When you’re just getting a new business started, you need to watch every dollar and you also need to figure out ways to work as efficiently as possible. Here are a few of the free online tools we use at Ignitor Digital to help us communicate and stay organized so that we can do the best job for our clients without busting the bank:
Trello is a dead simple way to keep track of tasks that need to be done, assign them to the person or people responsible for them and give them deadlines for completion. It also provides a record of what was done and when if you ever need to check that.
By setting up a new Trello board for each project, we find it easy to keep track of who’s supposed to do what and when. We can also record the details we need to have to complete the task and can archive it when we’re finished.
Update 1/2014 – We’ve actually moved to using the free version of DropTask.com. The integration with Google Calendar, and the task, due date, project view is much better. Give it a try!
GMail is Google’s free email program. I prefer it to most of the email programs I’ve used over the years. It’s quick and easy to set up a Google account if you don’t already have one and get started – easier than setting up your own email on your domain in most cases and it doesn’t have the negative connotations often associated with other free email hosts. If you manage multiple email accounts you can combine them all with color-coded labels as well. GMail can also be tied in with other Google goodies like Google Chat and Google+.
Skype is a cheap way to communicate via voice or chat with people all over the world while conserving your cell minutes. It also allows you to share screens, participate in group chats and conference calls and, with the addition of a headset, it frees your hands up while you’re listening and speaking. When Skype first debuted, it was notorious for dropped calls and poor call quality, but I now find it to be as least as good as my cell phone and often my Skype connection is better than Verizon’s. There are various plans starting at $2.99 a month, as well as a pay-as-you-go option. You also get a free month’s free trial to make sure it’s right for you.
Freshbooks is a cloud-based bookkeeping software that has a free version that limits to 3 customers, but their most expensive version is only $40 a month. If you don’t need to manage employees this is a great option. They do have partners that integrate to manage employees if needed down the road. I like the cloud computing aspect of this, and that it’s accessible from any machine but still affordable.
ScreenLeap is a screen sharing program that offers a static and unique url where you can share your screen. For Free! This means you can schedule a conference call, and give a URL for your screen sharing within the invite, and the best part? The url is ALWAYS the same! I used to use Join.me, and it’s a good product, but you didn’t get the url where others could share your screen until you started the Join.me session – This meant you had to email screen sharing info right at meeting time, and it was disjointed and a hassle. ScreenLeap solved that for me! There are more features available, including screen recording, with a paid version, but I do nicely with the free version.
SiteLiner – if you’re evaluating websites either for yourself or for clients, this tool shows tons of great info, for free. Scan up to 250 pages with the free version and find duplicate content, broken links and more.
ZenPayroll – If you’re processing a few employees, or just your own payroll, zen is a pretty neat tool that will help you set it all up, and help you get your taxes collected and paid on time. Cost for 1 person is $29 a month and each additional person is just $4 more. Very easy to use and set up.
Please share information about free or inexpensive tools you’re using to help you run your business in the comments below.