Need to get your startup running but have no budget for software? Here are some great FREE solutions to market and manage your business.
Here is a great list to get any business with limited funds, but still has serious business requirements to run an operation. These are all products that I have personally used and tested and seen great value for the price (FREE). Anyone considering starting a business should start here before investing hundreds if not thousands of dollars for software to run their business. The following apps are not listed in any particular. This is only a reference, not an implication of what should be done first or what is better. They are all outstanding in their own right.
Think social media is only for documenting your latest party photos? We could not have a discussion on marketing your business without Facebook. Facebook (facebook.com) is one of the best free tools for any business startup to level the playing field with other companies in your space. If you have events that are part of your business, integrations with companies like Eventbrite to sell tickets directly from your event page or business page.
Keeping up with social channels can be a full-time job if you let it, but features like scheduling posts in advance and setting up alerts when you have people respond to your content will easy the load considerably.
While there are several opportunities to use Facebook in creative ways, you can use it entirely free, or be selective on spending (boosting posts, for example).
WordPress (wordpress.org) as a content management system (CMS) makes it impossible to ignore for the new business startup. With an intuitive interface and prolific access to training, templates and communities for help allow even the most technophobe a comfort level not afforded by other web platforms. Free training courses are available on literally hundreds of websites and since it is open source, you can expect frequent updates with new features and security enhancements.
This has been a longtime favorite of bloggers and website startups. Collaboration, security and Integration with e-commerce and other features is quick and simple. The flexible nature of the WordPress framework makes customization very flexible (and affordable where appropriate). Like Joomla, every article has the potential to be a new web page for your products and services. While this is a free application, you will need to have a domain name and web hosting to make it available on the internet. Finally, when you compare the features, the price (FREE) and the following for support and extensibility, WordPress is difficult to beat.
3. Joomla CMS
Next, Joomla (joomla.org) is an open source Content Management System (CMS). It has been around for years but does not get the attention of WordPress. Frankly, I find it more scalable to growth than WordPress and a little easier to use once you learn a few basics. Joomla CMS has the ability to be a full-featured blog, website and subscription-based service website right from the start.
There are hundreds of websites offering free templates and the user interface is straightforward and intuitive. Like WordPress, each article you write is potentially a webpage with no limit to the number of articles you may write. This is a great choice for organizations having multiple contributors. The built in security allows for quick and easy levels of access to those accessing the system.
Evernote (evernote.com) is an exceptionally easy tool for capturing ideas, collaborating and just a very simple repository for just about anything. I have seen people use it to jot down expenses, passwords (although your IT staff will have something to say about that) and checklists. A longtime favorite for students and professionals alike, you organize your notes any way that makes sense for you and your situation.
Like most companies, there are paid levels as well, but for those just starting out, this is a strong contender for basic mind-mapping, note taking, quick collaboration and thought capture.
5. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck
Many tools aid in the social media management of Facebook, Twitter (twitter.com), Instagram (Instagram.com) and others. But the best two tools I have used are Hootsuite (hootsuite.com) and Tweetdeck (tweetdeck.com). These simplify scheduling and monitoring feedback on posts. Like many other tools, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck have free offerings with scaled-down features over their paid options.
However, for most that are working a specific number of accounts, these are great options. Social media moderators get the ability to create panels within the tool to monitor comments, schedule posts and edit feeds from a single interface. While these are not necessarily for the novice; as there are some steep learning curves. Even so, consider these tools since there is widespread availability of training videos are available online for almost any topic making it easy to get up and running quickly.
Any business startup (and established businesses, too) needs marketing materials. If you don’t want to be limited to Windows Paint, or have the budget for Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, this may be the solution for you. If you need sophisticated graphics, Gimp (gimp.org) is a tremendously powerful graphics package that is totally free. This handles multiple language support, creates files in almost any file format you would need and there is a ton of training videos online that help you through almost any project you could dream of. This will run on Windows, Linux, OSX but not Android at this point.
This is your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. SugarCRM has a free product (while they also have several tier-pricing levels) for anyone to use. SuiteCRM is a fork or variation of SugarCRM. Personally, I use SuiteCRM as I have familiarity with this tool over SugarCRM. It should be noted here there are more training videos and plugins online for SugarCRM specifically. However, for my needs, I prefer SuiteCRM. This helps you track leads to customers and helps you stay on track through the entire sales life cycle. The pre-made reports and converting leads customers is effortless. There are marketing automation tools like email campaigns and quoting tools as well in both flavors.
Need accounting software that doesn’t break the bank? FrontAccounting (frontaccounting.com) is a front runner for accounting software choices. This is a hosted software solution (meaning you will need a web hosting account), but the good news is that it will be available literally anywhere you happen to be in the world. FrontAccounting handles many of the operational needs of a business startups or small to medium sized businesses. General ledgers, journal entries and P&L sheets are easy to and straightforward.
When you get set up, you can create invoices, track inventory and it even handles multiple companies. While it has a manufacturing and ERP chain, it is equally adept for consulting and other businesses as well.
9. Google Docs
There is good news and bad news here (but mostly good news). Google Docs (docs.google.com) is totally free and comes with some incredibly powerful features. Google Docs is the word processing software that is web-based and available to be shared for collaboration purposes.
Google Sheets can very easily be your spreadsheet solution for many types of calculations. We also need to mention Google Slides, a strong presentation software contender to Microsoft PowerPoint without the cost.
Next, the collaboration aspects of Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are very user-friendly and easy to share with coworkers while being able to convert to Microsoft Office formats and other file formats for almost every need. The only drawback is not every business uses it, however, documents can be easily converted into popular formats.
10. Google Keep
Finally, one of Google’s lesser known tools, Google Keep (keep.google.com) is very similar to Evernote, but is integrated into familiar tools like Google Calendar on the desktop (a quick sidebar icon appears to switch from Tasks to your notes, or you can open a browser window to open the Keep application). Checklists, random thoughts and other information is instantly captured with any order or color note you desire. Keep makes it simple to collaborate by inviting others to your notes. Completely free, mobile-friendly and limited only by your imagination.
As you can see, you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars to equip your employees or your business with real tools to run your operation. This is especially true if you are starting out with a side business or new startup, every dollar you don’t spend is a dollar earned. Need help with hosting or getting these tools installed? Contact me today to see how you can implement these tools, get the training you need and reach your business goals.