Top 10 Tools Every Startup Business Needs
Every startup, freelancer or small business needs all the help they can get, because they don’t always have the team or the budget to assist them. But you still need to compete with other companies who do have the resources to hire a staff of dedicated experts or purchase all the latest software and equipment. Fortunately, we live in an age where it’s never been easier to get all the services and products you need at a reasonable or no cost.
Here are the top 10 tools every startup business needs to look like a pro and compete with an edge:
1. Web Design
Few startups have the funds to hire professional web developers to build a website from the ground up, and yet an amateur-looking or user-unfriendly site won’t inspire confidence in visitors and will drive away potential customers. Wix gives you an easy, no-coding-required way to create your own site or online store.
Features specifically targeted to businesses include:
- A large library of drag-and-drop templates
- Mobile optimization, web stats, and SEO analytics
- Apps for invoicing and appointment bookings
- Integrated contact forms, Google maps, and social media buttons
- Digital storefront, Etsy link, coupon options
With Wix, it won’t cost you anything to design a great website. If you want to use your own domain, however, you’ll need to pay $4.08 per month. Plans tier upwards from there – if you want an online store, for instance, you’ll need either the e-commerce ($16.17 per month) or VIP plan ($24.92 per month).
Every business with a website – which, these days, ought to be every business – needs good analytics. The Moz Open Site Explorer is a free tool that can tell you a lot about your website or a competitor’s site, like:
- Discern your page authority and domain authority rankings
- See where inbound links are coming from
- Learn which pages rank highest so you can tweak your SEO strategy
- See your Facebook and Twitter shares/likes/tweets
The Moz Open Site Explorer gives you a few nice tools for no cost, but if you need more advanced analytics, you’ll need to upgrade to Moz Pro, which costs $99 per month.
3. Email Marketing
By now we’re confident that no matter how many other great tools there are, e-mail is here to stay – and used frequently by just about everyone – so e-mail marketing is a must for today’s startups. Mailchimp is an e-mail marketing service that does so much more than just send out newsletters. This free service comes with several tools, including:
- Subscriber forms that you can use on social media or your website
- Pre-made e-mail and newsletter templates, automated messages, and mobile-friendly designs
- MailChimp Snap, which allows you to send photo-based e-mails to specific subscribers (handy for alerting them that an out-of-stock item is available)
- Targeted campaigns and detailed analytics to track their performance
If you grow your e-mail following past 2,000 subscribers or you find that you need more in-depth tools – like A/B testing or more detailed subscriber reports – then you can upgrade from the free Starting Up service to the Growing Business or Pro Marketer plans, both of which start at $20 per month.
4. Social Media Management
Most entrepreneurs will tell you that without the right tools, managing several social media accounts turns into a juggling act. That’s why you need HootSuite, a social media management system for brand guidance and growth. With Hootsuite, you can:
- Keep tabs on all of your accounts from one dashboard, including:
- Facebook Profiles & Pages
- LinkedIn Profiles & Pages
- Google+ Pages (not personal profiles)
- Monitor and respond to social media comments, and schedule future posts
- Team management tool, which allows you to not only know if another team member has replied to a comment or scheduled an update, but to actually delegate different tasks to different people
- Weekly reports of your click summaries showing you:
- Number of clicks per day
- Geographical location of clickers
- Top referring sites
- Most popular links
The basic service is free, but you’ll only be able to schedule one post at a time and you’re limited to three social media profiles. For most startups, Hootsuite Pro is the best option. It’s $9.99 per month, and you’ll be able to link up to 50 profiles and schedule 350 posts.
If you need an organized space that allows everyone in your office or virtual offices to share files, then you need Dropbox. This personal cloud storage service gives you:
- Data backup and storage space
- Easy file sharing for all your photos, documents, videos, and other files
- Automatically synchronizes to and is accessible from all your devices (computers, tablets, smartphones)
Integration with Office 365, which means that you can edit your Word documents and spreadsheets right there in Dropbox and tag other team members about your update</li>
- 30 days of file recovery
While Dropbox’s basic service is free, it comes with some big limitations. For starters, you’ll only get two gigabytes of storage space. The Pro plan ($10 per month, per user) gives you a terabyte of space and the Business plan ($15 per month, per user) comes with unlimited storage. The Business plan also comes with quite a few more collaboration tools and it offers e-mail and phone support.
6. Project Management
Now that so many startups rely on a remote workforce, keeping files, resources, to-do lists, and updates conveniently organized can be tricky. With Wrike, you’ll never ask yourself, “Did I remember to e-mail the latest file to everyone?” again. It’s a great platform that lets your entire team gather in one spot. The most useful features include:
- Integration with cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive
- Break projects down by task, attach files, and set due dates
- An Activity Stream that lets you see project progress in real time
- The ability to leave comments, start discussions, and tag specific teammates within tasks, as well as communicate via Wrike with people outside your company
- Easy file sharing between collaborators
The free service gives you all of these tools and more, but it limits you to two gigabytes of storage space, two project folders and five user accounts. After that, monthly service is tiered, starting with a five-user Professional account for $49.
7. Customer Relationship Management
There are lots of CRM applications available for startups, but HubSpot CRM (a new tool from marketing king HubSpot) is one of the best free options to improve customer service, not to mention your own business strategy. You’ll have access to tons of features, such as:
- Tracking email conversations, companies, contacts, deals, and tasks
- Allowing you to invite other team members for free (because there’s no per user charge) when you create a new account
- A clear dashboard that displays any current deals you have, recent tasks, and important emails
- Automatically syncing up with all your platforms, like website, emails, and social media
- Since it’s always working in the background, no need to log emails or calls
- Creating custom fields and filtering to find contacts immediately
- Drag-and-drop communicator which allows you to send emails and calendar invites, place calls, and record notes in one place
The free version of HubSpot CRM allows unlimited users and contacts and gives you a robust set of tools, but you can always upgrade to the Premium version which enables you to integrate it with HubSpot’s full marketing services (starting at $200 per month).
Free accounting tools are hard to come by, but one great option is Hiveage (if we do say so ourselves!). Our invoicing and billing software is made for small businesses and freelancers, and it gives you easy access to all the accounting tools you’ll need from estimate to final payment. Here are some of the things Hiveage can do:
- Its “smart” features easily converts an estimate into an actual invoice with one click
- Send online invoices with professional-looking templates (with your brand’s logo) as well as reminders and acknowledgements
- Accept online payments from PayPal, Authorize.net, Stripe and more
- Automatic tax calculations
- Time, mileage, and expense tracking
- Workflows that include your whole team so that all billing and invoicing is in one place
At Hiveage we offer you a 30-day free trial which includes all the features, and you don’t have to provide any credit card information. After that you can continue with the free option (for one user) or upgrade to one of three paid plans: Custom for $6.95 per month, Big 5 for $29.95 per month (up to 5 users), or Big 10 for $49.95 per month (up to 10 users). There are no contracts and you can cancel at any time.
Legal services are expensive, but LegalZoom gives startups a great way to minimize those costs. Services offered by LegalZoom include:
- A free Knowledge Center with many helpful legal articles
- A wide range of legal documents including contractor agreements, incorporation documents, and trademark registration
- Personalized advice from registered attorneys
- A simple, 3-step process for creating personalized legal documents:
- Answer a series of questions about your issue
- LegalZoom reviews your information and lets you know of any outstanding info
- They print your legal documents and include final instructions for you, and can even file them for you
- Completing this process is free, and you only pay when you decide to purchase the document, so you can change your mind at any time
Most of LegalZoom’s services come with a cost, but a much smaller cost than you’d expect from a regular attorney. Monthly subscription packages starting at $7.99 give you access to all of LegalZoom’s forms. You can also buy documents individually – a contractor agreement, for instance, costs $14.95. And, if you need advice from an attorney, a $23.99 monthly fee gives you the opportunity to contact LegalZoom lawyers whenever you want.
10. Everything Else
Let’s say that you need a web developer, an accountant, a writer or a graphic designer, but you don’t need any of these professionals on a full-time basis. The Upwork global freelancing platform (formerly Elance-oDesk) might be exactly what your business needs. You can:
- Hire freelancers of all kinds, for jobs of every shape and size
- Communicate easily with freelancers through Upwork’s messaging system
- Post jobs and let interested freelancers place bids
Because you’re working directly with freelancers on Upwork, prices will vary from person to person and from project to project. However, with direct access to so many freelancers, you’ll be able to find the professionals you need quickly and at the right price.
Successful startups are helmed by visionaries who know when to do the job themselves and when to hire the perfect expert to do it. These top 10 tools will get you started and keep you going without breaking your budget.