Business apps are an essential for all entrepreneurs today. Subscriptions and purchases can add up quickly, though, for the solo entrepreneur. How do you choose which apps to use for your business and which are the best value? I recommend looking for free apps to increase your productivity, as a starting point. Whether the app is free for a trial period, or has a “free forever” version, trying out an app for free before committing lots of time and money is wise.
If you’re a solo entrepreneur or small business owner, you’re likely looking for ways to increase productivity as much as possible. It’s easy to let your business take over your life if you’re not careful or well disciplined, and few of us became entrepreneurs to work more hours.
I grew tired of working crazy long hours to squeeze in all the tasks I wasn’t ready to outsource yet, so I decided to see if I could make technology my partner and find apps that would help me reclaim some of that time. I’m not averse to paying for the right app, but I’m also not keen on parting with money to try out something before I know it will meet my needs.
After some research, I’ve added a few apps to my arsenal. These 12 free apps that increase my productivity have become business staples for me. While all of them are free apps, some of them have paid upgrade options that, in my opinion, are worth paying a little money for. One of the things I like about apps with free versions is that it means I can try them out for as long as I need to without committing financially, and for a few of them, the basic–free–version is all I need.
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Social Media Scheduling
Hootsuite—This social media scheduler was my go-to for years and I eventually moved to a paid version of this app. The free version allows you to schedule up to five posts at a time to two social profiles. Paid versions with more options start at $49/month. If you are active on social media, this price for being able to schedule a week or more a time, is worth it.
Buffer—Buffer is another easy-to-use scheduler. The free version includes 3 social accounts and 10 scheduled posts per account at a time. Paid versions start at $5/month per social account.
Zoho Social— Since I originally wrote this post, a lot has changed in the social media scheduling world. You can still find free schedulers, but many of them are much more limited. One free scheduling app I recently came across is Zoho Social. Zoho Social is part of Zoho, which is an all-in-one business solution that includes email, CRM, finance, online meetings, file sharing, etc. It may be overkill for a solo entrepreneur, but if you’re a growing small business, it may be worth considering.
In this post I’m only looking at social media scheduling, and while like all the others Zoho has paid plans, they also have what appears to be one of the more robust free plans. The free edition includes one team member, one brand, and publishing on up to seven social media channels. If you want more options, paid plans start at $10/month.
Google Calendar—All you need to use this free calendar is a google account. I have used this calendar since Gmail was in invitation-only Beta. It’s easy to set up a meeting with someone by sending them a calendar invite. I keep separate calendars for business and personal, but I can see them on one calendar and it keeps me from double-booking myself. It’s also easy to share your calendar, whether it’s with team members or family members. This is how I keep track of the comings and goings of other family members.
Toggl—I have several clients, and I like to keep track of how much time I spend with them, as well as time spent on other projects. Toggl makes this easy. I have it both on my computer and on my phone, so I can easily begin time tracking when I’m meeting someone away from the office. Toggl’s free version allows me to track time and categorize it by project. It also produces a variety of reports so I can see how I spent my time. The paid versions offer more options for tracking and reporting.
Meeting schedulers have become one of the most popular free apps to increase your productivity in the past couple of years. Not just for setting in-person meetings, but for scheduling Zoom appointments, these apps stop those endless back-and-forth “when are you free?” emails. I’ve used a number of them, but CalendarHero is my current favorite.
CalendarHero—Allows website visitors to view your availability and set appointments with you. The paid version offers more options like custom email notifications and more meeting types.
RescueTime—If you have a habit of falling down the internet rabbit hole and losing time, you need RescueTime. It tracks where you go and how long you’re there in the online world. Paid versions offer additional tracking and reporting options. It’s also available for individuals and teams. While RescueTime isn’t an app that directly increases your productivity, it can show you where the time sucks are, and allow you to improve.
Google Keep— Create and save notes, save links, web pages, images, text and voice notes, time-based reminders. Syncs to all your devices that have Google on them.
Evernote— Evernote is similar to Google Keep but with more sophisticated recording and sorting options. It also has some collaborative tools in the paid versions. Disclaimer: this is an affiliate link. I use Evernote and highly recommend it. Use it to save notes and links, create reminders, clips and bookmarks web pages, images, pdf files. You can even record audio or video.
Trello—Trello is like an internet bulletin board (the kind with push pins, not the electronic message board). You have access to project Boards where you can track ideas, projects, make checklists, assign to team members, can sync with other programs for project management and tracking. There are various free and paid upgrades including a cool one that allows me to send an email from Gmail to Trello and have it become part of a board.
Google Docs—Free online document storage and document production. Is there anyone who doesn’t know about Google Docs? Well, just in case… I have multiple computers and I travel. I can put things in Google Docs to work on them from any computer, from my tablet, or from my phone. It stores all types of files. I even have a survey running that I created in Google Docs. If needed, you can purchase additional storage, but its initial capacity is 15GB which is enough for most people.
DropBox— Cloud storage and a platform to share files of all types. A basic free account gives you 2 GB of space. You can get more with a paid plan (which offers additional bells and whistles) or by inviting friends. You get an additional 500 GB for everyone friend who uses your link to join, up to 16 GB. Paid accounts may include up to 2 TB, though file uploads are limited to 20 GB per file. BY the way, if you click on the link to get to DropBox, I get another 500 GB. Thanks!
Boomerang—This is free and paid email scheduler that allows you to delay sending emails. It’s useful if you’re an insomniac like me who sometimes answers emails in the wee hours and don’t want to risk disturbing someone’s beauty sleep. You can also have emails pop back up into your inbox so you don’t forget to follow up. It’s also available for Outlook, though I’ve never tried it there.
Google Voice—This is free VOIP phone service. It can work with hangouts or you can set it to ring your cell or landline. (does anyone still have one of these?) For all the reasons I love it, read this. There is a charge for international calling, but I called France last week for 6 cents/minute. My cell provider wanted to charge me $1.99/minute.
Do you have favorite free apps that increase your productivity? Share them and why you love them in the comments.