Although your small business needs a healthy amount of software to conduct operations, it's not necessary for you to spend a fortune on web-based products. In our comprehensive testing of business and consumer software, we've come across dozens of incredible and free solutions that can help you get the job done. We've tested free tools in almost all facets of business—from email marketing to endpoint protection to project management.
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To help you celebrate National Small Business Week this week, we've compiled this list of 10 free tools that your small business will love. Fortunately for you, all of the software listed below offer premium versions to which you can upgrade once your business grows. So don't shy away from the products on this list under the false assumption that you will eventually scale out of this category.
1. Endpoint Protection from AvastWhat's the point of growing a business if it can be shut down by viruses or hackers? Avast's endpoint protection comes in a free and a premium version, both of which protect your network well.
If you opt for the free version, keep in mind that you won't have access to proactive controls, a firewall, or data shredding. However, you'll still get access to solid malware blocking, security scanning, and rescue disk functionality—all of which will come in handy at some point.
2. Project Management from WrikeWrike's project management solution is one of the best on the market regardless of which tier you choose. The free version supports up to five users, an unlimited number of collaborators, and 2 GB of free storage. With this plan, you can manage tasks, share files, and monitor your group's activities in a real-time feed.
If you need customizations and reporting, you'll have to upgrade to a higher tier. But if you're just getting started and your team is small, the free project management tool will be perfect for you.
3. Videoconferencing from Join.Me If you're looking to connect with clients, prospects, and remote workers, you'll need a reliable videoconferencing solution to help you get the job done. Join.Me offers a free plan that lets you invite up to 10 video participants, share screens, and supports up to five video feeds.
Join.Me isn't the most robust offering on the market, but it's definitely a strong competitor among the free solutions. If you don't have money to spend, and you need the cream of the free crop, try Join.Me.
4. Applicant Tracking from Zoho RecruitSmall businesses that don't have job openings often will love Zoho Recruit. This applicant tracking tool gives you access to one recruiter and up to five open positions at once. You'll be able to input, publish, and track jobs until you find the right candidate for your company's specific needs. You'll also be able to send emails to applicants via five free email templates, which will make your life easier if you have to send the same (or similar) messages over and over again.
5. Human Resources Management from Deputy Once you've found the right candidate, you'll need to track his or her progress via a human resources (HR) management tool. Deputy offers a starter plan that costs just $1 per employee per month. Yes, I know, this isn't free. But at only $1 per month, it's an incredibly solid investment.
Deputy will allow you to schedule employee shifts, make company announcements, and manage tasks, all within one easy-to-use tool. Unfortunately, at this price tier, you won't be able to add timesheets or payroll integration. For that, you'll have to spend an extra $2 per employee per month.
6. Accounting from WaveYour employees definitely want to get paid. So does your landlord and your utilities provider. To keep your books balanced, you can use Wave. With the free version of Wave, you'll receive accounting and reports functionality, you'll be able to create and scan invoices, and you'll be able to scan receipts directly into the system.
No, this isn't a one-stop shop for all of your bookkeeping needs. But if you keep things simple, you'll be able to get pretty far using this basic service. For things such as payments and automatic integration with direct deposit payroll, you'll have to pay $19 month.
7. Business Planning from EquityNetIf your company is still looking to lure investors, EquityNet offers a free crowdfunding platform that will help you plan, analyze, and share your business plan with investors. You'll create your plan using EquityNet's plan and analysis software, and you'll publish it onto the website and share it with anyone who is willing to read your pitch.
Although this is more of a funding tool than a planning tool, the software is good enough to get you through the initial ideation stages (and, who knows, you might even get lucky and find a deep-pocketed investor).
8. Social Media Listening from HootSuiteMost small businesses don't need a mega social listening platform. A free, easy-to-use dashboard that lets you stay up-to-date on what your customers are saying should be enough. Fortunately, Hootsuite offers a free version of its software that's good enough to do the trick.
With HootSuite Free, you'll be able to manage multiple social networks, schedule posts, and interact with your followers. You'll also be able to track how many followers you have on each of your social networks and monitor which posts are generating the most clicks. If your business grows, you can move up to one of three premium plans, which give you access to additional profiles, analytics, and multiple users.
9. Email Marketing from MailChimpMailChimp is one of the best and most popular email marketing platforms on the market. Service tiers are priced depending on how many emails you send per month. If your company sends fewer than 12,000 email messages per month to fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you'll absolutely love MailChimp's Forever Free plan.
This steal of a deal lets you use built-in signup forms to gather subscribers from across the web. You can use MailChimp's drag-and-drop designer and email templates to craft the perfect message. You won't get robust reporting on the Forever Free plan, but you'll be able to check open rates and compare them to the average company in your industry. Not bad for zero dollars.
10. Virtual Private Network from CyberGhostSmall businesses that are super concerned about security should look into personal virtual private network (VPN) services. These services hide online activity from snoops and limits who can and can't access network content. Most VPNs are pay-to-play but there are a few services, such as CyberGhost, that give you a bit of protection at no cost.
CyberGhost is the best free VPN on the market. It offers reliable connection speeds and excellent network security, plus it works on most modern operating systems (OSes). It's somewhat difficult to configure, especially for really small businesses. And if you need Mac or Linux support, you'll need to upgrade to the paid version. But if you just need something simple, easy, and free, CyberGhost is a great tool.