There are so many free tools out there that are available to small business owners. Whether your needs are for social media management, graphic design, website design, or money management there is a free tool out there to can get the job done. I am fully supportive of using free tools whenever possible, but when is it time to invest some money as opposed to using free tools and platforms? Here are some helpful things to consider when deciding when you should use free tools as functions for your business and when you should put some money towards a more comprehensive solution.
When to Use Free Tools
When You Are Just Starting Out and Looking to Save on Costs
One of the first priorities when starting a business is to build your customer base and get your operations off the ground while minimizing your costs. At this point, you probably aren’t seeing much yet in your bottom line, which is typical. During the exciting beginnings of starting a business, you can be tempted to make sure that you have the best tools available to you. However, note that these investments may not be needed at this time and should be evaluated when you have a larger profit margin. During these stages, free tools are perfectly acceptable and even encouraged.
When Free Tools Continue Meet Your Needs
When you get to the point where your business is generating some profits, free tools may still suit you just fine as your business grows. This is why you should do a periodic evaluation of the resources that your small business consumes to see if it makes sense to invest. For example, Dropbox is a free tool that comes with premium options. However, you may never consume enough document cloud storage to warrant an upgrade. Simply because an upgrade is available to you and you can afford it, there may never be a need to do so. Keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to make an investment.
When to Invest
When the Complexities of Running Your Business Increase
As your business grows and your responsibilities increase, there may be a need to make some upgrades in order to have more time to focus on running your business. Perhaps Excel worksheets for tracking your budget has worked in the past but in the past few years, you have hired a few people and went from a Sole Proprietorship to an LLC. At this point it could be time to invest in an accounting tool to automate your finances to make tax time less stressful and take the manual stress out of paying your staff. As your business grows, consider that saving time may be more valuable than saving money.
When the Tool(s) Support Your Specialty
Another way you can pick and choose where you should invest your money as a small business owner is to focus on tools that fit your specialty. If you run a graphic design business then Photoshop will likely be a worthwhile investment. If you do a lot of blogging or otherwise use a lot of stock images, you may want to invest in a paid stock image platform like Shutterstock. While there are a ton of free tools out there that support these functions, the paid options will likely be a more comprehensive option for your business needs. When a tool supports the bread and butter of your business and how you make a profit, it would be a good idea to go ahead and make the investment and choose a free option for a less critical area of your business operations.
Here is a list of tools that you can evaluate to meet your business needs, whether you are going for free or premium options.
- Hootsuite (Social Media Marketing Management) – Free & premium options
- Xero (Accounting Software) –Requires an investment
- QuickBooks (Accounting Software) – Requires an investment
- MailChimp (Automated Marketing Software) – Free & Premium Options
- Bidsketch (Contract & Proposal Software) – Requires an Investment
- Canva (Web Based Graphic Design Tool) – Free & Premium Options
- Photoshop (Graphic Design Tool) – Requires an Investment
- Pixabay (Royalty free images) – Free
- Shutterstock (Paid Images) – Requires an Investment
- Google Drive (Document Management and Cloud Storage) – Free & Premium Options
- Dropbox (Document Management and Cloud Storage) – Free & Premium Options
Hopefully you have better insight on how to invest in your business with free and premium tools. If you need additional advice on marketing planning, contact me to sign up for a one hour digital consulting call.