The best free online tools and apps for small businesses.

With the rise of digital technology, applications that streamline and facilitate modern working life have burgeoned. The increase in small business apps has enabled many to work on-the-go, share information with colleagues, and more efficiently manage day-to-day responsibilities, from bookkeeping to design tasks. This introduction to just a few of the business apps and apps for small business ventures can assist you in the smooth running of your business.

Project management apps

There are a number of project management tools on the market that cater for businesses, large or small. Project management tools like Trello , Basecamp and Asana  allow users to document projects, share resources and files, manage project timelines, update to do lists and disseminate tasks. It’s worth trialling these apps for businesses to find a fit that’s right for your business or organisation as there are significant differences.

Productivity tools

Every small business owner will find themselves juggling a number of tasks simultaneously, which is where time-saving productivity tools come in handy. Business tools like Google Dictionary Extension  enable you to install a dictionary into your Chrome browser so you can work in the cloud, helping you to dodge spelling errors or find synonyms quickly. Look out too for AdBlock extensions  to avoid being distracted by pop ups and on-page advertisements.  Note-taking apps like Evernote can shave off time by taking the notes for you and includes features like file-sharing and voice reminders.

Email management tools

Although there are methods of instant communication with colleagues, clients and suppliers like Skype or Slack , email remains popular with many businesses. Email management tools like Rapportive are free online apps that replace your sidebar with the details of who’re you’re emailing, e.g. their picture, location and social media links, and it logs your previous email conversations too. It’s a useful Gmail plugin that helps you keep track of your correspondence and can even assist you in guessing the email addresses of strangers.

Handy tools like Boomerang schedule the sending of emails so it doesn’t look like you are working in the small hours to your clients.

Accounting tools

Routine accounting tools that assist with invoicing and payroll can be supported by apps such as Wave and Hiveage . Wave is suited to mobile viewing and has a number of free features to help you get started. These include the facility to make unlimited accounting reports, send unlimited invoices and scan receipts. The tools you need to pay employees directly are not free however, nor is the ability to accept credit card payments online. Hiveage is a similarly helpful online tool, which has a dashboards and graphs exhibiting accounts payable and receivable, but it is not dissimilar to Wave in many other respects.

Other financial management tools online include Youneedabudget.com , which can assist you in tracking income, expenditure and debt management through a user-friendly interface.

Ecommerce tools

Ecommerce tools like Gumroad is checkout software that you can install on any website. It’s free to set up but charges 5% on your transactions. You can also build an online store using Shopify  , which assists with inventory management and order and payment processing.

Marketing tools

Mailchimp is an indispensable marketing tool for the small business or start up. It enables you to compose professional looking newsletters easily, and to distribute whole campaigns to the desired contacts lists at the appropriate times.

The most popular business networking and marketing tool is LinkedIN . This professional network functions also as a publishing platform for articles as well as being a great place to find and hire employees.

Though it’s not free, marketing tools like Moz help marketers to better rank their site for search engines. Meanwhile, social media management apps like Hootsuite or Social Bakers  allows you to monitor the activity on your social media accounts, plus it supplies you with the data you need to reflect on what the most effective marketing strategies are.

Design tools

Small businesses and startups often save on spending by bringing the design elements in-house. Design tools and digital tools like the free Canva can be used without the requirement for you to be a Photoshop adept.

If it’s personal branding you’re interested in then take a look at About.me  - a digital resume with plenty of biography-building features. Make photo-editing easier too with PicMonkey , or generate graphs and charts quickly and easily with infogr.am. .

There are so many free or affordable online tools that can help streamline productivity, help increase the visibility of your business and help you manage your finances, that it’s worth having some tactics in place with each of them to make the most of the benefits. Explore your options to find the right business apps that are a good fit for you.

Take a look at more online business resources to help you on your way to establishing and developing your business or enterprise.

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