Free is sometimes the most amazing word in the world. It is especially exiting for entrepreneurs and business owners who are building their business sometimes on a shoestring budget. I've used these tools to help myself and a remote team of 5 communicate regularly and interact for Blue 16 Media & CEO Media Firm. A lot of these apps are a product of startup companies that operate on a freemium model which means you get to use some of the services for free. There's usually a premium upgrade, many of which I have now but I started out using the free version for most of these.
These are some of my favorites and why:
- Evernote – This is literally where I save everything (written notes, photos, voice notes). I have the Premium version now which allows me to upload business cards with a photo on my mobile phone but before I used it just to keep track of notes during client meetings. I also use it with my Note tablet and phone and it automatically integrates.
- Insightly – My last job, I used Salesforce and I fell in love with it. I tried other CRM tools like Ace of Sales (now Outstand I believe) and they were good but I still love the purity (only a CRM) of Salesfore and Insightly which was the closest thing that I found to it for a reasonable cost for a startup. It is just me doing much of the sales but I love that it connects with my Evernote so I'm able to connect the notes and also my Gmail account. Please note: I now have the Paid version.
- Canva – This is great from a graphic design standpoint. I recently had a client that needed something done pretty quickly. While, we don't pride ourselves on being graphic designers, I knew that I could get something done within the next two hours using Canva. You can make Facebook ads, posts for Instagram, flyers and more. It's really amazing how much you can do with the free version using templates and making tweaks. I'm testing out the paid version now but I personally don't see a real big need to have it so far. Thanks to my friend Patience for letting me know about this!
- Google Apps – I'm not talking about Google Apps for Work. That's paid. If you just start by signing up for a Gmail Account it's as if the world opens up. I still have a lot of my email addresses connected to this as well. You can set it up for Google Drive (cloud storage) and includes free alternatives to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You can also use Hangouts to chat and Google Voice for a dedicated number that forwards to your cell phone.
- Dropbox – This is one of my favorites. I now have the paid version but I used an alternative until I tried to integrate the less popular alternative with other software. Dropbox is widely supported and integrated with Asana (see below) and that was really important to me trying to be as efficient as possible. It's also free up to 2 GB's. It's not a lot but for us when we need a client to send us pictures, they can just upload them to dropbox in a shared folder and then delete them when they are getting too close to the threshold.
- Mailchimp – One of my favorites. We became partners with Constant Contact but I still use Mailchimp (now the paid version to take advantage of the automation features). If you are a techie (like I am) then Mailchimp might be a better alternative to Constant Contact although the sheer amount of support Constant Contact provides (where Mailchimp is lacking) makes it a better choice for some. If you're just wanting to send out e-mails and you don't mind learning then this is the best thing for you.
- Asana – We use this for team correspondence. We have projects outlined and we can upload files and updates, etc. This is great for taking the conversation away from ridiculously long e-mail chains. It is Project Management Software. Thanks to our team member Simaan for introducing this!
- Slack – I heard of this while covering an event. I don't watch much TV so I hadn't seen the commercial. Our team member Ashley mentioned the interesting commercials. Right now, we are using it as a team for quick conversations or chats. Things that we need a quicker response for than Asana. I love Hangouts (Google Apps) but it's not as intuitive for teams to communicate. I heard that Google has another one they are launching but I'm not sure how good it is. One thing I wish it did was allow for voice messages to be sent inside the app.
- Snapseed – This is a new app that I just downloaded. Apparently Google purchased this company and this is an amazing photo editor for Android (and iPhones). Check it out what I did in a few minutes with this filter.
- Primer – A really cool way of getting great marketing tips and instructions in a quick way. Along the lines of what we are trying to do with Business Tips–only better :-). Check out the class I took.
- TinyScanner – I rarely have time to get to a scanner or know where to find one when I'm on the go. This app comes in handy because it allows me to scan the document and send when I'm not able to actually find a traditional scanner. (Android | iTunes)
- LastPass – Keep all your passwords in one place–enough said. This has saved my life and my hair.
- Hootsuite – This has also saved my life. Imagine one place where you can sync all your social media platforms and update them simultaneously or a week or month in advance. I have the premium version now but the free version allows 3 accounts I believe. The paid version is fairly inexpensive and allows you to add a team member (i.e. virtual assistant).
- Pocket – Articles or posts I want to read, I save them here with a click of the button (extension on my Chrome browser) and using IFTTT (below) it syncs to my Evernote in a specific folder of Read Later (above).
- IFTTT – This allows you to create recipes to sync your apps together. Quietly one of my favorite apps, it allows everything to run together smoothly without manually doing things. If you ever say, I wish that this would connect with that…there's a good chance there might already be a recipe you can use. Se above for my example using Pocket and Evernote.
- Skype – Because our team is remote, we use Skype a ton to connect. There's other alternatives but I find Skype is the best. I have Skype for business but I'm not as bullish on that as the good old fashioned Skype.
I hope this was helpful. I wrote this in a rush as I head to a meeting but really wanted to share these 16 tools that have made my life better and business more efficient. Overall, I tried to find where a program is strong and leverage it for that. All the tools above to some level are free. I have the paid for some but not all.
In the future, I will set up some monthly events for members of CEO Press to go more in depth about these tools and how you can leverage them. Sign up for as low as $10/month here if you're interested. Or stay tuned in to select the exact tool you want to learn about.