The ultimate list of free business tools and software

28 July 2017

The tools you use to run your SME can have a significant effect on your business’ overhead costs. Luckily, however, there are free options you can use for a variety of tasks to minimise the impact on your bottom line.

We’ve already talked about how apps can be a great way to save your business some serious money, but this time around, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of free business templates, tools and software that could help to ease costs and do away with unnecessary upkeep and investments.

Re-organising and streamlining your office systems using these helpful tools could be hugely beneficial to the smooth running of your business’ day-to-day operations, and could save on substantial costs in the process.   

The use of free software and business tools means much less investment and expenditure on things like IT professionals, plus they can be used at any time and from any location, which means they’re perfect for remote working situations.

We’ve broken down these essential business tools and software by the roles they play in your business, so if you notice any gaps in your small business’ software, be sure to consult this comprehensive guide. It could end up saving you more than you thought.

business plan templates

Templates for business tasks

Accomplish key business management tasks while cutting down on time-consuming editing, formatting and proofing tasks with these clever templates.

Business plan templates

We’ll start with something that’s absolutely essential. Outlining your goals and how you’ll achieve them is essential for new and established businesses alike. There are loads of helpful business plan templates out there, including these from Start Up Loans and The Princes’ Trust. Before you do anything else, be sure to get your business plan written up.

Invoice template

However you brand your business, Invoice Home’s invoice generator is sure to fit the bill. With 100s of free invoice templates to choose from, get your bookkeeping looking good with this handy tool.

Marketing strategy template

A marketing strategy is a great way to support your business plan. A bit of forward planning goes a long way, here are some handy templates to make things a little easier.

Think Business’ template is a thorough guide that has useful ‘fill-in-the-blank’-style gaps for you to complete your plan. 

Smallbiztrends’s marketing plan distils things into one streamlined page that outlines the basics such as your objectives, target market, offering, pricing, distribution and communication. Based on marketing guru Philip Kotler’s original writings, check this out if you like to keep things simple.

Similarly, simple plans from Marketing Donut and The Entrepreneur are well worth looking at, too.

office software sme

Office Software 

Free alternatives to costly office tools and clever cloud-based apps giving you the freedom to work anywhere – from the local coffee shop to the business class lounge as you jet around the globe.

Google Docs: Create and edit documents, spreadsheets and slides online, and collaborate with your colleagues in real-time. An essential bit of kit for big, multi-team projects.

Grammarly: Careless mistakes can make your SME look amateurish. Grammarly inspects, perfects and polishes up your correspondence almost anywhere you write on the web.

DropBox: A remote working essential, DropBox lets you access large files and folders anywhere, anytime and from any device – a must-have for teamwork harmony on and offline.

Calculator Soup: A suite of no-frills number crunchers that is invaluable for figures of all kinds – loans, mortgages, fractions, statistics, percentages. You name it, Calculator Soup serves up the numbers you need.

Evernote: A handy app that lets you upload and sync images, articles, URLs and more across devices, Evernote keeps everything you need in one place, ready for the next big project.

Toggl: The admin side of running a business can require a lot of time resource - Toggl is a simple time tracker that records website/app usage, detects down time, and creates detailed, on-demand reports to see where those eight hours of your working day are going.

Wunderlist: Keep track of your to-dos and get stuff done. Stay ahead of deadlines with due dates and reminders. Share lists and collaborate with ease. Wunderlist makes sure you’re sorted from the second you sit down at your desk.

Crashplan: Keeping things water-tight when it comes to trade secrets and proprietary information is hugely important. Save and back up important files with Crashplan and stay protected. You can even dig up deleted files you thought you had no need for.

presentations powerpoint

Presentations and PowerPoint

No matter what sector your business operates in, you’re going to have to give a presentation at some point. Take the pain out of PowerPoint with the below resources.

PowerPoint Templates: Feeling uninspired by the standard offering in PowerPoint? Microsoft offers a large selection of additional templates and themes for download on its Office site. Or for something more unique, SlidesCarnival offers a selection of professional designs – so you’re sure to find something fitting for your business and message.

SlideShare: If you’ve put time and effort into crafting an awe-inspiring, knowledge-packed presentation, you’re going to want people to see it. SlideShare allows you to host and disseminate your presentations to colleagues with ease.

marketing tools small business

Marketing and sales

Ensure your marketing and sales teams have an arsenal full of tools to help them succeed.  

MailChimpDefinitely something every SME needs, MailChimp lets you build effective email campaigns so people know what you and your message are all about. Streamline the process with automation, keep things personalised and see what is and isn’t working.

Google AnalyticsGain insights into who is visiting your site and where your traffic is coming from, transform them into stronger results, better click-throughs, and get a better understanding of your audience in the process. Pretty much essential if you’re running a business of any kind.

Google TrendsNeed to track consumer search behaviours over time? Google Trends is the go-to tool that lets businesses gauge shifts in interest and demand, letting SMEs capitalise on what’s hot and what’s not there and then.

Headline Analyser (CoSchedule): Make your audience spring into action with headlines, blog post titles, social messages and email subject lines that captivate, convert and drive traffic to your content.

Blog Topic GeneratorAn invaluable content strategy tool, Blog Topic Generator turns words into a week’s worth of relevant blog titles in no time! After that, it’s just a matter of tweaking, but if the well has run dry, this is an essential tool.  

HubSpot Persona Templates: Looking to get some insights into your audience? Customer persona templates are an invaluable way of fine-tuning your message, finding content gaps and addressing issues your customer might be facing. A handy feature of HubSpot’s templates is that they let you create ‘negative personae’ which represent personality traits of customers you want to avoid.

Webmaster Tools: Whether it’s Google’s or Bing’s you use, Webmaster Tools helps you identify issues with your site, from malware infections, search performance, and user experience, streamlining your site to its best for you and your customers.

TweetDeckStay in touch with your social media following with ease by viewing multiple timelines in a simple, straightforward interface. A must-have for interacting with the people and topics that matter to your business.

HubSpot Sales CRMNeed to eliminate time-consuming tasks so you can focus on sales? Stay organised, log sales activity and arrange leads into neat timelines, perfectly nurturing relationships with your customers.

free stock images and editor

Images

For your website, blog, mail shots and other media-rich platforms – these tools will ensure your company’s output is professional and attractive.

Pixlr: Sprucing up website imagery and photos is a breeze with this easy-to-use online editor. There’s no need to download either, so anyone familiar with programs like Photoshop or PaintShop Pro can jump straight in.

Canva: Another simple editor with loads of free customisable designs and templates to play around with. If you need graphics for blog posts, infographics, Facebook cover photos and pretty much anything else graphic-related, then check this out.

Pexels, Pixabay and StockSnap: Adding visuals to your site or blog content is always a must. These three stock image sites feature millions of copyright-free photos you can use to stand out from the rest. Better still, they can all be modified and edited without having to ask for permission.

Startup Stock Photos: Royalty-free imagery of sprawling vistas and wildlife is all well and good, but not always applicable to your B2B site or blog. Startup Stock Photos has a variety of small business imagery that’s sure to match up with your site’s message.

Unsplash: Another ‘artsy’ free stock photo site, Unsplash is great for adding some visual punch to your pages. Expressionistic and powerful, you’ll find everything from travel, food, nature, business and loads more here.

Death to Stock: The antidote to the dull and lifeless, Death to Stock sends its subscribers high-quality images every month, purpose-built to give your blog, social channels and website a fresh makeover in an instant.

IconMonstr: Give your site some personality with this collection of simple, attention-grabbing icons. And since it’s constantly growing, there’s definitely something that suits your business, whatever you’re looking for.

sme communication tools

Communication and collaboration 

Ensure everyone in the business is on the same page with these clever communication tools.

Skype: You should be familiar with Skype by now, but don’t underestimate its simple, versatile power, making it perfect for staying in touch with clients, whether it’s voice, video or instant messaging you’re using.

Trello: Kind of like a virtual project manager, Trello organises your to-dos, notes, due dates, attachments and more into a handy visual that makes it easier to stay on top of things when it comes to teamwork.

Slack: It’s easy to get bogged down in slow email and messenger services. Slack is all about streamlining communication into structured, purpose-specific channels that are both public and private. Share images, documents, pictures and more, and see how quickly your communication speeds up.

Pinterest: Not just great for social awareness, Pinterest is handy for brainstorming ideas with your team and organising visual projects.

Google Hangouts: For multi-person, long-distance meetings, Google Hangouts is a prime SME tool. Make calls from your computer, hold video conferences, and live-stream your meetings from any device. Definitely a must-have for sorting out your meetings.

HipChat: Specifically used for team communication, HipChat lets you create unlimited rooms for conversation, enable push notifications so you’re always in the loop, and integrate with Jira, Twitter, MailChimp, Wunderlist amongst others.  

Yammer: Like a Facebook group for the whole company, Yammer unites employees like a social network, with profile pages, status updates, likes, comments, chats and more. A superb team building resource.

Do: If your meetings have lost their focus, Do aims to ensure things get done. Built to create agendas, keep notes, track progress and follow up on tasks to optimise productivity.

free accounting tools

Finance and accounting

Use these clever tools to stay on top of your businesses finances.

HMRC PAYE Tools: For businesses with fewer than 10 employees, HMRC’s Basic PAYE Tools lets you work out tax and National Insurance for your employees and send info to HMRC. There are limitations, but it’s a great starting point. 

Microsoft Profit and Loss Sheets: Keep track of business transactions, subtract your outgoings from your total income, and see if you’re on course to make a profit. It’s amazing what these tools can do – so, be sure to keep them handy.

QuickBooks: Okay, so it’s not quite free, but QuickBooks is extremely cheap. Estimate tax payments, track deductible mileage, manage VAT, run payroll and much more on both desktop and mobile.

GnuCash: Designed for individuals and small businesses, GnuCash is simple and supported by a massive user community, so financial advice is never too far away.

Adminsoft Accounts: A rare beast nowadays, Adminsoft is actual freeware that does away with adverts, bundled software and crafty small print. Supremely in-depth for what it is, it deals with invoicing, statements, remittance advice, stock control, purchase orders, budgeting and a few HR functions on top of that too. 

Apache OpenOffice: For businesses that do all their accounting with a spreadsheet, Apache OpenOffice does the job. Simple and straightforward, its library of templates lets you tweak and amend to fit your business down to a tee.  

PayPal: If you’re familiar with PayPal, then it’s worth considering using it for your business. It’s handy for your clients as they don’t need a PayPal account to pay you, and it’s easy to integrate with a number of shopping cart systems. 

Have you enjoyed this article? Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Gazprom Energy blog for more of the latest articles and features. Alternatively, to find out about our range of business energy services, visit the homepage or call us today on 0845 230 0011.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


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