5 Free Tools for the Bootstrapping Entrepreneur
Here are 5 tools I use (almost) every day to run my business. They make my life so much easier. And they save money for the other paid services you can't live without.
I recently shared a few of these tools with a friend of mine who then dubbed me her "guru for online fabulousness" which was hilarious, of course. But it got me thinking...
When you use these things every day you sort of assume everyone else has already discovered them and is using them too. It's not some great secret, after all. And you almost forget the hallelujah moment you had when you discovered them, probably because someone else pointed you in their direction and told you how great these FREE tools are that will save your life/business!! Remember that? Yep, and of course, I started to think what else haven't I told her about? Which evolved into this blog post. So, here are my 5 favourite free tools I use almost every day, plus a bonus at the bottom. And I'd love to hear YOUR favourite free tools. Share them in the comments so we can have hallelujah moments all around! :)
Trello is your to-do list on steroids. You can create boards to organize projects and as many lists as you need within that board. If you need to, you can also add other people to your projects. You can add pictures, links, due dates, colour code it, mention people and make comments. Personally, I've used Trello to organize big client projects, marketing for my ebook and my social media calendar. There are free and paid options for Trello but I use the free option and am totally happy with my Trello boards.
The next two go together like peanut butter and jam, like vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce, like french fries, gravy and cheese curds (any Canadians in the house?). Clearly I need a snack but moving on.
Unsplash is hands-down the best place to find free "do whatever you want" hi-rez photos (CC0). These are stock photos that don't look like stock photos. And the best part? They add 10 new photos every 10 days. There's also a new update that allows you to build your own collections. I can spend forever browsing through the gorgeous photos on Unsplash if I haven't had time to check them out for a few weeks. Or if I'm looking for something with a certain "feel". But I love photography. All the photos in my book (except the cover art) and all the photos on its website are also from Unsplash.
So, now that you have beautiful photos to use on your website and across all your social media marketing you probably need a great tool to create awesome designs and documents. Something that allows you to look super professional and cohesive without having to hire a designer. And, of course, it has to be fun and intuitive to use.
Enter Canva. I'm not a designer. But I'm slightly addicted to Canva. Whether you're looking to create a social media post optimally sized for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. Or you need an email header or blog header. Or perhaps something more traditional like a print flyer or document Canva will give you dozens of layout ideas to spark your creativity not to mention the fonts, graphics etc. All in an easy-to-use drag-in-drop style tool. You can look more legit in minutes.
There are some designs and graphics that aren't free and you'll pay a very reasonable fee of $1. They do have a paid option called Canva for Work that allows you to upload logos, your own font and save your company's colour scheme. Plus a few other time-saving features. I'm such a Canva convert I pay for the Canva at work. But I made do with the free service for many months before Canva for work was available so it's definitely worth checking out.
So, you have pictures and graphics. How about a free website that you can throw together in a couple of hours? Oh, and it looks gorgeous too? Strikingly specializes in websites that are one page.
Now, there are, of course, free and paid options for Strikingly and if you stay with the free option you'll have to live with a domain that's yourdomain.strikingly.com and a little purple button at the bottom that says Strikingly. And you'll miss out on a few of the options reserved for paid websites. So the free option may not be your first choice for your MAIN website.
But what if you needed a landing page? Or a proposal for clients? Do you think your client would be impressed if you built them an entire website instead of sending a Google doc or PDF? What about instead of a resume for your dream job you built a simple website? It's sure to make you stand out and get their attention.
If you've got a simple purpose (proposal, landing page etc.) then this might be all you need. They're modern, intuitive and easy-to-use. You won't get all the bells and whistles with the free version but they're definitely worth checking out. Before I rebranded as Heartlines, Jessica Drury Copywriting was a single page website on Strikingly. I've used them to set up a landing page to pre-order my book. I've also built proposals for clients and made pages for special offers for my services to Facebook groups I belong to. Check them out and get creative. I do have a paid subscription to Strikingly but I've also created and used free sites with them as well, just depends on your purpose/ needs.
Do you need to make a form for clients, customers or employees to answer? Do you want it to be functional AND beautiful? To design questions, track data and look like it belongs with the rest of your brand? And, of course, notify you every time someone completes the questionnaire.
Well, Typeform is the best solution I've found. I know there are other free options like Google Forms and Survey Monkey. But none are as easy-to-use or look this beautiful when you're finished. You can have responsive questions, and it's got great features like logic jump. Tons of different types of questions to choose from as well. I've built a few but I mostly use it for my Creative Brief. I have a lengthy brief (oxymoron?) that every client has to complete before we kick off a project. It gives me a wealth of information about you, your business and your target market. All necessary for me to write great copy and the project to run smoothly without a thousand emails going back and forth. Typeform is the home of my Creative Brief. There are free and paid options for Typeform. I use the free version and I'm very happy with it.
Evernote is a notetaking app. It allows you to clip pages and pics from websites. You create notebooks on different topics and notes within each notebook. It's perfect every time you have an idea that comes to you while you're working but aren't prepared to do anything with at that moment. Pop them into Evernote and go back and shape them when you've got time. I've got new Homepage copy for Heartlines I'm working on in there.
Of course, if you have any research you need to do for anything - personal or work-related Evernote just saved your life. And it's perfect for taking notes every time you take another online business course. The possibilities are endless really. Want to collect gluten-free recipes from the internet because you just found out your son has a wheat allergy? Clip them into Evernote. Yep, I have a notebook for that too. Like most of the tools on this list, there are free and paid options but you can totally get away with the free option. And this is one I still keep free.