Originally published June 8, 2017
Running a business is no easy feat so why not make things easier for yourself?
There are a plethora of great free business tools that are available on the Internet that can give you excellent results with half the effort.
And the best thing? They are completely for free so you won’t have to dig into your budget either.
Here are 5 free business tools that save you time and money
1. Graphic Design: Canva
Everyone, except for those blessed with design skills, will know how difficult it is to create beautiful visuals. Logos, websites, and even blog images can take so much time and effort that you may not have.
If you have a professional designer to take care of these things for you, then that’s great. If not, and applications such as Photoshop or Illustrator are too advanced for you, then I am pleased to introduce you to Canva.
Canva – empowering the world to design – is a graphic design tool for everyone, especially those who are not graphic designers.
It comes completely for free, with some purchases and upgrades (Canva for Work) if you desire. However, I feel as though most of the features and functions that I need are available the free version, based on my experience with it for the past few years now.
Canva offers different side design templates to help get you started. From social media posts to posters, infographics, eBook covers, menus, logos, business cards, and YouTube channel art.
The possibilities are endless, and if for any reason you want to create your own sized design, then you can choose your own custom dimensions.
How to use it
Whichever design you choose, you will be presented with templates that are relevant to it.
For example, if you choose a business card design, it will display a blank business card in the correct size, with the option of starting from scratching or clicking on one of the available templates.
These templates are not only there to give you some visual inspiration but you can also use them as your own.
The easy-to-use drag and drop feature means that you can customise it to however you like.
There is an array of features that you can choose such as icons, lines, shapes, charts, and fonts. You can upload and use your own images or choose one of the many stock photos they have in this free business tool.
Once you are happy with your design, you can choose to save it as a PNG, JPG or PDF.
[Author’s Note: I find that when I try to upload a Canva image to WordPress as a PNG file, it does not work. If you experience this problem, save and download your images as a JPG file type].
You can always revisit your designs anytime and make as many copies, changes, and downloads as you want.
- Easy to use
- Offers a design school and design tutorial to teach you how to create the best design, e.g.font combinations, using different functions.
- You cannot organise your images into folders or categories, meaning that your designs are displayed in chronological order from the most recently opened. It can make some older designs more difficult to find.
- It does not let you make a background transparent. To do so, you need to upgrade to the work account.
- You also cannot resize images once you have created it. Likewise, you will need to switch to the work account.
Free – It is completely for free. However, some elements do cost $1USD once it is downloaded, though this will be labelled as such.
Canva for Work offers a free 30-day trial, and then costs $9.95USD/month, or $12.95 per user/month.
2. Scheduling: Calendly
Another one of those great business tools is Calendly.
Have you ever had those endless conversations where you message a client or customer back-and-forth trying to come up with a date and time that you are both available to meet up?
It is annoying, time-consuming, and tedious.
This is why Calendly is the perfect solution.
How to use it
According to their website, “Calendly helps you schedule meetings without the back-and-forth emails.”
With different plans, it offers a basic $0 plan that allows you to schedule unlimited events.
All you have to do set up calendars for different events.
For example, you may set up an event for 1-hour consultations, another for quick coffee catch ups, and another for phone calls.
Once that happens, you can generate a unique URL to send to people, and even just embed on your website or email signature.
Once people click on it, they will be taken to a page where they can choose the date, and then the time. If a particular date or time is booked, then they will be unable to click it as it will appear as unavailable.
They will then need to enter in their contact information and any other additional questions you set up. If you want to conduct a business consultation with them, you can choose to require their business URL, and what exactly they need to help with so that you can prepare for the meeting accordingly.
Your calendars will be updated automatically, such as Google Calendar, iCloud, Outlook, and more. Those booking can also choose to add it to their own calendar too.
It is that easy.
- You can establish a unique URL to maintain a professional look.
- You can use this link to add to your social media accounts, email signature or even embed it to your website so that anyone can book in at any time.
- It is flexible. Let’s just say that you want to only have coffee catch ups for 20 minutes at a time between 11 am – 1 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. When people click on your coffee catch up calendar, only these days and times will be displayed.
- There is no way of double-checking that people who are booking using this free business tool are legitimate.
- The free plan doesn’t give you the ability to make customisable reminder and notification emails to invitees.
Calendly offers three plans:
Basic – Free
Premium – $8 per user/month (billed annually)
Pro – $12 per user/month (billed annually)
3. Organisation: Evernote
Do you want to “remember everything, capture what’s on your mind, and get organised?”
Then Evernote will be your new best friend.
Evernote takes the typical Notes app and enhances it, making it better for organisation, keeping track of multimedia notes, and improving productivity.
How to use it
Evernote comes with such a plethora of functions and abilities that this free business tool will become a staple in your work life.
(Author’s Note: In fact, I am using Evernote right now to write the first draft of this post.)
This application has folders called “Notebooks”. In each notebook, you can create an unlimited number of “Notes” This way, you can organise everything into categories. You can even add tags to make it simpler to search for things, a tool particularly useful if you find that you take notes on anything and everything.
It works just like a word document, with the ability to customise font size, style, add bullet points, checkpoints, links, attachments, and more.
But this is where it gets interesting.
You can also chat with other people and collaborate with them without having to use another application. You can take images right in Evernote, and sync it across 2 devices.
- It has the ability to sync across 2 devices that have Evernote so that you always have updated notes on hand.
- It offers plenty of features to help make organising easier, such as tags.
- You can change the interface to your personal preferences: list view, grid view, images, and more.
- You can clip images from the web straight into Evernote, helping you store information and articles to read later.
- Some great features are only available in the Premium plan such as presentations.
- You are limited to 60MB worth of monthly uploads.
- The maximum note size is 25MB
Evernote has 4 different plans to consider:
Evernote Business – $132/user/year
4. Email Newsletters: Mailchimp
Sending emails to customers, clients and prospects is a great way to cultivate long-term relationships with them and to send reminders about your business.
Emails are delivered directly to their inbox, unlike other marketing strategies such as social media, where they may miss an update from your business.
Creating, designing, sending, and analysing email newsletters doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think, not when you have one of the best free business tools for emails on your side – Mailchimp.
How to use it
Mailchimp works similarly to Canva in which you can create your own email design or use one of their templates.
With drag-and-drop functionality, you can customise the template to suit your own.
Mailchimp makes it very simple to add images, change the font size, style, and format.
To be able to send your finished email newsletter, you need to create a list where you can add your contacts. You can do this manually or import a list over.
Once it is created, you can preview it on different devices such as desktop, smartphone, and iPad so you can see if the responsive design is functioning properly.
From there, just pick a list that you want to send it to, determine a time to schedule it or just send now.
Once an email is sent, you can analyse the results in a free report. Mailchimp tracks how many unsubscribes, bounces, opens, and clicks you receive.
- Easy to design beautiful emails with its simple interface
- Can analyse the results so you are not running an email campaign blind. You will receive tactical results to then effectively re-strategise for your next campaign.
- Even the free plan of Mailchimp allows you to set up automated emails to help with your marketing strategy
- From my experiences with Mailchimp, sometimes the formatting can be a bit of an issue. At times, it doesn’t do what you tells it to do.
Mailchimp offers a pricing plan based on how many monthly emails you send and how many total subscribers you have.
Free plan – Up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails/month.
The price then increases depending on these two factors.
5. SEO: Google Analytics
Want to know great your reach is with your audience? Eager to find out the exact number of visitors coming to your website, which pages are the most popular, and how long they are spending on it?
Download and install Google Analytics to take the guesswork out of it.
You will get real answers that you can then use to adjust your strategy and maximise results.
How to use it
By installing Google Analytics custom dashboards to your website, you can then choose different options to see the results.
For time frames, you can choose to see data for the past three years, one year, 90 days, 30 days, 14 days, 7 days. In addition, you can see results from the day before, results on this actual day, as well as in real-time.
There are multiple statistics that are tracked with this free business tool. These include sessions, users, organic, page views, bounce rate, location, pages, referrers, searches, traffic, technology, and 404 errors.
- No more guessing how well your website is doing. Google Analytics gives you real results so you can make adjustments as needed.
- It is very easy to install.
- It is updated in real time so there is no delay in receiving updated information.
- The time range that you can view results allows you to see any patterns emerging so you can prepare, such as busier periods or quieter seasons.
- Google has changed the way their analytics work so if a user is signed into a Google account while viewing your website, their views will appear on your dashboard but it will not specify which page/s they visited. This may make it harder to really analyse which pages are performing the best.
Free – Google Analytics is free.
Now that you have the 5 best free business tools that save you time and money, are you planning to use any of them?
Are there any other free tools that you enjoy using in your business? Do you want me to talk in detail about in particular ones? Let me know in the comments below!