Below are some tools I use in my business. Almost all of them offer a generous free plan to get you started, and in a lot of cases (like mine)… the free plan is all you need.
Before using any kind of tool, always make sure they fit into your business workflow. It doesn’t make sense to use a tool just because it’s free. Ask yourself: can this potentially help me?
Another thing is… depending on which stage your business is currently in, some tools might not be right for you at this time.
Slack (free and paid)
Slack is a great messaging app for your team members. It’s like a ‘simplified internal forum’. You create ‘channels’ inside the app, each channel with a different purpose. E.g. Marketing channel, product roadmap channel, sales channel, customer service channel, etc.
You then add the relevant teammates inside these channels. When you post to a channel, all relevant teammates will see your message. You can also PM a specific teammate.
We use the paid version of Slack as it allows group calls and lifetime message retention… while the free version only allows 1-to-1 calls and limited message retention.
Skype (free and paid)
I use Skype for calling a non-teammate. E.g. Chatting and networking with other business owners.
I also use Skype for calling teammates when wanting to do ‘share your screen’ calls as Slack currently does not have this functionality. I use the free version as it’s good enough for my purpose.
Task Collaboration / Project Management
Asana (free and paid)
We use this to collaborate with all team members to get the job done. We use their visual Kanban board to create, assign, and manage tasks. With this, we can easily see who is doing what and by when — both on a bird’s eye view and on a zoom-in level. This allows us to easily track where things are in the pipeline.
Our visual Kanban board for one of our projects
We use the paid version of Asana as it provides us with more features that we need such as advanced custom reports and custom fields.
Trello (free and paid)
Before using Asana, we tried Trello, but it’s too simple for our needs. A lot of startups and small businesses still use Trello though, so you should definitely check it out as it’s simpler and easier to use than Asana.
Engaging & Helping Customers
Groove (free and paid)
I’ve used Groove before for simple projects. It’s a really easy to use helpdesk software for providing customer service. You’ll get up and running in no time.
Note: On the pricing page, they say the free plan lasts forever. But near the end of your 30 days (after signup), you’ll get a notification via the user dashboard and email informing that your free plan is about to expire. You’ll need to manually contact them and ask them to extend on your free plan.
Intercom is more for SaaS businesses. We’ve been using them since late 2015 and very happy with them. It’s a tool for engaging with your users — see what they’re doing in real-time with your app and then communicating with them based on their behavior. I know… awesome right?
We also use them for providing customer service to Zaxaa users.
Writing & Note-Taking
I haven’t had Word installed on my computer since 2013 and this is because I’ve been using Google Docs instead. It’s a replacement for Word. It’s free. And you don’t need to install anything because it’s all in the cloud. You simply access it via a web browser.
You’ll never lose your work as it’ll automatically save your work as you type. And you can access it anytime and from any device.
If you’re still using Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac) to jot down notes locally on your computer… STOP! Please don’t follow my footsteps…
Back in my Windows days, I use Notepad to take down notes, but I learned a painful experience when my hard disk broke down suddenly one fine day. All my notes disappeared.
Use Evernote instead — it automatically save your notes ‘in the cloud’ as you type… so that they’re always available anytime you want. No more lost files!
While I use Google Docs for writing longer articles, I use Evernote for jotting down ideas, rough outlines, and other things/thoughts that are meant to be viewed by myself (not shared to others).
This is the replacement for Excel. Things you can do with Excel, you can do with Google Sheets.
Screenshot & Video Capture
Sometimes it’s much easier to get our point to another person across via image screenshots and videos.
Jing is a super simple tool for capturing screenshots and quick video walkthroughs. Everyone in the team uses this when helping customers and also when communicating between teammates.
It’s really easy to use. You just screen capture or record the video (max 5 minutes), then click an upload button and it’ll be uploaded to their server. They’ll then give you link to share your screenshot/video.
Jing offers a paid plan if you need to increase your account’s storage, but the free plan is generous enough at 2GB. If you reach close to this limit and want to save some money, you can always delete old files from your account to recover back some extra storage.
For Mac. This is what I use to record longer video walkthroughs and create video courses.
For Windows and Mac. This is the same company that creates Jing. I’ve used Camtasia when I was using Windows. Neat piece of software for creating videos.
Google is very generous. They give me 17 GB of free storage to store my files in their cloud. It’s more than enough for me since almost all of my files are documents and spreadsheets.
I also use their free Google Photos app which automatically backs up all the photos on my phone to their cloud. And here’s the really cool part… ALL (yes ALL) my photos do not count towards my storage space (see I told you they’re very generous!).
You can always upgrade to a paid plan if you need more storage. They’re very affordable. Last I checked it’s only $2/month for 100 GB.
Dropbox (free and paid)
This is also an online storage service like Google Drive. You can back up and store your data in their cloud server and you can access them anytime and anywhere from any device.
I used to use Dropbox till a few years ago when I made the switch to Google Drive. Both are awesome and you’ll never go wrong with either.
For me, it ultimately comes down to Google providing Docs and Sheets (which I use heavily), and automatically storing these files into Google Drive — which just makes things more convenient.
Secure Password Manager
For security purposes, you should use a different secure password for each and every website. Never, ever use the same password for all your accounts! This app makes it a breeze to create and remember secure passwords.
By secure, I mean passwords that are long and include a combination of numbers, alphabets, upper- and lower-case letters, and other characters like !@#.
If you use lastpass on your desktop, it’s free. I’m in the paid plan because I also want to use LastPass on my phone.
I hope you’re not one of those people who say “I don’t need a calendar. I can remember everything!”
Depending your brain to remember things and tasks is a huge mistake! The truth is… you can’t remember everything. And why would you want to remember everything?
It consumes your energy and ‘RAM’ every waking moment, which should be put to a much better use like paying 100% attention to the task at hand rather than having to allocate some of your processing power ‘just to try and remember what you should be doing today’.
Jot down your activities, meetings, and tasks on a calendar so that you don’t forget. So that your mind can let go and be free. So that you don’t always have this ‘I need to remember to do X’ in the back of your mind.
I highly recommend Google Calendar. It syncs to all your devices — be it desktops, laptops, phones, or tablets. So even if you’re on the go, you’ll never forget anything.
Selling Online Courses Or Digital Products
Yeah of course I’m biased here. This is where I toot my own horn and shamelessly plug my own selling platform right?
In all seriousness though.. I’ve used Zaxaa to sell our own courses, templates, WordPress theme and plugins (though we’re not doing that anymore as we’re completely focused on Zaxaa).
Add to the fact that Zaxaa processes $2.5 million USD worth of sales transactions every month, wouldn’t you say we’re pretty decent?
If you’re an online course creator, coach, consultant, or you sell any kind of digital products, why not give Zaxaa risk-free try? We provide a FREE 30-day trial.
Spotify (free and paid)
Music is like cocaine (high five if you agree!).
Without nice melodies to my ear, my productivity drops.
Spotify boasts a total of 30 million songs covering different languages and genres. You simply do a search for what you want, click on the result, and your favorite song starts playing! You can also create your own playlist — maybe one for work, one for leisure, one for yoga, one for ‘baby lullabies’, and one for that overdue candlelight dinner with your partner?
And all this for free when you stream their songs online. If you want to listen to them while offline, you can upgrade to the paid version.