One major downside of most free software and services is that they offer limited functionality. For example, an email marketing program is likely to restrict the number of emails you can send per month or the number of contacts you can email for no charge.
However, once your business grows enough, it’s usually easy to upgrade to affordable, competitively priced versions of the free software. The programs listed in this article are like that. They offer a free version but have well-priced, fair plans for when your business needs them. They cover essential bases such as accounting, marketing, funding, document creation and file sharing.
EquityNet for Business Planning and Funding
This program gets you through the early but necessary stage of writing a business plan. However, where it really shines is by enabling you to share the plan with potential investors and raise more capital. Much of EquityNet is free, allowing you to develop a business plan, view investor profiles and enter your own profile for business and funding.
If you’re not interested in investors seeing your business plan online, free versions and free trials of paid business plan software are available. For example, StratPad lets you do one business plan at no cost.
Wave for Accounting
Even a one-person operation must keep track of expenses, debts, income, profits, invoices and much more. Enter Wave. The free version gets you functionality for accounting, invoicing and receipts. However, features such as credit card processing and payroll require you to pay.
Wix for Website Creation
Your business probably needs a website, and Wix can help for free. With this program, you can build a website chock full of features that work well even on smartphones. The program is intuitive and easy to use. The downside is that you must use a paid account if you want a custom URL and web store.
Avast and IPFire for Computer Safety
Malware and viruses can wreak havoc on your business. Avast can help make sure that doesn’t happen. The free version protects your computer in real time, warding off spyware, malware, viruses and more. The paid version gets you data shredding and firewalls, among other features.
For a free firewall, though, check out the offering from IPFire. Another bonus: It functions as a VPN gateway.
Google Docs or LibreOffice for Office Software
You have plans to create, reports to write, documents to edit and numbers to crunch. Free software such as LibreOffice and Google Docs/G Suite can swoop to the rescue. Google Docs enables you to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentation slides and much more. Collaboration in real time is possible. If someone else in the business makes changes, you can see them occur right on your screen. When your business is ready for the next step, upgrade to G Suite for more security and controls. In fact, you can try it out anytime with a 14-day free trial.
You may prefer LibreOffice if it’s very important that your files are compatible with Microsoft Word and Excel.
HootSuite for Social Media
The use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms could lead to tremendous business success. HootSuite Free can lead the way. You’re able to manage your accounts on three social network platforms and schedule 30 posts. With the 30-day free trial for the paid program, you can manage up to 10 accounts, get message monitoring and much more.
Zoho Docs for Document Management
Need to share files with different people in different locations? Avoid the tedious process of sending emails and use Zoho Docs. The free version supports 25 users and gives each 5 GB of storage. You get unrestricted sharing for files and folders plus version histories, editing capabilities and collaboration tools such as chat. Security touches such as two-factor authentication are another smart feature.
X-Cart 5 for Ecommerce
The X-Cart 5 free tool lets you run an online store with no limits on products, orders and staff accounts. The design of your store will be mobile friendly, and you’ll have access to a drag-and-drop layout editor. You can even download extensions for slideshows and shipping labels. However, the store can be complicated to set up. Try to have someone IT-savvy help.
SurveyGizmo for Surveys
It’s wise to find out what makes your potential customers tick. What are their pain points? Why did they switch (or not switch) to a certain tool? Were your customers yesterday happy with their experience at your business? SurveyGizmo gets you access to a wealth of information via free surveys. Under the free plan, you can have three surveys at a time and get up to 100 responses per survey. The many question/response types available include essays, checkboxes and ratings.
You can do free trials of the paid plans as well. Try out unlimited surveys, questions and responses. Do A/B testing and see advanced reports.
Zoho Desk for Help Desks
Get free help desk software for three users with Zoho Desk. Develop and access web forms, email support tickets and self-service portals. You can add your brand colors and your logo to the help desk, and track your progress with a few metrics. You get all this and much more for absolutely $0.
MailChimp for Email Marketing
With the free version of MailChimp, your business gets a marketing CRM, seven marketing channels, basic templates and one-click automations. Under this free plan, you can’t have more than 2,000 contacts/subscribers, but you do get free basic reporting. It’s a great tool for any new business that uses email marketing.
Use the free programs and services listed above, and your business should be in good shape as it gets going. The programs cover computer security, office software, accounting, marketing, social media and even business planning and funding.