As small business owners, we find ourselves in charge of many different aspects of our business – many of which we would never have given much thought to before we took the leap. You and I both know all too well the importance of working smart. With that in mind, here is my list of FREE tools for small businesses.
1) Zoho Mail - Custom Domain Email
So you have your own domain name but don't want to pay monthly for an email provider? Of course you don't - why would you?! Zoho allows you to set up email accounts attached to your domain - and not just one, but up to 50 free users. I recommend using the Zoho App on your phone if you like to keep track of things that way.
2) Mailchimp - Email Marketing
If you're not on Mailchimp yet, you should seriously consider it. You can use Mailchimp to collect email addresses, send automated welcome emails with downloadables, craft beautiful newsletters to send out en masse to your subscribers, and view analytics about the process. The basic version - which allows you to do all of these things - is free; and an upgraded option is available, which allows you to automate mailings, link up with your e-commerce site amongst other features. You can set up Mailchimp with your website and social media to collect newsletter opt-ins.
3) Hootsuite - Social Media Scheduling
Hootsuite is a social media scheduling platform, allowing you to pre-schedule social media posts. This can save you a lot of time and help you to create a more consistent social media presence. How awesome is it that you could be on Vipassana in the mountains of Nepal with no access to (or, of course, desire for) technology, and your social media feeds can keep updating automatically... nothing worse than being sat for 10 days with your monkey mind chattering about what effect being away will have on your business!
Ideal scenario: Put aside one day every month to schedule a tonne of social media posts ahead of time. That's not to say that you can't post in real time too, but it takes the pressure off knowing that you will be engaging with your audience no matter what.
4) Remember the Milk - Smart Reminders
Tim Ferris swears by Remember the Milk... and if that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is! RTM allows you to send reminders to yourself via email, Tweet or even Siri, which are collated into an the app so that you never forget to pick up the almond milk... or was it soy ;)
5) Stock Image Sites
We all know that the best way to catch and keep someone's attention is with juicy visuals, and we're hardly working on the same advertising budget as Coke or Nike! Thankfully for us small business owners, there are a number of great sites out there offering free stock imagery which you can use for your business. These sites are a great start:
Many of these images are free from copyright restrictions, or licensed as Creative Commons. I would advise just checking before you use the images if any attribution is required.
Canva has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. It is hugely versatile, and user friendly, allowing you to create a huge range of visual assets using a fairly intuitive drag and drop system. Here, you can make all manner of social media posts, flyers, presentations, blog graphics... the list goes on.
Hint: Spending a little bit of time here trying to use consistent fonts and colours will keep your brand looking much more polished and cohesive.
Skype is a no-brainer for small businesses - especially if, like me, you have appointments scheduled with clients who are not necessarily in your area. Video calling via Skype feels MUCH more personal than a telephone call, it also allows me to share my screen (which is often useful in guiding clients around the back end of their site). If I'm feeling particularly tech-savvy, I can even create a video of the entire call using... *drum roll*
8) Quick Time Player - Video Screenshots
Quick Time Player allows you to make recordings in real time. You can record audio, movie or your screen. For me, this means that I can create personalised tutorials for clients wanting to know how to make specific edits to their site after the build is complete.
9) If This Then That - Automated Tech Recipes
If This Then That is a great platform that allows you to create recipes for specific scenarios.
Perhaps you want to post a native image to Twitter every time you post to Instagram? There's a recipe for that. Perhaps you want to track your work hours in Google Calendar? There's a recipe for that. Perhaps you want to automatically back up any iPhone pictures you take on Dropbox? There's a recipe for that. Perhaps you want to remind yourself to meditate every day? There's a recipe for that. You get the drift! There are SO MANY combinations that you can do here for all aspects of your life.
10) Trello - Project Management
Trello allows you to make lists and boards, to organise and prioritise projects. You can share boards with other users, which is great for collaborative projects or for accountability.