For the last part of Create Your Dope Biz series, we’re talking about the free and low-cost tools you can use to run your blog and business. From project and time management to creating content (PDFs, webinars) and web tools and resources for your website.
Most of these free tools are perfect for the bosses on a budget. And when it’s time to upgrade, you can purchase the premium plans. Prices are listed below and are subject to change.
Go ahead and bookmark this list and use it as a resource.
(Note: Please do not reach out about adding your tool. I’m no longer updating this post. And any emails will be marked as spam.)
Blog and Social Media*
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Perfect for bloggers to organize your content, service-based businesses to streamline your client process, and students for your class notes and projects.
We’re going to start with my favorite tool: Trello (free, $9.99+/month). Picture Pinterest for your to-do lists and projects. So if you’re obsessed with Pinterest (don’t worry, you’re among friends), then you’ll love Trello. You can drag and drop cards. Add members/clients to your boards. Integrate with other tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Slack.
Here’s an Introduction to Trello as Project and Time Management Tool and some inspiration boards you can customize for personal or business tasks.
Trello to manage projects
Dropbox Paper is another way you can manage your projects and collab with teams and clients. A helpful tool for “capturing ideas and gathering quick feedback from your team. The flexible editor allows for text, task lists, code, file and app embeds, and images”. Watch the demo for using Dropbox Paper.
With Evernote (free, $34.99+/year), you can write, type, or record notes and have it synced to your desktop or mobile devices. You can create to-do lists and set reminders for anything you’re working on. Read How To Use Evernote: 21 Creative Uses.
Resources: Want to know if a project is worth your time? Take this Client Screening Quiz to help you choose. Read Project Management for Dummies by Stanley Portny. Even if you’re not a project manager, this can help you organize and schedule projects, plan and stay within a budget.
Track time for personal projects or client’s projects. Stay focused and productive in everything you do. Also, automating = major key. And good for your skin. Don’t question me, just go with it.)
If This, Then That aka IFTTT connects with all of your apps and devices. You can link up with your Twitter account, for example, and save liked tweets to Pocket to read later. You can sync it with your Gmail account to automatically add all starred emails to Evernote. And those tasks are all called “recipes”.
Recipes for those fancy robotic, futuristic, George Jetson homes, for the small biz owners and solo bosses, and music lovers. Recipes to Streamline your Social Media and 60 recipes for to keep you healthy and fit..
Features for If This, Then That
Recommended reading: Automate your life with the help of these 2 books: Automate Your Routines Guarantee Results by Kathryn Jones. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod.
Zapier is like IFTTT, but has limited features with the free plan (only 5 2-step “zaps” and basic tools). You can integrate your apps and automate your processes and workflows. For $20 a month you can have 20+ zaps at once, set up 3 or more steps, and have access to all 500 apps.
Use Toggl to track time, set billable rates, share time reports, and share progress for you or your team. They have free and premium plans starting at $9 to $49 a month.
Workflowy is another simple tool. It’s a checklist and you can add hashtags to make your list searchable or @someone to filter your list.
Auto Text Expander is a Google Chrome extension. You’ll save time by creating shortcuts (or snippets) for those longer texts. Perfect for canned email responses or codes that you don’t want to type out every single time. In the gif below, all I had to do was type “@quote” and my blockquote snippet popped up with the whole HTML code. Voila!
Resources: Productive Flourishing has free planners and ebooks to keep biz owners productive. Here are 50 Free Apps To Make You An Incredibly Productive Person, 32 Productivity Tips from Top Designers, and the Best Hacks for Working from Home.
Organizing, saving, and sharing files (pics, videos, PDFs). You can keep track and gain access from your computer, mobile devices, or cloud storage with Google Drive which starts you out with 15GB of free storage. For more space, upgrade to their $1.99/mo plan for 100GB or 1TB for $9.99/mo.
You can also use Dropbox to manage your docs for free or with plans starting at $8.25/mo for 1TB or $12.50 for unlimited space.
You can use Evernote again, for project management. You can create notes (written or audio) for your project or save blog posts ideas. You can save articles or images to read later or for inspiration. Plus, share those files with team members, family, or clients. You can choose from the free Basic plan with 60MB of new uploads per month, Plus plan with 1GB for $34.99 per year, or Premium plan with 10GB for $69.99 per year. And you can now sync Evernote and Google Drive together.
Evernote Plans – Basic, Plus, and Premium
With Backblaze you can backup unlimited data for $5 a month (or save money with their $50 a year plan). I use this to backup all of my files on my laptop. So if something happens to my laptop, all of my files will be in cloud storage. I can also locate it by using their Mapping system if it gets lost or stolen:
If your computer uses WiFi, the Backblaze application can see the identifier of the WiFi networks available to the computer. Backblaze then cross-references the WiFi network identifier against a location database.
Unroll.me keeps your favorite emails that you actually read in your inbox, unsubscribes you from the ones you don’t read, and Rolls up everything else into one folder so you can read it later. It’s free and works for Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, AOL, and iCloud.
Try one of these 17 Gmail Extensions that Make Your Life Easier.
Tired of being stuck on how to set up Dubsado or HoneyBook?
Want to know the right things to say to new leads and clients?
Ready to focus on connecting with your audience knowing everything is running smoothly in the backend?
Get instant access to done-for-you templates to help you improve your client experience!
Add important dates and sync it to other calendars like Google Calendar, set reminders to send to other parties, and more.
With Acuity Scheduling, you can “automatically send branded & customized confirmations, reminders & follow-ups—via email or text message—and even accept payment and tips via Stripe, Square, PayPal, Braintree & Authorize.net with the click of a button.” They have free and paid plans starting at $10 to $34 a month for advanced features.
Calendar Management with Acuity
Calendly is similar to Acuity but beautifully designed and easier to use. No more email/phone tag, just set your availability (and blackout dates for holidays or vacations) and send the link to your prospects or clients. Their basic plan is free and you pay $8 for premium.
Keep track of money coming in and out. Send invoices to clients and reminders when they forget to pay. Quickly take or send payments online or in person.
Wave lets you manage your personal (any bank account) and business accounts (Stripe or Paypal). You can create, send, and track your branded invoices. It’s free to use for accounting and invoicing. If you have employees to pay, use their payroll services which starts at $19 per month.
Wave Apps Dashboard
Mint helps you manage your money and budget. You can check your credit score, receive notifications from your bank accounts, plus get tips on saving money or how to improve your credit score. You can also check your score at Credit Karma.
Make your accountant (or yourself) happy and set up a PayPal Business Debit MasterCard account so you don’t mix up your personal and business transactions.
Quickly receive or send payments using PayPal.Me. Just share your personalized link: “paypal.me/yourname” to anyone and your money is deposited to your PayPal account. It’s free to the sender, but you pay the usual PayPal fees, 2.9% and 30 cents per transaction if you’re using the account for “Goods and Services”. The “Friends and Family” account is free if you’re depositing funds to your bank or PayPal account.
With a text-based app called Digit ($2.99/mo), you can quickly put money aside into your savings account depending on your spending habits or balance. (And you don’t even need to have a savings account from your bank.) Read more on how you can use this app to save for quarterly taxes. Calculate your quarterly taxes with Quarterly Tax Calculator Bot from AND CO.
Alternatives: For more accounting software, try Xero which starts at $9 a month and goes up to $70 a month. Use it for invoicing and quotes, track payment transactions, handle purchase orders, payroll, and inventory. AND CO ($9/mo) helps you go from proposal to payment in one spot.
Templates, proposals, and contracts for business owners
Docracy is a collection of legal contracts and other docs. You can download, customize, and sign documents online for free99.
Legal Documents from Docracy
Alternatives: Using those templates from Docracy, you can also get them signed online using SignEasy (free, $3.33+/month), HelloSign (free, $13+/month) or Shake by LegalShield. Try AND CO to create easy to read contracts for your new clients.
Bonsai (free, $16+/month) is perfect for designers, developers, photographers, writers, and other contractors. Send contracts or use the template and plug in your info, sign docs online, send invoices and accept credit cards or bank transfers.
Check out Proposify for proposals. You can design and create templates, send them for online signatures, track your close rate (and see how long your future client looked at the proposal), and integrate with accounting software like Quickbooks or Harvest. They have plans starting at $25 a month, but if you’re on a budget, you can take a look at their 24 templates for inspiration and then create your own on Canva or Google Slides.
Proposal Templates from Proposify
Customize templates and send proposals to prospects with Bidsketch. Integrate with apps/software like Zapier and Freshbooks with plans starting at $19 to $149 a month.
Patrice from Creative Genius Law has a free course called “Protect Your Brand in Cyberspace“. She goes over trademarks and copyrighting – how to name your products and services, protecting your brand and creative work from copycats.
Notarize is an online notary service. You can get your documents notarized online anytime from any state for $25.
Real-time messaging, video chats, group conferences, screen sharing with anyone, anywhere.
Slack is a real-time messaging app/software where you can set up channels (chat rooms) and categorize by departments, send direct messages to other members, and integrate with Google apps on your desktop or mobile device. They have a free plan and paid plans starting at $6.67 to $12.50 per user/per month. Learn how to use these 17 Slack Integrations to Spice up Your Team Communication.
Join.me lets you collaborate quickly with screen sharing, simple video conferencing, and unlimited audio for free.
Use Zoom.us for video and web conferencing. Up to 50 attendees and 40 minutes each meeting for their Basic plan. Paid plans start from $14.99 to $19.99 a month.
Set up a Google Voice number and use that as your business phone instead of using your real number. You can forward all of your calls and messages (text and voice) to your phone.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Improve customer service and your workflow by using a CRM system. Track everything from when your prospect fills out the inquiry form to the end of the project where you can send emails to get feedback or referrals from your client. Plus, other tools for connecting with clients and team members.
Streak has a free plan and premium plans starting at $19 to $89 per month. If you’re just starting out, the free plan will probably be all you’ll need. You’ll have a CRM system, see when your email was opened, send emails in advance, have private inboxes or share with other team members, and snooze your emails to read later all in Google Apps for Work or Gmail account.
Use Streak to track leads, emails, and more
With 17 Hats, you can basically run your business and save a lot of time with this all-in-one tool. Send quotes, contracts, and invoices. Track leads, sync projects with your Google Calendar, plus track time. They now have a free Basic plan for up to 3 projects, and prices start at $25+ a month or pay $299 per year.
17 Hats Features
Alternatives: Sync your Gmail or Outlook with HubSpot CRM and see your project from beginning to end for free. Or use Zoho CRM which can be integrated with your Google Apps. Their Forever Free plan is great for up to 10 users and their premium plans start at $12 to $35 per month. Freedcamp is a free project management tool similar to Trello but with a CRM system for $12.99 a month.
For customer care, you can use Zendesk as a help desk center and connect with customers/clients in one spot with emails, social media, phone, or chat support. They have plans starting from $5 for “Essential” to $99 for “Enterprise”.
Blog and Social Media
With Buffer, you can schedule up to 10 posts per profile for free with your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and now Instagram. For $10 a month you can add Pinterest and schedule up to 100 posts per profile.
Hootsuite includes scheduling for up to 3 social media profiles and basic analytics for free. For their Pro plan, $10/month includes up to 50 profiles, bulk message scheduling, and an enhanced analytics report. When you sign up, use the dashboard to monitor your feed, check out your branded hashtag, or view twitter chats all in one window.
Alternatives: Coschedule is an all in one calendar for your blog and social media scheduling. For $15/month this includes 5 social profiles and $30/month with 10 profiles and bulk scheduling. Use Tweetdeck to view multiple windows like Hootsuite.
Crowdfire lets you keep track of your Twitter and Instagram followers. Find out who follows, unfollows, and inactive followers. You can also publish and schedule posts.
Tweriod lets you know when’s the best time to post your tweets and you can easily sync with your Buffer account. You can also find or add Twitter Chats to join.
Boardbooster to schedule pins, contribute to group boards, test broken pins, clean up boards, and more. Free trial includes 100 pins, $5 for 500 pins, $10 for 1000 pins, and so on. Pingroupie to find group boards in any topic. Pinterest Analytics to see average daily and monthly views by demographics and interests. Increase engagement with Rich Pins and learn the Easy Way to Set up Rich Pins.
With Alerts, you can monitor the web for content or check what other people are saying about you and your business. You’ll receive an email whenever your topic (or brand) is published. Find out what’s happening now around the world with Trends.
Use Analytics to monitor your sites and newsletters to gain insights and improve your business.
For easy to read Google Analytics, use Quill Engage. You’ll receive 1 basic GA report, weekly and monthly reports (every Tuesday and on the 2nd of the month) for free. For $20 per month, it’s up to 3 reports (Mondays and 1st of the month), up to 5 email recipients, PDF files to download and more.
Quill Engage for easy to read Google Analytics
Grammarly is a free grammar and spell checking app. Grammarly is free to use and can be used anywhere (e.g., email and WordPress post/pages) once you download their Chrome extension. You can install it to your desktop and use their app or in Microsoft Word. Prices start at $29/month, $59/quarter, and $139/year for advanced features.
Hemingway Editor is similar to Grammarly. The web version is free and $9.99 to download their software.
Keyword Tool is a free tool similar to Google Keyword Planner. It helps you find keywords people are typing in Google search, Youtube, Bing, and Amazon. You can then use those keywords people search for and add them to your posts to improve your site’s SEO (search engine optimization).
You can use Yoast SEO plugin or SERP (for non-WordPress users) for SEO help.
Use Click to Tweet from Coschedule so folks can share your posts or quotes to Twitter. Like so… click to share with your peeps:
Resources: Coschedule, Buffer Blog, and ProBlogger for tips and resources for your blog and social media posts. Follow your fave bloggers and news with Feedly and Nuzzel.
Search for the most shared content with BuzzSumo. Get some Guest Blogging tips and learn How To Blog and What to Blog About.
List of sites that offer free stock photos. Make sure you read the fine print to know if attribution is needed and if it’s ok to use for commercial or personal use. **Royalty-free images starting at $10.
Resources: Some more freebies – curated list of free stock photos and Free Stock Photo Sites for Your Presentation or Online Course.
Tools: Use Tiny PNG to reduce your PNG and JPG images and speed up your site. For mockups, use Smart Mockups or Graphic Burger. Create free mockups and templates for your ebooks with Adazing. Use Zoommy App ($4.99) to view and download over 10,000 free stock photos.
Use one these email marketing tools to keep your readers updated behind the scenes.
TinyLetter by MailChimp is a free and simple way to send newsletters without all of that extra stuff.
MailChimp’s “Starting Up” plan lets you have up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 emails per month for free. The “Growing Business” and “Pro Marketer” have monthly plans starting at $20 per month for unlimited emails and extra add-ons like automation (perfect for email courses) and segmentation (target based emails).
With Mailerlite, you can send unlimited emails for up to 1000 subscribers for free. You can also create landing pages for your e-products and webinars for free. MailerLite has the same features as MailChimp, but less expensive and automation is free. See MailChimp vs. Mailerlite for comparison.
Newsletter Templates from MailerLite
Another tool I want to use in the future: ConvertKit. I signed up for a free 30-day trial courtesy of Mariah Coz of Femtrepreneur and fell in love. insert heart eyes They have landing pages you can add to your website, “Broadcasts” for timed content (onboarding, launches, email courses) and more.
What they don’t have, unfortunately, is a free plan, so their paid plans start at $29 a month for up to 1,000 subs, $49 for up to 3,000 subs, and so on. All plans include unlimited forms, courses, landing pages, and emails. And you can integrate with tools like Zapier, Gumroad, LeadPages, and Shopify.
You can use Mailmunch or Privy to grow your mail list with fancy mobile-friendly landing pages and opt-in forms to collect emails, and check your stats. You can integrate with MailChimp, ConvertKit, and more. They both have free plans and plugins for WordPress. You can also use Hello Bar to add pop-ups, sliders, or site bars (see mine above the nav bar) to any website to turn visitors into readers or clients.
For dummy text, try one of these 55 generators.
Creating fancy cheat sheets and checklists for your ecourses, workbooks or slides for your webinar, or intro/welcome packets for your clients.
For my fellow non-designers, you can customize templates or create your own resumes, flyers, Kindle book covers, social media posts and email headers for free with Canva.
Google Docs is another free option to create presentation slides, graphics, excel sheets, and text documents.
Choose from one of these 50 Free Branding Templates Designed for Businesses to create presentation slides or use Venngage for infographics. Then show off and share them on Slideshare by Linkedin.
Tools: Convert documents to PDF, JPG, PNG, and TIF. Plus, merge docs into one file with PDF Forge or PDF Joiner. PDFescape is a free PDF editor and form filler. Use this to create workbooks so your readers/viewers can type their notes instead of printing them out.
Resources: How to Create Worksheets & Freebies for Your Online Business with InDesign, Apple Pages, and Google Docs.
Create webinars to grow your audience, screencasts for tutorials.
Jing is a free way to share 5-minute videos or screenshots. For longer videos (up to 15-minutes), try Screencast-o-matic for screen and webcam recording. You can also publish those videos to YouTube. For $15 a year, you can create longer videos without their watermarks, record audio, edit, and add it to Google Drive, Vimeo, and Dropbox. Here are some tips to set up your own home studio for video production.
Use Webinar Ally to host your webinars. It’s a WordPress plugin that you’ll use with Google Hangouts on Air. It’s $27 for unlimited webinars on unlimited personal websites, no attendee limits, and 1 year of email support and updates. Developers can pay $97 to use on your sites and client sites.
WebinarAlly Plugin for WordPress
LiceCap is a free software that lets you create animated screen captures from your desktop and save it as a GIF. You can add these GIFs to your tweets, blog posts, or emails.
With CourseCraft, you’ll pay $49 per paid course that you create for unlimited attendees and uploads (they host it all for you), custom branding, quizzes, and forms. No monthly fees, just 5% plus PayPal/Stripe fees (2.9% and .30 cents) per transaction.
Use Teachable to create free or paid courses like Regina of by Regina. She created Scrappy Courses for infopreneurs, bloggers, and creatives. You can build your own school with courses that are viewable on mobile and the web. You can also create a community, add forums and quizzes with their free plan or paid plans starting at $39 a month.
Alternatives: Teachery has $49 per month and $470 per year plans with no transaction fees. With Skillshare , you can earn money every month just by teaching what you know. Create and sell online courses with Zippy, a WordPress plugin you can integrate with Aweber, Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, Stripe, and Paypal for $199 a year.
Create podcasts so your readers can listen on their way to work or add music to your courses with free audio tracks.
You can use Audio Jungle to add royalty free music and sound effects.
Read Beginner’s Guide: Creating and Launching Your Own Website to find out where to purchase your domain name and web hosting, plus choose between WordPress/Squarespace.
Create and learn what to say for the essential pages for your website.
Password managers, browser and website security, and two-factor authentication (2FA)
Use 1Password or Last Pass to save all of your login and credit card info, and any important details. You can generate passwords to improve your online security. 1Password has a 30-day free trial and $5/month after. LastPass has a free plan but for $12/year you can use features like syncing it to all of your mobile devices.
Have all your info in one spot with one those tools so your family or team members can have access to it if there’s an emergency (or you’re going on vacation). Read How to Prep Your Business for an Emergency.
I use iThemes to secure my site and the Google Authenticator – Two Factor Authentication plugin to login. I add my username and password and they’ll ask for the access code from my Google Authenticator app from my phone.
Use Sucuri’s free website malware and security scanner to check your site. And if you ever get hacked, use their Website Malware Cleanup and Repair service to clean up your website. Plans start from $16.99 to $41.66 per month/site.
For my fellow lifetime learners, you can learn a LOT on the web. Take “TMI” to another level. Plus it’s a great idea to start a hobby so find something non-business related below.
Learn design (logo, web, graphic, interior), photography, web development, music, and cooking classes at Skillshare. Their free plan gives you access to 600 courses that can be viewed on your desktop or mobile device. To view all of their 5,500+ premium courses offline, their paid plan is $8/month. Start off with a free month here.
Resources: The Ultimate List of Free Courses
Learn languages like Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Russian, Spanish, and French (what I’m re-learning now) with Duolingo. It’s a free app you can use on the web and mobile. You’ll be able to read, listen, and speak with quizzes. And you can add a badge to your Linkedin account to show your progress.
Creative Bloq has courses for aspiring photographers, game or app developers, copywriters, web or graphic designers, and more.
Learn how to code, build your portfolio, and help nonprofits with Free Code Camp. It’s an open source community that helps you become a software developer. Or try Code for Social Good to “improve your skills and the world”.
Resources: 25 Websites Other Than Social Media To Upgrade Your Life, Become a Web Developer with these 100+ tools and resources. Skillcrush for tips and courses to help you become a web developer/designer.
And that is all, my friend. If you found this post helpful, share this post with your folks. Pls + thx.
Note: There are too many apps to keep up with so instead of updating this post every few months, please check out Product Hunt to find your new fave tool. Thanks for understanding!
This post is the last part of Create Your Dope Biz series. See you in the next post.