The latest and greatest business-boosting apps have always been featured prominently in every savvy business owner’s toolbox, but they’ve never been quite as valuable as they are now. As 2020 winds to a close, we look back on a year that brought unprecedented change, upheaval and uncertainty to small businesses across the country. Successful business owners were able to pivot and adapt to the new landscape of doing business in America, but it didn’t come without challenges. Luckily, there’s a growing catalog of the best free business apps you can add to your tech stack in 2021 to tackle the challenges of this brave new world head-on.
Managing contacts, generating leads and marketing to your customers is made so much easier with HubSpot’s free CRM tool, which can be downloaded, accessed and managed from your smartphone. Business owners will enjoy the multipurpose platform that allows you to quickly email your entire database, create conversion forms for your website and track customer relationships with a robust reporting dashboard.
PayPal has long been a preferred online payment option due to its security features and widespread usage. In 2021, you can take your payment processing to the next level with PayPal Here. Download the free app and request a free card reader, and you’ll be set up to take payments anywhere, anytime. Business owners will benefit from the same safety and security measures for which PayPal is known, while also taking advantage of greater sales opportunities and in-depth sales tracking. Plus, in this era of contactless and cashless payment, PayPal Here makes it easy to interact with customers while keeping them safe.
Business finances seem like a time-consuming and costly endeavor for many business owners, but with Wave, designed exclusively for entrepreneurs, you’ll have all the accounting tools you need at your fingertips—free. Integrate personal and business bank accounts, track expenses and send invoices, all from your phone or device. If you’re looking for even more features, you can sign up for a paid plan that enables you to accept payments via the app and manage your business’s payroll.
Back in the days of quarantine, it often felt like time was all we had. That may have led to some less-than-productive habits, like frequent social media breaks or online browsing at your favorite shops. Now you can take back your biggest resource with RescueTime, a free app that runs in the background of your smartphone and compiles comprehensive reports on how you’re managing your time. RescueTime also allows you to block distracting websites or apps or pause the app while you’re on vacation.
Heading into a post-2020 world, we have to ask ourselves, “Where would we be without Zoom?” The video conferencing app became synonymous with remote work meetings this past year — so much so that it’s now used as a verb. As remote work continues to be the norm, the company is continuing to grow its service offerings in 2021. Now, you can take advantage of OnZoom, an in-app content platform that provides everything from personal and professional development courses to cooking demonstrations. Classes range from free to hundreds of dollars, with most falling under $50.
Communication, collaboration and program management…all easily accessed from your mobile device. Asana is another one of the best free apps for small business that allows you to create and assign tasks, manage projects and track progress on a user-friendly dashboard. Asana eliminates much of the need for constant emailing by allowing users to share notes, upload files and communicate via chat. The basic version is free and comes with a wealth of tools to get you started. It also integrates seamlessly with Google Drive, Dropbox and Slack, so you can access all your communications, documents and files from one location.
Ignore those predictions about the death of email marketing. Thoughtful and intentional email campaigns are still effective, and Mailchimp makes them easier to implement than ever. The email marketing automation platform allows you to create, send and track email campaigns and also helps you build subscriber lists to grow your audience and hit them with the right message at the right time. You can use Mailchimp on your mobile or your desktop, or switch seamlessly in between.
Real-time document collaboration and sharing has never been as easy as it is with Google Docs. The app is accessible from your mobile device and allows you to make edits, leave comments and share with employees or business partners. You can download the entire Google Drive suite for added capabilities, which includes Sheets, Slides and Forms, so you can track spreadsheets and create custom presentations and forms with ease.
Here’s some great news: you don’t have to be a professional designer to create attractive and effective branded assets. Canva provides templates, photos, fonts, graphics and more for a wealth of design purposes. Use Canva to create branded social media graphics, direct mail pieces, annual reports and much more. The free package is comprehensive enough to get you started, but the “Pro” upgrade offers an expanded range of photos and assets at a minimal price (around $12 per month).
Connecting with customers is hard in the age of social distancing, which is why more businesses have turned their focus to social media. Staying on top of your social platforms can be an overwhelming prospect. Hootsuite’s free plan offers all the small business owner needs to get started, with access for one user across three social media platforms and a 30 post limit per month. Once you sign up, you’ll be able to plan, create and schedule your posts, then track how they’re performing.
There's a multitude of business apps out there that will make your tech stack more effective and efficient. The list above includes those we believe will help you scale and boost your business as we head into 2021…and beyond.
Wendi is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, IN, with over a decade of experience writing for a variety of industries from healthcare to manufacturing to nonprofit. When she isn't working on solutions for her clients, she can be found spending time with her kids and husband, working in the garden or doing more writing (of the fiction variety).