Setting up a small business is hard enough without the extra costs associated with modern software licenses, so I decided to do a list of the most useful tools that you can get for FREE.
Microsoft Office 365 can cost your business anything from £3.80 per month to £17.95 depending on how many computers you are running.
LibreOffice is probably your best choice since it’s very similar in terms of interface to those paid-for packages. It also includes a presentation package similar to PowerPoint, a drawing package perfect for flowcharts, and its own database software. Of course, it also includes its own document writing and editing software as well.
For Email, Outlook comes as part of the Microsoft Package, but again, there are FREE versions that are equally as capable.
Thunderbird While Microsoft and Apple have their own options for managing email for free, neither has the sophistication or advanced features of Thunderbird, a well-trodden email package from Firefox’s parent company Mozilla. Another advantage of Thunderbird is that there are a lot of third-party plugins available, some of which are particularly focused on protecting your privacy and security by offering encryption as an option.
Keeping tabs on what needs to be done, who’s doing it, and what’s being done at any given time is the central pillar of good Project Management. There are really expensive Project Management Software Packages out there, but there are some great FREE ones too!
Trello uses the Kanban technique, originally created as part of Toyota’s ultra-efficient just-in-time manufacturing process – think a whiteboard covered in sticky notes and you won’t be far off. Create your tasks, and as users move them into the different columns, you’ll know their status and who’s taken charge.
Trello’s just as useful if you’re using it on your own, and since each task card – which is simple on the surface – can contain all the information you need to store about each task, it’s a great way to keep your projects in order. The free version offers unlimited boards and projects but only 10MB of file attachments – this won’t go an awfully long way, but for small projects it should be adequate.
Communication with your teams or Clients is essential in this time. We have all heard of Teams or Zoom, but they have limitations for free usage. There is another way…
Slack Make no mistake about it, chatting with co-workers on Slack is one of the best sanctioned ways there is to procrastinate. But this online collaboration tool is not just about flinging the latest memes and cat pictures around the office, and there’s a reason so many businesses have come to rely on it as the backbone of their working environment.
Firstly, it’s an absolute breeze to administrate – if you’re working on a new project, you can create a new chat channel in seconds and invite everyone involved to share status updates, ideas, and even related files. It’s fully integrated with Google’s office suite, so you can attach related documents to each channel for ease of access, and you can even install bots in each channel to perform various business functions or connect with other services. And if you’re working with a geographically-distinct team, it’s a great way to keep them connected with all the relevant business banter without resorting to the clutter of email.
Looking after your money is essential, so decent Accounting Software is a must. Sage, Quickbooks, Netsuite and Salesforce are all extremely expensive for what they provide.
Adminsoft Accounts may be a little clunky to look at (okay, a lot clunky) and somewhat tricky to get to grips with, but it offers a massive amount of functionality that can manage most aspects of your financial business for you. Made by a small business owner for other small business owners, it’s currency independent and perfect for managing a growing customer base.
You can do full stock control, purchase ordering, deal with various HR functions, manage your cash-flow and budgets – basically everything important.
Proper Invoices are important. If you’re demanding payment you want to look professional, you want to be quick, and you want to make it as easy as possible for your payees to get you the funds.
Wave Invoicing accomplishes all of these tasks within a free, cross-platform app so simple that you can even issue invoices from your phone.
If you choose, you can also use it to accept credit card payments – Wave makes its money by charging a small fee on payments made, and in all other respects it is free.
Backing up your Data is crucial to the security of your business. If you’ve ever lost a hard drive, you’ll know how catastrophic it can be. To do it right, you’ll want to follow the rule of three: you should have three copies of critical data stored in at least two places, at least one of which should be off-site in case of environmental disaster.
Duplicati is the perfect choice – it’s free, open source, encrypts your data before backing it up, and you can choose for your backups to go to a number of locations. That could mean a local drive, a fileserver you’ve set up yourself, or even a cloud service.
It can take incremental backups, meaning that – after the initial backup – it needs only send a small amount of data each time it runs to keep its archives up-to-date. Yes, it’s not pretty, and it might take a bit of technical knowledge to get it (and whatever backup targets you’ve designated for it) going, but once it’s up and running you’ll be safe.
I’m ending this list with an Antivirus choice that wouldn’t normally be high on my list, but the realities of license agreements have forced my hand somewhat. You might think that installing something like Avast, AVG or Avira on your users’ machines would do the trick and, technically, I’m sure they’d be fully protected.
But delve into the small print and you’ll realise their free versions are not actually licensed for small business use – and you wouldn’t want to get your business into legal hot water.
Comodo Antivirus For Small Business has a license agreement that specifically states it’s valid for small business use. It’s a fine, no-nonsense package valid for both Windows and Mac devices – there’s the usual free AV upgrade hassle, and you’ll certainly get more features and stronger security for your business if you do make the leap, but for cash-free protection it’s entirely adequate.
I said I was ending the list, but there are 2 Great Marketing Tools that you can use for FREE for a set period, to REALLY boost your profile.
Hootsuite allows you to add 10 social media sites and schedule any and all marketing images, video, documents to ALL of them for 30 days for FREE. After the trial period you are restricted to 3 sites.
Phantom Buster is a great tool for extracting Data for Free, for 14 days. All you need is an email address and once the 14 dates is up, you can use a different email address for another 14 days free!
This tool allows you to build, create and communicate with a list of targeted customers or contacts from multiple social media platforms. It extracts contact details and can even attempt to connect with them on your behalf. A really simple to use tool and I created an email list of 1500 key influencers within a week!
Good luck in your new ventures and I hope this list helps!