22 free and low cost tools to help run your small business

November 12, 2020
5 minutes read

As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats—and when running the business feels overwhelming, a tight budget can make things even more challenging.

The good news is there are tons of capable tools designed (and priced!) specifically for small businesses. Whether you want to overhaul your project management process, streamline team communication, or take charge of your accounting, there’s a tool out there that can help.

Below, we outline 22 of them—all offering robust free or low cost options.

Project management tools

1. Trello

Cost: Free plan

Trello offers a project management solution based on the KANBAN methodology. You can create project boards and cards to represent each task, categorize those tasks, attach files, and assign cards to individual team members.

Who it’s great for:

  • Task-oriented business owners
  • Employers with multiple employees
  • KANBAN users

2. Asana

Cost: Free plan

Asana follows the traditional to-do list format and builds on it to make collaboration and prioritization easier. Users gain the ability to categorize and organize tasks, create sub-tasks, assign to individual team members, set due dates, and more.

Who it’s great for:

  • To-do list lovers
  • Business owners looking for flexibility
  • Collaborators

3. Airtable

Cost: Free plan

Airtable promises a supercharged version of spreadsheet project management. Users can add team members to tasks, organize and prioritize tasks via drag-and-drop, and easily scale the complexity of their project management as needs change and grow.

Who it’s great for:

  • Spreadsheet fans
  • Business owners with advanced technological needs
  • Anyone looking for advanced project management

Scheduling tools

4. Calendly

Cost: Free plan

Calendly allows users to customize their availability, then share a link to their calendar to make scheduling easy and quick. The tool also integrates with most major calendar apps and video conferencing tools.

Who it’s great for:

  • Business owners who schedule lots of meetings
  • Someone looking for a straightforward solution
  • Anyone looking to save time

5. Doodle

Cost: Starts at $4.49 per user per month

Doodle makes scheduling easier by enabling users to send a curated snapshot of their available times—in email, Slack, and more. For larger groups, users can also send out a poll for team members to vote on the best times for them.

Who it’s great for:

  • Business owners booking large meetings
  • Anyone with a complicated schedule

Email marketing tools

6. Mailchimp

Cost: Free plan

With Mailchimp’s email marketing tool, you can collect email subscribers and design and schedule professional email campaigns. Mailchimp also includes email templates to get you started, plus features for A/B testing campaigns and send times.

Who it’s great for:

  • Business owners who are new to email marketing
  • Budget-conscious marketers

7. HubSpot

Cost: Free

HubSpot’s email marketing software includes many of the key features of a more expensive tool—including email personalization, A/B testing, and robust analytics to help measure and optimize email campaigns.

Who it’s great for:

  • Business owners with email marketing experience
  • Employers looking for more advanced email capabilities
  • Business owners in need of a solution that integrates multiple marketing channels

8. Sender

Cost: Free plan

Integrating with popular ecommerce platforms, Sender is simplified email marketing designed for ecommerce. Users can create automated email series and even import their entire product catalog, so it’s quick and easy to add full product information into emails.

Who it’s great for:

  • Ecommerce-focused businesses
  • Detailing product information
  • Price-sensitive marketers

Design tools

9. Canva

Cost: Free plan

Canva offers a simple way for anyone to create professional designs, from logos and branding to social media posts, presentations, and print materials. Users can choose from pre-designed templates and elements, customize, or build designs from scratch.

Who it’s great for:

  • Business owners without design expertise
  • Social media-driven businesses
  • Businesses looking for a way to stand out visually

10. VistaCreate

Cost: Free plan

Focused on the digital sphere, VistaCreate offers over 30,000 templates for everything from social media posts to ads. VistaCreate also enables users to design video content, and even animation.

Who it’s great for:

  • Digital-driven small businesses
  • Business owners interested in utilizing video and animation

Social media tools

11. Buffer

Cost: Free plan

Buffer is a simplified tool that allows users to connect multiple social media accounts and schedule posts across all of them from one place. As needs grow, paid Buffer plans also provide social analytics and reports.

Who it’s great for:

  • Businesses active on multiple social platforms
  • Time-crunched business owners who want to schedule their posts

12. Hootsuite

Cost: Free plan

Hootsuite enables users to connect social media accounts and schedule posts and ads. While they offer a limited free plan, Hootsuite is one of the most scalable options for a growing social media presence.

Who it’s great for:

  • Business owners focused on growth
  • Anyone with social media as a core part of their marketing strategy

Communication tools

13. Slack

Cost: Free plan

Slack is the go-to tool for instant internal business communication. Add users, create channels by topic or team, or send private direct messages. If you’ve used messaging platforms on your phone, you’ll have a good understanding of how easy Slack is to use.

Who it’s great for:

  • Business owners with multiple employees
  • Anyone who sends a high volume of messages

14. Zoom

Cost: Free plan

Zoom video conferencing software is free for up to 100 participants and unlimited one-on-one meetings. It’s become extremely popular during the pandemic, and is consistently counted on for critical video calls.

Who it’s great for:

  • Anyone looking for high quality and dependable video conferencing
  • Entrepreneurs with large companies as clients

Accounting and bookkeeping tools

15. Wave

Cost: Free with optional paid add-ons

With Wave's small business accounting software, users can connect bank accounts, sync and categorize expenses, balance books and transactions, access financial reports, and get ready for tax season. Wave Accounting also syncs with other Wave services like Invoicing and Money to let you do more in one place, save time, and keep accurate records. The best part? It's free!

Who it’s great for:

  • Service-based small business owners and freelancers
  • Anyone looking for a free solution that doesn’t compromise on features

16. Sunrise

Cost: Free plan

Sunrise’s self-service plan lets users connect their bank, perform double entry accounting, and accept payments. As needs grow, Sunrise’s paid plans include a dedicated professional bookkeeper.

Who it’s great for:

  • Small business owners focused only on accounting and invoicing
  • Entrepreneurs who’d like someone to handle their bookkeeping for them

Invoicing tools

17. Wave Invoicing

Cost: Free

With Wave's free invoicing software, business owners can easily create branded, customized invoices with drag-and-drop templates. Wave makes it a breeze to add customers, services, and products, send invoices to customers, and accept bank and credit card payments.

Who it’s great for:

  • Small business owners who want to offer customers the convenience of paying directly from an invoice
  • Entrepreneurs looking to manage their day-to-day finances in one place

18. Invoice Simple Invoice Generator

Cost: Free

Invoice Simple offers a simplified invoice generator. Users input company, customer, and billing information, choose a main theme color, and the tool generates a simple, professional-looking invoice.

Who it’s great for:

  • Small business owners looking for the most straightforward invoice experience
  • Time-strapped entrepreneurs

Payment processing tools

19. Wave Payments

Cost: Per transaction processing fees of 1% for bank payments and 2.9% + $0.60 for most credit card payments.

Wave Payments makes payment easy for businesses and their customers alike. Customers can pay directly from the Wave invoices they receive, while business owners can customize each invoice to accept bank payments, credit card payments, or both.

Who it’s great for:

  • Businesses with customers who want to pay digitally
  • Anyone looking to avoid long-term subscriptions and sign-up fees

20. PayPal

Cost: Varies by product

PayPal enables businesses to accept and process payments in myriad ways, including through invoices, ecommerce checkout, and in-person via point-of-sale. They offer a wide variety of services, and are well-known around the world.

Who it’s great for:

  • Small business owners with clients in numerous countries
  • Businesses that sell goods and services digitally

Payroll tools

21. Wave Payroll

Cost: $20-$35 per month plus $6 per employee/independent contractor per month

Wave's small business payroll software makes it easy for business owners to pay both employees and independent contractors. The tool lets you direct deposit payments, generate W-2 and 1099 tax forms, and automatically create payroll journal entries.

Who it’s great for:

  • Small businesses with under 10 employees
  • Small business owners with both employees and independent contractors

22. Gusto

Cost: Starts at $19 per month plus $6 per person per month

Gusto offers payroll as part of a broader HR and benefits platform. The Basic plan offers most payroll features—including 4-day direct deposit, paid time off (PTO), and workers’ comp for any single state.

Who it’s great for:

  • Small business owners looking for a solution with additional HR capabilities
  • Businesses with larger amounts of employees

Tools to make small business better

A lot goes into running a small business, but you don’t have to do it alone. The tools above are designed to make every aspect of small business easier, simpler, and faster. And with most offering robust free plans, there’s no budget too small to benefit.

By Kiera Abbamonte

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

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