:: By Dylan Chadwick, Fueled ::
Today's business world, a rapidly evolving landscape seemingly dominated by technological developments, staggering international markets and a few multibillion dollar mainstays, may seem more challenging for small businesses than ever. There’s a flipside to that coin though, and as technological capability keeps building on itself, more people gain access to these tools of production and consumption, carving endless niches for creative minds to fill. Furthermore, with the ability to sell and buy items from all over the world, technology’s democratizing aspect will continue strapping small business owners into the driver’s seat.
Technology, as the past decade has taught us, is much more than a passive force but an active wave which users can channel for their own purposes. Check out these 10 free tools that will fast-track both small and large-scale business ventures.
1. Google Docs, Drive, and Apps
There's a reason why Google consistently dominates the tech sector. The search-engine giant is a robust, progressive juggernaut that’s constantly innovating with a host of intuitive tools, apps and add-ons like Google Drive, which allows business owners to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more without paying a cent.
If you're looking for answers, or simply to pick the brains of the world’s top business leaders, head over to Quora. It’s a comprehensive question-and-answer site that showcases the knowledge of top-level executives from around the business world, and it’s absolutely free.
3. Free Conference Call
This free app allows users to hold conference calls with team members, clients and business partners at no cost. In addition to simple communication, the app also records these sessions for playback, an invaluable tool for future training situations.
This mobile register app is incredibly handy. The free card reader plugs into the MP3 socket of a smartphone or tablet, and allows business owners to ring up customers, calculate tax and email receipts with a few swipes of the finger. Best of all? It’s pocket-sized, so you can literally take your business anywhere.
This app, accessible both on the desktop and as a mobile application, allows users to create project-specific lists and share them with the entire team. It's not only incredibly simple, it’s a powerful tool that will maximize the productivity of the workplace by consistently communicating team goals and displaying real-time progress to all team members.
Keeping track of client relationships can be challenging, but it's one of the most important parts of building a solid base and maintaining positive rapport with different groups of customers. ZohoCRM is a free client relationship management software that keeps track of individual clients, with their constituent sales history easily accessible. It also allows users to track ROI and lifetime value of their various clients, quickly and without hassle.
Social Media marketing is an ever-growing sector of small business outreach and it’s here to stay. For small business owners, the process of maintaining a social media process across multiple platforms can be time-consuming. That's where HootSuite comes in. The tool allows business owners to manage every one of their social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all from one simple interface. Rather than tediously logging on and off of each account separately, users can conduct entire marketing campaigns across all platforms at once, presenting a coherent brand identity to connect with a client base.
Dropbox has uses far beyond the world of small business. The simple and intuitive app allows users to store up to 2 GB of data for free. Employees and clients can access shared cloud-based Dropbox folders to receive memos, documents, videos, and more without clogging up valuable storage space on their hard drives.
Want to expand your marketing impact without breaking the bank? MailChimp is an email campaign software that facilitates the development and distribution of campaigns to up to 2,000 subscribers absolutely free, with more offered at a premium rate. It's easy, effective and lets users send thousands of emails in a single keystroke.
This app makes it easier to balance all of your finance accounts, bringing every account under one interface, so users to monitor expenditures and cut costs with ease. It even supplies tailored financial advice, such as where to cut excessive spending, based on your account activity.
Dylan Chadwick is a content writer at Fueled, the leading iPhone app builder in New York City, renowned for its award winning mobile design and strategy.