After four years of running our successful and popular restaurant, Rob’s Rockin’ Dogs, I have found that it is extremely expensive to run a small business.
Everyone seems to have their hands in your pockets, from property taxes to sales taxes to employee taxes, to some other fourth tax. Everyday someone wanted to sell us something or wanted a percentage of our profits. Looking at you Waitr, DoorDash and Grubhub.
It was so important for me to find free software alternatives to technology that larger companies use every day. From restaurants to retail, advertising, and more, these are the must-have free resources for your small business.
Square - With so many different credit card processors and POS’s out there, I spent an embarrassing amount of time researching which one would work for us. The requirements for the POS was that it had to be simple to use but powerful enough for us to pull a lot of data out.
I purchased the Square equipment four years ago and have been using the Software ever since. Square is a great resource for all small businesses just starting off. You didn’t make any sales that month? Guess what, you don’t pay for anything. The biggest cost of Square is purchasing the iPad. If you don't want to put up a large amount of money to purchase the Square POS, you can always use your phone (assuming it still has the headphone jack) and a $9 card reader that plugs into your phone from any drug store.
Square also offers Invoicing, Appointments, Contracts, Gift Cards, Email marketing, an extremely simple, but free online store, payroll processing, and capital. The support has been great and I can’t stress enough how simple it made things to have everything in one place. Even though our restaurant closed earlier this year, I am still using Square for my web development business to send recurring invoices and set up appointments. You can try it out too. Bonus: Use this link to get your first $1,000 of processing free.
HubSpot - To make this list the resource had to first be free and second be easy to use. HubSpot is one of the simplest and most intuitive CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems I’ve come across. Invite your whole team, with unlimited free users, and store as many as one million contacts in the system.
Track all your sales leads, create notes, schedule tasks, get company insights, send out email campaigns, ticking system, reports dashboard, meeting scheduling, the list continues.
HubSpot is a dream for marketers. With HubSpot, you’ll no longer have to juggle between different platforms to market to potential and existing customers.
With HubSpot, you can create and optimize your content, nurture leads, monitor contacts as they become customers, and see how your marketing progresses. It’s an amazingly powerful system and a must-have for your small business.
Google My Business - The first thing customers are going to do when looking for your business is going to be a Google search. If your company doesn’t show up in their search results, you can be missing out on a large portion of your customer base.
Claiming your Google My Business location should be one of the first things you do. If you verify and edit your business information, you can help customers find your business and tell them your story. The services is free and although it may take some steps to verify your business, it’s worth the extra time and effort to set up your account.
Google My Business gives small business owners the ability to add and edit business hours, location, website URL, review and respond to user reviews, post updates, and specials and showcase your business through photos. If you need help verifying, filling out the information, or getting started on Google My Business, we can help! Book a free appointment to get started.
Canva - Designer Block is a nightmare. I’ve hit this wall I don’t know how many times, just staring at a blank screen and Google searching restaurant drink menu flyers.
Small business owners have little time and even less money, so hiring a large digital marketing agency is not normally in the budget. Enter Canva. Canva popped up around 2012 and it’s evolved into my go-to site for design layouts. Just type in what you want to design and instantly get inspired with pre-made templates for you to edit or choose a blank template.
The great thing about this is that you don’t have to go hunting for the correct size or remember where bleed marks go. Type in Facebook post and Canva already has the perfect size ready for you. They will even print and ship your completed designs to you. I haven’t opened Photoshop in months.
Google Docs - Forget Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. This is a list of free resources for your small business and Google Docs has really grown on me over the past few years. The auto-saving, the ability to share my document, letting others edit it in real-time, the easy formatting. Going back to Microsoft Word just seems like going back in time.
Google Docs has well, Docs which is equivalent to Word. Sheets, equivalent to Excel, Slides which is like PowerPoint and Forms. The Forms are a very useful tool as well. I’ve seen many local businesses using Forms to let customers easily pre-order food during the last few months. Every product in the Google Doc suite is very user friendly, intuitive, and easy to share.
These are my top five free small business resources. If you need help setting up any of the above resources, schedule a free website or business consultation. We enjoy helping small businesses find the right technology for their company size, needs, budget, and time frame.
Parker Digital Agency has created websites for many small businesses and startup companies. From healthcare to restaurants and retail, we've worked with a variety of businesses. We work in a wide range of digital spaces, from logo design, business technology, to blog creation and websites built from the ground up. We enjoy being able to offer our technology and creative expertise to help your small business succeed online.