Running an online business is no small feat, especially if you’re working on a limited budget and have to keep things going with either a very small staff or no staff at all. Enterprise-level tools come with enterprise-level prices, often putting them far out of the range of the average person running a small online business.
But all is not lost — there are numerous free or low-cost tools that can help your business grow and thrive. Many of them offer free plans that scale up to paid plans, so their features can grow as your business does. Here are some of your best options when it comes to finding affordable solutions for your business needs.
A content management system is a great way to keep your website organized, responsive, and attractive without having to learn code or try to build your site from scratch.
- Drupal: Drupal is a CMS that focuses on flexibility and simplicity, aimed at users who don’t have a lot of technical skill. It’s good for creating online stores, wikis, blogs, news sites, and more.
- Joomla: Like Drupal, Joomla is a CMS built on PHP, and features a series of distinct modules for handling things like contacts, media, content, banners, RSS support, and more. Some plugins and modules are not free, although the core software is.
- WordPress: The most popular CMS in the world, WordPress started as a blogging platform, but has since become one of the most versatile and well-supported CMS software suites available. It has vast support for all sorts of plugins and themes, and cheap WordPress hosting is readily available.
Design tools like Photoshop and Illustrator can be great, but their price point might put them out of reach for some. Fortunately, there are some great free resources to fill the gap.
- Google Fonts: Google Fonts is a massive collection of open-source, free for commercial use fonts. It’s a terrific resource for improving the look of your website or marketing materials, without paying top dollar for professional fonts.
- Canva: Canva is a design tool with the stated goal of allowing anyone to design anything and publish it anywhere. The Canva suite features image editing, PDF editing, video tools, and collaborative features.
- Colorzilla: Colorzilla features a Chrome and Firefox extension for picking and analyzing colors, making perfect CSS color gradients, and otherwise taking control of your website’s color scheme.
- Shopify: Shopify’s e-commerce platform started when the company found other e-commerce solutions lacking in the marketplace. They aim to lower the barriers to business ownership and feature a wide array of useful tools, from marketing automation and branding to online storefront and POS.
- WooCommerce: WooCommerce is built on WordPress, making it easy to integrate e-commerce features into any WordPress site. It features a wide selection of plugins and modules to set up and enrich an online storefront, and it’s open-source with an API so developers can create their own solutions for more advanced needs.
- MailChimp: There’s a reason why MailChimp is one of the most recognizable names in email marketing. MailChimp is ideal for freelancers and small business owners when it comes to email marketing. The software lets you manage clients, organize contacts, and create powerful email campaigns using a simple, easily customizable interface.
MailChimp also comes with a variety of creative tools, including a “content studio” that allows you to make your marketing emails that much more attractive and enticing. MailChimp comes with a free plan by default, with premium plans ranging up to $299 a year, depending on what features you’re looking for.
- Yoast: Yoast SEO is one of the most powerful and popular SEO applications available, featuring plugins for CMS platforms like WordPress. There is a free Yoast plugin that gives helpful advice on using keywords, alt tags, and other techniques to improve the SEO of any given article, post, or page, with a premium version ($99 per year) that puts much more powerful and versatile tools at your disposal, including language analysis, post optimization, and 24/7 customer support.
- Siteliner: Siteliner features a host of tools for maintaining the quality of content on your website. Siteliner will search your site for things like duplicate content, broken links, and other elements that can negatively impact your site’s SEO and performance. There is a free version of the tool for a limited amount of searches, as well as a premium version with more advanced controls and the ability to automatically search more pages.
HootSuite: HootSuite is a social media tool that takes a lot of the headache out of managing your social media presence. You can post to several different platforms at once, schedule posts, plan campaigns, and stay on top of incoming communications with a centralized messaging dashboard, making it much easier than trying to manage multiple platforms individually.