As a budding entrepreneur, you may be tempted to splurge on fancy offices, cool gadgets, and glossy business cards — since these investments can help make your newly formed company seem more legitimate.
Yet, covering expenses like these is one of the primary reasons why so many businesses fail in their first few years. They have more money going out than coming in, and it’s just a matter of time before these startups have to close their doors.
However, there are some tools worth exploring — no matter where you are in your business journey. With the right software, for example, you can more easily scale your operations and automate many time-consuming tasks. If those platforms have the advantage of being free, it’s possible to stay lean and control your expenses before they get out of hand.
Below are five of the best software programs to help take your small business to the next level.
1. Google Drive
When most business owners need word processing, spreadsheets, or presentations, they turn to the Microsoft Office Suite. This one platform has all of the tools and features an entrepreneur could possibly need.
But Google Drive is a free competitor that offers essentially the same features. Because it’s cloud-based, you benefit from anytime/anywhere access — no matter where you go (or what device you’re using). You can even collaborate in real time with other team members.
Better still, Google Drive comes with ample online storage for all of your documents and files. This means you don’t have to worry about losing everything if your computer ever crashes.
On any given day, you might be flooded with tons of articles, project ideas, or other resources you’d like to keep for future reference.
Pen and paper can do the trick, and Google Drive is a great way to store ideas online. Yet, keeping these notes organized becomes more and more challenging as your list continues to grow.
That’s where Evernote comes in — another cloud-based service that can store all of your reference materials and make them easily searchable. The platform offers subscription plans. However, you can use Evernote on up to two devices simultaneously — without paying anything.
Evernote is great for storing ideas, but there are plenty of tasks you need to track as well, such as:
- Remember to call Greg on Tuesday.
- Write draft No. 1 of your next blog post.
- Send this week’s receipts to Sarah.
It’s possible to keep all of this in your head during the early days. As your project list becomes longer and more complex, though, you’ll need a to-do app like Wunderlist. This cloud-based platform allows you to create projects, tasks and even subtasks — all with reminders and tags.
Oh, and it’s free.
Skype wasn’t the first voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) solution, but it quickly emerged as one of the most popular. Once signed in, you can video conference with other Skype users for free. Plus, calling landlines or mobile phones is incredibly cheap.
You can install Skype on as many devices as you want. You can also access calls, chats and video through its online interface.
The best way to save and budget for the future is to set aside a little money every month. Still, most businesses have variable income, making it difficult to save the same amount on a regular basis:
- In some months, you might be overdrawn.
- Other times, you could have put in more money.
However, Qapital is a free mobile app that lets you create percentage-based savings rules. With this feature, you can save 25 percent of every incoming dollar for taxes, rainy day funds, or whatever other contingencies you desire.
When Choosing Software — Keep It Lean, Free, and in the Cloud
The five examples above are just that — examples. There are countless other suggestions that almost made the list, including:
- Wave for accounting
- WordPress for blogging
- Trello for project management
- Duplicati for file backups
We could go on forever.
The point is — you should avoid investing in expensive software when there are cloud-based alternatives that deliver the same features (for free). Building your company with these tools allows you to grow your business while keeping your operations as lean and affordable as possible.