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Everyone loves a freebie, right? And when it comes to running a small business, there are some fantastic tools out there that can help with everything from generating sales to time management and upping productivity. Here we’ve pulled together a handy guide to some of the best free applications around – which are worth a look if you’re a small business with big ambitions.
In terms of free marketing tools for businesses, you can’t get better than Instagram. The social media app has more than 1 billion monthly active users worldwide, so it’s a fantastic platform to engage individuals who represent your business’s ideal customer.
Setting up a business account is free and there are no restrictions on how often you can update your feed with new content. What’s more, it’s easy to use and the benefits are incredible. You can directly engage with customers, promote your product or services for free and direct traffic to your website. It’s an amazing form of free advertising that all new businesses should be taking advantage of. The one caveat being, it’s driven by visual content – as all social media platforms increasingly are – so you’ll need to get snap-happy.
LinkedIn is a professional online community and like Instagram, it’s free to set-up a profile and company page for your business. If you’re a b2b company, having a presence on LinkedIn is a no-brainer. You’ll be able to share insights about your business, demonstrate your expertise and engage directly with target clients – a great way to generate leads at no direct cost (other than your time to do so).
The platform is perfect for any new business wishing to connect with industry influencers and to attract new customers. Plus, if you want to access a greater suite of business development tools, you can always upgrade to LinkedIn’s premium services at any time. There’s usually a month’s free trial of this premium offering up for grabs too.
Professional photography can be an expensive outgoing when you’re a small business with a limited budget. But images are everything nowadays – whether it’s for your website, a company blog, market materials or social media.
While authentic shots of real people in your business will always be fantastic for driving engagement (as everyone will love seeing smiley shots of your team members in action), there will also be times that you need quality, professional images.
If you can’t afford to fork out for a photographer, all is not lost. There’s a growing number of stock photography sites where you can download royalty-free images for free. Check out Pexels, Unsplash and Pixabay for starters. Simply search for the image you want and select from hundreds of professional photographs – all available to use free of charge.
Mailchimp is an email marketing tool that’s used by some of the world’s most successful companies – but that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach for small businesses with little cash to spare. The company offers several tiers of monthly subscription, starting with a free, entry-level package!
The free version of Mailchimp gives you access to an incredible amount of features, including professionally designed email templates, CRM for up to 2000 contacts and the ability to send up to 10,000 monthly emails. You can even get access to basic reporting to help you measure the success of your campaigns, so it’s an invaluable tool for any growing business embarking on email marketing.
Inbound marketing techniques that help potential customers ‘find’ you, can be a valuable tool for any growing business. But having your inbound marketing processes run like a well-oiled machine can put a strain on company resources.
That’s where Hubspot comes in. This ingenious inbound marketing tool is ideal for small enterprises with limited headcount or in-house marketing expertise. Used by almost 70,000 businesses globally, Hubspot can help you organically grow your business and provide a one-stop-shop for all your marketing needs. Best of all, you can access many features for free. Just be aware that if you love it and want to do even more, the paid versions don’t come cheap…
This free design and publishing tool is a lifesaver for businesses without the funds to invest in professional graphic design. Rather than enlist the services of an agency or freelancer (which could set you back thousands) Canva provides a host of professionally designed templates you can use for free – so no problem if design really isn’t your thing!
The suite of templates includes everything from brochures, business cards and logos to sales presentations, Instagram posts, meme generators and newsletters. You can select from hundreds of designs in each category and edit the text, colours and imagery to suit your brand. It’s easy to use, even if you have no previous design experience and is a super low cost way to establish a professional identity for your business.
If you’re managing multiple social media accounts on behalf of your business, you’ll know it can be a huge time-sap ensuring all your channels are being updated regularly. Hootsuite can help. It’s a social media management tool that allows you to combine your accounts in one singular dashboard, rather than logging in to each individual site to post an update.
You can schedule up to 30 posts for free per month, across three different accounts. You can create an entire month’s worth of content in advance and decide when each post will go live. If, at any time, you need more content or to add more accounts you can simply upgrade to a price-plan that suits your budget.
If point-of-sale is an aspect of your business model, you can’t go wrong with Square. This nifty POS software is ideal for small businesses. The free application works with Android and Apple devices and equips you with all the tools you need to start taking digital payments from customers.
Unlike some pricey POS software, Square is free to use and includes many advanced features that can help you grow your business effectively. A dashboard allows you to gain insights into your sales performance, so you can quickly gauge what’s popular. It’s an invaluable low-cost tool for new businesses to get started with point-of-sale transactions.
Productivity is essential in business and yet a surprising number of organisations don’t have strategies for monitoring employee output in place. In small enterprises, in particular, every employee must pull their weight and time-tracking software is the perfect way to ensure that everyone is accountable for the hours they’re costing your organisation.
While most time-tracking software requires a subscription, Clockify is free. The simple software allows you to track time spent on specific projects and tasks, for an unlimited number of users, helping you to gauge productivity within your team, cut costs and bill clients accurately.
Without question, a website is essential for businesses operating today. The web is the first place people consumers and b2b buyers will head when they’re searching for a product or service – including when they’re seeking recommendations or reviews – so it’s essential you have a website and that it’s optimised for search engines (and mobile devices!).
Google Analytics can help you understand how well your website content is performing and how visitors are using your site. It’s arguably one of the most helpful and powerful free tools around and you can use the data to get an accurate picture of what happens and what’s working (or not), so you can then make changes where they are needed.