My 5 Favorite Free Tools for Running My Business

Small business owners have to wear so many hats: we’re not only the main force behind our service or product, but we often play a major role in admin work, finances, marketing and more. While that’s part of the appeal, it can be hard to stay abreast of all the new tools on the market built to help us be successful.

I use free online tools every. Single. Day. They help me create my own marketing materials, stay organized and better engage clients when we meet in person.

1. Airtable

Airtable is an online platform for managing your workload (and good grief do I need it). You can choose from preset templates or create your own, and use the different fields to customize your base into exactly what you need. For me, I like my assignments organized by client, then sorted by deadline, and to have a repository for word counts and other notes/details I may need to know. And because I work between my desktop and laptop, I can upload attachments so I always have the most recent versions of my documents available to me on both computers.

My To Do base on Airtable has two tabs: one for unfinished assignments, and one for completed assignments. You can see each assignment has a deadline, status, and a check to make sure I’ve invoiced for it and received payment.

My To Do base on Airtable has two tabs: one for unfinished assignments, and one for completed assignments. You can see each assignment has a deadline, status, and a check to make sure I’ve invoiced for it and received payment.

2. Canva

Raise your hand if you’ve never used Photoshop! I’ve been fortunate to work with extremely talented designers in my career, but having them to rely on means I was never pushed to open Photoshop and explore for myself. Thankfully, it’s not something I need too often, but when I need to create a graphic for my social media channels or put together a PR package for a client, Canva is perfect. It has preset templates for those of us who aren’t design-savvy and I always love the finished products.

Here’s an example of a social media graphic I created using Canva. I made four of these with different quotes and colors in about 10 minutes as part of a quote series I share on my Instagram.

Here’s an example of a social media graphic I created using Canva. I made four of these with different quotes and colors in about 10 minutes as part of a quote series I share on my Instagram.

3. PicMonkey

I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I do take a lot of my own photos for magazine and volunteer assignments. PicMonkey helps me color correct and brighten up photos quickly. It’s got enough photo manipulation tools to help me get a look I like, but not so many that my untrained eye can over-process the picture.

This is a headshot I took at home (using a stack of books as a tripod) and edited in PicMonkey, which allowed me to crop and brighten things up a bit. Did I whiten my teeth, too? I’ll never tell.

This is a headshot I took at home (using a stack of books as a tripod) and edited in PicMonkey, which allowed me to crop and brighten things up a bit. Did I whiten my teeth, too? I’ll never tell.

4. Hemingway App

Marketing folk know we generally want to keep the reading level of our copy low so we can reach a wide audience. As someone who writes about health care and medicine often, it’s easy for the grade level on my writing to get higher and higher. Hemingwayapp.com highlights phrases that are convoluted and helps me simplify them, finds passive voice and adverbs, and calculates your writing’s reading level as you go.

Here’s a portion of a medical advertorial assignment with complex phrases, adverbs and passive voice highlighted for my review.

Here’s a portion of a medical advertorial assignment with complex phrases, adverbs and passive voice highlighted for my review.

5. Prezi

PowerPoint will likely always be king, but I love using Prezi for engaging people during a presentation. If for no other reason, they want to know more about the platform, but the fact that your slides are in sort of a 3D realm instead of the usual format keeps eyes on you.

I created this colorful presentation for an elementary school Career Day event. The kiddos loved the brightness and all the movement.

I created this colorful presentation for an elementary school Career Day event. The kiddos loved the brightness and all the movement.