40 free tools to start and grow your own business

This article is a crosspost with the Maqtoob blog.

"If you don't build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs," says the popular quote. 

So why haven't you launched your own business yet?

Maybe you believe that dreams go nowhere. Perhaps you're completely happy with your 9-5 job and all the security it entails.

Maybe you hate your job but haven't had a chance to accumulate enough capital to cover the first necessary investments. And if you have, you may lack the courage to risk losing your precious savings in an uncertain venture.

But do we have to take unbearable risks if we try to become financially independent today?

Thanks to the internet and its capacity to make valuable resources widely accessible and cheap, a good deal of the tools we need to (at least) test out and develop a business idea are within our reach.

Many web and mobile apps (from the essentials, such as finance, marketing, or legal tools, to more advanced tools required for big data management or Bitcoin transactions) make it much easier for all of us to start and grow our businesses.

After all, it's 2015 and people all around the world become entrepreneurs practically overnight with the help of no more than a computer and stable internet connection.

Somewhere out there a mom on maternity leave earns money on the side selling her original handicrafts. Luckily, she didn't have to spend a fortune on hiring a programmer who would build her e-shop. It probably took her a mere couple of hours using a DIY website builder to start attracting her first customers. 

A small business owner has just managed to get his first freelance team member from the opposite side of the world. They signed a contract he drew up based on free legal templates that can be found online.

A fresh graduate is trying to build his first innovative startup. His funds are obviously pretty limited so he is pleased that instead of seeking advice of an expensive accountant, he can use some free nifty software that tracks his expenses and cash flow.

These people, and most aspiring entrepreneurs in general, have something in common. They have little money, little time, and rather little experience. Yet, most of the online or downloadable tools are very affordable, easy to use, and accessible to majority of people with access to the internet, regardless of their age or level of IT skills.

Here’s a selection of those that are available for free (some of them may be upgraded for a fee to use advanced features) so you can get rid of at least one excuse that prevents you from taking the scary leap.

The logo

Once you have decided on your new business’ name, your custom logo may be the natural second step. Use LogoGarden’s free logo maker to choose from a plethora of available symbols and shapes, add text, choose your color combination, and you’re set.

 

Building the website

There are tons of website builders out there and it’s difficult to choose just one. For starters, play around with Wix, a free website builder, which offers plenty of easily customizable templates.

Ecommerce

Build your beautiful online store for free with TicTail, which stands out by not charging any monthly fees or additional checkout fees. It also doesn’t take any cut on transactions and doesn’t set a limit on amount of products you can sell.

Blogging

If you’re a complete blogging beginner, Sett is a perfect solution for you. It will not only help you create and customize a blog within a few minutes. It will also take care of the hardest part – bringing you the first engaged readers and making them come back.

 

Affiliation

Forget about signing up to dozens of affiliate programs and monetize your content with Viglink. After copy-pasting a snippet of code into your website or blog, it will convert your existing links into links that will earn you commission from sales driven by them. 

Welcoming comments

Add Disqus to your website to enable comments on your posts. This unique commenting system will connect your content and commenters to its huge discussion community. You can also opt for a Promoted Discovery and earn money each time your visitors click on a sponsored article.

 

 Q&As

Enable your users to ask questions they whish to have answered right on the page that their question relates to. Pubble is perfect for retailers and publishers who wish to engage their customers instantly across all of their website.

Live chatting

Zopim places a sleek widget on your website, which allows you to start conversation with your visitors within seconds. If you’re offline, you can hide it or show a contact form, so no request will slip away.

 

Analytics

Get to know your website’s visitors with Piwik – free and open source analytics software. It takes a couple of minutes to install and start tracking important data, such as visits, downloads, referral sites, or conversion rates. Unlike Google Analytics, it runs on your own server so you have full control of your data.

SEO

Keyword Tool will help you find keywords people are typing into Google search. It can generate up to 750 suggestions for every keyword, which will help you optimize your content and get ahead of your competitors. 

Security

Don’t forget to protect your website or online shop against suspicious behavior(fraudulent orders, payment frauds, fake accounts etc.). First 10,000 transactions (per month) analyzed by Sift Science are free.

Mobile apps

If you thought that having a mobile app for your fledgling business is beyond your reach, you should definitely check out Yapp. Creating your first app (for free) will be a matter of minutes. 

Backup

Back up and sync your files while retaining full control over your privacy. The encryption technology of SpiderOak guarantees that nobody can access your data, not even its staff.

Email marketing

Create, send, and share email newsletters with Mad Mimi. Easily add a custom header, images, photos, and text to prepare your first promotional campaigns. The free plan lets you send up to 12,500 emails per month.

Design

Canva is an absolutely amazing tool for anybody who is not familiar with professional design software but needs to create flyers, social media posts, invitations, or any other designs for web and print. You can browse a database of graphic elements, images, and fonts, and simply drag & drop them into fantastic layouts everybody will envy you.

Content marketing

Boost your website traffic by attaching a call-to-action to every link you share with Sniply. You are probably sharing captivating content on all your social networks anyway, so why not link it back to your product site, landing page, or Kickstarter campaign?

Surveys

Build surveys and ask questions in a beautiful and intuitive way with Typeform. This user-friendly tool will help you gather feedback on all types of devices or platforms and build forms that perfectly fit your brand identity.

 

Infographics

Present your company’s data in the form of visually appealing infographics with Piktochart. You can choose from a range of templates, and easily drag and drop selected elements onto your canvas.

Social media

As soon as you open more than one social media account, you will start feeling the need for a good management tool. Hootsuite will help you manage several social networks at once, schedule your posts, analyze your performance, and monitor your brand awareness.

Video

Create animated videos or presentations with Powtoon and its easy video editor. You can download them to your computer or export them straight away to YouTube.

Podcast

Create professional podcasts with Podbean, which will let you publish and share your podcast in a few easy steps, without any technical knowledge. The service also helps its publishers sell their premium content to generate revenue without charging extra transaction fees.

Accounting

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, Wave offers everything you need to manage your expenses and invoicing. Accounting tools are completely free. If you need a bit of help with payroll, you need to count with a moderate monthly fee. 

Travel expenses

Manage, track, and categorize your travel expenses from your iPhone with Trippeo. After connecting your credit card, your expenses will be monitored in real time. You can also create a fast report and submit it easily to your accountant or anyone else who might need it. 

Personal finance

Mint is a free app that will help you take charge of your money. You will see what’s going on with your investments, savings, and other accounts, all in one place. You can also set budgets and easily track your progress.

Receipts

Keep all your receipts (paper and digital) neatly organized in one place with OneReceipt. Simply connect your email accounts and have this fantastic app pull and store your receipts for you. 

Outgoing payments

Use Google Wallet to send money and pay in stores with your smartphone (iOS, Android/USA only). Outside USA (over 125 countries), you can shop online to make purchases on Google Play.

Bitcoin

Buy, sell, and use bitcoin with Coinbase, a secure digital wallet and exchange platform. With this reputable provider, you can easily set up your business to accept bitcoin, or send this digital currency just like you would an email.

Collaboration

Share your company inbox with your team to assign emails, use tags, make comments on them, and follow their progress. Apart from emails, Front makes it easy to connect your Twitter account and deal with tweets in a similar way.

Contacts

Rapportive is very easy (and of course free) to add to your Gmail, and a must-have for anybody running a business. The moment you receive an email, you will see your contact’s LinkedIn profile photo, current job position, location, and shared connections.

Sales

Manage your contacts and leads with Insightly. You can edit and view your contact’s background, email history, opportunities, milestones, and important dates. The CRM software offers integrations with Google Apps, Office 365, MailChimp, and major social media sites.

Projects

Organize yourself with probably the most popular task & project manager on the market. Trello will help you arrange your ideas and collaborate on projects with your team members.

Presentations

Create and share your presentations easily with Bunkr, a great tool to help you make use of your data. Just add content from your favorite applications like DropBox, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, or Evernote. You can also export your HTML5 presentations in PDF and PPTX format. 

Recruiting

Use Jobscore to post to multiple job boards with one click. With the free plan, you can enjoy up to 3 open jobs posted at the same time. It’s also possible to engage your team to share the jobs with people they know on their preferred social networks.

Contracts

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy way of creating and signing contracts for simple transactions (such as lending a small amount of money or hiring a freelancer) with your smartphone? If your answer is yes, then don’t wait and download Shake (currently available for iOS and Android).

Conference calls

Connect with your team through an effortless conference call. Speek will let you add/remove participants, see who joined/left the call, or eventually share files, take notes, and record calls.

 Fax

In case you’re still occasionally relying on sending faxes, try out HelloFax and their free plan (up to 5 pages per month). Upgrade for more pages and advanced features.

Booking

Receive online bookings from your (prospective) clients with YouCanBook.Me. The app links with your Google Calendar and displays information about your free and busy times in an online bookable grid.

Meetings

Plan your meetings on iPhone with Lowdown, an intelligent meeting assistant. View details about the meeting’s location, attendees, companies, their website pages or profiles, and relevant email. The app will also help you plan the journey, including estimated travel time and a map.

Time tracking

Increase your productivity by tracking the time you spend working on projects with primaERP. You can also use the app to price your time and bill your clients for the job you’ve done.

Any other tips? Share them in the comments below!

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