Free (or almost free) apps for small businesses

Here are a pick of the most effective and affordable apps that can scale as your business grows.

Small businesses rarely have small problems or big budgets. I’m always on the lookout for technology that would make our lives easier. Unfortunately, clunky user interfaces and non-existent support means apps are often more trouble than they were worth.

Here are a few apps that I can’t live without. These five are easy to use apps are cloud-based and scalable, this means they can grow along with your company. The best bit is that each app has a free or nearly free version for businesses just starting out who need to control costs.

Zendesk

Zendesk simplifies and streamlines customer service. The app consolidates all customer communications like email, social media, websites, and even phone into individual “tickets” that all your team can access and respond to. You can automate standard responses, store customer histories, and create product forums where customers can interact and answer each other’s questions.

Zendesk offers a special “Starter Plan” for up to three users for $20 per year. Regular monthly plans start at $24 per user.

Google Drive

File-sharing is an important part of a growing business, and Google Drive makes it nearly fool-proof. Multiple users can collaborate in real time, creating, editing, and commenting on documents in the cloud. Revisions save automatically, and more importantly you can access your documents from any device. All of this represents a huge productivity leap over the old-fashioned approach: attaching documents to emails and sending endless versions back and forth in a game of email ping pong.

Individual users get 15 GB of free storage. Monthly business plans start at $5 per user and include 30 GB of storage.

Evernote

Say goodbye to post-it notes. Evernote is an indispensable vacuum cleaner-style app that sucks up all of the random data you encounter on the Internet and in your real life. Whether it’s excerpts from websites, photos, voice memos, documents, or handwritten scribbles, it all gets stored in the cloud as individual “notes.” You can then sort, tag, edit, and even share these “notes” with colleagues. All of this information is in turn accessible across all of your devices and syncs automatically.

Individual users can upload up to 60 MB of content per month for free. Evernote Business ($10 per user per month) offers 1 GB per month

MailChimp

While social media has proliferated, old-fashioned email marketing remains a critical way to reach clients and build connections. MailChimp is a no-nonsense, intuitive tool for creating email lists and keeping track of which customers are opening messages and clicking on links. You can easily import contacts and even segment your lists so subscribers receive only relevant emails. MailChimp also includes basic A/B testing features, for comparing which subject lines and send times work best.

Free users can send up to 12,000 emails per month to up to 2,000 subscribers. Unlimited plans start at $10 per month.

HootSuite

HootSuite is a valuable tool. Several million people and thousands of small businesses use HootSuite to manage their social media communications. A web-based dashboard lets you access dozens of social networks in one place. You can set up streams to monitor keywords and specific followers, as well as access detailed analytics reports showing who’s reading and responding to your posts.

HootSuite’s free plan allows tracking for up to 5 social profiles. The $8.99 per month pro plan offers tracking for up to 50 profiles and advanced analytics.

All five of these apps have healthy, growing user bases, which means they’ll be around for a long time, rolling out regular updates to keep things fresh and stay relevant as your business expands.

By using all or some of these apps, your business life will take a huge step forward in productivity and efficiency, and you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them!
And yes I do pay in $’s, the US is ahead of us in innovation when it comes to business apps.

What apps do you use in your business and couldn’t live without?