10 Great FREE Software Tools for Savvy Startups
When funds are limited, use these cloud-based tools to get going
24th February 2017 | Starting Up
Starting your own business can be a real leap of faith. Not having a crystal ball to see if you can make your dream a reality can make taking those first steps daunting.
Unless you have some solid financial backing behind you (and if you do, lucky you!) you’re like the rest of us, bootstrapping your way to start, run and grow your business.
The good news is that you don’t need to have a big budget – there are many great software products or services out there which you can subscribe to for FREE. We have compiled a list of our favourite “free forever” business tools to help you on your journey.
The Free Online Business Tools List
Our free startup business software covers some key categories which would be useful to any early stage business:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
- Accounting Software.
- Office Suites.
- Website Builders.
- Social Media Management.
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Keep your leads and clients organised from the start. Having a decent CRM to manage your business contacts and potential customers will lead to more sales and fewer opportunities missed.
CRMs are not just for larger businesses with sales teams. There are a huge number of quality cloud-based CRMs to choose from, including some with “free forever” plans.
Our favourite free CRM software:
Capsule CRM offer a free forever plan which is a good starting point for a small business. For free you get: Up to 2 users, 10MB storage, 250 contacts, unlimited opportunities, and unlimited cases. We also like they are UK based and have great customer service, and we use Capsule ourselves. They are well regarded by users – the current consensus rating from leading review sites is 4.3/5 (from 53 reviews).
Really Simple Systems also provides a free forever plan, great for companies starting out which includes: 2 users, 100 Accounts (companies you deal with), unlimited contacts, tasks, activities and opportunities. Really Simple Systems are also a UK-based company and highly regarded. Current rating score: 4.4/5 (from 115 reviews).
2. Accounting Software
Spreadsheets are fine when you are making a handful of transactions, but what happens when that becomes dozens and then hundreds? The transition from spreadsheet to accounting system can be an error-riddled nightmare which can be avoided from the start, simply by skipping the spreadsheet stage and starting with a purpose-built accounting system.
Even the smallest operation will benefit from having access to automatic reports of your costs and revenue, and at the end of the year your accountant will love you more. If you decide to move to a different system later on, never fear. Most accounting systems provide an exporting function to backup you data and shift it elsewhere if you want to.
Our favourite FREE Accounting Software packages:
Wave Accounting is a completely free product. They make their money from the optional payroll and payments services (and lending in the US, Canada, and Australia). Wave includes comprehensive and easy to use accounting functions, an invoicing tool, accounts payable and receivable management, receipts recording, and personal accounts. You can connect your bank accounts so transactions are uploaded automatically, and they provide plenty of reporting options to help you in the early stages. Currently rated at 4/5 (from 570 reviews).
QuickFile has been designed for non-accountants and is free up to 1,000 ledger entries per 12 month period. For free you have access to professional invoicing, their fully branded client area, purchase/receipt management, banking automation, estimates/quotations, full multi-currency support, reporting and 1 GB of storage space. They are a UK made product and are currently the highest user rated accounting software on BusinessKitbag: 4.7/5 (from 67 reviews). A must look at if you meet the free criteria of less than 1,000 transactions per annum.
3. Office Suites
You’ll be wanting to whip up spreadsheets and create documents from the start, so you’ll need an office suite to kick things off. The key to saving money on office suites is “stick to the cloud”. Only one of the recommended office suites on BusinessKitbag has a free download-and-install version, but there are some excellent cloud-based suites you can use for nothing.
There are two big players in the Office Suite category, Microsoft Office and G Suite from Google, and both of which offer online versions. Microsoft now give away their online version for free (see below), but you have to be a paid subscriber to access Google’s office tools.
Our favourite free Office Suites:
Microsoft Office Online is the free version of Microsoft’s famous Office software. For no outlay you can sign up and access all the regular productivity tools from Microsoft via your desktop browser. You get Outlook.com, Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote to name a few. They aren’t as feature-rich as the Office 365 offering or the installed version, but if you’re looking for a free option, it’s a great start.
LibreOffice is a completely free office suite and uses the OpenDocument format. LibreOffice has been built as an open source product by software developers all over the world, and it looks and feels a lot like Microsoft Office, but without the price tag. We’ve made an exception as this isn’t cloud-based – LibreOffice requires downloading and installing on any Windows, Mac or Linux computer.
4. Website Builders
Without a website, your new business will be missing out on free “digital footfall”. These days it’s a must to have a website presence, not only for getting customers but being able to be contacted and seen as credible by suppliers, staff, advisors, and others.
Website Builders are online services which allow you to build a professional looking website without requiring any technical or design skills. The service includes having your new website hosted on a web server – something you would otherwise have to organise (and pay for) separately. You can get your new business online for free with these Website Builder options, if you are happy to not have your own domain name and are willing to carry some of their ads until you choose to upgrade.
Our favourite free Website Builders:
Wix is a very popular website builder with a free website plan and a drag-and-drop website editor. Premium upgrades are available should you wish to use your own domain name, remove Wix advertising or create an online store, but using the free plan will allow you to create a beautiful site quickly and easily using their 100’s of templates.
WebsiteBuilder also has a free plan and is worth checking out. Upgrading will remove ads and allow you to have your own domain name. They claim to have thousands of templates, and provide a user-friendly drag and drop interface to make setting up your website easy.
5. Social Media Management
It takes a lot of perseverance for you to rank well on search engines and have your business found. Google has over 200 factors it considers in deciding on the ranking of websites and pages, and activity on social media channels is part of their ranking formula.
Using social media will also give potential customers an extra insight into your business, and additional communication channels to interact with people. Your followers want to read useful, fresh content that they can share with like minded followers. Social media management tools make things much easier by bringing all of your social media accounts into one place, and providing scheduling, analysis, account monitoring and much more.
Our favourite free Social Media Management tools:
Buffer has a free version which gives you one account across 5 platforms, you can schedule 10 posts at a time with access to Pablo, their own graphic creation tools from where you can upload your creation right onto your social media account. It also has a time optimiser tool so you can decide exactly what time of day is best to reach your audience. It currently scores a combined rating of 4.3/5 from 235 reviews.
Hootsuite is another big player in the social media management software space. For free they offer 3 social profiles, basic analytics, post scheduling, lead capture campaigns and two RSS feed integrations. Current rating on BusinessKitbag is 4.1/5 from 520 reviews.
We hope you find this free resource list useful. If you have any other free tools which you think we should add then please contact us at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you.