Updated: Jan 27, 2022
As a small business owner, it would be nice to have a dedicated department (or even a single person) for every function of your business, but that’s not usually possible, at least when you’re starting out. As a result, you end up wearing many hats: accountant, marketer, salesperson, and human resources manager. Think about it: in the marketing area alone you need capabilities in graphic design, social media management, web design, digital advertising, SEO and content development.
Thankfully, there are literally hundreds of free and affordable productivity apps that can maximize your efficiency and effectiveness as you carry out the strategic objectives of your organization. In this post, we highlight seven software apps that we think every small business should consider using.
Thankfully, there are literally hundreds of free and affordable productivity apps that can maximize your efficiency and effectiveness as you carry out the strategic objectives of your organization.
We chose these particular productivity apps because they share four important things in common: affordability, ease of use, robust feature set, and ability to accomplish a core business function. Most, but not all, of them have a marketing focus, because if you can’t attract and convert new customers, you won’t have much need for growing other parts of your business.
1. Wix for Website Development and Hosting
Your online presence, specifically your website, is the epicenter of all your branding and marketing efforts. It’s where people go to find out about your goods or services, ask questions, download white papers, read your blog, set appointments and make purchases, among other things.
Wix has quickly grown to become a major player in the web design space, and for good reason. Their easy-to-use templates mean that even people without a graphic design background can still create a beautiful, mobile-responsive site. They even have an artificial design intelligence option that does 80 percent of the work for you.
In addition to core web functions, you can use Wix to send automated emails, integrate with Google Analytics, host videos, publish a blog and use the built-in database to manage customers. Depending on which hosting option you purchase, Wix costs just a few hundred dollars a year, and unlike WordPress, you won’t have to download and update plug-ins every few weeks. Everything is built-in and automatically updated for you in the cloud.
2. Canva for Design
The Canva design platform gives any person access to a vast array of graphic design tools and assets that can be leveraged to produce professional-looking designs. With sample templates to choose from, you can create social media headers, online ads, presentations, website icons, videos and so much more.
The free version comes with an abundance of photos, illustrations, fonts and sample designs, but you can also start from scratch and create your own. Upgrade to the professional package, and you can create your own brand palette, share designs with others, and access even more photos, templates and fonts.
Canva is a must-have for small businesses that need to churn out a wide variety of designs quickly and without the costs that come with outsourcing graphic design.
3. Unsplash for Free Images
Even though both Wix and Canva provide many free photos and illustrations to choose from, sometimes you need that perfect photo to capture a mood and you’re not willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to get it. That’s where Unsplash comes in. Photographers and creators across the globe contribute their images, including photos and website backgrounds, to Unsplash where users like you can download them for free.
They have over one million high-resolutions mages, across a range of categories. There are no royalties to pay and images can be used for both commercial and non-commercial purposes. Although contributor attribution is suggested, it’s not mandatory. Unsplash is a great tool to have as you’re developing new creative assets for your print and digital needs.
4. Hookle for Social Media Management
Now that you’ve developed a suite of creative assets and begun populating your social media channels (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), it’s time to find a way to do it all more efficiently. Rather than copying and pasting the same message each day on five different social media platforms, Hookle lets busy entrepreneurs and business owners manage their social media all in one place.
Hookle lets busy entrepreneurs and business owners manage their social media all in one place.
With Hookle, you can seamlessly post to all your social media accounts at once. The app gives you the ability to schedule your content well into the future, based on upcoming events, product launches, and other newsworthy items that are on your calendar. Not only does this save you countless hours of administrative time each week, but it keeps your brand more consistent across channels.
You can increase engagement by setting up a recurring posts system, which is a massive time saver provided by Hookle. You can set certain static posts, such as events or happy hours, to be automatically repeated so that you don't need to think about scheduling or posting them separately for months or even the rest of the year.
Hookle also gives you visibility into your performance across all the major social channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Business Profile, all in one place. You can look at detailed trends for each channel or get a snapshot of your overall performance.
With both free and affordable monthly plan options, Hookle will save you considerable time each month that you can use to focus on growing your business. To make it all even more effective, Hookle integrates also with Unsplash.
5. Google Business Profile for Web Presence
There are many great tools in the Google Suite, but Google Business Profile is one of the best places to start. It lets you create a free business profile that serves as a launching pad for a host of other Google and online tools.
Creating a business profile on Google puts you on the map, both literally and figuratively. It gives customers more ways to reach you and transact business. You can track phone calls, bookings, follows, clicks, and more. In addition to serving as an important source for online reviews, the tools in Google My Business also give you important insights as to how customers are finding you.
Wouldn't you like to be the first search result that pops up for your potential customer?
Google Profile also lets you use the posts feature. Posts on Google Business Profile should be fresh, timely, and relevant as your latest posts are visible on Google Maps and Search among the first search results for your customers. Thus it is important to make an update regularly. The easiest way to do this is scheduling your posts in advance using Hookle.
Wouldn't you like to be the first search result that pops up for your potential customer? If yes, read more here!
6. Asana for Project Management
Asana is another one of the productivity gems that keeps small businesses humming along. It has a free version for teams of up to 15 that may very well meet your needs, but monthly subscriptions plans are also available as your business grows.
Asana lets you keep track of important tasks, assign them to your team and set deadlines. It integrates with dozens of other major platforms, such as Gmail, Salesforce and Canva, so your team can easily collaborate in one, single system.
You can use Asana’s rules, forms and other built-in tools to automate routine tasks, create workflows and cut down on errors. Launching a new product? Asana has dozens of built-in templates that are pre-populated with tasks and timelines for a wide range of common projects. You can modify them as needed or start from scratch. When you need an app to keep everyone one on the same page, Asana is a great place to start.
7. QuickBooks for Financial Management
While there are new software applications springing up every day, some of the older standbys, like Quickbooks, have withstood the test of time. That’s because they deliver real value at an affordable price. Quickbooks Online organizes your finances, in part, by linking to all your business accounts. It automatically downloads your banking and credit card transactions and assigns them to the right accounts, saving you dozens of hours each month on administrative tasks. You can also generate payroll, print checks and easily produce important reports, such as your Balance Sheet or Statement of Profit and Loss.
The dashboard lets you see the status of your financials at a glance, and features like time tracking let you accurately record your billable hours, if applicable. You can project future revenues, assess your cash flow and even use the mobile app to track your mileage. Quickbooks is a tried-and-true platform used by an estimated 29 million small businesses in the US alone, which is why we’ve put it on our list!