21 Free (or Almost Free) Tools for Entrepreneurs to Start a Business

There’s never been an easier time to start a business. Free advice, training, solutions and software are more accessible to start-ups and entrepreneurs than ever before. All you need is the passion and determination to succeed. The rest is at your fingertips.

Starting a business is all about finding the delicate balance between keeping costs down while still getting your product or solution to market. Luckily, the Internet is a treasure trove of free, online and low-cost tools and resources that are available for your business. These tools save you time and help you to run your start-up smoothly and as you grow you can migrate to more extensive packages that do come with a price-tag (but by then you’ll be able to afford the additional investment).

Communication & productivity tools for entrepreneurs

  1. Google’s G-Suite.

    Use G-Suite if you need email hosting for your business.

    How this free tool supports entrepreneurs:

    The basic plan includes:

    • Gmail: G-Suite offers you an enhanced, ad-free version of Gmail, offering your employees email addresses with your business domain name.
    • Google Calendar: Small businesses rely on Google Calendar for scheduling calls with clients, setting due dates and reminders for projects.
    • Google Drive: This storage facility allows you to store, access or share your files in one secure place.
    • Google Docs and Google Sheets: These are text documents and spreadsheets that you can create in your browser. This tool enables employees to work on a single document simultaneously.

    All the Google products work seamlessly within the Google ecosystem and with Microsoft Office and other third-party programmes.

    There are also multiple editions available for your business as it grows and you need more support.

Financial management & accounting software for start-ups

  1. Xero Cloud Accounting

    Solid bookkeeping and keeping track of your finances can make or break your start-up. Luckily today’s start-ups don’t need to rely on Excel spreadsheets.

    Affordable cloud accounting technology is available and vital to help grow your business.

    Xero Cloud Accounting is a cloud-based accounting solution that can help your business by handling quotes and invoices.

    How this tool helps your start-up:

    You can reconcile your books in seconds with Xero’s functionality that allows you to import and categorise your latest bank transactions. A clear view of your numbers will help you run your business efficiently and to know if you’re operating according to budget.

    With online invoicing, you can get paid faster and keep a close eye on whether customers have opened their invoices.

    Run your business on the go with Xero’s mobile app, which allows you to reconcile your accounts, send invoices and create expense claims – from anywhere.

    Although this software isn’t free, the prices are affordable for SMEs and Xero offers a 30-day free trial. Prices can be viewed and compared here.

Online marketing & sales tools for entrepreneurs    

  1. MailChimp         

To grow your business and reach more people it’s a good idea to set up a mailing list, create newsletters and send automated emails to your customers.

MailChimp is a one-stop shop for all your mass-email needs. You can use this great tool to effectively market to your audience from their inbox.

How this tool enables entrepreneurs:

  • MailChimp offers an easy-to-use and customisable programme, with many options to make your email campaigns unique to your business.
  • If you have less than 2000 email subscribers, you can use MailChimp’s basic plan for free.
  • Once your subscriber base grows you can upgrade to one of their other packages.

View prices here.

MailChimp also offers detailed analytics that help you:

  • See how many subscribers have opened your emails
  • Which links they clicked on
  • How many unsubscribed after receiving your email
  • These are all excellent data points that will help you build better campaigns going forward.

Hootsuite

Social media is a great (and free) tool that can help you build your brand. Keeping up with multiple daily posts is difficult and time consuming though, which is where Hootsuite comes in.

How this tool enables entrepreneurs:

  • Hootsuite is an application you can use to manage your social media network channels.
  • You can use it to post updates, read responses, schedule messages and view statistics.

Hootsuite isn’t just for small start-ups. Many international brands like Coca-Cola and Sony Music use Hootsuite to save them time when managing their social media marketing.

Hootsuite offers a 30-day free trial. You can find prices here.

  1. HubSpot

In today’s connected world, people want to be able to talk to businesses, and get a quick response.

However, it’s almost impossible to stay on top of your customer engagement, analytics and lead-development by yourself.

Instead of wasting time trying to stay ahead of all of these vital areas, you can use HubSpot to do it for you.

How this tool enables entrepreneurs:

HubSpot offers analytics to help you improve your marketing strategy. It’s an easy-to-use platform and requires you to have only basic marketing experience under your belt.

Tools offered by HubSpot:

  • Free HubSpot: Everything you need to organise, track, and build better relationships with leads and customers.
  • Marketing Hub: Marketing software that assists businesses to grow traffic, convert more visitors into leads, and run complete campaigns.
  • Sales Hub: Sales software that is designed as a time-saving tool, helping business owners access insights that support closing deals faster.
  • Service Hub: Customer service software that assists business owners to connect with customers.

Although not free, this software isn’t prohibitively expensive for start-ups and it can significantly help your business growth if you utilise it. Find the prices here.

  1. Zoho CRM

When customers are happy, they tend to buy more and stay loyal. A great tool to help you keep your customers happy is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.

Zoho CRM provides the personalised approach that will keep your customers happy.

How this free tool enables entrepreneurs:

  • Zoho CRM’s core function is management of contacts, leads and deals, but it can also help you with automating workflows and providing reports on deals in your sales pipeline.
  • This tool can automate your daily business activities, track sales and engage customers on different platforms, so you can focus on growing your business.
  • You can integrate the platform with your other tools like Microsoft Office, MailChimp, Google Apps and cloud-based connectors.
  • This tool works well for a start-up, small business, single entrepreneur or a large enterprise, which means you won’t have to change to a new tool as your business grows.

When starting out, Zoho CRM is free for up to three users in your business.  Once you’ve grown bigger, tiered rates apply; you can see the prices here.

  1. Qlutch.com

This easy-to-use application turns everyone into a great marketer. Qlutch.com helps you to organise your strategy, campaign, goals and metrics so that you can achieve the repeat results you need from every marketing campaign you invest time and resources into. 

How this tool enables entrepreneurs:

  • com offers almost 400 step-by-step plans for your marketing activity to help you achieve repeatable success and saves you the time of coming up with something new.
  • The benefits of using Qlutch.com include detailed how-to guides, designed specifically to be used by business owners – not marketing gurus.
  • The following guides are on offer:
    • Create a launch strategy
    • Design a brand strategy
    • Plan a marketing campaign
    • Expand distribution channels
    • Write a marketing plan
    • Calculate marketing ROI.

This marketing platform is free if you’re working online, but if you want to download any of the plans and resources, you’ll need to pay a fee every month. Access prices here.

Website building tools for start-ups

  1. Google My Business

    Today’s customers search for businesses online so having a website is a must.

    However, a poorly designed, broken, slow or uninformative website will chase potential clients away just as fast as having no website at all.

    How this tool empowers your start-up:

    Google My Business helps you to create a simple, streamlined website that looks great, in under ten minutes.

    This tool is free, easy to use and you can edit your website from your computer or phone. Here are some of the benefits of using Google My Business:

    • Mobile responsive: It’s important to have a website that also works on mobile as many potential clients will be searching for a business like yours on their phones.
    • Custom domain: Your website address will have your business name in it.
    • Integrated with Google Maps: Google My Business links your phone number and Google Maps location with your website, so your customers will know where to find you.

     

  2. Wix

    The beauty of Wix is that it offers you templates, so you don’t have to come up with an idea from scratch.

    The templates are interchangeable and have customisable options, so you can design exactly what you’re looking for in terms of your online presence.

    How this tool empowers your start-up:

    • Hundreds of templates that help you to choose from a large selection of designer-made options
    • User-friendly designs allow you to drag and drop pieces into your design. You can change, customise or add anything to your website
    • You can create a professional online presence with a custom domain name
    • This website tool also offers mobile responsive site options to ensure your website looks great on every device.
  3. WordPress        

    WordPress started out as the go-to spot for bloggers, but has since grown into a powerful website builder and content management system. 

     

    The tool is easy-to-use and flexible enough to make your website unique and different.

    How this tool empowers your start-up:

    • WordPress is free software. It’s free to download, install, use and modify
    • This tool is easy to customise with thousands of themes and plugins
    • A lot of people using WordPress aren’t web designers or programmers; many users have no website design experience at all and they can still create great websites using WordPress
    • To improve your traffic on search engines like Google, you can use a technique called SEO WordPress is very SEO friendly, and you can even add a plugin to improve your SEO ranking.

    WordPress isn’t just for start-ups. Many top international brands use WordPress including: Time Magazine, Facebook, The New Yorker, Sony, Disney and The New York Times.

  4. Google Analytics

  5. Google Analytics is a free tool you can use to track the traffic to your website. It can tell you how many people came to your website, where they came from, how long they stayed and which pages they visited.

    It can show you:

    • Where your visitors click the most
    • How many new visitors you have
    • Which countries they’re coming from
    • When you start using SEO techniques, you can track how much traffic is coming to your pages and if your SEO is performing properly.

    How this free tool empowers your start-up:


    • You can pull powerful customisable reports that can tell you even more about the performance of your website
    • You can track any marketing campaign that is driving traffic to your site
    • Google Analytics shows you how effective your social media campaign is in driving traffic to your website. 

 

Project management tools for entrepreneurs

  1. Trello

Trello is a free project management tool that helps you see at a glance which projects are being worked on, how far along projects are and who has been working on them.

Trello lets you organise and prioritise your projects in a way that’s fun, flexible and rewarding. All data is stored together and can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, helping your teams to collaborate on projects.

How this tool empowers entrepreneurs:

  • Real-time updates ensure that your team members are always on the ball
  • You can easily add new tasks and assign them to your team members.
  1. Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects is a project management software that helps you manage your projects in a social way. It offers a project feed that gives you a quick overview of the latest activities from your team.

How this tool empowers entrepreneurs:

  • Zoho Projects offers a project calendar so that you and your team members can easily see their tasks, milestones, meetings and deadlines for the next month.
  • Keep track of how many hours you’re putting into each task, making it easier to bill your client.
  • You can easily integrate Google Apps and Microsoft project files.
  • Project tasks, task lists and subtasks help you and your team keep organised and ensure everyone delivers on their projects.

Zoho Projects offers a 10-day free trial before you’ll need to start paying the subscription fees. Compare prices here.

 

Online research tools for start-ups

  1. SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is a web tool that helps you launch surveys on the web.

These can help you to conduct in-depth research about a specific market, employee or customer feedback as well as launch quick polls to help you make better, customer-centric decisions.

How this tool enables your start-up:

  • SurveyMonkey offers quality survey templates, so if you’re looking for a great survey covering a general topic, you can use their templates to save you time.
  • The first level of SurveyMonkey is free, but if you need more options then opt for the paid editions. SurveyMonkey also offers reporting options to help you pull meaning out of all the data you’ve collected.

Although the basic options are free, here are the prices for the upgraded options.

 

Online business training tools for entrepreneurs

  1. MoneyVersity

We’ve listed some software that will help your business, but your personal finances may also need attention.

MoneyVersity is a personal finance tool offered by Old Mutual. It’s designed to help you make the most of your money.

How this tool empowers entrepreneurs:

  • MoneyVersity offers interesting and practical videos, calculators, infographics, articles and games to help you master your personal finances.
  • This tool offers a variety of courses and topics to help you understand your finances better.

        You can use all these tools in your business, and they can help you work towards your dreams.

  1. Coursera

Coursera offers over 124 courses across 17 categories and is the largest open online course education site in the world.

It offers the option of taking a course for free, but you have to pay for the certificate at the end of the course.

How this tool empowers entrepreneurs:

  • Although you may think only a newbie entrepreneur would need to take online courses, the biggest secret to entrepreneurial success is ongoing learning.
  • Each course is an interactive textbook with pre-recorded videos, quizzes and projects.
  • You can connect with thousands of learners online and discuss the course material and debate ideas.
  • There are also over 1 700 companies using Coursera to upskill their employees, which is something you can also look into as your business grows.
  1. Udemy

Udemy is another online course education site. It offers over 65 000 online video courses, with new additions every month.

Udemy also offers ongoing learning specifically for businesses that you can offer your team.

How this tool empowers entrepreneurs:

  • The content is taught by industry experts and real-world practitioners, so there’s nothing theoretical about the knowledge you and your team will be learning.
  • The courses cover a variety of topics including programming, development, business and design. All of these can help improve your business and your teams’ skills.

Although not all the courses are free, Udemy frequently has discount sales, converting courses that could cost over R1 000, to R100.

Business insights & inspiration tools for start-ups

  1. Evan Carmichael

Evan Carmichael offers personal success and business tips for entrepreneurs on his website.

His site is free and offers eBooks to help you improve your skills and self-development. You can also use these resources to upskill your team.

How this tool fuels entrepreneurs:

  • Evan Carmichael’s website is a one-stop-shop for all your self-development needs.
  • He has videos, resources, online quizzes, books and more to help you achieve success.
  • He not only shares his own thoughts and resources, but has collected helpful tools from other famous and successful entrepreneurs, which you can use to keep striving towards success.
  1. Brian Johnson

You can learn to optimise every aspect of your life with the help of Brian Johnson’s website.

He offers three free ‘PhilosophersNotes’ as eBooks to get you started and if you want to learn more you can sign up for the full experience.

How this tool fuels entrepreneurs:

  • In the full experience you have access to Brian Johnson’s coaching masterclasses to help optimise yourself and your team, as well as thousands of summarised philosophies to help you reach your dreams.
  • The paid for module also offers new videos, mp3s and worksheets on a daily basis, with monthly optimal living masterclasses.

Although not everything is free, the cost of joining is low. Find the prices at the bottom of this page here.

  1. Blinkist

Blinkist offers you key action points from the world’s best nonfiction books in text and audio.

The team at Blinkist summarises non-fiction books, which enables you to understand key insights in 15 minutes or less.

How this tool fuels entrepreneurs:

  • You still gain the benefits of the book, without having to spend days reading it.
  • The app is free to download and use, and gives you access to the daily selection.

To access the site’s full service and its features, you’ll need to pay for Blinkist Premium. This will allow you access to over 3 000+ book summaries in over 27 different categories, from politics to entrepreneurship and small business.

A 7-day free trial is available to try out Blinkist Premium.

 

  1. The Gary Vee Audio Experience

Gary Vaynerchuk is one of the world’s most well-known entrepreneurs, particularly when it comes to start-ups and start-up advice.

His podcast is on iTunes’ Global 100 list, and a range of different shows focus on subjects that are important to entrepreneurs launching businesses, running businesses and building their personal skills.

His home page introduces you to the different podcasts available, and he gives his recommendations around which episodes you should start with and why.

How this tool fuels entrepreneurs:

  • Gary Vee has a show called Ask Gary Vee, which addresses real challenges and concerns from entrepreneurs, offering practical advice on solving start-up problems
  • Short, snappy insights help you to build a better business, brand and yourself

All of Gary Vee’s content is free. To subscribe, just go to The Gary Vee Audio Experience

21 Free (or Almost Free) Tools for Entrepreneurs to Start a Business