Every Small Business Tool You Need to Thrive

July 5, 2017


Using the right small business tools can mean the difference between merely surviving and happily thriving.

Running a small business is no easy task, especially when you’re wearing a zillion different hats as staff accountant, marketer, designer and chief administrator all rolled into one. Even as you start hiring staff or working with independent contractors, you still might feel there aren’t enough hours in the day to tackle your entire to-do list.

We’ve compiled a list of online tools to help with virtually everything of running your small business.

Small Business Tools for Bookkeeping

If numbers aren’t your thing, we’ve got you covered. Generate professional-looking invoices, balance your books and more with these tools.

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FreshBooks

Our cloud-based accounting software helps you streamline tasks like tracking sales and expenses, sending and following up on invoices and generating reports. (learn more)

Bench

If your books are more complicated than you can handle on your own, this online bookkeeping service will pair you with a dedicated team of bookkeepers. FreshBooks customers save 20% on their first 6 months with Bench. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Appointment Scheduling

Emailing back and forth to schedule phone calls or meetings with customers and prospects is frustrating and inefficient for everyone involved. These online tools integrate with your calendar and allow people to request appointments at a time that works for you both.

Calendly

This customizable scheduling tool can be used to schedule group or one-on-one meetings and allows you to cap the number of meetings per day or allow for padding before or after meetings. (learn more)

YouCanBook.me

Customers and others can go straight to your calendar to book an appointment and it automatically adjusts for their local time zone. (learn more)

ScheduleOnce

This tool integrates with your website and allows customers to book on your page using any device. Once booked, the meeting gets added to everyone’s calendar. (learn more)

Time Tracking

Tracking your hours allows you to charge appropriately for your time and helps you see when you might be investing too many hours on nonessential tasks.

FreshBooks

Our time-tracking tool lets your hours after the fact or set a timer to log them automatically. You can also track hours for an entire team and see how they’re spending their time. (learn more)



Small Business Tools for Email

Most people spend a big chunk of their day managing email, and small business owners are no exception. These tools make it easier to manage your inbox.

Boomerang

This Gmail tool allows you to schedule emails to be sent at a later date or boomerang an email back to you if there’s no response. (learn more)

Unroll.me

Clean up your email and save your sanity with this handy free tool. It allows you to view all your email subscriptions, unsubscribe from lists you no longer want and “roll up” others into a daily digest. (learn more)

FollowUp

This relationship management tool for Gmail allows you to create auto follow-ups, track links and opens, add reminders to your contacts and more. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Email Marketing

A good email marketing platform can help you segment your email list, create mobile-friendly and graphical emails, customize subject lines for each recipient and more. Many tools offer a suite of email marketing features, but here are three to get you started.

MailChimp

Integrate your online store or Facebook advertising, automate welcome or re-engagement emails and more. MailChimp’s Forever Free plan allows up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month, and paid plans are available for larger lists. (learn more)

Constant Contact

Use the intuitive email editor to design professional-looking emails, grow your email list using customizable signup forms, generate real-time reports on open rates and click rates and more. Constant Contact offers a free 60-day trial. (learn more)

Emma

Create targeted email campaigns based on customer behavior, test variables like subject lines or content length using A/B testing and segment your list to provide smarter personalization. (learn more)



Small Business Tools for Payroll

As your company grows and you hire more employees and/or contractors, it makes sense to automate payroll processing so you don’t have to manually cut checks or handle payroll headaches yourself. Here are some options.

Gusto

Use this online tool to streamline tax filings, employee paystubs, store employee information and manage employee benefits. Gusto offers a free one-month trial. (learn more)

PaymentEvolution

Canada’s largest cloud payroll and payment service lets business-owners oversee payroll, schedule payments to vendors and manage benefits. It also offers a free online payroll calculator. (learn more)

Wagepoint

Available in the US and Canada, Wagepoint can handle vacation requests, payroll, tax remittance and more. It also offers a free 30-day trial. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Password Management

Using the same password for every account is a security no-no, but who can remember a zillion unique passwords? These password managers remember passwords for you.

LastPass

This browser extension creates strong passwords and stores them in your LastPass vault. Note: LastPass has had some security breaches, but Wired magazine still recommended it. (learn more)

1Password

Create a master password and store all your individual account passwords for online banking, mobile apps and more behind it. 1Passford offers a free 30-day trial. (learn more)

Dashlane

This password manager allows you to change one or several passwords in a single click and save it to your account, auto-fill online forms and generate strong passwords for you. Dashlane offers free and paid plans. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Customer Relationship Management

The right CRM keeps track of customer interaction, so you’ll always remember what you discussed in your last meeting or where a client went on their summer vacation, even if your best salesperson leaves. Consider these three options.

Agile CRM

Automate workflows, record and automate phone calls, schedule appointments, analyze marketing campaigns and more. Agile CRM is free for up to 10 users. (learn more)

Batchbook

Organize sales tasks, collaborate and share files or contacts with your team, view social media activity and more on a desktop or mobile device. Batchbook also offers a free trial. (learn more)

Capsule

This cloud CRM gives you a bird’s-eye view of the people and organization your work with. Track history, manage tasks and share information with your team. Free for up to two users and 250 contacts. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Lead Generation

Generating and following up with new leads is key to your business growth. These are some of the tools that can help you make it happen.

Bidsketch

Create professional-looking client proposals in minutes. Bidsketch has proposal templates that can be customized in different industries such as software development, marketing, sales and more. (learn more)

Proposify

Choose from dozens of professionally designed proposal templates and customize them to meet your business’ needs. Also stay on top of your proposal pipeline and allow your clients to digitally sign to seal the deal. Offers a free 14-day trial. (learn more)

Quote Roller

This all-in-one platform offers templates for quotes, proposals and more and can be merged with CRM data. You can even see how long a prospect has spent in each section of the proposal and address their concerns. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Logo Design

A simple, eye-catching logo is an important component of your business’ brand. Here are some online tools that help you create your own. Of course, if you have the funds, there’s no substitute for a professional logo designer, but many small businesses go the DIY route, especially early on.

Squarespace Logo

Created by the same company that offers the Squarespace content management system for websites, this logo maker lets you create a free low-resolution logo with a watermark or pay for a higher-resolution logo with no watermark (if you’re a Squarespace user, the higher-resolution logo is free). (learn more)

LogoGarden

This free logo creator lets you choose from thousands of icons by industry, add your company name and select a font and color to customize your logo before downloading it. (learn more)

GraphicSprings

Create a logo for free, then pay $19.99 to download the files. Logo templates are searchable by industry and you can edit the graphic and text using GraphicSprings’ drag-and-drop interface. (learn more)



Small Business Tools for Social Media Automation

Keeping up with social media poses a major challenge for many small businesses, so these tools help you schedule and automate your social media accounts. Be sure to check in periodically instead of simply putting your feeds on auto-pilot.

Hootsuite

This tool allows you to manage all your social media accounts (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) from a single dashboard. You can also collaborate with other team members and schedule posts in advance. (learn more)

Social Oomph

Schedule updates, track keywords, save and reuse drafts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. It also helps you find people to follow on Twitter, and you can submit social updates via email with the paid version. (learn more)

Zapier

This tool goes beyond just social media automation to create workflows for tasks such as downloading attachments, creating Slack notifications and more. It also integrates with FreshBooks. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Tracking Expenses

Nobody wants to sort through a shoebox overflowing with receipts come tax time! Fortunately, these apps can keep expenses organized throughout the year.

FreshBooks

Connect your bank account or credit card to your FreshBooks account and your account will automatically update with new transactions. You can also upload photos of receipts. (learn more)

MileIQ

This iOS app lets users track miles driven for business or personal reasons and categorize drives. If you use both Freshbook and MileIQ, you can automatically import mileage into your FreshBooks account and categorize it appropriately. Free for up to 40 drives per month. (learn more)

Expensify

If you reimburse employees for travel or other expenses, Expensify can help streamline that process. You can also expert Expensify data into FreshBooks expense reports. (learn more)



Small Business Tools for File Management

Sharing files between team members or different machines can create headaches, but these tools help simplify that process and ensure that even if your laptop dies, you’ll still be able to access your files from the cloud.

Dropbox

Share documents, documents, videos and audio files on all your computers, phones or tablets and with other people. You can also send others links to specific files or folders so they can access files too. (learn more)

Google Docs and Google Drive

Edit and create documents or spreadsheets in Google Documents, and store or share documents and folders in Google Drive. (learn more)

OneDrive

Microsoft’s cloud storage program comes preinstalled on Windows 10 devices and can be accessed on Macs, PCs, Android or iOS. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Design Work

Professional graphic design software can be pricey, so we’ve assembled several free options that allow you to edit photos and generate professional-looking graphics.

Canva

Simple drag-and-drop functionality lets you design stunning graphics from your web browser or iPad. According to its website, Canva users have crated over 100 million designs. (learn more)

Pixlr

Pixlr gives you the basic functionality of PhotoShop in your web browser. Resize images, adds overlays or create effects and more. (learn more)

PicMonkey

This free online photo editing tool lets you crop or touch up photos, remove blemishes or red eye, add text or shapes and more. You can also create photo collages. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Royalty-Free Images

Finding inexpensive but high-quality photos for your website or marketing materials is no easy task but these tools provide plenty of options for personal or commercial use.

Gratisography

Free stock images often border on cheesy or banal, but the quirky photos available through Gratisography defy that description with their Wes Anderson-like aesthetic. Search categories including animals, objects, people and urban. For those who want especially eccentric images, try the category labeled whimsical. (learn more)

Unsplash

This curated selection of high-resolution photos features artistic landscapes and portraits of people, animals and more. Search by keyword or browse over a hundred themed collections to find just the right image. (learn more)

IMFree

This site offers over a thousand free images of cityscapes, nature, sports, fashion and more, all available free for commercial use. You’ll also find free website templates and icons. (learn more)



Small Business Tools for Website Building

Don’t have the budget for a professional web designer? These drag-and-drop tools can help you create a fully functional website on a shoestring budget. Several of these have ecommerce functionality as well so that you can set up an online store and sell products through your website.

Square Space

Known for its hip-looking templates and used by small businesses and bigger brands alike, Square Space also has marketing tools built into its platform. (learn more)

Weebly

Drag and drop elements such as photos, maps, text and video into your website as you go. You can even build, edit and manage your website from a mobile device. (learn more)

Wix

Choose from dozens of designer-made customizable templates and add video, event booking capabilities and more to your website. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Project Management

Track projects at varying stages of completion and collaborate with other team members (especially dispersed teams) using these project management tools. (learn more)

Wrike

Live editing and file management, task breakdowns, time and budgeting tracking and mobile capabilities are a few of Wrike’s key features. (learn more)

Basecamp

This software platform organizes client work, projects, notes and internal communicate within one cloud-based interface. It also integrates with your FreshBooks account. (learn more)

Trello

Trello’s highly visual interface uses boards, lists and cards to help you organize and prioritize projects and collaborate with others. (learn more)

Small Business Tools for Customer Support

When a customer contacts you about a faulty product or another issue, the last thing you to do is drop the ball. These tools can help you track support tickets and streamline our customer communications.

ZenDesk

This customer relationships software company allows you to create a shared inbox for managing customer inquiries, install live chat software on your website and provide self-service options to your customers. (learn more)

Freshdesk

Create a team inbox, set up a detailed ticketing system to track issues and manage support desk issues on the go with its mobile app. (learn more)

HappyFox

Convert requests from email, phone, chat, social media and web into a single ticketing system. It can also provide a multilingual knowledge center so customers around the world can access support information. (learn more)




about the author

Freelance Contributor Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter.