What a great time to be in business! With e-commerce, web-based marketing, heaps of affordable ideas and all of the apps and tools available today, starting and running a small business has become so much more feasible. And it’s no wonder that small business entrepreneurship is the fastest growing of all industries in the U.S. and worldwide.
If the “own my own business” bug has bitten you, you can join millions of others and take advantage of all of the apps and tools that will make your prospects for success much greater.
In fact, here are 101 of these apps for you to consider. They are free or very cheap and will perform the functions that used to costs thousands upon thousands of dollars.
101 (Free and Cheap) Apps and Tools To Power Up Your #SmallBiz Click To Tweet
Companies like Coca-Cola have their own design and development departments – permanent, full-time employees who work only on this every day. Why? Because Coca-Cola is a huge company with a multi-national reach and it must review, update, and design all the time.
Mid-sized companies like ModCloth or Jack Daniels contract out their design and development work, using top name firms/folks.
Small businesses like yours use either a small design firm or freelancer, a friend who is tech savvy, or you do it yourself, using a web design tool that makes it so easy. There are a number of website builders and all are either free or extremely reasonable. All of them will walk you through the process, and you can have a site in no time.
Few of the most popular are the following:
- WordPress is by far the most popular site builder, adding about 50,000 new sites daily. It is easy and free with a huge supply of themes from which to choose. Set up a blog as you set up your site, and take advantage of free and fee-based plugins.
- Great support is available through WP Site Updates, a site established because of the over 55 million WordPress users who need support.
- IM Creator has good designs and themes, drop and drag features, and will let you have a site up quite quickly. Support is in the form of printable manual and through community. Prices for businesses average about $8/month.
- GoDaddy is a domain registration, hosting and website building site with lots of extra features to add onto your basic site. You can also set up a WordPress blog on your site. A wide range of pricing, but for basic small businesses, it begins at $14.99/month. Good support available. For more details on hosting, check out our comprehensive guide!
- Squarespace is a great website builder that offers many stylish theme options, unlimited pages, and 24/7 support for $18/month. You can upgrade your support and features for additional costs.
- Weebly is one of the easiest website builders to use if you are a total novice. Plans range from free to $25/month for business sites with 1 year free hosting. Support is available on the site via tutorials and videos.
Just as Apple and Nike have logos and colors that are recognizable all over the world, you need the same for your business. Your website colors should match everything else you do online, in your packaging if you ship, and, of course, your logo. Unless you are an artistic sort with an eye for design, this is one area in which you should find someone with that eye. Here are some options:
- 99Designs: Provide your business details and color preferences, decide how much you want to pay and then launch your “contest.” Designers will submit their work and you select what you want.
- Crowd Spring: This design site works much like 99Design. Logos begin at $199, but there are packages for naming your business, color selection, etc.
- LogoWorks.com: With pricing beginning at $299, you can get two designers submitting their work to you for selection.
- Fiverr: Most have heard of this site, but you may not know that you can use it for logo design and naming. For $5 you can’t lose and you may find something you like.
- Designmantic.com: If you want to try designing your own logo, you can try it for free here.
Unless you have plenty of time to set up your own accounting system and to organize all of your financial transactions for tax and other purposes, you absolutely need a software app for this. There are amazingly great apps out there, and you can choose one that both meets your current needs and grows with you. You have lots of options.
- FreshBooks – easy to understand; easy to use; simple dashboard. Organizes everything as you enter it.
- Free Agent – make invoices, track your expenses, and organize for taxes – all in one app.
- QuickBooks online – cloud-based comprehensive accounting software app that does it all and grows as you do.
- Nutcache – wow. Free software with most every feature of the paid apps. Very popular among small business owners.
- KashFlow – accounting app specifically suited for UK based businesses, especially for its features on organizing and reporting for taxes.
- Arithmo – all math is automated; simple dashboard and interface; cloud-based
- Sage One – cloud-based software for businesses in 14 different countries
- Zoho Books – you choose what specifics you need and add on as you grow. Everything from invoicing to tax reporting.
- Sellsy Invoicing – perfect for the small businesses that only need invoicing and payment functions.
- Financial Force Accounting – this is a cloud-based app that integrates really well with SalesForce.com. If you anticipate using SalesForce as a CRM app, check this one out.
Project Management and Planning
Managing projects by email and phone calls and unending meetings, especially when some of your team members are working from home or freelancing for you, is just totally inefficient. Cloud-based project management software allow you to delegate, track progress on tasks, and keep your clients/customers updated if that is appropriate. Everyone is communicating through one platform and can see what everyone else is doing. Here are 10 options.
- Basecamp – this is the most popular collaboration and management tool available. Very simple interface, allows several projects at once. Access from any mobile device too. This one will grow with you – starts at $20 a month.
- Teamwork Projects – easy setup and interfaces. Great visualization of an entire project by all team members.
- ActiveCollab – lots of team collaboration features, tracking time and tasks, along with invoices and payment receipts.
- Zoho Projects – tools for planning and tracking, along with reporting and integration with lots of other tools.
- Trello – to-do lists, project tracking by task, visual boards. Organize tasks like post-it notes on a board
- Jira – designed primarily for software developers, Jira allows developers to collaborate on projects and to track bugs and other issues. It also tracks time-on-task.
- Asana – a great app for managing projects and people in remote locations. Has mobile apps.
- Podio – task delegation and management. Include customers when appropriate. Everyone has access to the big picture.
- Freedcamp – plan anything from a single event to a large project – delegate, calendar, provide visual depiction of entire project.
- Wrike – task set up, delegation and management with integration into all other tools you use.
For lots of small business owners, hiring employees for many of their tasks does not make sense. What does make sense is finding the right outside contractors who can perform necessary functions, even remotely, that the owner cannot perform for whatever reasons.
- Guru – this is a great site for virtually any type of freelance or assistant function you need. They handle everything, including 1099 tax service and provide reports.
- UpWork – another clearinghouse for freelancers of any variety
- TaskArmy – freelancers presented by their portfolios. For $5, they will sort and recommend the best.
- PeoplePerhour offers a better pool of middle to top-skilled freelancers. Post a job offer and review the candidates or browse and purchase ready-made offers “hourlies” e.g. one hour of data entry work.
- Rent a Coder – here is where you go if you need someone for tech needs – bugs, apps, etc.
- TaskRabbit – if you need local freelancers and assistants, this is the site for you. Currently only in 6 major cities, but growing.
- Freelancer.com – claims to have almost 3 million freelancers around the globe. Wide range of skill categories and qualifications (from low to premium).
- ScriptLance – for computer programming and other tech assistance.
- Craigslist – find local people or remote freelancers. They have to trust that you will pay them, because you don’t place money in an account.
- Amazon Mechanical Turk – clearinghouse, but you will need to take responsibility for all of the details.
- Zerys – a great selection of freelance writers to create website content, content marketing materials and all the other written jobs for you.
Getting and staying organized, meeting deadlines, ensuring that everyone is meeting their individual deadlines, and eliminating distractions – these are the things of which productivity is made. And today we have some amazing apps to keep ourselves organized and others to remove distractions. Here we go:
- Microsoft Office Suite: Word, Excel & PowerPoint allow file compatibility and are modified when mobile devices are used. Add cloud support, and consider Office 365 subscription.
- WPS Office for Android and iOS – a mobile office suite. Cloud support and cross-referencing multiple files are easy and efficient.
- Microsoft Outlook – mobile email app is the best feature of this app. Prioritizes emails you see first based upon your activity
- Workflow – iOS app – you can set up sets of app “recipes” with tasks and times, so you will have your entire to-do list prioritized.
- Feedly – sign up for updates on news, topics, etc. from sites and blogs of your choice.
- Paper by Fifty Three – began as an app for drawing and as a notebook, now includes checklists, note-taking and photo captions. Organize and export to any other format.
- Google Drive – cloud storage + sharing and collaboration – easy configuration
- Quip – Android and iOS – integrates messaging and editing – create notes, documents, and to-do lists and upload them for editing by all team members.
- Scanner Pro – trying to go paperless? Use this app to scan all the docs with your camera and turn them into editable PDFs. Available for iOS only.
- LastPass – password storage app; access your password-protected sites and this app automatically fills in the username and password information for you. No more storing passwords in insecure places.
- Evernote – a note-taking platform – upload anything and view them on any device – share and format.
- Pocket – no more wasting time reading articles and blogs that you don’t have time for right now. Save them all in Pocket for later reading.
- OneNote – Android, iOS – cloud-based note-taking app – all team members can work on the same file or document together. Integrates with OneDrive.
- Dropbox – cloud-based storage – no more wasting time looking for your files. They are all in Dropbox for easy pulling, sharing, and collaboration.
- SwiftKey – set your keyboard up the way you like it. An intuitive app that also learns your vocabulary and typing style and responds with faster writing.
- Any.do – reminders, to-do lists, notes – type in or dictate. Drag and drop tasks into categories. Share with friends with one swipe.
- Sunrise – a great calendaring app with many features. Syncs with other digital calendars you have – reminders, alerts of open time slots and more
- Fantastical – iOS – visual daily, weekly, and monthly calendars, reminders, type in or voice upload.
- IFTTT – Android, iOS – The letters stand for “if this, then that.” On this app, the idea behind this app is that if something pops up on another platform it triggers you or other platforms you designate. Good app for automating your daily work life.
Small businesses may need a variety of customer support and relations activities. Fortunately, technology has given that variety.
- Brandify – monitoring customer conversations is critical, because you need to respond to any negative comments out there.
- Schedule Max – let customers set appointments online.
- Live Chat – embeds a chat window as visitors come to your site and have questions.
- Sage One – let’s you manage clients projects so you can provide updates when asked.
- Click With Me Now – allows sharing of a customer’s screen with other team members.
- Parature for Facebook – conversations with customers through Facebook. Embedded in your Facebook page.
- Desk.com – from Salesforce.com – one inbox for everything coming in from all of your communication channels.
- Get Satisfaction – sets up a customer sharing community – Amazon uses this.
- Help Scout – sets up automated responses when multiple customers ask the same questions.
- Nextiva – provides a call forwarding system for service reps who work remotely or in different locations.
- SalesForce – originally designed for banking and financial institutions, this comprehensive cloud-based app has applications for other businesses now. Use it track sales leads, monitor your marketing campaigns, manage customer accounts, and provide post-sale service.
- Pardot – primarily for B2B businesses – batch email, drip marketing, lead management
- TeamSupport Software – automatically assigns customer tickets so everyone can keep track of communication that has occurred. Messages can be flagged (angry, has a question, etc.) Designed for small businesses specifically
- PipeDrive – cloud-based app that focuses on sales and sales management part of CRM
- Five9 – call center software for small, medium, and large businesses – grows as you grow.
Web-based marketing and promotion is a complex function of any small business. It involves content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing and, finally analytics, in order to determine what is going well and what is not. This section of apps is divided into 4 sections
- Buzzsumo – this is a popular topic generation tool. You can search by keyword and locate the most popular posts related to that topic.
- Title-Generator – catchy blog post headlines – 700 titles for each search.
- SnapApp – create interactive infographics, timelines, calculators, and videos – easy to use – create, drag and drop, done.
- ProWritingAid – editing tool for your writing; checks readability, sentence structures, tired vocab, and makes editing suggestions to make text punchier.
- StockSnap.io – free stock photographs – great quality, excellent search feature and new photos added daily.
- Canva free photo editing & design tool to create social media graphics, blog post headers all a wide range of other promo materials.
Email campaigns are great marketing tools if done right. There are a number of apps that will help you create and target emails that will get opened and read.
- Active Campaign – focus emails based upon customer interests. Gathers information about customers and sorts them into groups based on specific criteria – location, interests, etc. Let’s you target your emails based upon groupings.
- AWeber – multi-function app for generation email registration and subscription forms. Pulls emails from all of your web presences to consolidate in one place.
- Benchmark Email – provides variety of layouts, designs, and colors to make emails look amazing.
- Constant Contact – multi-purpose email tool – create promotions, events, etc., grow your email list, targeted emailing.
- Get Response – immediately see how your email will look on all devices – tweak as necessary.
- MailChimp – multi-purpose app – drag-and-drop editor, profiles of subscribers, track who opens, recommends best time to send, etc.
- Mailigen – allows mass mobile messaging or targeted based on customer profiles.
- Vertical Response – pre-made templates for great looking emails and coordinated signup forms.
Social Media Marketing
Visual is the key to posting via social media. Any text must be engaging and compelling.
- Sumo Me – a bundle of free and paid tools, including attractive social sharing buttons, click-to-tweet, highlighter and more!
- SurveyMonkey – people love polls and surveys. This app makes creation of them so easy.
- Hootsuite – manage all social media accounts with one app, analyze traffic, schedule postings, and more.
- Steambuilder – finds people on social media that are asking questions about your products or services.
- Reputology – Get notified when anyone makes a comment on your company, using any social media.
You need to track your traffic carefully in order to determine which platforms are generating the most “play.” Fortunately, it’s easy with good analytics apps.
- Google Analytics – an entire suite of apps that let you know which of your platforms are gathering the most traffic, which posts receive likes and shares, etc.
- Crazy Egg – will provide detailed information about traffic, time spent on each page, time of day, etc. – find hot spots, cold spots, and bounce spots/rates
- Clicky – analytics in real time show spikes and drop offs. Can tell you what time of day to post where.
- Ahrefs – review your (and your competitors’) backlinks, keyword positions, top performing content and more!
- Open Web Analytics – very simple tool – tracks how visitors are using your site, blog, and social media pages. Open source and free.
- Piwik – another open source and free app. You download a tag to paste on what you want analyzed, and the rest is immediate reporting in real time.
Small business owners are busy people wearing a multitude of hats at one time. When tools and apps can take some of those hats off, life is much better. Hopefully, you have found some that will do just that!