Free starter tools to help grow your small business


Business owners starting out on a shoestring need all the help they can get. Counting the pennies means looking for tools and information that cost next to nothing — or better still, nothing at all. Ask, and the internet will provide.

Here are several things that you can source online for free that will help your fledgling company to get through those first critical months and beyond.

Build your website

Online marketing is increasingly important for most modern businesses, but not everyone wants to pay a fortune for a basic site with their details and some pictures. Luckily, there are several online options that enable you to create a site and host it for free online. One free option is WordPress, which comes in two flavours: a downloadable version for those who want to host their own site, and an online version. This gives you basic themes to choose from and lets you update it as often as you like.

However, if you use the free version you must put up with a non-custom web address (e.g. your and advertising banners. A $5 monthly payment eliminates those restrictions.

An attractive alternative is Weebly, which has the same address and advertising restraints unless you opt for the $10 monthly payment, but it features some excellent drag-and-drop design capabilities.

Do your accounting

The problem with investing in expensive accounting software is that it eats up the money it’s managing. Wave is a Toronto-based online accounting software company that provides its application for free.

For the princely sum of nothing at all you get accounting software with unlimited banking connections, income and expense tracking and even the ability to run multiple businesses from a single user account. You can manage invoices in any currency and personalize them with a range of templates. The app handles receipt scanning via iPhone and Android apps and automatically records them as transactions.

How does the company make its money? It charges on a per-use basis for users to process payments directly via their customers’ bank accounts via its Payments by Wave system, and it charges a $20 monthly-based fee (plus $4 per active employee) for people needing payroll services. The payroll system isn’t available in Québec, however.

Get inspired

Nothing inspires new entrepreneurs like a success story. Stanford University’s eCorner is an online magazine for small businesses that features an extensive range of video talks and podcasts from entrepreneurs who have been around the block. Learn about everything from how to avoid burnout through to startup team building and fighting imposter syndrome. These lessons from the front lines will help inspire you on the morning commute.

List your business locally

Paper business directories? We remember those. They used to sit next to our rotary phones. Today, your local directory is on a search engine in your pocket or purse. Registering your business with Google is free. Fill out your entry at the Google My Business page and you will crop up in both Google search results and on Google Maps queries. Don’t forget to visit Apple Maps Connect to do the same for Apple’s mobile maps system. Then, when iPhone users search for “vegan dog confectionery” in your local area, your hipster canine treat store will be easily located. This instant marketing juice won’t cost you a penny.

Manage your social media

Love it or loathe it, social media is where the conversations are happening these days. It’s a free resource that your business should be using. Registering on Twitter and creating a business page on Facebook should be your first actions. Then, you need to easily post to them and monitor any comments about your business.

Homegrown Vancouver company Hootsuite offers a free version of its social media management system supporting three social profiles and offering message scheduling, so that you can stoke your social media channel in advance. You can also get basic analytics reports.

Write a business plan

If you don’t have a business plan, then it’s time to get one. Even if you do, it’s worth an update every so often. Entrepreneur-focused non-profit organization Futurpreneur has an interactive online business plan writer that can help simplify the creation of a custom plan for your business. It begins with the bare minimum number of sections, but enables you to drag in more as you need to end up with a robust go-to document that will help guide you through your next growth phase. This is just one of the many free resources that Futurpreneur offers, ranging from online business financial tutorials through to cash flow templates.

While some of these tools are free for a basic account, they also offer extra features for a small fee as you grow. This gives you the chance to keep your data with the same provider as you add on more features. Armed with these free tools, you can begin making headway on some challenging business tasks without breaking the bank.


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