Updated: May 5
Running a small business, whether you have a team or are a solopreneur, can be a difficult and sometimes expensive.
If you’re not in a financial position to hire a group of people to handle all the nitty-gritty that comes with the territory, then you might find these 16 small business tools help make your life a lot easier.
Precisely because it’s the financial aspect that often stunts team expansion - at least in the beginning - we put some extra effort into finding the best free and low-cost tools.
Let’s start with something many small businesses tend to overlook - digital marketing tools. It’s worth mentioning the DIY route is never going to be as good as hiring a professional digital marketing agency. It’s also far less cost-efficient than you might think, with a lot of indirect expenses coming into play.
The good news is you can get the best of both worlds by hiring an affordable digital marketing agency and working together with them using some of these great tools.
1. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is certainly one of the most accessible online small business tools to help drive your digital marketing. To quote their website, the software’s “solutions can help you turn customer insights into action for your business.”
This has to do with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Generally speaking, the better the user experience on your website (as well as the quality of your content), the better you can expect to rank on search engine results pages (SERP) and attract organic traffic. It can also help you determine how well your pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns are performing.
Google Analytics is easily installed on WordPress, so you and your digital marketing team can access these insights without any issue.
2. HubSpot Marketing Free
HubSpot Marketing Free is a great lead generation supplement to Google Analytics that focuses on the visitors filling out forms on your website. The data this tool (which is available as a WordPress plugin as well as a standalone web app) gathers will help you understand your clientele better.
The best part is, HubSpot Marketing Free can be easily integrated with an email marketing tool like MailChimp. That way, when a site visitor converts into a lead by filling out a contact form or subscribing, they’re automatically added to your email list.
If you want to take your Google Analytics data to the next level, then Hotjar is the tool for you.
While Google Analytics focuses on a lot of basics and HubSpot Marketing Free handles your fillable forms, Hotjar tracks exactly where your site visitors are by generating a heat map of their activity. This allows you to see where they’re clicking, tapping, and scrolling, as well as where they might be getting stuck.
Using Hotjar can really help you boost your web design for maximum results. There is a pricing tier involved, but we found it to be very affordable for small businesses.
Canva is a fantastic online tool that can act as a stand-in for Adobe Photoshop (or InDesign) by helping you create striking imagery to use on your website, social media posts, and anywhere else!
While not as sophisticated as GIMP (another free image manipulation software you can install on your computer), it’s a lot easier to use.
You won’t need to have any experience with graphic design. And if you haven’t already done so, you can even use the tool to create your brand logo for free!
Do be aware if you want to convert your designs into other formats (such as business cards) without simply redoing them under a different template, you’ll need to upgrade to Canva Premium.
This is a tool we like to use when working on social media content. With Hashtagify, you can quickly and easily find trending hashtags that will help you market your post on platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
Hashtagify does offer a 7-day free trial and the Personal account might be enough for your small business. If not, you’ll find upgrading to the Business plan worth the extra expense.
Earlier, we mentioned you can easily integrate HubSpot Marketing Free with MailChimp - and if you’re not already using this email marketing tool, you should be! The free version is enough to get you started, though you might find yourself needing to upgrade to Standard.
Good communication is super important for running your small business. And with these 6 small business tools, your internal and external communications are sure to run smoothly!
Trello is our favorite way to make sure team members are on the same page every step of the way. You can easily add new cards for projects, assign them to specific team members, and keep track of progress (and deadlines) all in one place.
Every card allows you to add attachments and comments, as well as use checklists to measure milestones in a project’s progress. Trello will also notify members of any changes and updates made.
This virtual bulletin board is simply the best team management and communications tool we’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Plus, you can get the Trello app for Android, iPhone, and desktop to ensure you never miss a notification!
Slack is a great alternative to Trello, as it offers some of the same basic functionality in a different format. Small teams can use Slack for free (with some basic limitations), though you might find yourself needing to upgrade to the Standard or Plus plans for an affordable fee to get the most of the tool.
Evernote makes it easy for you to jot down ideas on the fly, no matter where you are or what device you’re using. Sitting in traffic when inspiration strikes? No problem! Evernote automatically syncs with all of your devices, so when you get to the office you can simply access your notes via your desktop and get to work.
Even with the free plan, you’re able to share your notes with others. However, for maximum functionality, we suggest exporting it and using either Trello or Slack to do so instead.
Plus, you can use the Evernote Scannable app to take pictures of any handwritten notes or printed documents you need and save them as digital notes for later! It’s only available for iPhone users at the moment, but the Android Evernote app already has Scannable fully integrated.
10. Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts is one of the best ways to host virtual meetings with a team member, supplier, or client. If you’re also using tools such as Google Calendar, any meeting requests sent out will automatically include a Hangout link for easy access.
Altogether, Google Hangouts is an easier version of Skype and offers better versatility. If you are relying on Skype at the moment, you might find switching to Google Hangouts will drastically improve your experience, as you can easily share your screen and add multiple participants.
Join.Me is another free alternative to Skype and Google Hangouts. It’s not the most robust option, but if you do need a reliable video conferencing solution, join.me is still one of the best.
The free plan should be more than enough for your small business team, as it allows you to add up to 10 video participants, share your screen, and even run up to 5 different video feeds at once. Join.Me also makes it super easy to schedule virtual meetings and even annotate and record them without having to install extra tools.
As a bonus, if you’re also using Slack, join.me allows for easy integration between the two!
HelloSign takes the hassle out of getting important documents signed. There is a per-user fee, but it allows you to quickly and easily send those documents to up to 20 others to collect legally binding esignatures.
Milanote is a tool for organizing your creative projects into beautiful visual boards. Created to replicate the feeling of working on a wall in a creative studio - visual, tactile and sometimes a bit messy - Milanote is a great fit for freelancers in both the marketing and design spaces. Milanote has heaps of built-in templates to help you get started with a variety of different projects, from creating a moodboard to set out the visual direction for a project, to writing that perfect creative brief. Its sharing features make it a great option for those who regularly provide work to clients for feedback.
Milanote's basic plan is available for free with no time-limit.
Often, small business owners make the mistake of thinking they won’t be the target of cybercriminals. The stark reality of the matter is small businesses are often a more attractive target precisely because so few of them make cybersecurity a priority.
Here are a few small business tools and resources you should start using to help prevent your small business from becoming a statistic. Don’t forget to start with an internal cybersecurity audit!
14. BitDefender for Business
The first cybersecurity tool we’re going to suggest integrating is BitDefender for Business.
While it’s not the most robust of BitDefender’s premium solutions, it’s an affordable one that does the job and does it exceedingly well. It’s recommended you contact their support team for a personalized quote.
While not as all-inclusive, Kaspersky Small Office Security is a strong and affordable alternative.
15. Two Factor Authentication (WordPress Plugin)
Two Factor Authentication is a WordPress plugin perfectly named.
Prevent unauthorized logins to your website’s back-end dashboard by installing this freemium plugin and requiring users to confirm their identity using their smartphone to scan a QR code.
The free version should be more than enough for most small businesses, but if you want a little more functionality you can upgrade to a single site premium license at an affordable rate.
16. LetsEncrypt SSL
LetsEncrypt SSL isn’t the best SSL certificate option available online, but it is a free option. Many website hosting companies actually offer it for free as part of their hosting packages and might even offer to install and configure it for you. If not, you can follow these links to learn how to install an SSL certificate via cPanel and Plesk respectively.
SSL encryption is an absolute must-have for website security. In fact, search engines like Google actually penalize websites without an SSL encryption, both in their SEO ranking and by flagging such sites as unsafe.
With a free option like LetsEncrypt SSL available, there’s really no excuse.
17. A VPN
Virtual Private Networks are very important small business tools to use on all your work devices (and even your personal ones). The basic gist is a VPN will encrypt your online data to protect it from online snoops.
While there are plenty of free options available, almost none of them can be trusted. One exception would be the Windscribe limited free version with access to a few of their servers and 10GB/month of bandwidth per account.
With that said, you’re much better off turning to a trustworthy premium version like CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or SurfShark. While they’ll put a small dent in your finances, they offer reliable protection without limitations, as well as assorted business options to make their services a little more affordable for teams.
We recommend encouraging your team members to get a personal subscription, though a business solution is perfect for the office.
In this post, we introduced you to 17 free and low-cost small business tools that will help make your life easier. Don’t feel you need to use them all - prioritize the ones that fill a need in your business first.
And don’t forget if you hire Parrot Digital Marketing, we can help take care of some of these functions for you.
Do you have any small business tools you enjoy using and think we should add to our list? Let us know in the comments below!