Having the right tools in place in your business is I-M-P-E-R-A-T-I-V-E!

Running a business is hard work so having a tool to work alongside you can be a real lifesaver AND a timesaver.  

However, when you are first starting out, you don’t necessarily want to go all-in with the expense of some of the available tools out there.  Running a business also costs money and when and where you can, you want to take advantage of some of the fantastic free tools out there.

So I am going to shine the spotlight on a few of the tools I have used – for free until I was ready to upgrade, either to a paid version of the same tool or to using a more robust version.

Google Drive/Dropbox

Online, accessible file storage.  As a service provider – oh yes please.  We like to head on over to Prince Edward Island quite a lot in the summer and we usually take the ferry.  I am able to access my files offline and can get work done on the sail over.  Need to share files with a client?  Both Google Drive and Dropbox can be shared with clients and I especially like that you can be selective in what you share.  So if you have a client folder with multiple folders, you can just share what you need to without giving access to the whole kit and kaboodle!  I use Google Docs a lot to collaborate on workflows with clients and we can do that in real-time and at the same time!

Grammarly

Oh, how this tool has saved me a few times…Spell check is great, but what if you spell a word correctly but it doesn’t make sense in the context you are using it?  True story… I once sent in a proposal to a really large government organization for funding for a PUBIC Town Hall meeting.  OMG!!!  I hope they had a great laugh over that (and yes, I got the funding!)  But seriously, Grammarly flags potential issues, gives you suggestions with spelling, grammar, punctuation, style and wordiness!

MLR Virtual Solutions - Free Online Tools

Click Up – Trello – Asana

Project Management (PM) tools are the BEES KNEES!  I used to put everything into my Google Calendar as a task, which worked well but was cumbersome and not super efficient if I had other information that was important to the project.  I started my business on Trello, a Kanban board PM tool but have moved over to ClickUp.  ClickUp is like Trello and Asana got together and had a baby (or a unicorn!).  The free version is INCREDIBLY robust and although there is a learning curve it is truly an amazing tool and could likely replace several other tools that you didn’t think you could live without.

Canva

I used the free version of Canva for a super long time.  I have social media clients and design a lot of my Dubsado forms with Canva so I upgraded, but I think that most people can get away with using the free version for almost everything they need.  Great stock photos you can use and soooooo many templates for so many projects that you can rebrand into your colours.  You won’t be disappointed with adding this program to your toolkit.

Planoly

This is a great free tool for planning out your Instagram feed.  We all know how important consistency is with our social media and that includes how it looks when it is all together.  You can upload all your images to the “grid” and see how that will look to others who come to your account.  Don’t like the way it looks, just move the images to how you want them to look.  Create hashtag groups for your posts and auto-post so you can set it and forget it – always a good thing when you are a busy CEO!

Dubsado

Okay, you know I had to!  I don’t have the free version of Dubsado anymore, but I started out with it.  You can have 3 free clients on there before you need to move to a paid version.  One of the things I love about this is that it gives you time to decide if Dubsado is the right tool for you.  And you can do everything with the free version that you can with the paid version.  You can try out the workflows and automations, send invoices and get paid, hook it up to your Quickbook account and your calendar and email systemd.  It is such a timesaver to have all your client information in one place.  I don’t work with my clients outside of Dubsado anymore. We do all our work through our client portal – another blog topic for another day.

Bit.ly

Hate those reallylongURLlinksthatyouhavetopostforpeopletoclickon – well with Bit.ly you can take that long link and shorten it.  You can also customize the back end of the link on the free plan to read whatever you would like after the bit.ly/  The other great thing about Bit.ly is the tracking.  When someone clicks on that link, you are able to tell where they found your link (Facebook, LinkedIn, Email) and where in the world they are from.  Great for making adjustments to your marketing!

Loom

Loom is a great tool for recording your screen.  There is nothing that can be as frustrating as trying to type out instructions in an email. Something gets lost in translation and you likely end up with an essay.  You can add Loom to your web browser and with a push of the record button you are able to record your voice and your screen, showing a step-by-step process.  Once you are finished, you get a link that you can send to your client so they can view the video. Easy Peasy!

MailChimp 

Super important.  DON’T WAIT TO GROW YOUR EMAIL LIST.  You may have thousands of followers on Instagram and a large number of contacts on Facebook, but you don’t own those platforms and the last thing you want is for Facebook to shut it down and you are left with no potential clients at all.  MailChimp is free (up to 2,000 contacts) and although I no longer use it, it is simple and has some amazing features in the free version.  (Think landing pages, a website domain and most recently a creative assistant!)

There are so many other free tools out there and most programs have a free trial so that you can take it for a spin and see if it fits.  Feel free to check out my resources page and let me know some of your favourites.  Especially if I missed any and you think it might be good to have in MY tool kit.


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