There are so many incredible free tools online to help me run my business efficiently, inspire creativity, and increase productivity. I use tools to help me organize things to save time and stay motivated.
Why pay for something when there’s a fantastic alternative for free? This list includes 13 tools that are free or have a free version, as well as 2 tools I pay for because I can’t imagine doing my job without them. They’re worth it!
General Business Management Tools
This has first place in my list because it’s my favorite business tool (even though it’s one of the 2 in this post that are not free). I wrote a full review and explain how I use it here.
Spreadsheets are sometimes the best way to keep track of things. Many people are intimidated by them, and that’s understandable when you open a blank Excel spreadsheet (or equivalent).
AirTable changes all that. Whether you start with their beautifully designed templates, or create one from scratch, having a custom database is not only easy, it’s fun – and FREE!
What I love about AirTable:
- No need to understand complex formulas
- Beautiful design and color options
- Drag and drop
- Super easy to customize views without losing the original database
- Simple sharing and integration with other platforms
- Basic spreadsheet format, or calendar, gallery, Kanban, or form styles
I use this tool to keep track of blog post ideas, bigger projects with many tasks and deadlines, financial stuff, guest post contributors (contact info, requests, submissions, etc.), and more.
I resisted going all digital for so long, but I just couldn’t deny the convenience and efficiency of “the cloud”. Being able to access and share everything from anywhere is super efficient. I appreciate that Google is FREE – even with all the features and apps.
I use Google Mail for all my emails. I have several accounts for various companies (including my own), and being able to access them all in one place simplifies my life.
Google Drive allows me to write and share blog post drafts with clients. Clients can comment and edit. My work goes with me wherever I go. It’s saved automatically.
Tasks is an added feature on my desktop when I log into my email. On my phone, I use the separate app. I’m able to create multiple task lists and even use this for my grocery list. It’s handy having it all with me wherever I go.
Calendar keeps me up-to-date with my own schedule, but also that of my entire family. We share a calendar and I can quickly see where everyone is, what’s going on, which vehicle is needed at specific times, etc. Before CoSchedule, I used Google Calendar to keep track of blog and social posts, too.
Google Forms is a relatively new tool that’s handy for creating surveys and tracking responses.
Website Hosting & Design Tools
I’ve used various site hosts over the years – personally and for clients. After repeated horrible customer service experiences, I finally gave SiteGround a try. I’ve never looked back.
Their customer service is exceptional. That alone makes them my #1 choice. It’s a bonus that their plans include added features and they don’t charge for things like SSL certificates (unlike some other hosts).
Every website I’ve ever had or designed uses the WordPress content management system. It’s FREE! And has so many plugins and features to add functionality. Much has been written about this tool elsewhere, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
Elementor is an easy-to-use drag-and-drop website builder. I designed my first website using this tool and received enthusiastic praise for the finished product. I highly recommend this to anyone courageous enough to try designing their website themselves. (While there is a FREE version, it was worthwhile for me to upgrade to Pro.)
GeneratePress is my favorite WordPress theme because of how customizable it is. There is a FREE version, but for a very reasonable annual fee, I can upgrade to Premium and use it for as many websites as I want!
Email Marketing Tools
MailChimp is a good choice for a FREE email marketing service, especially if your email list is small or you’re just starting out. (The free plan is good up to 2000 contacts.) It works. It’s easy to use. But I will say the free version does have some design limitations and minor glitches. (I’ve never used one of their paid plans so I can’t say if it’s worth upgrading.)
9. Campaign Monitor
Campaign Monitor is another email marketing service, though not free. In this case, though, I’d have to say “you get what you pay for.” It’s very easy to use and I’ve never run into a design limitation like I’ve experienced with MailChimp. I’ve used other paid email services and Campaign Monitor was my favorite, probably because of it’s simplicity.
10. Email Subject Line Tester
CoSchedule’s Email Subject Line Tester is FREE to use, even if you don’t have a CoSchedule account. It’s a great way to test out different subject lines to find the most effective option. It analyzes your subject lines and gives you suggestions for improving them.
This FREE tool could be used in other applications, too, but I use it primarily for choosing emoji to include in email subject lines. It’s basically the desktop equivalent of an emoji keyboard on a mobile device.
I already mentioned that I use Google Drive for blog post drafts for clients, and I use WordPress for my own blog posts. I’ve also used Microsoft Word, OneNote, Libre Office and Pages. Just for the simple act of writing, I don’t really have a preference. But there are a few little extra tools I like to have handy when I’m writing.
12. Headline Analyzer
Much like the Email Subject Line Tester, CoSchedule’s FREE Headline Analyzer critiques my blog post titles and helps me come up with more effective headlines.
I use thesaurus.com almost every day. Finding a more powerful or precise word for what I want to say is truly satisfying. 😀
Canva is a powerful graphic design tool that works well for anyone without design experience. There are hundreds of design templates to start with, as well as the option to start with a completely blank canvas. Included are thousands of graphics, photos, icons, illustrations and other design components.
There is a FREE version as well as a paid version (Canva For Work). For the work I do, I prefer the paid version which allows me to easily resize a design (into as many other sizes as I want) with one click of my mouse. It’s also good for teams who collaborate on designs and projects.
For FREE stock photos, Unsplash is always my first stop. The photos are high quality, don’t require crediting, and the selection is extensive. It’s very rare for me to not find something that works from this library.
There are many more excellent free online tools available. I do use other tools regularly, but these are the 15 I use the most and recommend constantly. Which free online tools do you use the most? What tools are worth paying for?