5 free tools to make your life easier. [For small business owners & entrepreneurs]

My little brother flew interstate to see me for the school holidays.

He’s 14. And brilliant. And uses a lot of words I’m not familiar with.

Yeah, those kind.

But also words like ‘tool’.

Nope, not that kind. The handy, silvery type that every adult should own.

Within 10 minutes of arriving, lil bro was tinkering with my bike; an osteoporotic specimen named ‘Alice’ propped next to the compost heap.

He held out his palm out like a surgeon: Wrench? Phillips head? Where’s your toolkit, Catie? You AT LEAST have WD-40...right?

I jangled some junk under the sink to make my search sound convincing.

But emerged empty handed. There were no tools in my house. Nada. Zero. Zip.

If something should ever need unscrewing, like a wailing smoke detector at 3am, it’s a butter knife or bust.

Bro said: All this bike needs is a tighten, tweak and a spritz of magic handyman juice and she’ll be back on the road.

So we went immediately to the holy-grail of hardware. The place that starts with a ‘Bun’ and ends with a $2 sausage sizzle. Stocked up on tools, stole some paint samples and returned home.

True to his word, brother magically resurrected Alice in under 10 minutes. Something I could have done 6 months ago if i’d had, like, a spanner.

Me = tool.

Now, the bit that’s relevant to business.

As I took Alice for a long-awaited spin, I got to thinkin’: How many business owners aren’t actioning newsletters, blogs, content and social media campaigns because they don’t have simple tools on hand?

Like me, perhaps you’re just not aware how easy it is to DIY.

Also like me, you don’t have big bucks to spend on outsourcing to fancy designers, programmers, hell - even copywriters.

Don’t outsource, fool. Get thrifty with free tools!

Luckily for us, the Internet provides. With free (or allllmost free) apps.

Ka-ching! That’s the sweet sound of you saving money. With just a little elbow grease.

Tool yourself up with these 5 awesome apps

Creating content, graphics for social media and email marketing campaigns is easy if you know which apps to use. Here are 5 of my faves.

1. Canva

www.canva.com

What: A free app that’s like word processing and graphic design rolled into one.

How to use it: Every time you need to create a fancy text + image thingo.

The one at the top? Made using Canva.

For when you need:

  • a logo

  • a flyer

  • a menu

  • an infographic

  • a poster

  • graphics for an eBook

  • a picture to whack up on facebook

  • website headers

  • feature images for your blog

  • something as simple as: a round picture. Like your headshot. For your bio. Yep. It’s the little things that can stump you. Not with Canva. Tally ho!

All you do is: head to the website, create an account, choose a template and get dragging, dropping... and rendering graphic designers everywhere obsolete. Ooops.

2. Mailchimp

mailchimp.com

What: An online email marketing tool. What I use to get in touch wit y’all.

You need it if: You want to send periodic emails or newsletters to your database.

How to use it: Look, I’m in Mailchimp kindergarten. I won’t attempt to tutor you on the finer points because, frankly, I don’t know them. But! All you need to do to get started is head to the website and open an account.

They have all kinds of monkey-could-do-it tutorials. Go bananas.

It’s free if: you have fewer than 2000 subscribers.

Tips:

  • use images you’ve created in Canva to add interest to your emails. Add headers, logos, in-text pictures.

  • schedule your emails to be sent at a later time so you don’t look like a creepy nightwalker doing business at 2am.

  • IMPORTANT: don’t peeve people by sending spammy emails, or anything they haven’t signed up for.

3. Evernote

https://evernote.com/

What: keeps your ideas together. You can create lists, tasks, collaborate with coworkers and teammates, keep track of your to-dos.

How I use it:

To keep running lists of topics for blogs & newsletters.

I use the el basico free version to plan out upcoming blogs & newsletters. I also share projects with clients so they know what’s in store, content-wise. They can add notes and chat with me, live. Pretty spesh.

It can help you:

  • map out your social media posts & topics

  • map out blog & content themes, topics, calendar events

  • keep your team abreast of what’s happening in your biz

  • delegate tasks

4. Google Docs

https://www.google.com.au/docs/about/

What: the love of my life.

It’s Word, Excel, Powerpoint - all safe in the cloud.

How I use it:

For all my work. Full stop.

Right now I’m typing away in Google Docs, cos if my ancient iMac falls asleep in the armchair, I know my work is instantaneously saved. I’ll then paste it into my blog, and always have a copy for my records.

Why you’ll love it, too:

  • No more incompatible file types.

  • Share documents with people via a link.

  • They can ‘hop in’ and access the document, but you get to specify whether they can comment, edit or simply read it.

  • If you’ve given someone permission to edit your doc, they’ll be assigned their own little (ridiculously cute) animal icon. Changes will appear in a different colour as ‘suggestions’.

Tips:

  • duplicate everything and keep originals - so your words don’t get whittled away into nothingness.

  • make folders and keep shi* together.

  • download important docs onto your computer and back them up, like any sane person. Just in case, zombies.

5. 1Password

https://agilebits.com/onepassword

With all these nifty tools for nailing your content, there’ll be passwords. A swag of passwords that you’ll instantly forget and spend minutes - precious minutes! - trying to crack at the log-in screen. That’s how receding hairlines happen.

Now, there’s 1Password.

What: a completely secure app for not only keeping your passwords together, but generating new & robust ones, too.

Why you’ll love it:

  • easy to use

  • looks preeeeeetty

  • sync it with all your devices (only if you want to)

  • assign emergency contact peeps

  • more secure than Gringotts.

Caveat: only the trial is free. After that, it’s around 50 bucks to have it for keeps.

Right. You’ve been officially tooled.

(And I’m all outta jokes. Timing!)

Oh, and just so ya know, none of these big ole companies are sponsoring me or anything. I just genuinely love their work. If you’re reading though, Google, wouldn’t mind an invite to your next networking event with the floating ping pong tables and hologram ponies. Ta.

Do you have any particular favourite tools? Share ‘em!