Every entrepreneur and small business owner could use a little help from time to time. Whether it’s assistance with accounting needs, marketing or organization, small business owners can use all the help they can get — especially if it’s free. Fortunately, nowadays anyone can access tons of free, online resources to help them run their business, where in the past, they may have had to hire someone outside to do even the most basic support tasks.
Here are 21 top free resources for small businesses:
SurveyMonkey is an online survey platform that your small business can utilize to poll customers, your target audience or even your employees to find out all types of information that could be relevant to your business. As with most free service offerings, there’s also a paid option with SurveyMonkey that you can use to get even more information. All the same, its Basic plan, which is the free service, is pretty good on its own, offering an unlimited number of surveys, up to 10 questions per survey, 40 short survey templates and much more. The main drawback with the free service is that you’re limited in the number of responses you can get per survey and you’ll have to connect with survey respondents on your own, through methods like an e-newsletter or a page on your business’s website.
Sending out a regular newsletter is a great way to remind your clients of your business and its products or services. If your mailing list consists of less than 2,000 email addresses, you don’t even have to pay in order to use MailChimp.
Helpful features include the ability to prepare your newsletter in advance and choose when it should be sent out as well as for analytics on any embedded links. Use email analytics to determine what information they’re finding most useful.
Creating and tracking invoices and following up your business expenses can be a real drain on your time, and if you don’t love accounting, it can be downright annoying. FreshBooks allows you to get your accounting work done even if you’re not an accountant. However, the free package is very limited. For the first month, you get unlimited access, thereafter, you will have to upgrade if you employ staff or have more than three clients to invoice every month. What’s good about this resource is that even the paid option isn’t all that pricey.
You only get a free trial with UserVoice, but you can gather valuable market information during that time. UserVoice is a platform that allows you to collect comments and suggestions on your products and services. You can also use it to manage client support requests and inquiries resulting in enhanced customer satisfaction. If you want to use it for longer than 14 days, you’ll have to get a paid subscription. If you’re only interested in the possible free benefits, it’s a good idea that you use it as a means of getting answers to product development questions.
EverNote’s free package is still mighty handy. You can use it to capture your data on the run and sync it between your computer and mobile phone. You can use EverNote to record your ideas, interesting things you saw online and to track your tasks and worklists. While you can do something similar without the app, EverNote ensures that everything’s in one place and easy to keep organized. Once again, there are more and better features on the paid version, but the free version is still useful and versatile.
With WordPress, you can create a business website or blog for free. There are paid options that allow you to buy your domain name for a more professional look and you can do more to personalize your WordPress template if you’re willing to pay up, but you can still create a neat and functional website yourself without having to spend anything or know a great deal about website design.
WordPress is mobile friendly, an important consideration in today’s SEO landscape where your website will incur search engine penalties if it isn’t mobile friendly. Search engines like a WordPress website so many websites utilize it. You may still need a bit of help in getting a top-ranking listing, but it’s easier with WordPress.
Facebook needs no introduction, but many businesses still aren’t using it to their best advantage. Setting up a business page (as opposed to a personal one) gives your business a more professional look and allows you to interact with your client base.
If you want to grow your following beyond people you already know, you may need to promote your page and run ads. That costs you something, but you can do targeted advertising to people in specific areas, age groups and interest groups at a very reasonable price. Don’t embark on using Facebook if you’re not ready to spend some time interacting with your public, though. Decide on a strategy before you begin.
There are times when we need to share files that are too big to send by conventional email. That’s where DropBox comes in handy. You can upload your documents, images and so on and invite specific people to view them. You can also use DropBox to back up important files so that you’re not completely reliant on your hard drives and computers. That’s handy if you’re still not using cloud computing services for your business. If free cloud storage is one of your primary needs, you can also check out these resources.
Supported by the SBA, SCORE is a nonprofit association that focuses on mentoring and education for small business owners. You can connect with volunteer mentors and business counseling through SCORE, which localizes these services so you can get paired with mentors and find SCORE locations in your area. SCORE also offers workshops, online webinars, courses on-demand, templates and other tools relevant to small businesses and their owners.
10. Small Business Development Centers
America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) is another association partnered with the SBA that focuses on educating and supporting small business owners. The SBDC has nearly 1,000 service centers across the country that offer local small business help in a variety of areas, including free in-person business consulting and at-cost training on topics like business planning, accessing capital, marketing, regulatory compliance, technology development, international trade and more.
11. Yelp for Business Owners
Customer reviews are of the utmost importance nowadays. Therefore, managing your business’s reputation is more important than ever. Yelp for Business Owners is a good resource to help small businesses make the most of online, crowdsourced reviews, as well as providing a platform to engage new and returning customers. You can also use Yelp for Business Owners to offer exclusive deals to entice new and existing customers.
Branding is critical to making a long-lasting, successful business. One of the most immediate forms of your brand is in your logo. That’s where Logaster can help. It is a professional online logo maker and generator that also offers packages encompassing the entire social branding for your business, including digital assets and physical assets like business cards and stationery. These services come at a price, but what is free is that you can generate a professional logo for your small business in seconds and download it for your own use.
Free accounting software may seem like an attractive product for small business owners. But, too often free software available is very limited in its capabilities and only offers the most useful applications when you sign up for the paid service. Wave is an accounting software platform that offers excellent free services, such as accounting software, invoicing and receipt scanning. These services come with no set-up fees, hidden charges or a monthly service charge. As with other business accounting software platforms, Wave also offers paid services, such as credit card processing, bank payments and payroll.
14. Foursquare for Business
FourSquare for Business is a free and quick way to advertise your small business to a large audience and interact with your customers. In fact, your customers might have already listed your small business on FourSquare without your knowledge. That’s why with FourSquare for Business, you can find and claim your business listing and start engaging with users. FourSquare for Business can be used for many purposes, including promoting your business and updating your audience and customer-base about news or changes.
As a small business owner, you are aware of how much paperwork goes into starting and running a company. Drafting all these business and legal documents manually is time consuming and hiring someone to arrange them naturally costs money. Docracy is an open collection of free legal documents that you can use as templates for your own business needs. Docracy offers all kinds of business-related documents and templates, such as real estate agreements, contracts for photographers and designers, non-disclosure agreements, privacy policies and a lot more.
Social media is a must-have for every business, no matter the age or size. You need amazing content that is published and promoted frequently to build an audience. But your job doesn’t stop once you’ve accumulated followers, you’ll need to stay active in order to be relevant in your industry and kepe them engaged. Your social pages are the best way to connect with individual customers and provide feedback to gain their loyalty.
Staying active daily, can be extremely taxing and time consuming, so consider using Hootsuite to simplify the process. This tool relieves some of the headache, by allowing you to schedule future posts on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. It also allows you to test what’s working for you and what’s not in terms of advertising. Your account will let you manage up to three profiles at once, which is more than enough for a small business owner. And if you do need more, you can always upgrade your account.
This tool may not seem as important as the previous ones mentioned, but you need to remember your time is one of the most valuable things. So, you should consider downloading a free password management tool, like LastPass, that will collect data to successfully sign you in as soon as you reach the login page. These tools will save you the trouble of requesting password reminders and having to completely reset your login info. Time is extremely valuable to you as a business owner, and these tools will help you make the most out of every day.
As the operator of a small business you need to keep track of when your employees work. It is essential to the successful operation of your business. Underpaying will leave employees unhappy and overpaying will hinder cash flow. TSheets is a free tool that allows you to track employees’ hours, including vacation, overtime and more. It’s an Excel timesheet template that’s easy to use and can end up saving you up to 11% of your business’s gross payroll costs.
Another financial tool every small business should know about is Square, which is a point-of-sale (POS) system that comes with zero monthly or startup costs. It makes it easy for you to get paid and give refunds as an owner of a business. You get a free mobile card reader and online store with this software, as well as business and inventory management features. And the fee for payment processing is just 2.75%. This tool is especially handy for all your customers without cash on hand.
Hiring a graphic designer can cost you a pretty penny, so consider Canva to help you create professional designs for your business. You’ll be able to design graphics for your email marketing strategy and so much more. If you’re falling short in the creative department, this tool is right for you. It will keep your social media pages and website looking professional at all times.
Pixabay is another great online tool for your small business. It holds over a million images, illustrations and even video stock, which are free for you to download at your convenience. You simply select your desired resolution and hit the download button, then you can feel free to use the image wherever you’d like.
The Bottom Line
No matter the type of tool you’re looking for, there’s almost always a free option for you to try — which is invaluable as a new business on a tight budget. That said, free programs are often a way to test something out to see if the paid version is worth your money. Use free tools as much as you can, but know that to get the most of them, you’ll often be enticed to upgrade to a premium version, which could be worth it. That’s for you to decide.
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