While money might be tight as a new business, you don’t have to do everything manually. In this blog I will go through some free options and some necessary options for startup small businesses. You can utilise lots of software and technology but at the start be conscious of your financials and utilise the free options that are available. Many of these will fit your circumstances, and give you time to decide on your final product by the time that you are getting money in through the door. In some cases, you do need to pay some money but I’ve only highlighted those that I think are important for a new business or are wise value.
Setting up a Website
Don’t go overboard and pay for excessive website development. If it suits your business start off with a simple 1 page website with all your key information, your package offerings and the problems you solve. This can be achieved by setting up your free Google My Business listing and utilising their offer to set up a free 1 page website. You can do this at https://google.com/business. For local businesses, the free listing can be actually be more useful than setting up the webpage. For help on setting up your Google My Business listing, see my video.
One tip that I do have is to purchase your Domain name through Google as well. This means your webpage will actually be www.yourcompanyname.com and when you graduate to needing a better website then you don’t have to change your link. At the time of this blog post it costs approximately AUD$18/year for your domain.
When purchasing your domain with Google you can also access Google’s Workspace for approx AUD$8.40/month/user. This means that you can utilise it as your email address firstname.lastname@example.org, having your company email rather than a general gmail or outlook account makes your company appear more professional to prospects.
Documents and Spreadsheets
If you go down the Google Workspace path then you can access the other Google products such as Google Docs and Sheets. Alternatively, if you are a Microsoft user tools, you can access a number of its apps online for free — including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Outlook, Calendar and Skype. Create an account at Microsoft Office.com and use the apps and save in the cloud. Zoho Docs also includes free versions of their document software.
CRM – Client Relationship Management Software
As you network, prospect and grow you will need to track your prospect and customer’s names and details. There are a couple of methods you could use for this need. Some people who have a google email, use a simple spreadsheet in a Google Sheet. Other’s utilise their email newsletter software which allows you to store contact details. Or you could use the free version of one of the client relationship management software on the market, which will allow you to group and mark your contacts with custom fields, and move them through your sales process. One of those is CapsuleCRM, with the free account up to 250 contacts.
Email Mailouts and Newsletters
As you gather your prospects, one of your marketing methods will be email communications. One of the easy and initally free options is to utilise Mailchimp. This email newsletter cloud software will allow you to send different emails to sections of your contacts and to personalise the emails. The free option available for up to 2000 contacts and you can find out more details at https://mailchimp.com/
As a new business you will encounter a number of times that you need to do some graphic design, whether it is for business cards, logos, marketing flyers, social media posts or ads. If you don’t have the budget for a graphic design artist then consider using the free tool Canva and their wide variety of professional templates. It is extremely easy to use and yet immensely powerful. You can achieve a lot with the free version, and when you can afford it upgrade to the pro version. Find more about Canva here.
If you need to control workflow and tasks in your new business then consider the project management tool Trello. As long as you keep your Trello boards (projects) under 10 then you can continue using this for free. See the details at Trello’s website.
Connect with clients or collaborate with team members via conferencing software, and there are many free options available. Zoom is free for meetings up to 40min and less than 100 participants. If you have the Google Workspace you will have access to their conference tool – Google Hangouts.
There are some free options out there but this is one case where I would suggest that you utilise the software that your accountant suggests. Xero, MYOB and Quickbooks are the front runners and at the time of writing each were running some specials. Xero and Quickbooks integrate with the CapsuleCRM software. Go with the cheapest option until you have been up and running for awhile and know your needs. If you choose Xero and have many receipts, then eventually consider the Expenses module, which means you can take photos of receipts when you are out and about and they feed into your accounting automatically.
Need some feedback, or want to survey your prospects to help market to them in the best way, then utilise SurveyMonkey. The limitation for the free plan are that you can only have up to 10 questions per survey and up to 40 responses.
Using the free or limited functionality toolsets will give you the time to settle into your business, make any necessary pivots and not lock you into any long term contracts on your software until you are ready.