To run a business successfully – especially SMEs – you’ll need a host of tools for various purposes such as accounting, CRM, project management, desktop publishing, and so forth. Collectively, these tools can amount to quite a sum, but that is nowadays fortunately no longer necessary.
Speaking from practical experience over many years, we have come across a number of online services that are either free of charge or highly affordable. We’ve enjoyed these tools so much that we’d like share some of these with you. By doing so, we hope to assist you in becoming more productive and spending less and less on technology.
This is a great online accounting solution and also comes with a free app so you can invoice clients on the go right out of your mobile phone. If you bill your time to clients, you will find this feature particularly useful. It handles the basics of accounting, and if you don’t need a complex solution it’ll serve your needs and more. Sign up for a free account at http://www.waveapps.com.
Zoho Project Management
There are tons of project management solutions out there, but the one we’ve been using for many years now and can really recommend is Zoho Projects. The free version lets you handle only one project, but if you go for one of the paid subscriptions you get pretty much everything and with no limits for a mere $80 per month. Check it out at https://www.zoho.com/projects/.
Another great service offered by Zoho is Zoho CRM. The free version is good for up to three users and comes with all the basics; companies, contacts, leads, business opportunities, tasks, and reporting. However, if you sign up for a paid subscription, it’ll take you quite a while to find your way through a massive offering of modules, options, and features which you can all customize to your particular needs. It’ll do wonders for your marketing activities. Give it test-drive at https://www.zoho.com/crm/.
This is probably one of the most popular mass email solutions on the market and used by countless organizations all over the world. The free subscription lets you send up to 2,000 emails per month, and you can upgrade gradually as your mailing list builds up and you need more bandwidth. It also comes with a mobile app so you can track your campaigns on the go. One of our favorite features is the system’s auto-rating of recipients, whereby more stars are given for active readers so you can create a custom-segment just for those. Check it out at http://www.mailchimp.com.
We all need to edit images from time to time. The problem is that professional products are perhaps not the most feasible alternative for the occasional user. If you face this challenge, no problem. You can use a free online image editing tool that will cater for most of your needs. Pixlr works in ways similar to Adobe Photoshop and even has similar tools and palettes. We’ve been using it for years and are grateful for all the wonderful images we’ve been able to produce. Check it out at http://apps.pixlr.com/editor.
You’ve probably either used this before or heard others talk about it. Hootsuite is a great application that lets you write and schedule social media posts to various social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. A great feature that comes with the free edition is the auto-schedule option, and which lets you simply write your posts and then tell the system to launch those during times your target audience are typically online. Hootsuite is used best via the mobile app for phones or tablets. Check it out at http://www.hootsuite.com.
Building a website doesn’t cost much these days, but you can easily end up with a site that has poor ranking or is difficult to maintain. Unless you’re a programming guru, you really need a solution that makes designing and publishing websites as easy as child play. Our website is built by yet another Zoho service; Zoho Sites. It has all the bells and whistles you will need, and designing the site is actually merely a matter of dragging and dropping elements. Check out our website at http://www.pinnacle.jo. It’s built with http://www.zoho.com/sites/.
Managing thousands of pictures can become quite a challenge. Finding what you need will eventually become a nightmare, which is why you should be using a service such as Flickr. You get 1 GB of free space and can use that to group your images, tag them, and assign them to people or other categories. And yes, it’s a great business tool as well, and not only good for personal albums. For example, you can use albums embedded in your Zoho Sites to display client logos and such. As with most of the other services we describe in this article, it offers a free mobile app so you can upload your images into the right groups and categories right from your mobile phone. Check it out at http://www.flickr.com.
Digital marketing is all about content that’s valuable and relevant to your target audiences. Facebook and Twitter alone aren’t enough though, especially if you want to reach beyond curating content. To publish articles that your target audience will read and appreciate, try out WordPress. Setting up your blog is easy and free, and if you want your customized domain it’s only $13 per year. Start with the basics, and then dig into the rich selection of ad-ons that are available, and that will make your blog really stand out from the pack. Check out our very own blog http://blog.pinnacle.jo which is hosted at http://www.wordpress.com.
Chances are you’re using Dropbox already. But just in case you’ve missed this one, it’s an absolute must-have. The free version comes with 2GB free disk space, but if you invest about $90 or so per year, you’ll get another 1 TB. And if you participate in their various promotional programs, you can get tons of extra free GBs as well. Dropbox will not only let you work virtually from anywhere, but it’s also a great way to back up your data and perform disaster-recovery should that (God forbid) become necessary. Check it out at http://www.dropbox.com.
This list is by no means exhaustive and inclusive as there are countless more free tools available online, and more and more are being launched each day. A word of caution though; find what works for you and stick to it. Surely, there are always other exciting options available, but you don’t want to end up spending most of your time trying to figuring out how these systems work 🙂
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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