Running an online business is no small task. With so much to do, automation is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Luckily there are some plenty of resources and tools out there for the busy entrepreneur. Here are some of our favorites, in no special order.
1. Google Office
Google helps organize and with a suite of cloud-based office assistants. The software helps you create, edit, store, and share documents from your computer or mobile device quickly and easily from anywhere. Shared collaboration is in real-time to keep things current and editing is a breeze. All for free. Google, is there nothing you can’t do?
- Google Docs. Write, edit, and collaborate with easy to use editing and styling tools that help you easily format text and paragraphs. They’ve also got hundreds of fonts and images to choose from to help make your documents truly unique.
- Google Sheets. Save time and simplify everyday spreadsheet tasks with built-in formulas, pivot tables, and conditional formatting.
- Google Slides. With a variety of attractive presentation themes, hundreds of fonts, embedded video capability, animations, and more, Google Slides makes it easy to create, edit, collaborate, and present.
- Google Forms. Do your market research and data collection online. Build surveys, develop polls, gather email addresses for a newsletter, create quizzes, and more.
Canva is a surprisingly simple design tool that instantly gifts users with some super-savvy design skills. Through professional-looking templates, fonts, images, and graphics, users can choose from a host of designs or customize their own. Ideally sized social media graphics are also provided, or users can create using their own measurements.
Evernote allows you to create lists, take snapshots, take notes, and so much more. Once you’ve captured your work, it’s accessible from any device. It organizes and synchs all your files, making collaborating and sharing with others quick and easy. This free tool has so much capability you’ll likely be able to get rid of other, costly tools that you don’t even need.
Because it has so much functionality, you’ll need to invest some time familiarizing yourself with the platform. To make it easy on yourself, we highly recommend SystemsChicks’s Evernote For Small Business. Developed by a productivity expert, this all-in-one guide walks you through exactly what you need to do to optimize your use of Evernote, right from day one. You’ll learn to make Evernote your go-to tool for managing your business, increasing your productivity, and getting your clients great results. It’s a well-spent $57 that’ll save you countless hours later on, paying for itself many times over.
Having a strong, steady social media presence is undeniably important. Also undeniable is that fact that there are only so many hours in a day. Time logged on social media can almost always be more profitably spent working on other aspects of your business. Buffer connects users’ social media accounts allowing them to schedule a day, week, or month’s worth of social media posts ahead of time. By pre-planning your social media strategy and scheduling your posts in advance, you’ll keep your audience interested and engaged, and you’ll have more time to work on (and in) your business.
5. Mail Tester
Mail Tester is a free tool designed to help keep your emails out of recipients’ spam folders. Using a custom algorithm, the program views your message as a spambot might. It scans your email for potentially spammy content and reports back to you with feedback. Just send a test email to the unique email address they provide you with and wait a few moments for your results. Nothing can promise your emails will be received flawlessly, but you can increase your odds with Mail Tester.
Dropbox is a cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software solution for small businesses. Users on the free plan are given 2GB of storage, SSL encryption, and integration with Microsoft Office 365, among other perks. If you ever need more, you can always seamlessly upgrade. It’s a great way to organize, share, and collaborate with team members and clients.
7. Free WordPress Plugins
Users on the WordPress platform have an enormous host of plugin options available. Plugins are individually chosen tools that are quickly downloaded and installed. They help customize your site, making it function at optimal efficiency. All of these WordPress plugins have made life easier and more streamlined for us.
- Editorial Calendar. We use this free plugin to schedule our blog posts out months in advance. It’s made my life as editor exponentially easier. Users get an overview of how the month looks at a glance. If you need to move something around, simply drag and drop. You can add guest users to your calendar, too.
- Akismet is one of the very best ways to protect your blog from comment and trackback spam. By identifying and filtering potential spam messages, it keeps your site protected, even while you sleep.
- iThemes Security. This virtual bullet proof vest protects your site from hackers and malicious login attempts. It’s protected us more times than I can remember.
- Yoast SEO helps you ensure all those titles, tags, and keywords are up to snuff.
- Jetpack hooks your self-hosted WordPress site to WordPress.com’s infrastructure. The dashboard lets you manage plugins and menus, publish posts, and view enhanced site stats for all of your sites.
There are plenty more to choose from, but these are the ones we use regularly.
Instead of spending $20+ a month on project management software, check out Asana. This free tool is a convenient and welcome alternative to other comparably equipped paid platforms. You can manage virtually all aspects of your business with Asana. Breeze through daily tasks, reduce your email load, complete never-ending projects, nurture relationships, collaborate with your team members or contractors, manage your business systems, and much more.
With this much functionality comes a learning curve. You can make the curve less steep for a one-time fee of $57. For absolutely everything you need to know about Asana before you get started, check out Asana For Small Business. It’s currently the only product on the market that provides you with a comprehensive and systematic approach to using Asana for your business. Learn everything you need to know upfront, then you’re off and running.
PicMonkey is to photographs as Canva is to graphics. This simple to use tool makes photo editing easier than ever. Crop, rotate, sharpen, adjust exposure, add text, and even change the color of your picture with a few clicks. Take it a few steps further with creative icons and other customization options. You don’t need an account to use it, but if you want to take advantage of the extra features you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version. Give it a test ride and see what you think.
10. Google Alerts
Find out who’s talking about you online and what they’re saying by setting up a few simple Google Alerts. This post walks you through how to set them up. You can also use alerts to follow topics and people of interest.
Crowdfire lets users connect, engage, and grow on social media. Build a following of active and engaged users by filtering only those most likely to be interested in what you share. Use it to keep tabs on your community by tracking regularly updated lists of new followers, unfollowers, non-followers, and those who are inactive for a length of time.
That’s it! The latest roundup of some of our very favorite free (and on-the-cheap) tools to help you get more done every day.
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