The top 5 digital tools for small business and startups fulfill one crucial requirement right off the bat: they are all free. I am a big believer in open source and free software, especially those that allow you to use them for free until you need additional features or options. This is ideal for small business owners who need their systems to grow and develop with them, and to keep costs down as much as possible in the beginning.

This list of my top free digital tools for small businesses will help you to organise your business’s paperwork and administrative matters, plan your projects, run your business, display your product and service information, collaborate with team members and stakeholders, and much more. And it’s all for free.

Here’s the list of top 5 digital tools:

Evernote

I am starting with the app that I use the most and I’ve used the longest. Evernote gives you a way to save all your notes, photos, documents and links in one central space that is available anywhere in the world. Evernote allows you to clip web pages and images into your Evernote account, and if you go for the Premium option, you can access these notes offline. Not only is Evernote a great way to store the articles you’re dying to read until you have time to do it, it gives you a way to store all your important information and documents safely and securely. Never again do you have to rummage around to find a proof of address or ID number, you can store everything in one note and access it on your phone wherever you go.

In your business, you can use Evernote to create and share product manuals, service rate cards and catalogues by using the public link function. You can use the work chat feature to keep track of conversations around certain projects (no more emails!). Your business can benefit from the added corporate security where you can be assured of the safety and security of your information. The options with Evernote are endless… with a notebook and workflow system as versatile as this, your business cannot go wrong.

Evernote is free for basic accounts with 60 MB storage space and syncing across 2 devices. If you want to use Evernote professionally, I recommend looking at the paid options – Plus, Premium or Business. Premium is perfect for freelancers, solopreneurs or partnerships with 2 members. Evernote Business offers an admin console and unlimited member seats, making it the right option for a growing business with 3 employees or more. Read more about Evernote here: Evernote

evernote for personal use

Buffer

Buffer offers a great optimal scheduling tool which calculates the perfect times to post your social media content on all of your social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram. Buffer also makes it easy to share content from anywhere on the web. Simply load your Buffer full of content with their easy drag-and-drop features and Buffer will post the content automatically throughout the day.

Buffer is free for 1 social media account on each platform with 10 posts per profile. If you need more profiles per platform, you can upgrade to the Awesome plan for only $10 (R138.40 on 19.10.2016) and get 100 scheduled posts per profile. If you are an agency with loads of accounts, you can look at the Business packages that start at $99 R1 369.80 on 19.10.2016) for 25 profiles per platform and 2 000 posts per profile. Get more info here: Buffer

Asana

This app is one of the easiest ways for teams to track their work and it’s completely free to use. With great features built for your projects, workflows and connected systems, you can use Asana to organise your projects and tasks, assign them to the relevant team member, set a deadline, and much more. Asana lets you plan your day with a prioritized to-do list, project status updates and reminders.

asana

I use lists every day to remember everything that needs to be done, and to prioritize my tasks. You can also boost your productivity and declutter your brain by using lists to keep track of important tasks; Asana is the perfect tool to create to-do lists that you don’t dread using. Asana will forever let teams of up to 15 members create unlimited projects, tasks and conversations, and get access to basic dashboards. Premium members have the added extras of priority support, advanced admin controls and search, unlimited guests, and private teams and projects. Read more about Asana here: Asana

Google Calendar

This free online calendar makes it easy to add new events, invite people via email and keep track of your schedule. You can create private or shared calendars to separate your personal and professional lives, or simply to help you stay on top of your family’s schedule. Colour-code your calendar according to the type of event so that you can get an idea of what your day looks like at a glance. For instance, I use pink for social engagements, green for gym classes, blue for business meetings and so forth.

Google Calendar automatically adds birthdays, holidays and other special events to your calendar in an unobtrusive way, and you have the option of incorporating those events in your calendar. You can connect Google Calendar with hundreds of apps via IFTTT, an online tool that enables you to automate your digital systems for optimal productivity. From tracking the number of hours worked or spent at a certain location to keeping a log of calls answered, missed and/or made at certain times. Get started with your free Google Calendar today: Google Calendar

Google Maps

This no-brainer app for small business can help you to find local businesses that you’d like to work with, locate clients’ addresses, view maps and get driving directions sent to your phone. You can get directions for driving, public transit, walking, biking and more to enable you to calculate your ETA accurately so that you’re never late for a business meeting again. The added bonus of live traffic reporting will alert you to problems with your intended route.

When I set up a meeting with someone, I will usually create an event in my Google Calendar once we’ve decided on a date, time and location. I make sure to add the location of the event so that I can find my way there even if I run late and forget to follow the next steps. After I’ve saved the event, I open Google Maps and search for the location to find the exact route I need to take and the estimated time of arrival (ETA). Once I’m happy with the route, I send the directions to my phone with the click of a handy button on Google Maps. When I get in my car, I simply tap the notification from Google Maps on my phone and off we go. See it here if you’ve never used it before: Google Maps

Getting the right tools for the job is one of the first and foremost things that any business owner needs to do. This list of my five top tools can boost the productivity, security and communication in any business or household. Use one or all of them to get the most out of your day, every day.