Sometimes, the best things in life are free. In over 10 years of building platforms and creating content online, I’ve had to use many different tools for different purposes. In some cases, it would have been impossible to achieve tangible results without the right tools. In other instances, these free tools are the best options you can find; far better than the paid alternatives. And some of these tools have been the foundation upon which I have built my business. Today, I want to share with you 5 of my best free business tools of all time.
If you are a business owner or looking to start a business, you need to read this piece to the end because you will learn how to use these important tools to grow your business. So what are some of the best free business tools you can use to grow your business?
If you want to build a functional website from scratch, it will cost you thousands of dollars and months to complete. But thanks to open source technology, hundreds of experienced developers and designers had invested their skills to build one of the best software to create a website in just minutes. WordPress is the best content management system to build a website today for the most common types of websites. It accounts for about 32 percent of entire websites on the internet and about 59 percent of CMS-built websites.
I’ve built websites for the past 10 years, and 99 percent of the time, I use WordPress. Ten years ago blogs were seen as a personal diary — your own virtual space where you can share thoughts, ideas, expertise. Suddenly, blogging was no longer just a hobby — you could monetize your content, gain influence or bring together huge audiences from around the world. Today, there are more than 500 million blogs out of 1.7 billion websites in the world; publishing over 2 million blog posts daily.
Our website was built on WordPress. Same goes for my business and personal websites. If you are looking to start a blog or build a website for your business, WordPress is the best tool for you. And it is free to use. You just have to pay for the server to host it and a domain name to people to access it.
- Google Analytics
For lack of a better description, I’d say it’s a sin to have a public website without installing analytics on it; of which Google Analytics is often your best choice. The reason is simple; you cannot improve what you cannot measure. Google analytics offers the insight to know what is happening on your website; who is visiting, from where, from what, what are they looking for, why did they visit, what are their interests, how is your website performing on different platforms and a whole lot of insights.
You cannot build your digital property on guesswork. Google Analytics will help you eliminate the guesswork to a large extent. I’ve used this tool to improve my business in many ways. In fact, the direction AfterschoolAfrica.com had taken over the years was largely informed by the insights I gained through Google analytics. If you have a website or blog and do not have Google analytics installed, leave whatever you are doing now and go set it up. If you have someone managing your website, call the person to set up Google Analytics on your website. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.
- Google Keyword Planner
Imagine you are a dog trainer and want to start a business training dogs for local customers. How will you know if there are people interested in your business? Would you just start with faith, and hope that people show up? What if there was a way to know if people are really interested in training their dogs in your country or even within your state? What if you could get an idea of the size of this market online?
Keyword Research tools help answer these questions; and Google Keyword Planner is one of the best free options. You can easily figure out what people within your location are searching for on search engines relative to your industry. As a content creator, you want to get in the head of your audience or customers. You want to know what they are thinking about the problem you are solving. These are usually the words they type-in when searching online. The search engines collect this information and present it to you in an easy to understand manner. You get to know the exact and related words and phrases these people are searching for, the size of this audience per month, and the level of competition for each search term. This information will help you to build your digital strategy to attract the right audience by giving them what they want.
I have used this tool extensively to focus on creating content people are looking for. Building an online business is hard work and takes time. But when you have done proper research, you can be sure you are going in the right direction.
If you are serious about building a business online, you must grow an audience you can reach at any time. Email marketing is one of the best ways to reach a group of people who want you to contact them. You can do this by creating an account with an email management system, adding a form on your website and getting people to subscribe with their email to get free content from you. You can then send email to these people periodically from a simple interface, with few clicks. One of the best free tools to grow your small business through email marketing is Mailchimp. It’s free to use for your first 2,000 email subscribers. After which you will be charged by the number of subscribers you have. The downside is that the price can quickly become high as your subscribers count hits high 5 to 6 figures.
I started using Mailchimp to build our email list from the free to a paid version and stuck with it until we were paying over $700 per month. We had to move to a more cost-effective option. With our current number of email subscribers, we’ll be paying well over $1,000 per month on Mailchimp. That’s over $10,000 per year on email marketing tool alone. If you are a small business, you’ll be okay with the free version; you’ll also be good when you exceed 2,000 subscribers and start paying the small price. As your business grows, the price may become unjustifiable for a lot of businesses.
- G Suite
With your Gmail account, you get access to a lot of Google products for free. You get Google Drive, Google Doc, Google Spreadsheet, Google Meet and Google Calendar. These tools come handy for different important purposes. You can store your files, device backup, and catalogs on Drive. You can edit your documents on Doc and spreadsheet, schedule and hold meetings on Calendar and Meet.
For business owners, Google offers a more professional service called G Suite for business. Instead of having your Gmail address as email@example.com, you get it as firstname.lastname@example.org. You also get access to all of the products I’ve mentioned with more features and capabilities. However, this comes at a cost per email starting at $5 per month. We have been used G Suite for business from when it was launched as Google Apps for Domain many years ago. At that time, Google offered the service free for life to early adopters. So we’ve been using G Suite for business for free for as long as I can remember. I told you, I’ve been in this for a long time, remember?
It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with the right set of tools. I’ve been able to build thriving businesses simply by leveraging these tools over many years. These tools are available for anyone to use as they please. You too can use them to start and grow your business. Which of these free tools do you use for your business? Tell us about it in the comment section below.