We’re in the business of helping businesses find the right software at Capterra. Sometimes, that means you visit one of our directories, you dive into reviews, and you run out and make a purchase. Sometimes, though, you read a useful piece of content and walk away with a free solution to help you out.
Today, we’re going to focus on some freebies for small businesses. These are fundamental software solutions, addressing most business issues. Without further ado, here they are.
Free Accounting Software
Businesses live and die based on their ability to access cash when they need it. If you can’t buy the inventory at the beginning of the quarter, pay the rent at the start of the month, or deposit cash into your employees’ accounts every two weeks, you’re not going to make it.
A smart business owner is going to turn to accounting software to make sure they’re never caught off guard. While most of the accounting software on the market isn’t bank-breaking, it’s also not free.
For free, I usually point folks over to Wave. Wave uses a business model that gives its customers free software in exchange for data, basically. It’s almost identical to the Facebook model, where companies pay to have advertisements displayed to a very specific segment of the world.
Since Wave knows where you spend money and what kind of financial person you are, it can offer targeted ads – importantly, the advertisers don’t see your financial information.
Recently, I’ve also been a fan of ZipBooks. ZipBooks provides free accounting by forming relationships with payment processors and taking a cut of the fees they charge. So if your company uses ZipBooks and ties into WePay or Stripe for payment processing, ZipBooks makes money.
The company provides free accounting software regardless of your payment choice, though, so everyone can access the free accounting side. Look at that – the first of five software types and already you’ve got a bonus offering.
Free Communication Software
Communication and collaboration make up a huge part of your day. With the rise of the decentralized business, and with remote workers in multiple cities, states, or even countries, everyone needs a way to keep in touch with the rest of the team.
Slack is the current flavor of the month and I see no reason to jump to another platform. With Slack, you can connect your team, track and share documents, tie into your social accounts, and even reach out to worldwide communities to get more insight.
Honestly, I’m still figuring out how Slack fits into my day-to-day, but that’s sort of the benefit. I can look at my project manager friends or my tech colleagues and see how they’re using it – in vastly different manners, it turns out – and know that it’s a winner. Its flexibility is one of its key charms, so take some time to play with it and see how your business can best leverage the platform.
Free Presentation Software
“Can you just send me a presentation on your offering?”
“Send over the newest deck and we’ll get back to you.”
“It would be great if you could come in and show us what your company is working on.”
Making a sale and then keeping the client happy is all about explaining what you will do and then what you have done. There are really two different ways for presentation software to work, and it’s important to address both of these.
First, you can actually, you know, make a presentation. The name of the game for this application is snazzy, flashy, fun, easy to manage, with all the bells and whistles. Prezi and emaze both fit the bill, but we need to talk about an important limitation.
The free versions of both these applications require you to make publicly accessible presentations. That means no client information, no internal financial figures, and nothing approaching confidential. These should be used for sales pitches only, in my view.
For presenting figures and details or for building information-rich slide decks, Google Slides is the way to go. Free and as close to a PowerPoint replacement as you’ll find, Google Slides makes it straightforward to share information and keep it from prying eyes.
Free Project Management Software
I’m lifting this from Rachel Burger’s excellent guide to free project management software, so check that out if you want more options.
Every business can benefit from project and task management. From the freelance writer to the tech startup, everyone has a task to do, steps to complete, and a timeline for pumping out a finished product. I recommend Trello.
Trello gives you a simple, kanban-based system for free. You can attach files, make notes, set deadlines, assign tasks, and share information with stakeholders. We use it for our content creation process and – this is the biggest compliment I can pay project management software – it has never gotten in the way.
For those of you who couldn’t care less about project management styles, kanban is basically a sticky note system, where the notes move from column to column based on where they are in the process. So I start an article, put the title on a card, tag some coworkers, and drop it in the “Writing” column.
Then, I simply drag it through the editing and publishing columns as the piece progresses, attaching any images or other content as it goes along. It’s intuitive and fast.
Free Email Marketing
If no one knows who you are, no one is going to buy anything from you. Email marketing systems get your message in the inboxes of your potential clients. You also get all the layout and design tools to keep you from looking like an idiot.
MailChimp has a great free offering and I’ve been availing myself of the service for years. The free version comes with a 2,000 email limit cap and 12,000 emails sent per month. That’s plenty for most small businesses, especially if you’re managing just one or two email lists.
You’ll also have the benefit of sending from MailChimp, a company that prides itself on not sending out spam. That helps your emails get into the inboxes of potential clients instead of being relegated to the junk folder.
It’s pretty close to possible to run an entire business on free software. Sometimes, you’ll run into a limitation with users or disk space, but with these applications behind you, those are likely to be the only bumps in the freebie road.
Capterra has full listings and reviews for all sorts of software, free and paid. If these options don’t float your boat, you’re sure to find something that will. Now, go make money, make friends, and make the world a better place. Good luck.