8 Free Business Resources That Are Worth Their Weight In Gold
If it’s one thing your girl loves, it’s a good deal. At the mall, you can catch me by the sales rack, and if there’s a discount code to be found, you can bet I’m using it. While I know that some things are worth paying full price for, I’m a big fan of being fabulous on a budget.
And I’m not just talking clothes and shoes. I’m forever on the hunt for amazing products and tools for my business that won’t break the bank. Over the past five years, I’ve stumbled across some that are absolute lifesavers at my favourite price - $FREE.99.
I may be frugal, but I’m not stingy, so I’m going to let you in on the 8 free online resources that help me boss on a budget.
My first invoices were just emails that said, “Total owing: $____. Thanks!” Not exactly the picture of professionalism. Thankfully a client introduced me to Waveapps and I haven’t looked back since. This comprehensive online accounting service lets you create beautiful invoices, estimates, and receipts customized with your brand colours and logos. Saved client profiles mean you can send those documents to clients, track payment due dates, and record payments right from the site. Other awesome features include income, expense, and tax reports and connected bank accounts.
Waveapps does have a paid version that gives you access to payroll and tax services ($24/month). You can also accept credit card payments through Waveapps for a small fee of 2.9%.
A lot of my work is billed at an hourly rate so a reliable time tracking service is a must. Lost minutes = lost time, and that’s not an option. Toggl is the perfect solution. It lets you track every project down to the millisecond. Client and project profiles mean you can track multiple commitments at once, and if you work on the go, they’ve got iOS and Android apps too. My favourite feature? Toggl offers detailed and beautiful reports that you can download as PDFs so both you and your client know how every minute was spent.
Toggl’s paid version gives you access to additional features like project time estimates, unlimited team size, and billable rates ($9-49/month).
My design skills are next to none, but Canva makes me look like a pro. They’ve got every standard design size you can think of from Twitter header to CD cover, thousands of templates, and more than 100 free fonts. The free version gives you 1 GB of storage and two folders to keep all your image uploads, and you can have up to 10 members on your team.
I’ve upgraded to Canva for Work (12.95/month) to take advantage of the unlimited storage, custom font upload, brand kit, and thousands of free stock images, but I still swear by the free version.
4. Google Hangouts (iOS)
Because I work online, my clients can live anywhere. Phone meetings with clients on the other side of the world can get pricy. Enter Google Hangouts. The successor of Google Talk, Google Hangouts is a lifesaver for long distance calling. Essentially a free VOIP service, the app lets you make calls right from your phone. (iOS only though. Sorry Android users. The app also allows for free video and group chats.
Asana is the ultimate teamwork app. I first used it when I partnered with a web design firm for a huge project. This app made coordination and project management a breeze. Asana lets you outline all of a project’s tasks, assign them to the appropriate team members, set deadlines and reminders, and track task completion all in one space, right where everyone can see. Status updates and notifications are sent in-app and to any associated email addresses. The free version operates through an iOS app and allows up to 15 members.
Asana’s premium version runs on desktop and has added features like unlimited team members and dashboards, private teams and projects, and task dependencies ($9.99/member/month).
I needed an Instagram tracker for two reasons: 1). I’m obsessed with order and need to test my layout before I post, and 2). I forget to post ALL the time. Planoly solves both problems at once. See your current posts, track you weekly analytics, test your layouts, write your captions, choose your hashtags, and schedule your posts right in the app. When it’s time to post, the app will prompt you and all you need to do is paste the caption and hit post. (Planoly can’t post for you, but don’t blame them. Instagram doesn’t allow any third party apps to post).
While the free version is great, I’m considering the paid version as it allows you to manage multiple accounts, upload unlimited photos, and track metrics going back three years. ($11.99-24.99/month).
For everything Planoly can’t do, there’s Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to write, schedule, and auto-post content on up to three profiles. It integrates with more than 150 apps including Dropbox, Soundcloud and Youtube, and lets you track basic analytics. Hootsuite also has iOS and Android apps for social media management on the go and a built-in link shrinker which is handy for Twitter.
The free version is good for personal accounts, but it’s worth investing in one of their paid plans if you’ve got more than 3 accounts you actively use, or if you’re a social media manager handling multiple clients. Paid features include real-time analytics, branded URLs and social media certifications ($19-$499/month).
I’ve been meaning to start my newsletter consistently for a while. When I finally get around to it, I know I’ll be doing it on MailChimp. Mailchimp’s free plan allows you to create and send up to 12,000 emails per month to as many as 2000 subscribers. They offer easy to use templates that you can customize to fit your brand and their reports and data let you track delivery, open, and click rates. It integrates seamlessly with most webhosting platforms and emailing services.
If you want to be even more marketing-savvy, Mailchimp has two paid plans that let you do things like target contacts based on location and engagement and schedule your emails to go out at the same time in different time zones ($10-199).
Those are my favourite freebies. Do you have any free or low-cost apps, sites, tools or resources your business can’t live without? Drop them in the comments.