From laptops to city permits to self-employment taxes, it can often feel like you’re spending more money than you’re making as a small business owner.
While some of these costs are unavoidable, there are many online programs you can use for FREE to market, manage, and grow your business.
In fact, there are 8 free online programs I most often recommend small business owners implement when they’re looking to organize and streamline their operations, and I shared them all below.
You can also download and save this list by clicking here.
Please note, some of these links might be affiliate links, meaning if you take action (ex. subscribe, make a purchase), I might earn a little something at no extra cost to you. Any recommendations I make for programs or tools are because I truly believe in them and have actual experience using them.
1. Google Account
There is so much you can do with a FREE Google Account! Let’s start with Gmail, their email platform where you can schedule emails to send in the future, snooze emails to be delivered later, and even set up and select from several different email signatures.
With Google Drive, you can easily store files in the cloud, access them on any device, and share them with clients. Using Google Docs, Sheets, Presentations, etc., you can edit and collaborate on files in real-time, see past versions of the file, and even convert a PDF to a Microsoft Word or Google Doc file.
In Google Calendar, you can manage tasks, schedule reminders, and invite clients to meetings in physical locations or via Google Meet video conferencing. I could go on and on, but the point is, you can do a lot more with Google than just send an email and navigate to your next location.
2. Microsoft OneNote
Microsoft OneNote has been my favorite note-taking app/program for over 15 years and I use it nearly every day in my business. Think of OneNote as a virtual binder where you can organize everything in different Notebooks, Sections, and Tabs.
Besides the ability to type out notes and make a killer checklist, you can draw with a pen or mouse, insert slides from a presentation and take notes alongside them, complete math calculations (similar to Microsoft Excel), password-protect pages, attach files, and so much more!
If you don't have Microsoft Office, don't worry, you can create a FREE Microsoft Account to access OneNote online.
Canva offers beautiful templates in nearly every size and format you might need, such as square social media posts, cover images for groups and pages, workbooks for courses and workshops you're teaching - the possibilities are endless.
If you need to create a presentation, you can start with a template, customize it to your brand and liking, and then present it directly from Canva, export it to Microsoft PowerPoint, or embed it online.
You can do a ton with the FREE Canva account, including creating QR codes and product mockups, but if you decide to upgrade, you’ll get access to even more templates, fonts, photos, and features.
For a simple and professional email marketing program, I highly recommend MailChimp. In fact, it's the program I use to send my weekly emails with helpful technology and time-saving tips!
With a FREE MailChimp account, you can set up one-step email automations (like an email opt-in freebie), create beautifully designed landing pages, set up different customer tags, groups, and segments, and run helpful reports to see how your emails are performing.
When the time comes that you outgrow the free MailChimp plan, the pricing scales based on your audience size and the total number of emails sent out each month. If you use your subscription wisely, you can make the free plan really stretch!
Using Calendly to schedule new consultations has been such a time saver and led to an increased number of bookings!
Instead of going back and forth over email trying to find a date and time that works for both of us, potential clients can visit my website and pick from the available dates and times on my Calendly booking page.
It allows me to set parameters for my availability, create a buffer between bookings, and limit the number of bookings per day, plus it syncs with my work and personal calendar so Calendly always knows my latest and most accurate availability.
If you decide you want ALL the features, like automated text reminders, payment acceptance, multiple meeting types, and more, you can upgrade your Calendly account for less than $150 a year!
Another program I use every day, and still only at the FREE level, is Trello. The simplest way to describe Trello is as a Kanban board, however, it is so much more than just that!
I use Trello in several different ways, including as a project management tool, a place to keep track of ideas and inspiration, and a way to organize information and to-dos.
It allows me to easily keep track of all my tasks or ideas as cards and organize them into lists. Then, to each card, I can add checklists, attach files and links, add formatted text notes, and even assign due dates.
As a visual person, I love that Trello allows me to easily see, organize, and access all of my information by computer, phone, or tablet, in a simple format! But my favorite feature is the built-in automation.
You can set up Trello cards to populate on a recurring basis, have checklists generate automatically as soon as cards are added to a certain list, and even set up buttons that will trigger a sequence of actions to take place.
Notion is the newest program I’ve started using in my business and probably the most powerful when it comes to organizing and keeping track of information.
Imagine something as fluid and functional as OneNote, mixed with the collaboration and document features of Google Docs, combined with nearly everything Trello can do, and beyond!
You can customize and use Notion in any way you’d like it. It can be as simple as a digital notebook or as complex as a set of connected databases with templates for each item.
I will admit, there is a bit of a learning curve when you first get started with Notion, but once you figure out its potential, you’ll likely be as addicted as I am.
The #1 program I make sure all business owners know about is Zapier. It is an online program that allows you to connect different web-based programs so you can send information between them, automate manual tasks, and save lots of time.
For instance, every time a new consultation is booked in your scheduling app, the person can be automatically added to your CRM system and a new price estimate can be drafted.
While the FREE Zapier account allows up to five one-step Zaps (automations), once you see the possibilities, you'll likely decide to upgrade which is only about $20-30 per month.
If these programs are new to you and sound interesting, I encourage you to block out an hour one day to check them out.
It can often take a little time to get your feet wet, see how a program works, and determine if it’s a good fit for you.
But be sure to schedule a set amount of time so you don’t go down a “new program” rabbit hole!
You can also download a copy of this list of free tools so you can cross them off and take notes as you try them.
If you get stuck and need help choosing and streamlining the programs so they best fit your business and workflows, schedule a Tackle My Tech Session so we can chat.