Computers are the single most common—and expensive—part of any business. The IT setup cost alone requires a hefty capital investment that will strain the wallets of any entrepreneur. Unfortunately, it’s part and parcel of doing business in this digital age. Of course, one could always go the Neolithic route and resort to keeping only paper files and using only snail mail, but that would seriously hamper your business and smother future growth.
Fortunately, there are many free business software programs out there that you can use as an alternative. These programs will allow you to perform basic business functions while allowing you to reinvest the money you would’ve spent into growing your business.
As far as online accounting software goes, FreshBooks is one of the best. It has a slew of options normally only available to established ERP programs like SAP, like collaboration, multiple payment gateways, and reporting. This is on top of basic functions like invoice creation and dispatching. The only downside to this is that a free account only allows one user. Adding more users can get rather pricey.
Outright is an online accounting software that is designed specifically for small businesses and the self-employed. It automatically categorizes your transactions for maximum tax deductions and helps you prepare your year-end taxes for optimum convenience. While it isn’t free, the $9.95/mo price tag is more than worth it. One thing to note is that Outright is designed around the US tax system, so international users will not get the same value.
Document Creation and Editing
Known as Google Docs until recently, Google Drive has taken the web-based document processing capabilities of Docs and combined them with a powerful new online storage system. Google Drive boasts a variety of available file types, from presentations to spreadsheets to the basic document, each of which is fully editable and automatically saved as you work on it. It’s an excellent free service, and allows you full functionality for the cost of just an internet connection. There is, however, a bit of an issue when importing and exporting files in Google Drive. Some file formats work better than others.
An open-source document processing suite, Open Office is a free alternative to Microsoft Office. It’s not online like Google Drive, but it is far more comprehensive in terms of features and document editing capability. It has a full range of programs that provide anything a Microsoft Office user would need, and those familiar with Microsoft products won’t have too much trouble figuring out how Open Office works. Unfortunately, importing documents from MS Word will break formatting and break up MS word macros, so if it may make life extra difficult if you’re passing a document around between MS and Open Office users.
Producteev is an excellent web-based task management program. It is free for individuals, who can use it as a task list and project calendar, but that isn’t maximizing Producteev’s true potential. Producteev’s main advantage is in allowing teams to collaborate and organize. It does this by giving team leaders the ability to assign tasks and set priority levels, schedules, and subtasks for each. It even lets you color-code tasks for easy visual reference. It’s $20/mo for an unlimited amount of users per workspace, and there are volume discounts if you need more than one.
One of the better free project management tools around today, Asana’s unique feature is an activity feed similar to Facebook, where you can see your team members’ progress as it happens. It’s ideal for smaller, simple projects that don’t require a lot of complexity. It’s free for teams of up to 30 members, although the price jumps up sharply ($100/mo) for anything above that.