By Keshia McEntire
Whether you are planning a new business, looking to improve an established company’s operations or working out the first steps of becoming an entrepreneur, keeping a company running smoothly can often become overwhelming. Thankfully, the internet is full of templates, tools, applications and resources to help your business thrive. Simplify things by taking advantage of these free online resources and start building the business you’ve always dreamed of.
FOR SMALL BUSINESSES:
In today’s world, having an active social media presence is key to building your brand, gaining new customers and keeping your current client base engaged. However, remembering to update a plethora of social media accounts daily can fall by the wayside when busy business owners are focused on handling the day-to-day operations of their company. Hootsuite is a tool that makes social media management quick and easy, allowing users to post to and monitor multiple social accounts from one dashboard and auto-schedule updates. Hootsuite also tracks social growth and engagement so users can learn what content their audience responds to the most. The free plan allows users to manage up to three social media profiles in one place, all with one password. Visit hootsuite.com for more information.
All business owners want professionally designed logos and graphics for their social media accounts and marketing materials, but many startup companies may not have the capital to hire a designer right away. Get creative and design your own high-quality graphics with Canva, a free online design program that uses pre-formatted templates to help users create everything from infographics, posters and menus to Facebook banners and Instagram posts. Visit canva.com to get started.
SCORE templates and tools
SCORE, a nonprofit working to aid small businesses and entrepreneurs, has business planning, finance, sales, marketing and management templates and guides available online. Visitors can also request to chat with mentors online, over the phone or in person for free. Visit indianapolis.score.org for more information.
Twenty-six million people visit Yelp every month to rant, rave and review the efforts of local service providers. Business owners can see what customers are saying about them and get in on the conversation. Use Yelp to share useful information regarding your services and politely engage with any critics you might have. Visit yelp.com to get started.
FOR BIGGER BUSINESSES:
A resource that promises its users fewer meetings and emails is sure to gain a lot of attention, and this tool has lived up to its reputation and earned rave reviews from pcmag.com and the New York Times. Slack is a group communication tool that allows teams to set up channels to have conversations, cutting down on unneeded emails and aiding in collaboration among large numbers of people. Files, images, PDFs, documents and spreadsheets can be dropped right into Slack and shared with other users, and previous conversations are searchable so users can easily find information. Slack also supports audio and video chats. Sign up at slack.com.
Google Drive is basically a mobile Microsoft Office suite that is accessible online from any smartphone, tablet or computer. Users can invite colleagues to view, download and collaborate on files — no email addresses or compatible software required. In addition, Drive keeps all of your paperwork in order; snap photos of paper documents and Drive will store them as a PDF, or search keywords between multiple documents to find similar items. Drive has 15 gigabytes of free storage space and more available for a nominal fee. Learn more at google.com/drive.
Keeping track of your company’s expenses can be a pain. With Expensify, reports are finished with one tap. Scan your receipt and Expensify will code and report the expense for you before finally auto-submitting it for approval. The basic plan, which includes 10 SmartScans per month, is free. Visit use.expensify.com for more information.
Entrepreneurs are eliminating back and forth negotiations by sharing their schedules and rates with clients and letting customers book directly into their calendar. This is perfect for stylists, mechanics, consultants and other appointment-based or pay-by-the-hour entrepreneurs. Users can post their booking grid to their Facebook page, personal website or email. The tool will integrate with their Google, Microsoft or iCloud calendar to help them keep track of their schedule, while sending clients reminders to make sure they show up on time. Get started by visiting YouCanBook.me.
Kickstarter helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, designers and other creators find the resources they need to get their vision off the ground. Startups can launch a funding campaign with Kickstarter to collect donations toward the business. This service is free, but Kickstarter will take a small percentage if your campaign is fully funded. Start your fundraiser at Kickstarter.com.
Track the impact of your marketing efforts with Google Analytics, a free analytics tool that tracks website traffic and helps users learn more about their audience. Once a visitor starts browsing your website, Google Analytics will examine their actions. The tool has a free option for individuals, startups and small businesses, and moderate pricing for larger companies. Sign up at analytics.google.com.