If you’re in the midst of launching or running a startup, you already know there’s no shortage of tools, services and apps available to help you with everything from designing, marketing, operating and even selling your product or company. But those choices and options can be overwhelming and expensive, especially for someone wearing several hats already. With time and resources strapped, it can be extremely valuable to look to an outside source for advice on the best of the best.
That’s one of the many things we’ve heard from the thousands of small-business owners and entrepreneurs who make up the core users of 99designs, the world’s largest online marketplace for graphic design. With that in mind, we polled these users—along with several small-business influencers and advisors—to curate a list of inexpensive or free online services, tools or apps that every entrepreneur should know about.
We uncovered a whopping 68 tools for startups in our 99designs blog. Below are some of our favorites.
For Collaboration and Communication:
Slack is the best way to communicate quickly in groups or one on one, organize discussions by topic, and have everything in one place so it’s easy to find. You won’t believe how much time you save when you don’t have to craft an email for each quick sentence exchanged with your team. And of course, Slack comes with a mobile app and integrates with a bunch of other apps that you’re probably already using. It also just rolled out voice and video calls for its premium users. Slack offers many additional features such as this for paid users, but its free tier will likely meet most of your needs as an early-stage entrepreneur.
When it comes to video conferencing, this is a no-brainer, particularly if you’re using the Google Suite. It’s free and easy to set up on Gmail. You still have to check with external parties before you schedule a Hangouts session though, as it might not work on computers that don’t have Google Suite enabled.
Trello provides the easiest and most collaborative way to organize, visualize, assign and monitor tasks as a team. It lets you organize projects and tasks into boards (topics), which are made of lists (task-lists), which in turn are made of cards (tasks). Although it’s great for project management, Trello also works for brainstorming, agenda planning and any other list-based activities. Like Slack, Trello operates on a freemium model where the free tier provides all the functionalities a small team would need.
I can personally vouch for the tool as I used it when building my ecommerce website. The interface is highly intuitive and easy for a new user to get acquainted. I found it particularly helpful for working with remote developers in a different time zone.
Prezi allows you to create truly dynamic, movie-like presentations to help you secure that round of funding and more. The downside is that the Prezi presentation format doesn’t work with every content structure you might have in mind for your presentation. One type of structure where it thrives is one that starts with giving the full picture first, and then going more deeply into each piece of that puzzle.
Make the content of your presentations pop with GIPHY, and replace tired and clichéd stock images with free photos from one of these great public domain image websites.
Scheduling and Calendars:
This app enables you to skip the annoying email chains to schedule calls and meetings. Calendly allows you to share your calendar link with whomever you choose and allows those people to book time directly in your calendar. It syncs with all your emails and, on top of avoiding conflicts, you can set up rules for what times people can book. When a meeting is booked, it sends out an automatic invite to both people’s calendars. People really like the feature that enables them to create a widget of their calendar and include it on their website, to make scheduling product demos easier. The basic features of Calendly are free.
With x.ai, your personal assistant, “Amy Ingram,” will take care of all your meeting scheduling. Because Amy is great at sounding human and understanding context in emails, she can pick up the discussion and ask the right questions to the other person in order to set up the meeting details. All you do is CC her on the exchange, and she’ll jump into the email conversation as needed. Free for up to five meetings per month.
Other Administrative Assistance:
With HelloSign, you can skip the tedious business of printing and scanning. With this tool, you can fill out, sign and share forms and documents, even legally binding ones. As an entrepreneur, this can be your go-to for signing NDAs, adviser agreements, freelancer work contracts and everything else your lawyer might throw your way. HelloSign is free for up to three documents a month.
Obviously, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. There are great new services and tools debuting every day. What are other apps or tools that, as an entrepreneur, you can’t do without?