• 45 Free Business Tools That Are Too Valuable to Ignorе

    Yuliya Skorobogatova 18 July 2017
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    You don’t have to be a lead generation strategist to understand how most business tool providers attract and convert with “free for life” packages. As an entrepreneur, there’s a good chance that you’ve already fallen for a covert commercial bait, and were eventually asked to pay for what was promised to be completely without charge.

    Still, free tools are crucial for getting a small business up and running. Whether it comes to day-to-day operational management and finance, brandable graphic design or social media marketing, the complementary features they pack are a much-needed aid for individuals and team players alike.  

    With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 45 freemium tool suites that won’t trick you with hidden agendas and fine print. Instead of robbing you of your time and effort, they’ll deliver real value and helpful automation, along with some truly powerful functionalities on the side.

    Business Management
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    1.     Online Faxing: FaxZero

    FaxZero is a decent option for those with infrequent faxing needs. It’ll send up to five free faxes a day, each limited to three pages plus cover with FaxZero’s branding on it. In case of heavier loads, you’ll have to pay $1.99 per fax or slightly more for international faxing.

    The same charge stands if you want to get rid of advertisements or speed up the process.  Though somewhat slow, FaxZero comes with a simple interface: just visit the landing page, fill in the form, and wait for the confirmation email.

    2.     Business Plan Maker: Enloop

    Starting a new business? Cloud-based Enloop may not be able to walk you through the rest, but it will certainly help you create a solid business plan. It offers automatic formatting and templates for all industries (except nonprofits), thus saving you plenty of time for actual writing.

    The spelling is checked as you go, and there’s also an ability to import images, while features like chart generator, financial calculator, and budget tool guarantee utmost precision for developing a financial plan.
    Everything’s made easier with intuitive design and step-by-step instructions – with Enloop, you can even check the feasibility of your plan, track the writing process, import financial data from your accounting software, access market projections databases, and score the plan once it’s been completed.  

    3.     Crowdfunding: Kickstarter

    As a crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter is truly as plain and helpful as you’ve heard. It accepts and supports all creative projects, regardless of industry, helping you pitch your idea to the community and raise money to finally actualize it. Besides funding, Kickstarter offers valuable feedback and suggestions, though you’ll need to promise a reward to those who donate and give a 5% fee after the project gets funded.

    4.     Videoconferencing: AnyMeeting

    Being ad-supported means that AnyMeeting is free of charge for an unlimited number of video conferencing sessions and up to 200 users per webinar, which not many similar tools can offer. Surprisingly enough, AnyMeeting is not feature-poor either, and comes with complementary support. As a host, you’ll need to download an app, but it’s really no struggle, given the variety of tools you’ll get for the price of none.  

    Stock Images
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    5.     FreeImages

    Whether you need them for personal or commercial use, you’ll find that websites for free stock photos can get really disorganized and cluttered. That’s certainly not the case with FreeImages.

    With around 400,000 photos (and more added each day), the website is neatly categorized and optimized for advanced search (most views, newest, most downloaded, orientation resolution, camera type and color). You’ll need to create a free account to download, but then you’ll be able to mark your favorites and subscribe to an uploader’s RSS feed.

    6.     Pixabay

    Pixabay has been the number one choice of so many over the years, and it now numbers around 750,000 images, illustrations, and videos. It too has a powerful search engine – you can browse photos by tags, color, size, orientation and more. Additionally, users can download, like and save photos for later use without having to create an account, even though some images do require attribution.

    7.     Unsplash

    If you are in search of a high quality and tasteful approach, Unsplash is your go-to resource. Just like Pixabay, it doesn’t require you to create an account to download, though you’ll enjoy a number of exclusive perks if you do it anyway (you’ll be able to like and save your favorites, plus follow contributors). Unlike Pixabay, Unsplash asks for no attribution whatsoever, but in return comes with a smaller collection of photos and limited search capabilities.

    Social Media Management
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    8.     Facebook: Facebook Insights

    When you’re looking to improve your social media presence, Facebook is your go-to network. And, when you need to increase Facebook engagement, there’s really no need to look further than Facebook Insights. In only a few clicks, it gives you a handful of analytics for fine-tuning your marketing strategy.

    This includes categories like likes, reach, and demographics. Facebook Insight doesn’t tend to overcomplicate things, but instead provides you with statistics on how the audience perceives your published content, at which pace your page is growing, and whether or not your posting strategy needs a slight change of course.

    9.     Twitter: ManageFlitter

    In case you decide to build your brand and market your business on Twitter, you’ll have to be very careful with how you manage your follow/follower ratio. This network looks down on anyone who follows more people than they are followed by, which is where social media management apps like ManageFlitter come into play.

    While the basic plan allows you to sift through inactive and spam accounts to unfollow 100 of them every day for free, an inexpensive upgrade unlocks unlimited unfollowing, as well as advanced analytical possibilities: you’ll be able to gauge your network influence, track lost followers and gain new ones.

    10.  Multichannel: Buffer

    Specializing in multichannel broadcast, Buffer allows you to simultaneously manage your Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn and Pinterest posts from a single dashboard. It comes with a fairly simple and delightfully clean interface, adapted for both browser and mobile apps.

    Besides basic broadcasting, Buffer enables you to schedule a backlog of posts and share them automatically when the time is right. The free plan is pretty much limited to these functionalities, though, with bonus features like campaign tracking available for $10 per month.

    Support and Feedback
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    11.  Survey Maker: SurveyMonkey

    SurveyMonkey basics are always free, as their website claims. This includes an unlimited number of professional surveys – 10 questions and 100 responses each – with the addition of 24/7 customer support via email and essential survey analysis tool. As of late, SurveyMonkey offers a freemium quiz maker with automatic scoring. Basic for sure, but powerful and insightful all the same.

    12.  Ticket Management: osTicket

    Though completely on the cuff, osTicket is much more than a basic ticket management system. It allows small to medium-sized companies to add an unlimited number of agents, departments and tickets, which makes it equally brilliant for startups running on a tight budget and businesses with a large client pool.

    Apart from its user-friendly interface (that asks for no more than a week of training), osTicket brings a number of functionalities that you can hardly find anywhere else for free – you can make good use of canned responses or assign tickets to different agents and departments. The only thing you need to do is download the free license, buy simple hosting, and install it there.

    Money Management
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    13.  Payroll Management: Payroll4Free

    Whether it comes to paying employees, calculating taxes or managing human resources, Payroll4Free has it all. As promised, the service is completely free for companies with up to 25 employees, while anything more requires a small fee.

    In both cases, Payroll4Free allows you to pay employees by direct deposit or paper checks. The Secured Business Browser is also included, making sure that every transfer is safe. Like its competitors, it comes with detailed reporting, but unlike them, Payroll4Free takes personal service and support to a whole other level.

    14.  Payroll Management: Wave

    Wave is yet another convenient and easy to use payroll option, developed especially for small businesses. Its aim is to make accounting organized and stress-free, which features like year-end filing, tax liabilities tracking, and inbox payroll reminders certainly do.

    If you’ve been running your books manually, you’ll enjoy automatic reporting, built-in invoicing and easy receipt scanning as well. Wave promises a streamlined software for tracking income and expenses that requires no training or special maintenance, and that’s exactly what it delivers.

    15.  Budget Management: BudgetTracker

    BudgetTracker is a convenient tool with a pretty self-explanatory name and a myriad of satisfied personal users. It does come with a small business version, however, enabling entrepreneurs like you to manage their finances with ease. Opposing dozens of similar tools, BudgetTracker is completely free for both personal and professional use.

    After you sign up, BudgetTracker allows you to handle transactions, stay on top of bill payments, and make sense of income figures. All features are linked to a finance calendar that keeps you in the loop with every budgetary change within the company, sending you reminders (email or text messages) of impending bills. A simple invoice maker, project estimates, and balance sheets are also included.

    16.  Expense Tracking: Expensify

    Expensify is clever enough to help you speed up and simplify everything from trivial expenses to policy violations. Intended for both administrators and employees, this easy-to-use expense tracking tool is not only feature-rich, but also made to put every daunting task on autopilot.

    Since nobody enjoys doing it manually, Expensify automatically organizes receipts into reports every day, week, or month. Among its many insightful functionalities are GPS mileage capture, default hourly rates, optical character recognition, category limitations, and automatic approval and reimbursement.

    17.  Online Payments: PayPal

    Even if your business is fully offline (which is hardly possible these days), online credit card payments are still the simplest way of sending and receiving money. Being the most popular of the sort, PayPal is almost unavoidable when it comes to quick and secure payment management.

    With PayPal, you can get paid directly on your website, or send payment requests and email invoices with only a few clicks. Its multiple currencies system allows you to transfer balances and sell internationally without leaving the app.

    Around 188 million people use this payment method on a daily basis, most of your clients included – if their convenience is your top concern, PayPal is certainly the way to go. Simply set up a business account, choose the features you need, and start tracking your balance.

    18.  Invoicing: F-Billing

    F-Billing Revolution makes invoicing less time-consuming, equipping you with a built-in template collection and the right set of tools for creating professional invoices. It quickly converts them to PDF and allows you to print or send them via email too, but wait, there’s more.

    Besides basic invoicing, F-Billing also offers a number of customizable features for branding, as well as a powerful reporting system, so that you can forward your earning and spending info straight to your accountant. For a small upgrade, you can create purchase estimates, and orders or organize and re-bill expenses.

    HR
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    19.  Talent Recruitment: Fiverr

    Similar to Freelancer or UpWork, Fiverr is a freelance platform that allows you to save payroll money by outsourcing short-term projects to professional jobbers. Its $5 concept (every basic offer is priced a fiver) is very much in tune with the accelerating gig economy, making this platform one of the largest talent pools on the market.

    It’s also a big opportunity for your hiring team – whether you want to institute a mobile-friendly workplace, recruit retirees, or support side gigs, Fiverr is a good place to start searching for high-quality expertise. You’ll find myriad of “Gigs” that are purely technical jobs, but what this platform excels in are creative, often ingenious business proposals.

    20.  Talent Recruitment: UpWork

    When it comes to building, maintaining, and scaling your freelance talent pool, UpWork can hardly be overlooked. To help you find just the right people for your requirements, the platform provides a number of convenient search result filters, filling you in on details like freelancer’s skills, hourly rate, and feedback from previous employees. Of course, you can browse talent by keyword or category first.

    In the off chance that your search doesn’t yield any suitable results, you can easily make a hiring offer and specify all terms of engagement. Payment-wise, UpWork has a slightly complicated system that may not be entirely free, but is still one of the most affordable among freelance platforms – the hiring fee is only 2.75% per payment, and you can use any billing method you prefer.

    21.  Talent Recruitment: AngelList

    Somewhere in between Kickstarter and UpWork, AngelList is a platform that caters to both ambitious startups with no seed funding and angel investors interested in donating money. If your business doesn’t need accredited investment of any sort, AngelList is a good place to find fresh talent.

    22.  Applicant Tracking: OpenCATS

    While freelance platforms allow you tap into a bottomless talent pool that the internet community is, applicant tracking systems make the actual recruitment process easily manageable. OpenCATS is an open source application that’s considered to be one of the best of its kind.

    Despite being free, OpenCATS comes with a user-friendly interface and a number of well-thought-of functionalities. Candidate tracking is further simplified with a neat resume management feature, along with an HR reporting system that saves time and makes recruitment workflow conveniently transparent. You can install it on any Windows or Linux server.

    23.  HR Management: Zenefits

    Zenefits has one of the cleverest business models on the market – it makes money if its users decide to manage their benefits through the platform, thus remaining completely free for all those who choose not to exploit this feature.

    For HR purposes, Zenefits enables smooth onboarding and offboarding, manages administrative workload and employee records, provides actionable business intelligence reports, and includes a free library of valuable HR resources. It’s simple, clean, and free for an unlimited number of users.

    24.  Employee Monitoring: ActivTrak

    For when you detect a suspicious decline in efficiency, employee monitoring tools like ActivTrek are powerful productivity boosters. Once you install it on employees’ desktops, it will measure their activity and collect data on their daily performance. With real-time monitoring, ActivTrek can help them improve their workflow, simultaneously raising transparency on a company-wide level.

    Design
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    25.  Graphic Design: Canva

    It’s true that Canva is mainly aimed at amateurs, but this simple graphic design software still packs a substantial repository of features, functionalities and options that any professional can find useful. If you need to make a multi-page presentation or a website graphic, a business card or a poster, Canva will suffice.

    Thanks to its target audience, Canva equips experienced designers with an intuitive interface, making every movement easier with drag-and-drop actions. You can choose between a custom-sized black canvas and built-in templates at your will, while most of the images from the collection come at a $1 price per download.

    26.  Social Media Images: Pablo

    Pablo allows you to redesign your favorite inspirational quote, choose a stunning background, and publish them together on Facebook and Twitter, all within a minute or less. It’s a simple, non-time-consuming way to raise engagement across different channels, attract audience’s attention, and make them a part of your social media marketing strategy.

    27.  Infographic Maker: Piktochart

    Piktochart asks you to create an account and sign in, but the basic template offer is still free of charge and fairly ample. As far as commercial infographic makers go, this one is delightfully logical and simple to use without any previous know-how, largely thanks to the Photoshop-like interface.

    The package includes a library of icons and images, a possibility to import data from Excel, Google spreadsheet and SurveyMonkey, and high-resolution downloads in JPEG, PNG, and PDF formats. Whether you need to create, edit, or both, Piktochart makes everything easy with drag-and-drops and point-and-clicks.

    28.  Wireframing: InVision

    Reviewing and testing bears the same importance as actual designing, which is why InVision offers a handy set of tools for making all three aspects of wireframing and prototyping if not simple, then less troublesome. Packed with features, this tool cuts both time and effort needed for successful project completion.

    However, InVision’s free for life plan gives you no more than one prototype allocation. It is a pity, really, since the complete offering includes much more than basic screen sharing and collaboration. For an affordable package upgrade, you can get unlimited prototypes, while the enterprise edition allows an unlimited number of users as well.

    29.  Collaborative Design: Figma

    Figma provides powerful design features like Vector Networks and Non-destructive Boolean Operations, but its true purpose is effortless collaboration. Its advantage is this – since they’re mostly desktop-based, not many user experience design tools can offer real-time communication and collaborative work, but browser-based Figma can.

    The possibilities are thus quite tempting. Not only can the entire team work on different aspects of a single project at the same time (which immensely increases efficiency and speeds up the process), but managers and mentors can join in the session as well, keeping track of everything that’s going on. If we add the fact that it operates seamlessly, it’s clear why Figma is currently a favorite of collaborative UX designers.

    30.  Logo Design: Logomakr

    Though the abundance of choice isn’t a phrase one could use to describe Logomakr, this web-based design program is still a fair enough choice for beginners and DIY logo makers. The interface is not a challenge to master, which is good, but you’ll have a hard time if your desired shape is anything other than a rectangle, circle or triangle.

    In all other respects, Logomakr makes a solid addition to your graphic design toolkit. Unlike with shapes, the graphics library connects to Flat Icon offering thousands of results, and font collection doesn’t disappoint either. If you’re looking for a simple tool for simple logo designs, that’s exactly what Logomark provides.

    Marketing
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    31.  Search Engine Optimization: Moz

    To say that Moz offers everything that a SEO campaign needs would actually be an understatement. Even experienced SEO professionals have found the number of features in a Moz suite a bit daunting, which only means that (once you learn to make sense of it all) this keyword research and link management powerhouse can do basically anything for you.

    Apart from the keyword generator, keyword-difficulty tool, and comprehensive link builder, this includes competitive analysis, reporting, and tracking as well. Whatever you use it for, Moz guarantees complete access to all SEO-related information, thanks to the broad Mozscape index that brings around 195 billion URLs to the palm of your hands.

    32.  Keyword Research: Google Keyword Planner

    Being a result of a clever merge between the Google Keyword Tool and AdWords Traffic Estimator, the tool that now goes under the name of Google Keyword Planner provides powerful capabilities of two separate, yet equally effective keyword optimizers.

    Despite its many features, analyzing and exporting data is still very simple. Google Keyword Planner offers top-notch suggestions and traffic estimations, allows you to filter your search and test new keywords, and introduces you to hundreds of possible alternatives in case the test shows your SEO campaign needs them. On top of all this is the tool’s keyword list multiplying capability, which literally doubles your chances for success.

    33.  Presentation Maker: Keynote

    Keynote has been a main competitor to the gold-standard PowerPoint for years, but this isn’t even a choice for Mac users. Branded by Apple, this presentation tool comes with most Mac computers and offers the same brilliant capabilities that Microsoft’s champion does.

    Supported by the three-panel interface (with one thumbnail panel, one large editing panel and a formatting board), Keynote’s array of built-in templates and graphic tools is just enough of a reason for Microsoft users to want to experiment with this app.

    Keynote comes with convenient collaborative aspects too, but the thing your marketing team will really love about it is automatic uploading of your presentations’ movie versions directly to Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Vimeo. Also, it’s free to access and use on iCloud.com, supposing you’ve got an account there.

    34.  Marketing Feedback: Qzzr

    In case something does go wrong with your marketing campaign, Qzzr is a compact online tool for generating valuable feedback from both those who love what you do and those who are still indecisive about becoming a part of your business.

    When eliciting new leads becomes a problem, Qzzr is a surprisingly potent solution. Polls and lists are unfortunately a part of the paid enterprise plan, but mobile responsiveness and customization won’t cost you a dollar. Additionally, Quizzr’s dashboard makes team organization and collaborative work hustle-free.

    Legal
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    35.  Legal Documents Resource: Docracy

    For any legal aspect of your business, Docracy provides a collection of documents, forms and contracts that you’d have to pay good money for if you chose to hire an attorney instead. They were contributed by lawyers and law firms themselves, and packed into the first and only open source platform for legal advice, be that on non-disclosure, employment, or something else.

    36.  Trademark Search: Trademark Engine

    In today’s age of global connectivity, competition lurks from every single corner. It’s therefore safe to say that a trademark clearance search is of such importance for the future of your business that you simply can’t afford the risk of avoiding it. Luckily, Trademark Engine has got you covered – just type in your name or slogan, and it will sift through millions of USPTO-approved ones.

    37.  Electronic Signatures: DigiSigner

    DigiSigner allows you to sign any digital document on any device, from anywhere you need to be. You can even create handwritten signatures, and they’ll still be legally binding. It goes both ways, of course – once you upload the document and sign it yourself, you can invite others to do the same. DigiSigner is completely secure, unexpectedly fast, and highly professional way of signing business documents.
     
    38.  Inventory Management: inFlow Inventory

    For up to 100 products and customers, inFLow’s support doesn’t cost anything. It’s aimed at item-based businesses that need help and automation for inventory management, freeing up their cash from excess inventory and saving their time on endless paperwork. The commercial plan offers barcoding, multiple locations, and a reporting system.

    Website
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    39.  Website Builder: Jimdo

    Just when you start to think that Jimdo is yet another among thousands of website builders available online, it surprises you by removing all friction from what is usually a very delicate process. It seems that adding new functionalities isn’t Jimdo’s main concern though, but what this builder lacks in features, it compensates with exceptional user experience.

    While email hosting and domain names need to be paid for, the fermium package gives you full control over Jimdo’s SEO features. Building tools are refreshingly straightforward, and so are editing options, which together guarantees swift, yet impressive results. In terms of mobile use, Jimdo provides what many consider to be the best website builder app on the market.

    40.  Website Builder: WordPress

    “WordPress powers 28% of the internet”, and for a good reason. Creating a website is easy even with a Worpress.com subdomain, Jetpack essential features, community support, hundreds of free themes and basic design customization that WP’s free for life pricing model includes.

    It may fall short on advanced design features, unlimited themes and live chat support (all part of the premium package), but it still makes a powerful framework for building a site that your clientele will enjoy. As always, WordPress takes no longer than five minutes to master.

    41.  Traffic Tracker: Sumo

    Sumo’s basic plan unfortunately comes with no live optimization, pro insights, support or integrations of any kind, but it’s still one of the best website traffic trackers around. When you need to increase the number of your visitors, it will easily help you do so with customizable social media share buttons (mobile and desktop-optimized), quote highlighter, and intuitive image sharer.

    And, that’s only one part of Sumo’s compact package – along with a neat performance optimizer, the tool includes an email lead generation feature too, but the thing your website manager will be excited about the most are Heat Maps. They show you exactly where visitors click, what pieces of content they find most engaging, and what pages they enjoy spending their time on.

    Analytics
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    42.  Google Analytics

    An overview of Google Analytics features would still be too long to include here, but this tool’s supremacy in data analysis and 96% user satisfaction pretty much speak for its top-standard functionalities, browser-based and mobile alike.

    With convenient funnel visualization and dashboard summaries being just a few boons of using Google Analytics, you can rest assured that every single piece of information you need – from budget allocation and real-time reporting to marketing optimization and traffic sources – will be thoroughly inspected and anatomized for risk-free, data-based decision making.

    43.  HubSpot’s Marketing Grader

    HubSpot’s Marketing Grader makes overall marketing score analysis as simple as it gets. After you enter a URL and your email address, the results you receive will be neatly categorized into five areas – SEO, blogging, lead generation, social media, and mobile – and then formatted into a best-practice checklist.

    Marketing Grader is more than a market analysis tool, though. The data it provides can tell you absolutely everything you need to know about the effectiveness of your campaigns compared to that of your competitors’. And, in case you still haven’t found your differentiating point, HubSpot’s free tool will make it obvious.

    Advertising
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    44.  Google My Business

    When you need your ad to appear high on Google’s search results list (and, who doesn’t?), you go straight to Google for help. Google My Business then asks you to sign in, create a special website and fill it in with helpful information about what you do.

    Every next time a potential customer googles the name of your business or a name of a company similar to yours, your Google My Business website will appear in the listing. The same goes for Google Maps, so that your prospects can locate you with ease.

    45.  Foursquare

    While you’re waiting for Yelp to lower its prices (or your own company to earn enough money to pay them), Foursquare is a reliable alternative. Around 50 million people use it on a daily basis to discover nearly 2 million businesses that are already a part of this network, so hurry up and claim your listing.

    Wrapping It Up

    Though in time you might consider spending a buck or two on improving your business toolkit, staying frugal for the time being is a clever way to go, especially in today’s digital climate. For basically every aspect of your business, there’s plenty of reliable software providers ready to offer valuable products and services for free – and, with so much stuff on your plate as it is, one of them will certainly meet your automation needs and equip your growing business for certain success.

    Bitrix24 provides a complete suite of social collaboration, communication and management tools for your team, including CRM, files sharing, time management, calendars, and more. Bitrix24 has been chosen by over one million organizations worldwide and is free for unlimited users in cloud. On-Premise version of the platform comes with source code access and can be installed on your server. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.

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