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13 Essential, Low-Cost Tools for My Small Business


13 essential, low-cost tools for my small business. Image of a laptop and coffee cup on a desk near a window with paper and pens on the desk

Introduction to Small Business Tools

While building my small business, I've come to recognize that efficiency and simplicity aren’t just buzzwords; they’re a lifeline. The right tools help me streamline processes, automate mundane tasks, tame frustration, and provide data. These instruments are not just about saving time; they also pave the way to overcome operational hurdles, maintain tight budgets, and manage limited people resources, allowing me to pour more energy into growth. Adopting these tools enables small businesses like mine to get things done for a one-person shop at a low cost.


Canva

Canva is a design tool for creating social media posts, graphics, posters, beautiful documents, and PDFs. The free version contains a lot of templates, graphics, fonts, and pictures. The paid version contains many, many more options. I used the free version for many years, and it is kind of impressive with what all you can do. I’ve upgraded to the paid version, and enjoy it for its branding capabilities (logos, fonts, colors) as well as updated templates and graphics. One tip that I have for Canva: if you find a few styles that you like or if you’ve created PDFs or other digital products to sell, keep a copy of the URL and a description in a different document. When you do this for a few years, you might have so much content that it is difficult to find things.


For example:

  • Getting Stuff Done eBook www.canva.com/asdfqwer

  • IG carousel 1 www.canva.com/oiuwer92234

  • Infographic 1 www.canva.com/1234qadsf


Information Organization with Notion & Trello

Notion helps me capture ideas, research, and information in one place, making it a breeze to organize and find the information. Notion has a Chrome add-in that lets you quickly add a webpage’s content to Notion. There is also a mobile app that lets you send information to Notion. The app is similar to EverNote and OneNote if you have used either of those. I also use it as a place to house the URLs for various courses and digital products that I have purchased. There is a no-cost version and a paid-upgrade version. 

Something that I am contemplating with Notion is upgrading to the paid version because of its AI (Artificial Intelligence) feature. It will use AI to create content based on the information contained in your own Notion account.  When I used the trial version, it seemed quite promising and more affordable than other AI subscriptions!

Trello helps me organize my projects, weekly plans, and goals. I don’t use it in the traditional project management view, but it displays information in a way that works for me. I use it for weekly coaching calls because it has a template feature that lets me replicate the weekly accountability questions. It helps simplify my life as a small business owner.


Content Creation with ContentShake & ChatGPT

ContentShake is an app that helps you find topics that will get picked up by a search engine and helps you generate engaging titles. It uses AI (artificial intelligence) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to create content. I find that it is a good starting point but needs a fair amount of cleanup. The writing sounds very AI-like - it produces a lot of words without actually saying much. I enjoy it for the titles as well as the structure that it provides. There is a no-cost version and a paid-upgrade version.


ChatGPT is the one that started it all. It’s an AI tool that has you give it a prompt and it will respond. Here are two prompts that I have used: “Write an outline for a blog post about procrastination. Write about triggers and research-based solutions.” “List 8 quotes from famous authors about motivation.”  I’ve also used it to help craft personal messages: “Birthday message for favorite uncle.”  ChatGPT provides a starting point or some ideas for phrasing. If there is a research-based response, I always verify and double-check because I find quite a few errors or misconceptions.


Scheduling Tools with Meta Business Suite (Instagram & Facebook) and LinkedIn 

Meta Business Suite is the Facebook suite of tools that lets you schedule posts for your business Facebook and Instagram accounts. It also tells you when your followers are most likely to be on the platforms and lets you change up your message for Instagram and Facebook. For example, you can add a clickable link to a Facebook post but can only link to profiles on IG. I will sometimes schedule reels through the Instagram scheduling tool because you can add background music that gets lost or cut out through the Meta scheduling tool.


Video Creation Options

I tend to create a lot of software and app how-to videos, so I need screen-capturing tools as well as the ability to add voice-overs or videos of me presenting. 


PowerPoint has this option (Insert > Screen Recording). PowerPoint also has a feature called Cameo, which is also under the Insert menu, that allows you to add a recording of yourself.. You can also add audio (Insert > Audio > Record Audio). If you want to save your file as a video, go to File > Export > Create a Video. The file takes a long time to render and is large, so you may want to practice with short clips or a few slides first.


Canva provides an option to record yourself with a slide deck. When you are in a slide deck format, click on Present > Present and Record and follow the remaining prompts. When you are finished, you can share the recording link or you can download it.


CapCut and Loom are newer-to-me apps that I am exploring. CapCut seems fairly intuitive to add video and screenshots to create a video. I’ve seen others use Loom to provide quick video responses to people when they are sharing how-to software information or answers to questions.

Audacity is a sound recording software. I like it because you can see the relative levels of when things are louder and softer. You can also cut out long pauses or sounds like coughs and throat clearings. I will use the sound file that I created in PowerPoint or Canva for videos.


Other Tools: Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, Wix, & QuickBooks

I use Google Calendar, Gmail, and Google Drive extensively. I can provide links to files or PDFs for people. I save business-related invoices and expenses, drafts, resources, and many other items in Google Drive. I am using Wix as my web platform that houses my website, mailing list, memberships, business scheduler, invoicing platform, and online shop. Most other small business owners whom I know use QuickBooks to handle expenses and invoices. I have most of that available through Wix, but wanted to share!


Wrapping Up: Tools to Propel Your Business Forward

We've covered a comprehensive toolkit designed to tackle some of the unique challenges faced by small businesses.  When I started, I used Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Drive, and Wix along with my own personal Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Truthfully, I could have waited on building a website. You don’t have to do everything at once!


From enhancing online visibility to streamlining operations, there are so many low-cost and no-cost options available to you. I'd love to know which software and apps you are using and loving.


Want to take a deeper dive? Let's chat!





 

The eBook and Workbook that started it all:


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