You have made the decision to go it alone…. exciting times isn’t it! You have the vision but to begin with, it is essential for start-ups and small businesses to keep outgoings as minimal as humanly possible. I know…. I have been there and still am to a point. I am pretty good with managing money anyway, but I am one of those people who, if I can find a system for free, I will definitely give it a go before I opt for a paid version, because for my size of business and the capability I require, the free version might just be enough for now!
Whilst using these free apps and software, I have actually been pleasantly surprised, and I wanted to tell you about them so you can benefit too! When we are in the early stages of building our business, we want to do as much as we can ourselves to try and keep costs low, so I have included software and apps for different areas of the business, from accounting, design and general which are intuitive to use so you don’t have to be an expert or be counterproductive by spending ages trying to find your way around.
Pretty much everyone has heard of Dropbox and it’s a fantastic way of sharing documents and files securely and allows you to sync across all your devices. I work remotely, mainly from a laptop, but often from a tablet and Dropbox allows me to access my documents wherever I and from whichever device I have to hand. The basic package is free, but you can upgrade if you need more storage space.
What did we do before Google? It offers so much more than a search engine! I can view and edit my own calendars as well as those of my clients, access multiple emails within the same inbox as well as accessing my client’s emails. Google Drive and Docs is also a great way to collaborate, store and share documents and Hangouts is a great one stop shop for instant messaging, phone calls and video calls. There is a whole lot more to Google so try it out.
I work odd hours, but I don’t like to interrupt my clients are ungodly hours, so I Boomerang my emails. In a nutshell, Boomerang allows you to schedule when to send emails, track responses, assists with writing better emails using AI and even has the function to pause incoming emails to stop unwanted interruptions. I’ve used Boomerang with both Gmail and Outlook and find it a fab tool and the basic package is free.
Speaking of scheduling messages, I use Hootsuite to manage and schedule my social media posts. For efficiency, I tend to bulk together similar types of work which allows me to be in the zone and using Hootsuite allows me to do exactly that with social media posts. I spend a block of time writing and scheduling posts and once it is done, I don’t need to be constantly connected to social media. It’s also a great way to view your social media streams all in one place. Again, the basic package is free
Mailchimp is an easy to use email marketing tool. It allows you to build lists, create campaigns and monitor the success of your campaigns. You can also easily integrate Mailchimp with your WordPress website using a plug-in. Another free one up to 2,000 subscribers.
With Survey Monkey, you can create and publish online surveys in minutes, and view results graphically and in real time. SurveyMonkey provides free online questionnaire and survey software to allow you to capture the opinions and views of those who matter to you.
Canva gives you the power to create great designs and is simple to use. Using professionally designed templates, you can create both web and print media design and graphics. I love playing around with Canva and there are countless possibilities. I don’t come from a creative background, but Canva gives you the tools to help….and its free! One to look at before purchasing costly designs.
Small pdf is a platform which allows you to convert and edit your pdf files. I’m often asked to merge pdf files or split pages of pdf files and this platform allows me to do this. The platform also allows you to convert pdf files to another file type and vice versa as well as compressing the size of a pdf file. The free version does limit the usage but if you need to heavily utilise the tools, upgrades are available.
I use My Hours daily to log how I spend my time. It is so simple to use, I just click a button to start a timer then allocate that time to a project. When it comes to billing, I use the My Hours report as a time sheet; it breaks down billable amounts, so you can keep track easily. You can view and report by lots of filters including project, client and specific tasks so you can see where time is being spent and associated billing amounts. And again, it’s free.
Quickfile is an accounting and bookkeeping software for UK businesses and is free for small to medium sized accounts. As well as creating and tracking your invoices, you can upload your receipts and track your outgoings. You can create a branded portal for you clients to view and pay invoices and Quickfile has the functionality to link to your bank account. Its also great for reporting and offers a suite of reports for you to use.
With all of these online systems I use, its only right that I include LastPass on this review. LastPass is a password manager which allows you to create random, strong passwords instantly and store them in a secure vault. Once you log into LastPass, it auto fills your passwords meaning you only need to remember the one password.
I hope my review has been useful for you and you have found something to make your life easier. I have a few more recommendations to trial, and once I have, I will of course tell you about them! Just to point out though, these are my personal recommendations and I take no responsibility for any issues which arise from you using any of the above platforms / apps /software. I would strongly recommend that you look more closely into them before signing up or using any of them. This includes costs; the costs I have noted are correct at the time of the blog post being posted, but that’s not to say that costs have not been reviewed / changed.