The 5 FREE Business Tools That We Swear By
Oh, the joys of launching (or relaunching) a new business. The excitement! The anxiety! The rush of months or possibly even years of work, finally being hurled into the proverbial public cosmos! You’ve confidently pushed publish with child-like excitement as all your public platforms fire up and activate. And now, to avoid continually refreshing your platforms and checking your messages like a stage-5 clinger, you go and pop open that well-deserved bottle of champagne to celebrate--because we MUST always celebrate our wins, am I right?
Okay, so you’ve done it, brava! But now what? Oh yeah, a massive pile of new work to get started on. Fun, exciting, and creative work, but alas, still overwhelming and time-consuming. You see, no matter what type of business you’ve created or how far along you are in your success journey, there’s no shortage of hurdles and hoops on the road to growth and success. And now, even more, with the ever-demanding digital platform that we are slaves to, even the best of us need a little help running our companies.
In this blog, I’m going to talk about the 5 types of FREE business tools that Samoyloff PR swears by in order to make your job easier, and your business run more smoothly. These tools will free you up to pursue your passion and channel it into productive areas of business, saving you working hours, money, and unnecessary stress in the process.
1. EMAIL MARKETING
First and foremost, if you don't have an email list set-up, you need to do that immediately. When you're first starting, your best and most cost-effective method of getting the word out about your business is definitely going to be through your personal network. And yeah, we get it, your contact list might be relatively small right now, and your emails might only be going out to your aunt Betty in Baltimore or your distant cousin in the UK. But don't let that stop you, your list will grow over time, and it's vital that when it does you are already way ahead of the game! Plus, you never know who might respond with a lead, offer, or purchase.
Okay, so this all might seem a bit overwhelming, but fear not! Platforms like MailChimp (our personal favorite) make it simple to email all your contacts in one go! It's a free and easy way for businesses to get the word out, and it gives you a chance to speak directly to each contact, at a time that is convenient for them. Also, you'll love MailChimp's awesome features, including beautiful templates, advanced analytics, easy one-click personalization, and more.
Best perk? If your company sends fewer than 12,000 email messages per month to fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you'll absolutely love MailChimp's Forever Free plan! I mean, cause' who wouldn't want a FREE virtual customer service assistant?
2. CONTENT CREATION PLATFORMS
Aesthetics, Aesthetics, Aesthetics! In this day and age, people are so drawn to creative and carefully curated visuals. Whether that be a social media post, newsletter, infographic, welcome email, corporate doc, etc., you must always stay ahead of the curve and create cohesively branded and visually applying material. Trust me; you don’t want to be that boring company that only sends out black and white copy with no creative flair. Also utilizing your logo, brand colors, company font, and any other company appropriate visuals on all your documents is so important. Not only will it make you look incredibly professional and smart, but it will also grant you the ability to establish brand awareness on everything you put out into the world.
But I’m not a graphic designer, nor do I have a budget set aside to hire one right now. What should I do, you ask? Well, let me go ahead and introduce you to your new best friends. Meet Canva & Piktochart
We live by this platform because it’s so easy to use, and it makes all your content look stunning. You’re able to use their pre-formatted templates to create social media banners, blog graphics, marketing flyers, corporate emails, and much more. Free and idiot-proof, Canva will make your amateur, no-budget marketing effort look like a seasoned pro has done it. And, what we love most of all, is that we can share each design with other company members, giving them access to approve, edit, and copy.
Okay so this platform is relatively new to us, but we’re already super fans! We know you see all those incredible infographics buzzing through your social media feeds, and think “that must have taken a trained graphic designer hours to create.” Yea, maybe, or maybe they’re just using Piktochart, which creates high impact infographics for your business, for free! No longer are the days of boring excel sheets and non-visual business growth presentations!
It’s all about organization and visuals, and these two besties of yours won’t let you down. They’ll save you so much time and money, oh, and they will also make you look beautiful while doing it! But, that’s what best friends are for, right?
3. COLLABORATIVE ONLINE WORKSPACES:
Stop, collaborate, and listen! While building your company, the importance of teamwork is a huge part of your business success. It's so important to have checks-and-balances, constructive critiques, and professional sounding boards. I couldn't imagine Samoyloff PR having the type of success it has now without the team of individuals fighting and working for the same vision.
Notes, documents, voice-memos, texts, presentations, back-and-forth copy editing, check-lists, vision boards, content creation, client files, and so-on and so-on and so-on. The thought of keeping track of all these things is incredibly daunting, and I am not even going to mention the time it would take trying to organize all of it.
Before continuing, if you don't have a google account--please open a new tab now and go and create one immediately. Trust me.
Samoyloff PR creates a lot of media pitches, press releases, content copy, proposals, and much more in the writing sphere, so this platform comes in very handy. However, even if you don't do much writing, it's still something you should have. Within the actual writing doc, you can use Grammarly Beta a free online grammar and spell checking plugin. But it isn't just any old average document checker. Grammarly informs you if a sentence is too hard to read, it gives you tips on vocabulary, it helps you rearrange sentence structure, etc. Mostly it's like your high school creative writing teacher leaning over your shoulder and gently giving you suggestions followed by "a job well done." Love her!
Another useful function of Google Docs is that you can share your work with other individuals. Essentially it sends an invite to your business partner who will have access to remotely edit the said document at the same time as you are. Super collaborative and super time-saving. Did I mention we love her?
Literally, same as the above, but with excel. Shareable, collaborative, time-saving, and easy to keep organized.
It's a virtual workplace office that you create for your entire business. You can literally save all of your info into virtual notebooks, have working documents, share inspiring ideas, upload voice memos, attach photos from your phone on the go, attach files, etc. It's the "external brain" of your business operations, and everyone in your company can use it. Gone are the days when someone in your company asks if you can resend an important document, instead they can login to Evernote, and it will all be there. Honestly, truly, we live by this platform.
4. ONLINE APPOINTMENT SETTERS
Keeping track of client appointments can be a headache, especially if you're a business that relies heavily on client conference calls, meetings, proposals, etc. Clients, customers, or patients contact you asking for an appointment, and you have to figure out when it can work. It only gets more complicated when you have to slot in emergency bookings, reschedule someone on short notice, or cut your losses for no-shows. There's no need to do this work manually, however, because appointment scheduling apps can do it for you, and they can do it with greater ease and fewer headaches.
Our favorite amongst the scheduling apps is Acuity an appointment tool that allows clients to book, reschedule, and cancel appointments through a web interface. When clients want to make an appointment, they go to your business's website, Facebook page, Instagram page, or anywhere else the technology is supported, and choose an available date and time. But what we love most is the flexibility of the app. You can brand the interface with your company colors, fonts, logos, appointment hours, and much more. Also, it links to our google calendar so if we have a personal appointment or scheduling conflict outside of work; it will immediately block those times out as unavailable.
Another perk to the app is that you can create a questionnaire to collect data before the meeting. In our case, if someone was scheduling a 30-Min Consultation Call with us, we ask them to provide us with what service they are requesting (since we have multiple service platforms). And, we get to ask them to send their company bios, social links, previous press campaigns, etc. It's extremely helpful so that we can have all the information beforehand to have an effective and time-saving meeting.
5. ONLINE DOCUMENT + CONTRACT SIGNERS
Having your own business means you better take the right steps to protect yourself. It’s not weird to be a bit untrusting in this world. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard where people only had verbal contracts with clients, customers and employees--and when things turned sour, as things sometimes do, they were in some really deep waters financially. That means getting all contracts, proposals, legal agreements, and NDA’s signed before anything goes forward.
And, instead of wasting precious time going back and forth with scanner apps or physical copies, tools like our go-to, DocuSign, come to the rescue! DocuSign helps you keep business digital with an easy, fast, secure way to send, sign, manage and store documents in the cloud. Also, it helps in organizing and storing documents and other materials by significantly reducing the amount of actual paperwork and clutter. It's quick, easy, and free to use.
You’re a rockstar. The time you took to even read these tips just goes to show how important it is to you to succeed. Keep your head down, your focus straight and always work smarter not harder. You got this! You’re fully capable of making your dreams come true. And, we’re rooting for you!