Starting a new business is never simple. There are so many different components in play simultaneously that it can prove daunting to stay on track. This is why free business tools need to be an entrepreneur’s first choice whenever possible.
Seasoned professionals know that getting a new product or service to market is only half the challenge. After that, you have to implement a plan for marketing your small business, optimizing the customer experience, and developing a winsome social media presence. The to-do list seems to never end.
To stay on top of it all, you’ll need more than a great idea to be successful. For small businesses, there’s very often a host of programs and tools needed to maximize the chances of success. Many of them aren’t cheap, and those expenses typically show up before launch.
Having simple, easy-to-use programs can make daily tasks easier. Finding programs that are affordable can help keep overhead down and expenses low during the start-up season. Listed below are four free tools to look into if you are planning to start a new business.
1. Communication Management Software
Whether you’re starting as a single-person team or have a few staff members on hand, keeping track of employees, service providers, contractors, or other individuals is essential. Having an online, interactive, shareable portal for everyone to communicate in real-time can make things easier.
When looking for a free tool, consider using online collaboration. Virtual collaboration allows access remotely, from anywhere on the planet. This is perfect for subcontractors or employees working in different time zones. Websites such as Google for Small Business, as just one example, offer many free business tools that include file sharing, collaboration, and editing programs open to all employees. Even better, items saved via online platforms are stored in the cloud. This allows for easy access and serves as an effective disaster-recovery backup.
2. Business Development Tools
Before launching your new company, it’s important to know if there are any other registered businesses with your name, including your preferred website domain and social media accounts. You don’t want to be competing with another company for page views especially if the other business is operating in a competing industry.
You also need a cohesive brand, meaning your business name is the same across all social media accounts. Having the same name across various platforms makes it easier to find your company, website, and products. Free business tools only get you so far in this regard, though combing through various search engines can give you at least a preliminary view of the competitive landscape. Even if the coast seems clear, you might want to dig a bit deeper.
Before registering your business name, consider using a specialized site such as Brand Snag. Companies such as this allow unlimited searches for registered domains, social media handles, and usernames. You’ll be able to more effectively check whether anyone else has your company name. You’ll want to be sure before registering your business and investing precious resources in that name.
3. Email Management Software
Email is an essential part of any package of free business tools. It’s still one of the most common methods of communication from businesses to customers. Whether you’re looking to get a monthly newsletter out or you want to enable autoresponders — automatic emails that are sent out whenever a customer purchases something, for example — having a reliable email system in place maximizes the potential of your new business.
Look for an email platform that allows full access — not limited or “trial basis” — up to a specific number of email addresses. Look for an email platform that offers what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editors such as Chamaileon. Software programs such as these feature easy-to-use templates and can help your business create text-based emails without requiring knowledge of HTML. Mailchimp is also known for its free email distribution service and offers up to 2,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails.
4. Task Management Programs
In the run-up to launching a new business, there’s almost nothing more challenging than trying to stay on top of daily tasks. For any business just starting out, hitting deadlines is crucial.
By staying on top of things through the use of task management software, entrepreneurs are able to monitor current projects, review deadlines, and follow up with any staff member throughout the week. Software packages such as this are excellent for anyone wanting to stay on top of things without micromanaging projects.
Look for free software that offers repeating tasks such as payroll or the creation of monthly newsletters. Choose a package that provides a customizable dashboard plus the ability to assign tasks to specific team members. Companies such as Asana offer all of that functionality and more. Business owners can create and assign tasks, help keep team members focused on upcoming deadlines, and add multiple users, up to 15 using an Asana free account.