10 Free Tools To Accelerate Small Businesses And Freelancers

Anyone running their own business knows that it requires a ton of time and wearing a ton of hats: accounting, payroll, project management, sales, marketing…and all this on top of the actual work you do. Sure you can hire people to do all that, but that would no longer be a SMALL business.

Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there today that can save TIME, MONEY, and ENERGY.

1. WaveApps

Accounting, invoicing, and reporting

This is probably my favorite tool today. It’s an accounting app that lets you create and send invoices, accept and keep track of payments, send receipts, track expenses, send estimates, and more. You can even send recurring invoices to clients with monthly payments.

With the paid version ($9 per month) you can manage payroll with it as well. Some small businesses will already have an accountant which is great, but I highly recommend this one for the DIY guys. And even if you have an accountant, this might make their job easier and less time consuming (which could lead to a lower cost).

Check out WaveApps

2. Venmo

Send and receive payments

Venmo is a great way to send and receive payments in the modern age. All you have to do is sign up for an account and link your bank account. They offer a mobile app that makes it very easy to make payments on the go, the interface is very intuitive, and the best part is that unlike services like PayPal, the transactions are free as long as it’s handled through Venmo credits, bank transfer, or a major debit card.

Non-major debit cards and credit cards still charge a 3% fee to pay, but not to receive payments. This fee is on par with just about any other payment gateway, but with this option it is up to the person paying to decide if it’s worth it to use a credit card or to just sign up for an account and pay for free. The bottom line is that although it may not seem like much at first, I love Venmo and I think you will too if you try it.

Check out Venmo 

3. LastPass

Password manager, security, and sharing

This is my second most recommended tool for anyone really (not even business owners). It is a password management tool that can store all your passwords, let you create super tough passwords, autofill password forms, and even “share” or “give” passwords to others. Great for security and password management.

It also offers browser extensions to make life even easier. I think there are some paid features for agencies that need to grow, but I have no problem using it with other people and keeping things easy, fast, and safe. Trust me on this recommendation, you will only need to remember one password (to access LastPass) then all your other passwords can look like this: sm25HDk*h^K23B!jlJ*84JK. Good luck trying to guess THAT.

Check out LastPass

4. Google

By now I am sure you have heard of Google and I’m not expecting you to be blown away by the first impression, but did you know that they offer a lot of great tools that small businesses should take advantage of? Here is a list of my favorite Google products:

  • Gmail – a super powerful email client with option extensions for even more power
  • Drive – cloud storage and sharing for your files
  • Sheets – awesome online spreadsheets for collaboration
  • Calendar – online calendar with email reminders
  • Forms – get valuable feedback and info from anyone
  • Voice – a free phone number with text, voice, and voicemail and it ties into your Gmail
  • Google+ – a social media platform which helps you rank better in local searches
  • Hangouts – great for video conferences and presentations.

For a full list of what they offer, use the link below. Also, I recommend creating a separate account dedicated to your business so that you can share it and keep your personal stuff separate.

Check out Google products

5. WordPress

Website creation

Every business really needs a website, but managing your site easily is important. Ideally, changes should be made without having to touch code or call up your developer. This is where WordPress comes in. It’s the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world with an incredible commanding share of the market. It offers amazing community support, awesome ability to extend functionality, and a beautiful administration interface that makes managing your site super easy.

Admittedly, I may be a bit biased because almost all my development work is done on WordPress, but it’s for good reason. However, if you need some more other options for super easy managing, but less overall customization then Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix might be for you. WordPress is much better for advance customization in my opinion.

6. Buffer & Hootsuite

Social media marketing, scheduling, and analytics

These are two completely different companies but Im including them together because they serve the same purpose: social media marketing. Of course by now you know how important it is to have Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts and to keep them updated (if not, then you really need to catch up), but it can be a huge time sink managing each account.

This is best thing about these services. You can save a ton of time because instead of having to log into each account to write the same post over and over, you can have access to all of them in one place. On top of that, you can create posts to be scheduled to publish later or even multiple times. Currently, my favorite of the two is Buffer, but Hootsuite has its pros. Check them both out and see which works best.

Check out Buffer

Check out Hootsuite

7. MailChimp

Email marketing and analytics

In the same realm of marketing, let’s discuss email marketing. If you aren’t doing it, you should be. Email marketing has a much higher chance of conversion than any other as long as it’s done right, and MailChimp can help you make and manage campaigns.

It offers a very beautiful and intuitive user interface so you can design and send newsletters that look great. It will even track events for you. Personally, I prefer the MailPoet extension for WordPress because it offers more solutions for free, but knowing that not everyone runs their site on WordPress, this is my best recommendation.

Check out MailChimp

8. SuiteCRM & Bitrix24

CRM and sales

If you havent heard the term CRM, it stand for Customer Relationship Management and basically it relates to getting new clients and keeping old ones. Its very important to have steps in place to funnel leads into prospects, prospects into customers, and customers into return customers.

A CRM software can help you do that and the reason I recommend SuiteCRM is because it is free, sleek, and powerful. They even offer a demo on their site. The only catch is that you have to have your own place to host it (if you have a website, you can probably host it) and you have to set it up. It isnt too hard, but I can see how it could be intimidating so if you want an easy solution that is free for small teams, check out Bitri24. These will both help you funnel leads and manage follow ups which could significantly improve your sales.

Check out SuiteCRM

Check out Bitrix24

9. Shake & Docracy

Contracts and legal agreements

Shake lets you create and send very simple and quick legal binding documents and send them to whomever you need. Its a great solution to cover your butt in case things don’t work out as you expected, and it can save you a lot of time from writing up contracts.

If you find that Shake isn’t quite right for you or you need something a bit more specific to your needs then you should browse through Docracy. They have several options for legal binding documents where all you have to do is provide your information and it will be placed in the appropriate places. It goes without saying that you should make sure you read everything in these documents, but it will save you a ton of time.

Check out Shake

Check out Docracy

10. Slack

Supercharged communication for teams

The last service I want to talk about is called Slack. This of it as a supercharged communication tool for your team where everything is accessible and searchable. It’s entirely free for any number of members which makes it very scalable and with a price tag like that, why wouldnt you try it. That said, I havent tried it. For now, I dont have a team that requires it, but I am looking forward to the day when I can use it practically.

Check out Slack

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Originally published on austingil.com.


    • Hey Craig, thanks. Im glad that you liked it and I hope you found some tools in there to add to your workflow. I was going to include project management tools but I wrote this for small businesses in general and I think there are a lot that do not need project management. I will be putting another post out that is more geared towards businesses that spend more time working and collaborating online. Also, 10 is a nice number ;)

      Anyway, thanks for the feedback and make sure you follow with the newsletter or social media to get more updates.

  1. I love Buffer and want to play with their new graphic client, I need simple tools for visuals.
    Ive been debating Weebly or WordPress for my professional blog…I prolly just need to start building something and quit talking about it.
    Ive been thinking about a password management system and heard of LastPass, I think Wired liked that one as well. I mostly use a Mac now and they have a native manager…it worries me given the security of Apple the last couple years though.

    Bunch of helpful info here Austin, thanks!

    • Yeah, Buffer seems pretty cool, but after having spent some time with it and wanting just a LITTLE more automation, Im trying IFTTT. As for WordPress vs. Weebly, I go WP all the way. Like I said, may be a bit biased, but they are open source and have an awesome community. This is great for scalability and if you want to have more options for advanced customizations. That said, Weebly will definitely be a lot more user friendly for making some simple edits. Finally, just go with LastPass. Trust me. You will not look back :)

  2. Great recommendations! For accounting, zero is also very user friendly and connects to your bank accounts. For project management, I’ve found TeamworkPM to be very useful and flexible. But our team (cloud apps company) use slack and then all the atlassian tools. Cloud apps like the google apps suite are affordable and allow your teams to work anywhere, any time. Great stuff, Austin.

    • Hey thanks Gio! I havent tried that accounting software (but I think its Xero?) but what I love about Wave is that its free. Actually, all of the things I mentioned are, and I think that is important for small companies. Larger companies can obviously allocate a greater budget to these sorts of things, but the ones Ive listed are pretty robust and scalable. As far as project management goes, Ive tried a few and really like Asana. That is for another post though ;)

  3. Hi Austin!

    I think you forgot to include a software for time tracking :)
    I am using Time Doctor for a few years now, actually their PRO version is really a must for freelancers like me.

    I hope you could also check it out.
    Take care.

    • Hey John, very good of you to point that out but believe it or not I left it out on purpose (as well as project management apps). This post was designed for general businesses and for the sake of brevity I felt that those tools are better suited for another post that I will be publishing which is geared more towards in the online and creative industries.

      As a sneak peek, the time tracker I use and love is Toggl. They offer a free plan which is great for solo freelancers and does a spectacular job, but I think once you get a team then it is probably worth going for the pro plan. You should give it a go and let me know what you think. By the way, what sort of freelancing do you do?

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