Best (Free) Digital Tools for Small Businesses

One advantage of our technological era is undeniably the internet’s utility. As a small-scale business, you can now access (free) digital tools that companies previously could only dream about. 

Maximizing the use of available software is essential for business management and growth. There are hundreds of apps or online websites (and counting!) available that target entrepreneurs and corporate audiences.

But there’s no need to overcomplicate by using every tool in the toolbox – determine what will best support your needs and make a positive impact on your business. The right combination of just a few has the potential evolve and streamline your business. Here are my top 5 picks of the basic – and FREE! – digital tools every small business needs. 

Top 5 Free Digital Tools for Your Business

It’s overwhelming how many options are available to us, but some tools work better than others. Each of the apps we’ve selected has a free and paid version, so you can test it out and decide if a premium upgrade investment will have a positive impact to your bottom line. 

Note: The following list is in no particular order and offers options for different purposes.

1. Team Communication: Slack

Emails, Whatsapp, and texting are the backbones of communication in the early phase of many startups. It’s important that you determine the right time to shift to a more robust tool such as Slack.

Utilizing a comprehensive tool helps streamline team communications in one place and helps everyone stay connected. Those with in-office and remote employees benefit from being on the same page and building a culture of open communication.

Slack was built for professional teams to “unlock your productivity potential”.  With Slack you can:

  • Organize channels for different topics, teams, projects, and anything else that fits your style
  • Send messages and reply in threads with a group or individual direct messages
  • Make and receive audio or video calls within your workspace
  • Share documents & take polls
  • Write notes and organize communication  
  • …check out Slack for a comprehensive list of features!

Slack also offers integration capabilities with popular tools such as Zoom, Google Drive, Zapier, and more! The inter-connectivity of your work tools makes this a great, affordable option for small businesses and startups looking to improve their communication capabilities.

2. Project Management: Asana or Trello

One of the most critical aspects of managing work is staying organized with all the necessary work tasks, deadlines, documents, and plans in one place to keep things running smoothly.  

Getting messy hurts your productivity and leads to a negative domino effect. But a good project management tool that aligns to your specific needs helps you arrange projects and keep things on track.

Certain service industries may offer industry specific project and client management systems, but for those with simpler needs, there are many free project management tools available to you. In this space, we have two favorites that will help to align your team and effectively organize work.

Asana

Asana provides for different views of your project data to align with your needs. With more robust functionality options such as creating tasks and subtasks (or features with stories), Asana may be better for more complex and detailed projects. With that comes the additional details of setting up your system properly to work how you expect, and ensuring team members and project participants understand and follow your methods.

The Basic Details:

  • Allows for 15 members in one space for effective collaboration
  • Create a dashboard adding schedules, deadlines, progress reports, and whatever else is required
  • Paid upgrade allows for additional workspace members – perfect for a free test run to see how it meets the needs of your team

Trello

Trello is ideal as a visual project management tool for smaller teams where you don’t divide the subtasks frequently. With it’s Kanban style, simple setup, and ease of use, we find it to be a great option for small teams and individual work tracking. However, if you’re adding multiple work tasks, updates, and attachments to each task (called a Card), you may find yourself digging into the comments for information.

The Basic Details:

  • Owned by Atlassian, the owner of Jira
  • As many team members as you like
  • Create a visual board of work with simple set-up and ease of use
  • Paid upgrade allows for additional team boards, custom fields and more – perfect to trial before expanding

In Conclusion:

A quick google search will provide numerous comparisons for review. Both tools offer a free version, which is a great way to manage expenses and trial what works best for you. They both offer apps for on-the-go updates, integration opportunities and automation capabilities. We think it truly comes down to your individual needs! But whether you’re remote, hybrid or in-office, there’s nothing better than a collaborative online space with all your work readily available.

3. Marketing and Design: Canva

Marketing expenses can be a large part of your overall budget depending on the approach you take. In the past, physical marketing was required with billboards, print ads, posters, and more. With digital marketing and media capabilities, there are more channels than ever before.

As your business gets started, it’s important to keep your expenses in check. Unless you’re looking for hard copy prints (think business cards, flyers) or print advertising, you can save on marketing costs by designing and dispersing the materials yourself.

This is where Canva comes in. Canva is an online website with pre-designed templates for various advertisements, announcements, and other creative documents. You can choose to adapt existing templates to your style or customize your graphics. You can experiment with your messaging and design until you find what best fits. Canva offers a low to no cost option that is easy to use and allows for creativity.

When the time is right, a marketing professional may be the right path to choose – they’re experts for a reason! But until that time, Canva can be a great option to get things started.

4. Email Marketing: Mailchimp

Social media and web-based marketing are all the hype right now, but good-old emails are still in the game. Email allows you to reach your customer base directly and provide targeted details in one space. 

You may be thinking people are no longer interested in checking their emails over their Instagram feed; however, research has shown that email marketing remains the best way to reach your customers. 

As a business owner, it doesn’t take long to realize the importance of presentation and relaying the right information. That’s where Mailchimp comes in. It helps you create impressive and personalized emails.

You can browse pre-made templates or take ideas to construct your own. Add photos and links or connect social media apps to your emails for more interaction. You can setup landing pages and automation.

The free version is strong and meets many needs, but the simple paid plans allows for more customization and options. If email marketing is a significant source of traffic for your business or long-lasting relationships with clients are essential to you, the paid plan might be right for you.

 

5. Customer Base: Google Analytics

Since e-commerce is a necessity in our times, you’ve probably created a website for your business. If you haven’t yet and are confused about making one, you can try out GoDaddy or Wix – two website-building tools to get yourself started.

Your website is a good indicator of how well your business is doing, but the focus isn’t only on sales. Through Google Analytics, you’ll discover insights on the nature of traffic that comes your way. 

With this information, you can decide how you’ll change your marketing strategies or if you need to expand your audience. It’s a powerful tool, and paying nothing for these important insights is as good as any deal gets.

Reports include how many visits your website gets, where the traffic comes from, what pages they visit, etc. You don’t need to micromanage any of these factors; they are recorded to help you plan for future launches or highlight problems on your site.

What’s Next?

To begin leveling up your small business, start to incorporate tools into your work routine. You can search for reviews and learn how to use different features through the official websites of these products or YouTube. As you work through implementation, don’t forget to manage through the change! Check out our series on Change Management for more details.

Have you tried any of these tools? Do you need help to take full advantage of them? Or do you need help deciding which direction to go? Reach out with any problems you might be facing. We’re here to help!

Hi I'm Nicole

Struggling in your work environment? Need to streamline your processes? Is your work-life balance unbalanced?

We’d love to help you overcome any work challenge you’re facing! Contact us to set up a free consultation to discuss how we can help.

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