Running a small business can be an expensive endeavor. You might be one of those lucky entrepreneurs who can afford to take risks, but it’s more realistic to think you’re like most small business owners, meaning you carefully review all critical decisions your team wants to make. Choosing and using the best software for your business is no different. To help you, we’ve put together a list of 15 free tools that your small business should be using. Fortunately, all of the software mentioned offers premium (read: paid) plans to which you can upgrade once your small business outgrows the free plans. So don’t be shy: Be sure to check out the products on this list, even if you plan to eventually scale out of the small business category.
1. Website Builder from Wix
If your small business needs a website (and the answer to that for most businesses is a resounding “yes, it does”) and your website building needs are basic, then try using a free website builder such as Wix, which offers a free account. Wix can help you create a full-featured, mobile-friendly website that won’t break your budget. After using the free plan for a while, if you realize that your business would really benefit from all the features a web hosting provider can provide you, then you can opt for a paid web hosting service such as HostGator Web Hosting.
2. Virtual Private Network from CyberGhost
Small businesses that are concerned about security (and you should be) need to implement personal virtual private network (VPN) services. These services hide online activity from snoops and limit who can and can’t access network content. Most VPNs are pay-to-play but there are a few services, such as CyberGhost ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN), that give you a bit of protection at no cost.
CyberGhost is the best free VPN service on the market. It offers reliable connection speeds and excellent network security, plus it works on most modern operating systems (OSes). It’s somewhat difficult to configure, especially for really small businesses; and if you need Mac or Linux support, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version. But if you just need something simple, easy, and free, then CyberGhost is a great tool.
3. Endpoint Protection from Avast
What’s the point of growing a business if it can be shut down by viruses or hackers? Avast’s endpoint protection comes in a free and a premium ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN) version, both of which protect your network well.
If you opt for the free version, keep in mind that you won’t have access to proactive controls, a firewall, or data shredding. However, you’ll still get access to solid malware blocking, security scanning, and rescue disk functionality—all of which will come in handy at some point.
4. Project Management from Wrike
Wrike’s ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN) project management solution is one of the best on the market regardless of which tier you choose. The free version supports up to five users, an unlimited number of collaborators, and 2 GB of free storage. With this plan, you can manage tasks, share files, and monitor your group’s activities in a real-time feed.
If you need customizations and reporting, you’ll have to upgrade to a higher tier. But if you’re just getting started and your team is small, the free project management tool will be perfect for you.
5. Video Conferencing from join.me
If you’re looking to connect with clients, prospects, and remote workers, you’ll need a reliable video conferencing solution to help you get the job done. Join.me ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN) offers a free plan that lets you invite up to 10 video participants, share screens, and support up to five video feeds.
Join.me isn’t the most robust offering on the market, but it’s definitely a strong competitor among the free solutions. If you don’t have money to spend, and you need the cream of the free crop, try join.me.
6. Applicant Tracking from Zoho Recruit
Small businesses that don’t have job openings often will love Zoho Recruit ($58.50 for Two Year Plans + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN). This applicant tracking tool gives you access to one recruiter and up to five open positions at once. You’ll be able to input, publish, and track jobs until you find the right candidate for your company’s specific needs.
You’ll also be able to send emails to applicants via five free email templates, which will make your life easier if you have to send the same (or similar) messages over and over again.
7. Human Resources Management from Deputy
Once you’ve found the right candidate, you’ll need to track his or her progress via a human resources (HR) management tool. Deputy ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN) offers a starter plan that costs just $1 per employee per month. Yes, I know, this isn’t free. But at only $1 per month, it’s an incredibly solid investment.
Deputy will allow you to schedule employee shifts, make company announcements, and manage tasks, all within one easy-to-use tool. Unfortunately, at this price tier, you won’t be able to add timesheets or payroll integration. For that, you’ll have to spend an extra $2 per employee per month.
8. Accounting from Wave
Your employees definitely want to get paid. So does your landlord and your utilities provider. To keep your books balanced, you can use Wave ($58.50 for Two Year Plans + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN). With the free version of Wave, you’ll receive accounting and reports functionality, you’ll be able to create and scan invoices, and you’ll be able to scan receipts directly into the system.
No, this isn’t a one-stop-shop for all of your bookkeeping needs. But if you keep things simple, you’ll be able to get pretty far using this basic service. For things such as payments and automatic integration with direct deposit payroll, you’ll have to pay $19 a month.
9. Business Planning from EquityNet
If your company is still looking to lure investors, EquityNet ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN) offers a free crowdfunding platform that will help you plan, analyze, and share your business plan with investors. You’ll create your plan using EquityNet’s plan and analysis software, and you’ll publish it onto the website and share it with anyone who is willing to read your pitch.
Although this is more of a funding tool than a planning tool, the software is good enough to get you through the initial ideation stages (and, who knows, you might even get lucky and find a deep-pocketed investor).
10. Social Media Listening from HootSuite
Most small businesses don’t need a mega social listening platform. A free, easy-to-use dashboard that lets you stay up-to-date on what your customers are saying should be enough. Fortunately, Hootsuite ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN) offers a free version of its software that’s good enough to do the trick.
With HootSuite Free, you’ll be able to manage multiple social networks, schedule posts, and interact with your followers. You’ll also be able to track how many followers you have on each of your social networks and monitor which posts are generating the most clicks. If your business grows, you can move up to one of three premium plans, which give you access to additional profiles, analytics, and multiple users.
11. Email Marketing from MailChimp
MailChimp ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN) is one of the best and most popular email marketing platforms on the market. Service tiers are priced depending on how many emails you send per month. If your company sends fewer than 12,000 email messages per month to fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you’ll absolutely love MailChimp’s Forever Free plan.
This steal of a deal lets you use built-in signup forms to gather subscribers from across the web. You can use MailChimp’s drag-and-drop designer and email templates to craft the perfect message. You won’t get robust reporting on the Forever Free plan, but you’ll be able to check open rates and compare them to the average company in your industry. Not bad for zero dollars.
12. Data Visualization from Tableau Public
If you need a data visualization tool but you don’t have the coin to spend on Tableau Desktop ($58.50 for Two Year Plans + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN), then you should try Tableau Public. The public is essentially the same as the full Tableau Desktop product, except you won’t be able to pull information from as many data sources as the paid version, and anything you create will be saved to a public version of Tableau’s cloud.
This product gives you access to live dashboards, responsive visuals that can be created and seen on mobile devices, and access to Google and Microsoft document managers. You can even share your visuals on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
13. Business Intelligence from Microsoft Power BI
Microsoft Power BI ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN) is available in a paid and free version for self-service business intelligence (BI). The free version limits you to 1 GB per user, which you can pay to increase to 10 GB. With this plan, your data will refresh daily, you’ll be able to scan 10,000 rows of data per hour, and you’ll be able to publish to the web.
To consume live data sources, scan millions of rows of data, or access data on a physical server, you’ll need to upgrade to Power BI Pro, which is still reasonable at $10 per user per month. The Pro version of this software also provides you with ways to collaborate with coworkers on visualizations across environments such as Microsoft Office 365.
14. Document Management from Zoho Docs
Zoho Docs ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN) is an ideal document management solution for small businesses with light document workloads. In addition to plug-ins to the rest of Zoho’s software ecosystem, the Zoho Docs free plan is available for up to 25 users and includes 5 GB of storage per user.
The free plan also includes unlimited file and folder sharing, desktop sync, editing tools, user management, and version history. You’ll also be able to integrate with Dropbox and turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) for added security. Plus, each document provides you with in-app chat so you can collaborate in real-time.
15. Helpdesk Software from Zoho Desk
Zoho also makes the list with its feature-rich helpdesk software Zoho Desk ($58.50 for Two Year Plan + Two Months Free at CyberGhost VPN). The free version provides your service team with different work modes, a customizable help center, a knowledge base, community forums, and the ability to rebrand the visuals to suit your company’s needs.
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If your helpdesk needs are a bit more complex, then you’ll want to upgrade to the $12-per-user-per-month Pro version or the $25-per-user-per-month Enterprise version, which adds features intended for larger organizations.
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