What does your business need to succeed in a competitive market? These five free business tools not only enhance communications, productivity and online marketing, they also improve your bottom line by reducing operational expenses. Now you can have powerful, flexible business tools at your fingertips without costly investments in software or monthly access licenses. If you’ve been looking for ways to work smarter and better, these five tools may be exactly what you need.
5 Free Tools Every Business Needs: The Winners
From communications to word processing, spreadsheets to sales, these five free tools are winners among the best free tools available to small businesses.
All of the following tools are absolutely free to access and use. Some offer upgrades or charge for site licenses as your company grows beyond a small initial set of users. You can then choose to continue using the system or switch to something more robust that meets your company’s needs.
1. Office Tasks: New studies show that 19.6 percent of all companies use Google Apps, mostly Google Docs, for their business needs. Google has made no secret of its desire to beat Microsoft at the office productivity game. Google Docs offers the best of Microsoft Office with the built-in ability to share, edit and automatically save documents to your Google Docs cloud. Companies love the free word processing program akin to Microsoft Word, a spreadsheet and presentation program, free templates and more. Google Docs are also easy to share. So instead of emailing around a draft and asking everyone on your team to use Track Changes, you simply upload the document to Google Docs and grant access to everyone who needs to edit the document. It’s a great time saving and office productivity tool that’s absolutely free if you have a Google account (which is also free to open.)
2. Telephone and Communications: Skype is a business communications tool that combines chat with telephone calls. You need a headset with microphone, and both users need Skype programs, but when you both have the tool it’s totally free to use. It’s great for video conference calls, instant messages and more. If you’re looking for a free business phone number, Google Voice is also a great tool.
3. Email: Need a free email account? Gmail, Google’s answer to email, beats the competition hands down. It offers excellent storage, an intuitive spam filter, and automatic sorting so that promotional messages, business documents, and social media alerts each go into separate buckets for you to review at your leisure. If you want to set up the email on your own domain, it'll cost $5 per month. But many web hosts offer a discount, and there are other ways to set up a free email on your domain.
4. Job Boards: Job boards can be a great way to help you find more qualified candidates. While many sites do require a fee to list your job opportunity there are free options. With Indeed, the largest job board, you can post for free and pay only to promote your listing. Another strategy you can use here, is to post on your site and optimize for search. Many job boards are always looking to add more listings to their sites, and if they find yours via search they'll republish it for free and start pointing job seekers your way. There are additional features such as resume searching that you can utilize that will be additional but relatively low cost.
5. Project Management: Companies working on large-scale projects often struggle with tracking all of the moving parts. Who has completed what tasks, and by when? What needs to get done? Answer these questions, track your team’s progress and more with Trello, and online project management tool. Trello functions similarly to popular social media site Pinterest, with “cards” stating project components that are moved into different areas to indicate their status. It’s free for small teams and a great way for non-project managers to understand and use a project management tracking system.
Other Free Business Tools: Marketing Help
Businesses using social media often find themselves with no time to manage and post to all of their social media properties. While you do need to be hands-on with social media to ensure that customer communications are answered promptly, free scheduling tools such as HootSuite can help you post to your social media accounts. Set up your system, messages, add the data and time, and voila - it’s like you’re always marketing. While your free HootSuite account limits messages and the number of social media channels you can track, it’s still a terrific help for any small business on a strict marketing budget.
There are many free tools available for your business needs. By choosing which tools to invest in and which to continue with a free account, you can manage your expenses wisely, and maximize net profits by keeping those expenses to a minimum.
About the Author
Jeanne Grunert is an award-winning writer and marketing expert with over 20 years of experience. In 2007, Jeanne quit her marketing executive position at a large New York City area publisher, moved to Virginia, opened her own freelance writing and content marketing firm, and began growing a life instead of just making a living. She writes about business, marketing, home and garden topics for Fit Small Business and a variety of publications and websites.More Content by Jeanne Grunert