8 Free Tools for the Bootstrapping Small Business


This post was voted one of the best of 2014 by our readers. I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff?

Man, free tools are great. Free tools that help your business are awesome. While there are many free business tools screaming for you to play with them, I’m going to focus on 8 of my favorites.

Here are 8 free online services that a small business can use to make life a little less complicated.

1. MailChimp

“Forever Free.” Love it. That’s MailChimp’s promise to its subscribers. The “Forever Free” plan allows up to 2,000 email subscribers and 12,000 emails to be sent per month. MailChimp offers well-designed email templates, campaigns, list segmentation, signup forms, auto responders, and reporting. Best of all, it integrates well with website, app, and social media platforms. As a subscriber, you’ll also get to enjoy random acts of humor through strategically placed and totally random videos. Just remember to watch out for Freddie!

Also See: Business Mentoring Series: Mastering Business Growth

Tip: Test, test, and then test again before sending an email campaign to your entire list. Check out MailChimp’s “Email Campaign Testing Tips.”

2. SurveyMonkey

Staying within the primate family, if you need to develop a survey to find out what your customers think, check out SurveyMonkey. With their free plan, putting together a survey is easy. You can post up to 10 questions per survey, solicit up to 100 people, post surveys via weblink, email, Facebook, or embedded on your site or blog. Then you can view results. With a paid account, you can unlock additional features and pose more questions to more people.

Tip: The fact that you can only post up to 10 questions per (free) survey is probably a good thing. Keeping your survey short and focused on a single objective will lead to more quality responses.

3. Join.me

This is a great tool for customer service, tech support, training, and sales positions. Join.me combines screen sharing and meeting tools in one app. With the free account, up to 10 meeting participants can join, speak to each other via online chat or through an internet call, and send files. Among other features and functionality available to paying “Pro” users, you have the ability to customize the platform to fit your brand through a custom URL and background.

Tip: So you can learn from my mistakes, here’s an unsolicited “screen sharing” tip for you: If you’re sharing your screen or getting ready to view someone else’s screen, make sure you’ve turned off email and chat, and have closed down other types of media that you do not wish to share with others! I might write about such an experience in a future post: “How to botch a sales demo!”

4. Wufoo

If you need to collect information from a few people or just need a simple contact form for your website or blog, Wufoo is a great app to use. With the free account, “Gratis,” you can create up to three unique 10-field forms, with each form capable of handling up to 100 entries per month. You can embed the form directly onto your website or link to the standalone form page. As your form and data collection needs increase, you can continue to upgrade into more robust and sophisticated options.

Also Read: 7 Awesome Facts About American Small Business

Tip: Although you have the ability to change the background within your forms, use that power wisely. Don’t go crazy with the design. Keep it simple and draw the user’s eyes toward the content and form fields, not the background.

5. Dropbox

A great tool for business people on the go. Dropbox users have the ability to upload, store, edit, sync, share, and view files on any device, at any location. The free account offers 2 GB of space.

Tip: For every new user referral you generate, your account is rewarded with 500 MB of additional storage—up to 16 GB. So, if you’re a great marketer or just a really pesky friend, you can accumulate up to 18 GB of free storage!

6. Manta.com

If you operate or sell within the B2B space, let me introduce you to Manta! With free access to more than one million registered users and 87 million company profiles, finding new business prospects is cheap and easy. You can filter your search by category, location, company revenue, number of employees, ownership (public or private), location type, and more. Manta is a great place to segment your market search and find business to call on – for free.

Tip: For those really important sales calls, Manta.com will sell a basic company report for $9.95. In addition to the company profile, the report will provide contact information for decision makers such as the CEO or company officers.

7. LinkedIn

I know this one might sound rather obvious to most of you, but you would be surprised by how many business people fail to take advantage of this great platform. When seeking business financing, new business partnerships, or just about anything else related to business, people are going to search for you on LinkedIn. With the free version, you can build a comprehensive profile, sync with your email account to add existing contacts, and make new connections.

Free Download: LinkedIn: Business Marketing

Tip: Don’t forget to look at the people who have viewed your profile. Is it the loan officer at the bank? Could it be a potential customer? This is a great reconnaissance tool to know who’s taking a peak at your profile and who may be interested in you or your business. What you do with that knowledge is up to you!

8. Google


Tip: Do I have to explain this?

What are some of your favorite freebies?

Will Adams

Will Adams is the GM for Small Business Services for GoSmallBiz.com. Will leads the company’s efforts in serving small business owners and their employees through consulting, software, education, employee training, and advocacy. Will is also the co-founder of a successful Software as a Service (SaaS) business that currently serves small museums and family offices throughout North America. In addition to his business interests, Will serves on the board of Atlanta Children’s Foundation, connecting individuals, organizations, and resources to meet the needs of children in foster care.