Whether you’re a solopreneur or an agency, you have a lot to do in a day. A huge portion of that time is dedicated to digital marketing and managing your online presence.
Growing the online portion of your business depends on your time and attention. It’s one thing everyone has in common, no matter the size of the organization. Until you can work with me for your digital marketing, you need to manage your own web presence.
You have limited time and resources, so your online business process should be as efficient as possible. It also has to reserve the most dollars in your lean marketing budget.
These free online tools will help you make business and marketing quicker, easier and cheaper as you grow.
1. Social Media Marketing Apps
Social media and websites go hand-in-hand. They are both necessary tools to grow your customer base. That holds true whether your business is online or a brick-and-mortar.
It’s a science to it all. You have to post high-quality images and content at the right time of day and on the right platforms.
One of the most critical acts is to be consistent. Your audience and potential clients want to see fresh content on the regular.
Without help, you would have to spend your entire day to get all of that social media posting done. Or you can use some of the tools below:
A social media scheduling and automation tool will help you stay on top of consistently posting the right content at the right time. There are a growing list of others out there, but these are the ones I’ve tried and continued to use:
Buffer is my favorite of the three, and it now has even more features. It used to send reminders to post on Instagram, but single photo posts will automatically publish now. With Buffer, you can connect up to 3 accounts and publish up to 10 posts daily for free.
If you haven’t discovered the power of Pinterest for your website, you are leaving traffic and money on the table. It’s worthy of a separate blog post with all the juicy details on how Pinterest can put your traffic on steroids.
When you get started, their built-in pin scheduler will be a part of your strategy to make sure your blog posts and web pages get the attention they deserve. It’s simple to upload your photo or well-designed pin and add text, keywords and website links. Then you can pin it to your board, group boards and add it to social media apps.
Tailwind partners with Pinterest to allow businesses to schedule pins. This goes a bit deeper than the scheduler on Pinterest. And you can schedule pins of all types.
Your first 100 pins are free.
The old follow/unfollow social media trick
It’s hard to believe people are still doing this, but obviously some have more time on their hands than we do. While you are growing your business, you’ll cross paths with annoying follow/unfollowers on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
They mostly prey on smaller accounts because those with a large following won’t give them the time of day. These people follow you to get you to follow them back, then they unfollow you with the hope that you won’t notice or care.
If you do notice and/or care, there’s a free app for that. The app is called Followers and will give you insights such as who has unfollowed you and who does not follow you back.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The way people use Google and other search engines to find your website and content is about to change. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will reshape the way users find information and what they do with it.
Fortunately, the best marketers are on top of their game and ready to go on this journey with you.
Much of the world still uses traditional devices to find what they’re looking for online. You can find the proof of that in your Google Analytics or whatever system you use to view your traffic sources.
So, to make sure people can find you in the mountain of websites and content online, you can trust these tools made by SEO and marketing gurus.
3. Basic Graphic Design Apps
As I mentioned before and will continue to embed in your brain, you need high quality images and graphics online. You don’t have to be a professional designer to put together a nice image for Instagram or Pinterest.
My go-to graphic design app right now is Canva. There are thousands of templates to craft the perfect social media post, cover image and more!
There are even resources to make print media such as business cards, logos, invitations and flyers.
I make custom designs and use an actual software for these areas, but it’s a good tool to use for mockups to present to clients.
I even recommended the app to one of my clients to brand his photography work.
Some people swear by PicMonkey, which Creative Market also recommended along with other design apps.
4. Photo editing
The other part of keeping your image attractive is making sure photos are on point. That means having pictures in the right size, color tone, resolution and shape.
Instagram has built-in filters, but Facebook and other platforms give you little to work with.
As part of your design process, keep a few photo editing tools on hand for #shareworthy images.
5. Stock photos
It’s not always convenient to take your top notch camera out on the town for a photo shoot. Plus, there are a lot more elements that go into taking a good professional photo.
That is where stock photos come in. I can normally find good photos on Pixabay. They allow royalty free, Creative Commons use of these photos for no charge.
You can’t go wrong using photos from this website, but I recently came across another list of sites for free high quality stock images.
6. Mailing List Tools
Some people call them newsletters, some call them mailing lists. Either way, it’s a powerful resource that users subscribe to when you capture their attention. It’s also one of the best ways to narrow down your market and generate revenue online.
Offer them exclusive content, a free product or service, or some sort of discount. The exchange is their email address and permission to occasionally send them messages.
Some of these mailing list platforms and plugins have been around since the beginning and were made by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs:
7. Tools to improve your writing
Even if you aren’t a professional blogger, you will have to put your writing skills to work. Social media, copywriting and blogging will become a part of your weekly tasks to promote your business.
You need to get your message across clearly and with minimal mistakes. Grammatically correct, short and simple sentences work best to keep the audience’s attention.
Use these apps to keep your grammar on point, passive voice usage low and sentence length to a “bore” minimum:
Do you ever get those random “Aha” moments in the middle of a movie, dinner, sleep? Me too! To make sure I don’t lose the idea, I take lots of notes— and I don’t mean sticky notes.
Jot down your text notes, voice memos and document drafts with these handy apps:
8. URL Shorteners
Some URLs are too short or ugly to include in your social media content. You need to preserve space to get the most out of character limits and short attention spans.
Copy and paste the web address into a free URL shorteners before creating your message.
9. Calendars and appointment booking
Of all the booking software I tried— even the plugins— 10to8 worked best for me. It’s growing and improving more and more, but has a great foundation to take care of business.
The booking system is flexible enough for any business type. The best part is you can accept payments at any point during the booking process. Stripe or PayPal integration lets you get your funds safely and quickly.
When you sign up for 10to8, the first 100 appointments are free for your business.
10. Secure invoicing and payments
It seems like the whole world knows about PayPal and most of them use it. Even if it isn’t your sole payment gateway, it should be an option for users who put their trust in them. PayPal has affordable solutions to handle all transactions for your online store or service-based business.
Square is a similar merchant with options for in-person or online transactions. Their Cash App has made a strong impression with individuals and businesses. I wasn’t a fan of it for my business model, but a few of my clients prefer it. I do think Cash App can be a good fit for businesses or freelancers who collect tips.
Put these free online tools to work for your business
You’ve got work to do, but you have the right business tools at your fingertips. The best part is you didn’t have to go through the trial and error like I did.
What are some of your favorite business tools?