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 can also 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 in running your business’ day-to-day operations, and could save on substantial costs in the process.
And what’s more, using these free software and business tools means much less investment and expenditure on things like IT professionals, and since they can be used at any time and from any location, they’re perfect for remote working situations too.
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, which we’ve updated for 2020!
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 both 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.
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 templates
A marketing strategy is a great way to support your business plan. A bit of forward-planning goes a long way, so 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.
Meanwhile, Smallbiztrends’ 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 your strategy planning simple.
Similarly, the straightforward plan from Marketing Donut is well worth looking at, too.
Free alternatives to costly office tools and clever cloud-based apps can give you the freedom to work anywhere – whether it’s your office, the local coffee shop or while you’re waiting in a business class lounge.
Google Docs: Create and edit documents, spreadsheets and slides online, all while collaborating 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 both on and offline.
Calculator Soup: A suite of no-frills number crunchers that’s invaluable for figures of all kinds – loans, mortgages, fractions, statistics, percentages. You name it, Calculator Soup serves up the numbers your business needs.
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 no longer had need for.
No matter what sector your business operates in, there’s a chance you’ll have to give a presentation at some point. Take the pain out of that upcoming 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 different, 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 distribute your presentations to colleagues with ease.
Marketing and sales
Ensure your marketing and sales teams are equipped with what they need to take on their tasks with these essential pieces of software.
MailChimp: Definitely 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’s working best for your business with their email reporting functionality.
Google Analytics: Gain insights into who’s visiting your site and where your traffic is coming from, then transform them into stronger results, better click-throughs, and get a better understanding of your audience in the process. If you’re running a business of any kind, this is a tool that you should most definitely look into.
Google Trends: Need 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 with this helpful site.
Blog Topic Generator: An 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 the formula.
HubSpot Persona Templates: Looking to get some insights into your audience? Customer persona templates are an excellent way of fine-tuning your message, finding content gaps and addressing issues your customers 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 for both you and your customers.
HubSpot Sales CRM: Need 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.
For your website, blog, mailshots and other media-rich platforms – tools of this nature will ensure your company’s output looks professional and attractive to whoever reads it.
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 things for blog posts, infographics, Facebook cover photos and pretty much anything else graphics-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 on the artier side, 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: Add some personality to your site with this collection of simple, attention-grabbing icons. And since it’s constantly growing, there’s sure to be something that suits your business, whatever you’re looking for.
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, which makes it perfect for staying in touch with clients, whether it’s voice, video or instant messaging you’re using.
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.
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.
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Use these clever tools to stay on top of your business’s 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 even 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 however you like, fitting 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 too.
Don’t leave your business open to cyberattacks and online risks, safeguard your all-important documents, passwords and files with these no-cost cyber software options.
Comodo: Free for the intro option – but with a nicely affordable full package – Comodo can provide your business with top-notch protection against common internet threats.
AVS Firewall: Though this is Windows only, this free firewall offers a combination of several security measures for a safer online experience thanks to registry activity monitoring, alternations blocking and a pop-up blocker.
Encrypto: If your most important, valuable cloud-stored data needs an extra layer of protection, that’s where Encrypto comes in, padlocking individual files for free on both Windows and Mac computers.
KeePass: No frills but entirely free, KeePass may lack certain features, but it safeguards your passwords easily and securely, so you never need to forget your login details again.
Creating a thriving community, responding to customer queries and boosting your brand’s online presence through social media is part and parcel of all modern businesses. Make sure you’re getting it right with help from these must-use resources.
TweetDeck: Stay 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.
HootSuite: Keeping track of your various social media channels can be tough, but HootSuite makes managing all your social media in one place a breeze. Though you have to pay for their more advanced versions, its free plan allows you to manage three social profiles, schedule 30 posts in advance and generate leads through social contests.
Staying on top of your teamwork is the key to success when managing large projects, make sure you don’t fall behind with this selection of all-important project management tools.
Trello: Kind of like a virtual project manager, Trello organises your to-dos, notes, due dates, attachments and more into a handy visual that helps everyone to stay on top of their responsibilities.
Asana: Thanks to its user-friendly interface, Asana has become one of the most popular project management tools out there. Free for unlimited projects for teams of up to 15, it provides a visual approach to collaboration that can optimise processes, productivity and automation.
Wrike: With its customisable workflows, colour-coded visualisation and mobile capability, Wrike is a stand-out project management tool. Perfect for prioritising the most important tasks.
Finally, it’s imperative that you’re putting your time to good use. Avoid procrastination and other bad habits by staying on the track to success with these productivity-boosting pieces of software.
Evernote: A great little 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 downtime, 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 for the day ahead from the second you sit down at your desk.
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