Do your accounting, create graphics, protect files, and more with these free business apps
The good old days of everything free on the internet may be over, but that doesn't mean you can't find awesome free tools for your small business. And that's a good thing because buying software, upgrading and paying for online subscriptions is expensive. Why do it if you don't have to?
Over the years, I've used lots of free and low-cost software program. I've found some gems, too. Here are five free programs that cover everything from accounting to graphic creation. I've used and still use most of them myself.
Note: All of these programs have been around for long time. The information herein is accurate at the time of this writing. But, nothing's certain except... well, you know. Check out each program's current features and requirements before committing yourself.
Also be aware that some of these applications offer pay-based as well as free plans.
Office Suite Extraordinaire
LibreOffice Suite truly is extraordinary. Every office task is covered, from word processing to spreadsheets to mathematical functions to databases to presentations to vector drawing. Whew, let's just say this program has every feature your business needs and then some. And, to top it off, LibreOffice is fully compatible with Microsoft Office.
That's a stunner because millions of people use MS Office. Full compatibility means you can share and open documents with your colleagues, attorney, Aunt Bessie and any other MS Office user without a hitch. It also means if you've used Office in the past and have documents in Word format, you'll be able to open them flawlessly. Same goes for Excel, Access and PowerPoint files.
LibreOffice Suite is an open-source program. Boatloads of developers across the globe work on updating the suite and adding new features. Downloadable templates and add-ons provide additional functionality. You're sure to find whatever your business needs in the online repository.
I have used several free office suites. LibreOffice is the best by far.
If the thought of choosing an accounting program makes you feel nauseous, put the Dramamine away! Wave Accounting's free option gives you the tools to keep track of expenses, create invoices, stay on top of payments and manage your business's overall finances.
As your business needs grow, Wave offers a pay-as-you-go suite that includes credit card and bank payment processing and payroll.
I haven't used Wave myself, but based on reviews, it looks like a great little small business accounting application.
Email Got Ya Down?
I used Campaign Monitor for email marketing for a number of years. Checking the site today, though, it looks like the only free plan they currently offer is for recipient lists of five or fewer. OK, I said to myself, there must be another solid email marketing plan that's free for small business, right? Yep, I found one.
MailChimp offers built-in signup forms for building your email list, a drag-and-drop designer to wow your recipients and templates for easy creation. The free option is perfect for businesses with a subscriber list of fewer than 2,000. You can send a maximum of 12,000 emails per month and MailChimp even offers a lightweight reporting program that tracks open rates for campaign and industry comparisons.
As your email list grows, you can move up to a paid plan for more options.
Not a Graphic Designer? Perfect!
You don't have to be a whiz at graphics to impress. Do what I did - open a free account with Canva. Canva has a wide variety of customizable templates for everything from Twitter and Facebook cover graphics to blog post images. Canva also has a host of templates for print advertising.
Not everything is free at Canva. I've noticed in the last couple of months the free options have dwindled considerably. But, there are still plenty of free templates and elements to get you going. Once you finish your masterpiece, download it and use it where you choose.
Many of the paid-for templates are affordably priced, so if there's something you really, really like, purchasing it won't break the bank.
What can I say? I love AVG Free. I've used it for years and it's superb. It doesn't tax my PC. It's easy to configure. It's not intrusive except for the occasional nag screen asking me to upgrade. I simply click the decline option and go my merry way.
Free protection includes real-time security updates, performance and malware scans. When AVG encounters malicious downloads, unsafe email attachments or any other security threat, it blocks the action and alerts you. I have never had a virus or been compromised in all the years I've used it.
A caveat: I am careful not to open attachments without checking with the sender first, I never click links in emails that appear to come from financial institutions and I steer clear of questionable websites. No anti-virus program can protect you completely if you willingly take chances.
That's my list of favorites. Have you discovered any awesome free tools for your small business? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.