Best free tools for small business
Starting a small business can get expensive. And the tools aimed at helping small businesses can also put a hurting on your pocketbook. So to help with that, we compiled a list of the best free resources for small businesses to use.
Top free resources
Finance and Accounting
Azlo is a great online bank because it doesn’t charge any fees! There is one draw back to Azlo, and that’s the lack of ATMs. They have partnerships to help with this problem, but if you’re paying your employees cash (which I don’t recommend), this might not be the best option. Instead I’d head to Bank of America or Capital One (once they reopen their business checking accounts)
Accounting: Wave App
Wave App is a great free resource that can house all your credit card info, invoicing, accounting, banking, and expenses. It’s a great tool to keep track of everything in one place. And it’s free for businesses to use. It’s a pretty easy interface, and the cash flow charts make it real simple to know how well you’re doing.
I have to admit – it’s hard to compete with Wave. They also have a payroll solution, so if you’re going with them for accounting, I’d suggest just doing all in one for simplicity’s sake. But for the sake of diversity, here’s another great option for small business owners to use. Payroll4Free.com is a free payroll service for small businesses under 25 people. Simple, sweet, and to the point. Just the way it’s supposed to be.
Marketing and Advertising
Marketing Research: Google Keyword Planner, Moz, Instagram Search,
So here’s the deal. Most social media platforms and search engines offer free tools to help you get started. Marketing and advertising is a big game to them, so they want to make it as easy as possible for you to start investing in online ads.
To that extent, Google ads have recently updated their (formerly) clunky interface to a more streamlined one. It’s now geared more towards small businesses and less technical users – which is great! Although it takes some getting used to, it’s really helpful in understanding how many people are searching for topics you want to be known for, and from where. Instagram search allows you to look at the same thing, albeit from your phone. (Their desktop and webapp experience isn’t the best).
Lastly you have free tools like Moz.com, where you can look at making sure your business information is correct across all social media and search engines. It’s a nifty tool!
Advertising Campaigns: Google My Business, Yelp, Instagram, Linked In, Twitter
Here’s the quick rundown:
Google My Business: This is a must have for any business. Google owns over 90% of the market for people searching for things online. That means 90% of all your potential customers use Google daily. Getting your business in their search results is number 1 priority. And running ads can help you do that. Although right now they’re some of the more expensive online ads you can buy.
Yelp: Most businesses have a yelp page. Did you know you could put your business listing at the top of a competitor’s page before people even get a chance to look at it? You can do that with Yelp ads. Highly suggest.
Instagram: Instagram is probably my favorite marketing platform right now. Because of how visual it is, it’s really easy to take nice pictures with your smart phone and upload them to Instagram. Are you a restaurant? Then the hashtag #foodporn will get you far. The other great thing is currently, their ads are super cheap to buy. You can reach a ton of people with little money and get your brand name out there.
Linked In: This social media platform is designed for professionals. So I believe all small businesses should be on it. (Especially because I have inside info they’re trying to build out their B2B marketing arm. This means you can market to other businesses easily). Let’s go back to our restaurant business. Why not run ads targeting directors and VP’s of startups near your location advertising catering and delivery? Lunch meetings happen all the time. Another great thing about Linked In – it has the most organic reach. So you should be publishing blog posts on linked in frequently. Oh – and their ads happen to be some of the cheapest right now. So there’s that, too.
Although the advertising does take cash, digital marketing is a pretty cheap endeavor. Just check out how much SEO costs to see how affordable it is to get your name out there.
And just for transparency, here’s how we picked our winners:
Price: Free forever, and/or free for a limited number of employees or for a longer time frame. We excluded those that offer less than a six-month free trial.
Ease of use: Easy for a non-accountant to input earnings and deductions. Some are a bit more complex as they require you to input tax rates yourself.
Security: Payroll software that secures your confidential banking and employee data.
Legal and tax compliance: Federal and state tax calculations for correct deductions, and unique state laws like overtime, sick leave, and pay stub requirements can be added.
Payment methods: Cash, payroll checks, direct deposit, or bank card options.
Software integration and reports: Import time data and/or export to a CSV file; provide detail and summary payroll and tax reports. (A few integrate with accounting tools.)
Customer support: Resources to get support via email, phone, online chat, or through self-help user guides, blogs, or community forums.