When starting your own business there are so many things that you have to think about and do. Whether you’re an experienced entrepreneur or not, we could all use some help. Thankfully, there are a lot of free and low-cost resources out there for small businesses that exist to make your life easier.
I’ve compiled a list of online resources I’ve used in starting my own small business (no referral links here, just resources I genuinely find helpful). I’m sure you’ll find one that can help your business.
Google Products (G Suite)
Setting up your presence on Google Maps is crucial for any physical business, but I’ve found it helpful for a service business without a storefront, as well. If you’re trying to gain local business, having a listing on Google Maps will help increase your visibility when individuals search for services like yours in their local area. You can also keep your contact information up to date and include relevant images of your business. Take advantage of the “Near Me” feature to help people discover your business who may not have known you existed before seeing you on Google Maps.
Google My Business
In addition to Google Maps, be sure to create your Google My Business page. Beyond the contact information provided with Maps, this page allows you to add things like menus, service offerings, and more. Having a completed page also helps with your search engine optimization (SEO), since Google ranks businesses with completed Google My Business pages higher in search results.
Odds are you’re already familiar with Gmail, but did you know it can be incredibly useful for businesses that are just starting. If you are not ready to pay for an email service that uses your domain, but you want to have a way for customers to reach you via email, this is a great option. You can easily label, filter, and prioritize your inbox, create a customer signature, set up out-of-office replies, and so much more.
With Google Drive, you can store, create, and share documents of all types (including word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms). If you have large documents that are difficult to send over email, you can easily store them in Google Drive and share them with others. It also makes collaboration easy by allowing multiple people to edit the same document. Each account comes with 15 GB of free storage.
Google Analytics is free and easy to set up for your website. You’ll gain insight into who your site visitors are and how they’re interacting with your website. Find out about demographics, the device they're using, how much time they’re spending on your site, and which pages are getting the most views. The amount of data reaches far beyond this and will help you in your efforts to optimize your website to appeal better to your audience and search engines.
Google Search Console
While you’re exploring all that Google has to offer, be sure to sign up for Google Search Console. Use this tool to find out what queries bring users to your website and to better understand your position on Google Search. Allow the tool to crawl your site and alert you of any issues it may find. Google also provides useful, free training on how to use the tool. Give it a try!
Regardless of your type of business, it’s essential to have a website. If you don’t have the budget to hire someone to build your website, WordPress is a great, free option. It has a very user-friendly interface and a bunch of free templates to get you started. If you ever decide to take it a step further and get a personalized domain or set up e-commerce you can do so in WordPress for an inexpensive yearly fee.
Another option in addition to WordPress is Squarespace. Similarly, it provides templates to get you started and a user-friendly website builder. Squarespace also throws in a free custom domain name for the first year and a free tool to create a logo for your business.
Bitly is a URL shortening service and a link management platform, meaning it spits out links that are easier to share. More importantly, it lets small businesses track marketing campaigns and other incoming traffic. Small businesses don’t always have a marketing expert on staff who knows how to track traffic, one of the easiest ways to do it yourself is by using the analytics from a URL shortener like Bitly. It will also come in handy if you do build a free website without a personalized domain name. Those site links are typically pretty long since they include the company tag (e.g. sitename.wordpress.com), but shortening the URL with a service like Bitly will make it more recognizable and easier to remember.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Yoast is a free SEO tool that can be added as a plugin directly to your website. Use it to optimize your site for SEO, identify and correct any issues, and get some great tips on how to enhance your SEO practices.
Ubersuggest offers a free service that shows how the keywords related to your business are being explored in your market and suggests other words that are working for your competitors. It also includes backlink data so you can see the exact content in your space that people are linking to. Use it to generate content ideas by deep-diving into the top-performing content pieces for any given keyword so you can write about topics that people are interested in. Just remember, there is a daily limit to the number of keyword inquiries.
Similar to Ubersuggest, SEMrush is an SEO tool that provides keyword research, tracks the keyword strategy used by your competition, runs an SEO audit of your website, looks for backlinking opportunities, and lots more. You can still use a lot of tools with the free version, but you will be limited in your ability to pull the full data and use certain tools.
Canva is a free graphic design platform that you can use even if you’re not a designer. A free account offers tons of professionally designed templates that you can easily edit through a drag and drop interface. You can create social media graphics, presentations, posters, flyers, business cards, and other visual content. It also includes a massive library of stock images, vectors, icons, fonts, and more that you can use in your designs.
Unsplash is a great resource for unique stock images. All images are free to use and require no attribution. It offers over two million high-resolution images provided by a community of photographers from all over the world. Use them on your website, in your blog posts, in social media posts, and other content.
Mailchimp has an excellent free option for small businesses and makes email marketing easy. With a free account, you can send up to 12,000 emails messages to 2,000 subscribers. It includes analytics, such as open rates, so that you can understand what kinds of email campaigns work best for your audience. Beyond building beautiful emails, you can also create social posts, landing pages, postcards, and more from one platform.
ConvertKit is marketed towards creators, but anyone who is looking to grow an online audience can benefit from it. With the platform, you can easily create landing pages, forms, and emails and send them all from the service. This one is free for up to 1,000 subscribers.
There’s no question about it, you can only benefit from using social media for your business. It’s free to create a page/account for your business on all social media channels. Take a look at your audience and where they are to determine which channels you should focus on. With consistent activity on social media, you can promote your brand, boost your search ranking, build relationships, increase leads/sales, and keep customers coming back.
We’ve already determined that it’s a must to be on social media, but with that comes the time and energy needed to manage your accounts. That’s where HootSuite comes in. With this social media management platform, you can manage multiple social profiles from a single dashboard, schedule posts, track mentions, engage with followers, and measure the effectiveness of your social media content. The free plan allows you to manage 3 social profiles and schedule 30 messages per month.
Because of Covid-19 and the changes we’ve all encountered in 2020, you’ve likely already heard of Zoom. Their popularity has boomed this year and it’s because they offer a very user-friendly video conferencing service. The free plan allows you to host up to 100 participants in meetings up to 40-minutes long or you can have unlimited 1:1 meetings. For a small business, this plan should provide all you need.
Asana offers a simple project management solution that is designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work. But you don’t necessarily need a team to benefit from Asana. I use the handy calendar feature to plan out the monthly content for my business. It’s convenient to see all projects laid out in one place and to have the ability to break each down by task, add notes, upload documents, and check off completed tasks (which is super satisfying).
If you are writing anything — emails, blog posts, social media posts, flyers, etc. — you will love Grammarly! It’s a free grammar correction tool that checks your spelling and grammar in real-time. Even better, it can integrate with Google, Microsoft Office, Windows, and more. Essentially, it’s everywhere you are.
Pocket is an incredibly useful tool for saving all of the interesting things you find online. It is an application and web service for managing a reading list of articles, videos, and websites. If you’re like me, you come across numerous articles in a day that could be incredibly helpful, but you just don’t have the time to read them right away. With Pocket, you can easily save them, tag them so you can find them even easier later, and read them on your own time. If you use Google Chrome, get the Pocket extension and all you have to do is click a button to save any webpage or article. Super simple!
Storage and File Sharing
Similar to Google Drive, Dropbox provides you with a simple interface for uploading files to the cloud and sharing them with anyone. Not only is it useful for storing your files and being able to access them from anywhere (you can sync it directly to your computer and access your files from your phone using the app), you can also use it to share large files that won’t send over email.
HubSpot Free CRM
The HubSpot CRM is just that, a CRM, but I labeled it as a multi-tasker because it can help you with so many things. And better yet, there is a feature-rich free version. I’m still amazed daily by how much I can do with this freebie. Here’s a list of most of what it offers: reporting dashboards, company insights, prospect tracking, deal tracking, pipeline management, email tracking and notifications, meeting scheduling, live chat (chatbot) with conversation inboxing, ticketing system, email marketing, ad management, landing pages, and forms. There’s just too much to talk in detail about, so I highly suggest you give it a try. After all, it is free!
I hope that you were able to find something on this list that can help you with your business! Feel free to reach out if you have a question about any of them. Did I miss your favorite free small business resources? Leave a comment below and let me know what they are, I’d love to give them a try.