Whether you find them on basic cable or on your parents' Facebook timelines, the top-rated personal finance gurus all agree: free is good.
If you're launching a new business venture, free is better than good—it's vital. To get your company off the ground, you'll need to make every inch of your runway count, which is why free business software can be an attractive—even necessary—option.
It's fair to be worried about quality. Free apps for business often mean undeletable watermarks that ruin your branding, or unreliable functionality that can toss a wrench into your workflows at any moment. But if you know which apps to use, and how to use them, free doesn't have to mean cut-rate. In fact, the right free business app can give you the power to pull off a successful launch, and then scale up as your margins allow you to grow. Or you can simply jump ship for a platform that makes more sense for your expanding business needs—when the time is right for you.
To do that, you'll first need a solid start that won't bust your bottom line, so here's a roundup of the best free small business software.
The best free software for small businesses
Free CRM software like EngageBay
Any successful business is going to need to nurture its client relationships. Some of those relationships, if you hadn't noticed, can be high-maintenance. You have to update prospects, coordinate your outreach, manage sales, provide customer support—the list goes on. To help you keep all those workflows humming, you need a CRM.
Don't be fooled into thinking that the high demands of customer relationship management mean high costs, though. EngageBay, for example, gives you the power to manage 250 contacts at no cost. Its free tier also includes a ton of useful features like a visual sales pipeline, a full marketing suite, a customer service suite, and live chat.
For more options, here Zapier's list of the best free CRM software.
With the help of some well-placed CRM automation, you'll be able to effortlessly manage leads and contacts, streamline your marketing campaigns, and support internal communications.
Free email marketing services like HubSpot
You won't have many customers to manage if you can't get your message across to your prospects. No need for billboards or skywriting—or even a fancy pay-per-click marketing platform. Instead, you can start with a free email service like HubSpot. Not only is it one of the biggest names in software, but it also offers up to 2,000 emails per month, 5 active lists, and reporting—for free. And when you're ready to scale, you can add additional HubSpot tools for CRM, full marketing automation, customer service, sales, and more.
Check out the other options you have in Zapier's list of the best free email marketing apps.
Automating your email marketing can help ensure the right message is always getting to the right person at the right time, taking care of the important but repetitive work of managing subscriptions, segmenting subscribers, personalizing messages, and re-engaging cold leads.
Free website builders like Wix
Once you've attracted attention with your dazzling email marketing, you'll need a place to send all that traffic. You can try to cut corners with that friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who builds websites on the side until their pro League of Legends career takes off. Or you can opt for a more reliable, still affordable option by going with a website building platform.
These apps, even in their free tiers, are customizable and easy to use—no code required—allowing you to build a dynamic web presence that won't get buried in search engine results.
Take Wix as an example. It has an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface that allows you to build a site using one of over 300 template designs that best matches your business. Include a blog, live chat, forms, or even an online store. You'll also get predictive text when building your pages, as well as marketing integrations, SEO ranking assistance, and more—all for free.
Here are more options for the best free website builders.
Free project management software like Trello
When looking at free software for small business, you need to think about your internal operations too. For all your core processes, it's about organized projects that are planned and executed with maximum efficiency.
To help pull that off, you can use a project management tool. Once again, free is a price point that provides you with more functionality than you might expect. An app like Trello offers a free tier that gives you up to ten Kanban boards, countless template options, and unlimited users, so you can keep using it even as your team grows.
Here are other options for the best free project management software.
Free survey tools and form builders like Google Forms
To make your business more relevant to current and prospective customers, you need to know what they want in the first place—or at the very least who they are. Once you have a budget, you can invest in complex market research surveys and customer feedback software. Until then, there are free survey tools and form builders. These powerful platforms can help you register subscribers, segment audiences, collect lead data, and much more—again, for free.
Google Forms is unique in that it's all free—if you have a Google account, you can use all its features, including unlimited forms, questions, and submissions—not to mention collaboration options, customizable templates, and visualized data in the form of lists, charts, and graphs.
Here are your other options for the best survey tools and form builders
Automation has the power to transform your form and survey software into a business growth tool. Manage your outreach, update your CRM platform, and track user feedback—automatically.
Free graphic design and photo editing software like Canva
You're likely already thinking about (or using) social media as a way to keep in touch and nurture customer relationships. More than just collecting likes and hearts, the right social media presence can boost customer engagement and drive traffic to your door.
That kind of dynamic profile doesn't just happen, though. It takes creative vision and savvy planning. One thing it doesn't have to take: money. As you're getting started, take inspiration from others who've been able to make the most of social media without a budget.
The main thing that can drain your budget is visuals, but there are plenty of apps that help you get brand-aligned graphics for free. Canva, for example, is a powerful design tool that gives you the power to create brand visuals for free. Craft logos, website banners, profile pics, and headers to create a consistent and eye-catching brand identity.
Here's Zapier's list of the best free graphic design software.
Consider also taking advantage of a free stock photo site.
Or if you have original images that you're looking to share, go with a free photo editor.
Automation can help you better manage your brand's social media. Streamline your content sharing, keep your followers in the loop, and track your profile performance—all without getting bogged down in manually managing your profiles.
Free keyword research tools like Moz Keyword Explorer
Another way to make sure your business is doing all it can to attract leads is keyword research. Finding out exactly how your prospects are searching for you (or your competitors) will help you make the most of your search engine ranking and keep you off that dreaded second page of results.
There are a number of free keyword research tools that can take that work off your plate. Moz Keyword Explorer is one, providing you with easy-to-grasp metrics that will help you fine-tune your web presence for maximum exposure. Generate a priority score that lets you know whether or not a keyword is worth including in your content. You'll also get a keyword gap feature that shows you all the keywords your competitors rank for that you don't.
Here are all the other best free keyword research tools.
Free invoicing software like Wave
At the end of the day, you need to get paid for the goods and services you provide—hence the whole "business" aspect of launching a business. And you can bring that money in the door faster, and with less effort, by using free invoicing software.
Wave, for instance, saves you from the manual accounting chores by tracking your expenses, relaying invoices, generating reports, and even reconciling accounts. Its free tier also handles payroll and tax filing, giving you all the benefits of an in-house accountant, without any of the costs (and you also won't need to feed them at the holiday office party).
Here are your other choices for the best free invoicing software.
Make a free invoicing app even more dynamic by automating your payment processes. Manage contacts, log invoices, and stay on top of paydays effortlessly simply by activating a few well-placed integrations.
Connect your free business apps with automation
The best free apps for small business owners can be a boost on their own. But to really move the needle, your apps need to talk to each other.
By connecting your software and automating your workflows, you'll have smoother operations early on and more opportunities for growth. And as your business grows, you'll be able to make more of an investment in automation to reap an even higher ROI.
For now, though, it's free to get started with Zapier.
Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.