Editorial

Free Tools Your Small Business Needs

While businesses appear to the world as a unified brand, behind the scenes each one is made up of nearly countless moving parts. The fact of the matter is it takes a lot of tools to power a modern business — even a small one. But before you start wondering if supporting your small business is going to break your budget, remember there are tons of free tools out there to serve as a starting point.

Getting something for nothing is pretty much the best-case scenario in the world of business. So, here are five types of free tools your small business needs to try out.

Accounting/Bookkeeping

Wave: Small businesses are often not yet at the point where it makes sense to have a full-time HR and accounting departments but getting things like payroll right is key. The free version of this tool helps you tackle certain bookkeeping functions, like reporting, invoicing, expense tracking, and more.

Collaboration

Slack: It’s hard to argue with the rich yet simple world of Slack, perhaps the most reputable communication tool in the business landscape. Providing employees for a way to keep in touch and send documents is the backbone of collaboration.

Trello: Are you a fan of old-fashioned sticky notes and to-do lists? Trello is basically the digital version of these tried-and-true methods for keeping track of what’s going on across your team. Having a quality workflow tool in play is key to keeping everyone on the same page, whether you’re a sole proprietor who needs to track your own deadlines or a small business with dozens of stakeholders.

Training/Skill-Building

Coursera: Learning is a lifelong pursuit, especially for entrepreneurs who constantly want to grow their skillsets. This hub of knowledge has nearly 1,700 free courses in everything under the sun — from languages to negotiation, psychology to computer programming.

edX: This platform connects learners to courses from leading institutions, specializing in career skills — making it a great place to explore for small business employees trying to expand their capabilities. Employee development is becoming increasingly important for both engagement and performance, so giving your team opportunities to expand their know-how and practice new skills is a savvy move.

Data Analytics

Google Analytics: It may sound too simple to be true, but there’s a reason why Google’s data analytics platform is one of the most famous free tools for small business. Learning to use these dashboards can provide granular insights into your website and marketing channels, which you can harness to optimize your campaigns.

Tableau: It’s all too easy to get numbers fatigue when analyzing business data. Tableau goes beyond spreadsheets and tables, allowing users to create dynamic data visualizations. Having a solid data visualization program on your side can improve everything from data-driven decisions made internally to spiffing up pitches to investors.

Marketing

MailChimp: Email marketing continues to have some of the most powerhouse return on investment (ROI) — on average $42 back for each dollar spent. This makes it a no-brainer for small businesses trying to connect with their customer base without breaking the bank. Experts generally regard this tool as one of the best for optimizing the look, feel, and functionality of marketing emails.

HootSuite: Social media is a many-headed beast, with new platforms becoming relevant over time. This tool allows for streamlined management of multiple platforms, allowing users to make posts and monitor their performance in one location instead of having to log in and click between various platforms.

These tools just barely scratch the surface on what’s out there in terms of free SMB software solutions available to small businesses today. At the end of the day, having the right tools in place is central to meeting your business goals.

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