effects how your post shows in feeds if you use a 3rd party automated service. So, I post in Facebook/Instagram manually using the Business Suite and use Hootsuite for any 2 other social accounts.
Need free photos for your social media or blog posts? Pixabay and Pexels have an immense variety of wonderful imagesat no cost and no need for attribution. As a note: Please use a professional photographer for website images and photos for marketing materials. Professional stock photos are fine to use sparingly, but when you want to make an big impact nothing beats personalized images.
I’ve been using Zoom for years. But as we now know, it’s been very handy when meeting in person can’t happen. Zoom has a free account that has tons of flexibility. You can record meetings, switch from video to screen sharing and have multiple end users on a meeting. The only limitation is if you have more than 3 people at a meeting you are limited to 40 minutes. Holding longer meetings with lots of attendees requires a paid account.
WordPress is my top choice for a web platform. They have teamed with Google on accelerated mobile pages which help with SEO. If you host through WordPress.com you have built-in security, site statistics and a spam filter. With WordPress.org you have access to a wide variety of plugins to make your dream website. It is the biggest open source web platform out there. Keep in mind that other free website platforms are not as “growth friendly” as WordPress. So, if you use Wix or Weebly to build a site, you might find yourself re-building it in a year or two. See this article for more comparisons.