Starting a new business comes with 101 worries but right up there at number one are money worries. Outgoing costs, increasing revenue and saving money wherever possible. With all the necessary spending that comes with going on your own, saving money seems like a distant dream.
Though, as the old proverb goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way and for every overpriced piece of software, there is an equally great cheap or free alternative. It’s a good rule of thumb to always search around the net for better deals and I’ve found the top 10 tools that I think can benefit any small business.
Dropbox is an online file sharing service that offers both free and paid models. Dropbox also have an app available for smartphones and tablets that is user-friendly and syncs all files linked to your account regardless of where they were initially uploaded from.
Through Dropbox, users can share documents, photos and videos with anybody they grant access to via a link. It is perfect for people on the go or those who work in small teams. Due to the Cloud synchronisation, Dropbox also provides peace of mind as no matter where you are or what issues you may have with one of your devices, all of your work and files are available through another device.
This seems to be one of the best kept secrets of the Internet, somehow but Google actually have a free office suite through Google Drive! It allows users to create, edit and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and presentations in real-time through desktop and mobile interfaces.
Documents can be opened, shared and edited by multiple users but Google Docs also provides the options of sharing with public, those who have the link or, for those of us who are security-minded, the option to keep documents private. Documents can be downloaded locally in various formats including ODF, HTML, PDF, RTF, Text, and Office Open XML.
Trello is a fantastic tool for project management and collaborating with your teams. Trello is completely free and web-based which saves you both money and effort-bonus! All that you need to do is sign up and from there on in, you’re set!
To create a new project you are asked to add a new list, this lost then contains cards which can then be transferred across the various lists that you have created via drag and drop. This is fantastic productivity tool for any business and can be used in many ways including project management, brainstorming, task scheduling and collaborating with other team members.
However, if Trello doesn’t take your fancy, there is always Basecamp. Basecamp is the number one project management service on the web and with good reason! It offers useful features such as to-do lists, web-based text documents, file sharing, time tracking and key milestone management.
Not that I like to brag on anybody’s behalf but Basecamp is used by some of the world’s leading brands including NASA, Kellogs, Nike, DHL and National Geographic. Not bad for such a cheap service!
Basecamp comes in various monthly packages starting as little as £15pm and is available across all platforms including Safari (Mac, iPhone/iPad), Chrome (Mac, PC, iPhone/iPad, Android), Firefox (Mac, PC), and IE 9+ (PC, Surface).
Harvest is powerful online reporting software that is great for simple time tracking, keeping projects on time and budget and faster invoicing. It’s also an effective and efficient way for tracking your employees time and expenses.
Harvest provides a user with a gorgeous UI that is simple to use and allows you track multiple projects and clients at once. It gives real-time access to the most important data and allows you to drill down and get insights on all the hours you have worked on each project that you have created within Harvest. This in turn will allow you to manage your client’s budgets more effectively, and ensuring your business’s profitability.
One of the many great features of Harvest is that you can track your time from anywhere, in the office, at home, even on the go thanks to their mobile apps. And thanks to their API you can also connect Harvest to other popular business tools including Basecamp, Trello, Salesforce and Zendesk.
Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing tools and is used by some of the world’s biggest brands. Boasting figures such as 3.5 million users and 4 billion emails sent every month, the application is not to be underestimated and provides an easy way for businesses to design, send and share email newsletters with their customers.
Mailchimp comes with some fantastic features that are made to work for you, including lists, subscriber profiles, personalisation, automation and advanced analytics.
The platform is extremely flexible and has been designed so that it can integrate with hundreds of apps and services, such as Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce, Shopify and some of the world’s most popular content management systems including WordPress and Magento.
Anything up to 2,000 followers is free as well as 12,000 emails a month is free and after that, packages start at only $10 a month.
Prezi is a Cloud based presentation software that allows you to design, create and host your presentations online. The software is very unique compared to many other presentation tools as it will allow you to navigate through your presentation using various 3D animations, making your presentations more engaging and memorable.
It does this by using a ZUI (Zooming User Interface) that allows users to pan and zoom on objects within the presentation. It’s available across all platforms meaning you can access your presentation anywhere, anytime including within the browser, on your desktop and across mobile devices. You can also work with coworkers using the Prezi collaborate, that allows you to share and create your ideas in real-time.
Free photo editing software? That has similar capabilities to big runners like Adobe Photoshop? Yes, even that is available for free! Gimp provides fantastic photo editing software without the confusion or cost of the big-runners. It can be used with many different image formats and is available for free and both Windows and Mac and is a must for all new businesses.
I’m not going to pretend that there’s a fun, alternative way to do invoices but there is a free, simple way to do them and that is through Wave. Wave has already been featured on many popular news sites and is said to be one of the best invoicing tools available.
Invoices can be customised through Wave’s various templates and can even have colour schemes and your client’s logos added. This provides a clean, professional invoice that can be generated and emailed to clients automatically.
Wave also provides an option to add credit card payments thanks to the integrated Pay Now button within the invoice. Other key features include 256-bit SSL encryption, recurring invoices and the ability to see when invoices are viewed.
Once again, Google are offering great services with Google Hangouts.
On Google Hangouts, you can have a video call with up to 10 people at once and it’s completely free to anybody who has a Google account. Hangouts can be accessed across all devices including desktop, mobile and tablets. Users can share documents, their screen and even collaborate in real-time on documents that are saved in Google Docs.
Another great feature especially for things like presentations is Hangouts on Air. Hangouts on Air allows users to schedule broadcasts and stream them live in HD. It’s then recorded and saved to the accompanying Youtube channel so that it can be viewed later.