Business Tools for Small Businesses: 10 Free Apps to Try in 2016
If there’s anything modern businesses can’t do without, it’s software.
Much of the day-to-day tasks businesses perform nowadays involve software. And for most small businesses, software is what levels the playing field, allowing them a chance to compete in a market dominated by the bigger players.
In 2013, I wrote a post about
#1. Accounting – ZipBooks
A cloud-based open-source application, ZipBooks offers a wide array of accounting solutions, particularly for solopreneurs and small businesses with limited or no accounting experience. It allows you to connect your bank account so you always have an updated view of your financial data from the ZipBooks dashboard.
Aside from the invoicing, time tracking, project management, billing, and team management features it carries, ZipBooks offers invoice financing. Not only does the software help you manage your books, it can also pay you for your invoice the next day while you wait for the customer’s payment.
#2. App Integration – Zapier
Zapier is a cloud-based platform enabling users to create “zaps” or automatons that use triggers and actions. Essentially, it lets you connect two Zapier-supported apps together to facilitate the flow of information between the apps. With Zapier, you can automatically save Gmail attachments to Dropbox or create a new Trello card for every new Salesforce contact, for example.
Zapier supports 500+ different apps, including Evernote, MailChimp, Asana, Slack, Facebook Pages, Infusionsoft, Basecamp, GitHub, Zendesk, Gravity Forms, HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, and many more.
The free plan includes five zaps and 100 tasks per month.
#3. Form Builder – Wufoo
A fully customizable online form creation tool, Wufoo lets you design contact forms, registration forms, invitations, online surveys, and other form types. The forms, which can be created from scratch or selected from a library of built-in themes and templates, can be embedded on your website, email newsletter, blog post, or Facebook page through code snippets.
Instant notifications for new leads or registrations can be set up, and dynamic report visualizations can be created to help you make sense of the data at your fingertips.
The free plan supports three forms, 100 entries, 10 fields, one user, and three reports per month.
#4. Graphic Design – Canva
Canva is a versatile graphic design tool that lets users, regardless of their design know-how, create stunning projects in mere minutes. Designs can be used for a variety of purposes: social media posts, presentations, magazines, resumes, ebook covers, desktop wallpapers, blog titles, infographics, business cards, flyers, posters, gift certificates, email headers, and many more.
Customizable templates are available to get you started right away. Backgrounds and elements such as photos, icons, charts, frames, shapes, and illustrations are likewise available – free or for a small fee. The Canva Design School offers design tutorials that cover fonts, color, images, backgrounds, shapes and icons, layout, and branding.
The Canva platform is free to use provided you use your own images or any of the millions of free ones in the Canva library.
#5 Helpdesk and Ticket Management – Zoho Support
Zoho Support is a web-based application helping businesses deliver satisfactory customer experiences. Customer interactions from various channels (email, chat, phone, self-service portal, social media, forms, and forums) are centralized in one location. Manual tasks can be automated, including ticket assignment, notifications, and service escalations.
The free Zoho Support plan can accommodate an unlimited number of agents, as well as unlimited sent or received tickets. It covers task assignment, contacts and accounts management, provides a customizable web portal for customers, runs a community forum, supports multiple languages, allows exporting of reports to XLS, PDF, and CSV file formats, and many more.
Premium plans with more features are available.
#6. Productivity – RescueTime
RescueTime is a cloud-based app that provides weekly rundowns of your daily activities involving apps and websites, allowing you to spot inefficiencies on time usage and make the necessary adjustments to become more productive.
Whether you’re responding to emails, creating content, or spending time on social networks and news sites, RescueTime tracks your activities and then groups them in previously defined categories. Activities and categories are assigned a productivity level, and your overall productivity score is the average of the time spent on activities on each productivity level.
A paid RescueTime subscription can be availed for features that include offline time logging, alerts, website blocking, and more in-depth reporting.
#7. Project Management – Freedcamp
Freedcamp is a cloud-based project management tool that functions as the central place for planning and organizing projects, and comes with resource management, reporting, notifications, calendaring, and task management features.
Freedcamp enhances team collaboration, as users are able to communicate with teammates and clients via its forum-like discussions feature. All projects, to-dos, design notes, and group conversations are all kept in one place for easy monitoring.
If you need to use Freedcamp for work, paid modules can be added: CRM, Issue Tracker, Invoices+, and Wiki.
#8. Rewards and Recognition – Bonusly
Bonusly is an online application used by companies as a peer-to-peer recognition platform designed to recognize employees’ hard work and motivate them to perform better. Every month, employees are given a bonus allowance, also called “microbonuses,” that they spend in increments to recognize great work by their colleagues.
Microbonuses can then be used to buy items from the organization’s reward catalog, which is completely customizable but comes pre-stocked with rewards such as donations to charity or gift cards.
Bonusly is free for teams with a maximum of eight members.
#9. Sales and Customer Management – HubSpot CRM
A free cloud-based CRM solution, HubSpot CRM gives you the tools you need to store company and contact information, manage tasks and team to-dos, and track deals, all in one application. Because it can integrate with your email client, it allows you to send emails from either your inbox or the CRM system. Plus, you get notified when the recipient opens the email or clicks on a link in the email.
Other features the free HubSpot CRM offers are a customizable dashboard, deal pipeline, meeting scheduling straight from a contact’s record, drag-and-drop interface, social media profiles, email templates, and more.
#10. Video Capture and Editing – Icecream Screen Recorder
Icecream Screen Recorder captures on-screen activities as screenshots or video files. The app, which is downloaded to your Windows computer, is used to record presentations, video tutorials, games, and even streaming videos. It allows users to add comments, drawings, or graphics to a video or screenshot.
Tools it offers are a drawing panel, history of captured screenshots and videos, zoom in and step tools, around-mouse screen recording, and watermarking tools.
The free version has a record time limit of 10 minutes.
What other free apps can you recommend for small businesses?
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Maricel Rivera is a freelance business/tech blogger and independent content marketing professional currently working with ZipBooks, free accounting software, and SafeSend, email security software provider. Other software vendors she worked with as content developer and marketer include Comindware and Bitrix24.Read Full Bio