Top 5 FREE online tools for your small business

Top 5 free online tools

Top 5 FREE online tools for your small business

This post is an overview of the best free online tools for small businesses in 2021. 

It is aimed at small business owners feeling overwhelmed by the array of ‘must have’ techy, ‘shiny objects’ that tempt you to buy them. I’m going to attempt to explain how you can make your life easier AND save money, because I’ve been there myself and in order to consistently make a profit one of the key things to do is to reduce your costs.

I have been working online for many years and since setting up my own business in 2018, have researched and tried out so….many….things and have wasted hundreds of pounds on tech that I didn’t need. It really ate into my margins – I made a loss my first year from a combination of not having many clients, and spending too much on tech I thought I needed.

In the early days I was overwhelmed trying to work out which piece of kit was best for me. I’d buy one, then see another one that looked better, or feel that because someone said they couldn’t manage without x y or z, I had to have it too.

Fast forward to 2021 and I have cut out most of the things I hastily purchased when I started out. I’ve scaled it all back to the mostly FREE basic tools I need to keep my business operating effectively, efficiently and growing nicely.

I now have a pretty low monthly cost outlay, so I have written this post to help you to avoid making the same costly mistakes that I did!

Free Online tools are not cr*p!

I have noticed some people have the mindset of ‘it’s free….it must be cr*p’.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In my experience, tech companies give you their best stuff for free in the hope that when your business grows, you’ll upgrade to the next pricing tier. You don’t get all of the functionality but when you’re starting out, or you have a relatively small audience, you don’t need all the functionality.

My low running costs

Before I share the top 5 free online tools with you, I want to share how much it costs to run my business.

My average monthly costs are usually under £50. Yes, that’s all.

The bulk of this cost is my annual website hosting because I went with a high quality, secure company called Siteground (I always recommend them to my website clients) but the rest are small monthly subscriptions.

What I pay for:

  • Annual website hosting
  • Annual domain name registration
  • Social media scheduling tool (Planoly)- a godsend!
  • Google Workspace (for my domain email)
  • Canva Pro
  • Annual Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) registration (keeping your and your clients data safe is very important to me)

I also paid for lifetime access to some premium web design tools, and I pass on these savings to clients because they benefit when I’m building their new website. I also invest in refresher training, or work with a coach when I need to.

My Top 5 FREE tools for small business owners

The basic ‘kit’ I need to run my business includes a number of free tools, and I will share the best ones with you. These are the things I use daily or weekly and couldn’t manage without.

1. WordPress

WordPress is free, and enables you to create your own website or blog, your way, (but you will need to pay for your domain name and your hosting).

Fabulous free plugins include Woocommerce for an online store to sell your products and services.

You can find out about everything you’ll need in my blog post about setting up a WordPress site from scratch https://jackiesvirtualbureau.com/websites/websiteessentials/

https://wordpress.org/

2. A Google account

Let’s look at the top 5 most popular search engines in the world.

  • Google has a staggering 90% of the search market share – WOW
  • Microsoft Bing has 6% and the rest have a pretty small share:
  • Baidu
  • Yahoo
  • Yandex

Google has such a wide reach and it’s an SEO tool

It can help your business to rank better if you have everything synced up within Google. Your free account gives you access to:

  • Google My Business (Really helps your SEO so go ahead and create your free listing)
  • Console
  • Analytics
  • Google Drive
  • YouTube

https://www.google.com/account/about/

3. Canva

A business must-have is a Canva account. Canva is a design platform and is wonderful for beginners.

You can create graphics, social media posts and all manner of documents using their templates, which over time will inspire you to create your own. Why not have a go at a ‘do it yourself’ logo, using one of Canva’s free logo templates.

Read my blog post about simple business branding here.

There are tons of templates and tutorials, and if you want to upgrade, for around £11 per month you get access to their Pro account. This is a great example of what I mentioned earlier – the additional functionality in the Pro account isn’t really needed when you’re starting out but it is worth the investment if you’re using it regularly like me, to create graphics for multiple clients.
https://www.canva.com/

4. Mailchimp

Your free account allows up to 2000 contacts in your mailing list, which is more than enough for a start up business or a solopreneur starting to build their email list. Mailchimp allows you to

  • Send professional, branded emails
  • Set up automated emails and sequences
  • Build sign up forms, pop ups and landing pages
  • Really get to know your audience by using segments and tags
    and more!

https://mailchimp.com/

I’m a certified Mailchimp VA so if you need a hand setting up or optimising your account and email marketing, check out my Mailchimp support & training services.

5. Pexels

This is my go to free stock image resource. There are others, but this is the one I use the most.

https://www.pexels.com/

Invest the money you save in something you love

This is not meant to be a lecture on how you spend your money but even if you have pots of money, making savings where you can means you can invest in the things you really need and love (a holiday, those shoes you’ve had your eye on, a session with your coach or therapist…..whatever floats your boat!).

By keeping things simple, cutting out the unnecessary extra costs and reducing the number of ‘must have’ ‘shiny objects’ you’re tempted by, you’ll ensure your small business is a lean profit making machine.

And your life will be so much easier.

Jackie Salmon

About the author

Jackie Salmon is a freelance web designer & virtual assistant based in Northumberland, England.
She offers website design, Mailchimp and online content support & training for people who help people.

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