So you’ve got a great idea, and you want to start an online business? However, you probably don’t have much of a budget (or you want to test the idea on the lean, smart move!).
The incredible thing about starting a business today, is the myriad of exceptional resources at your disposal for very little money, if not completely free. However, it is important that your online business looks and feels professional (even if you’re running it from your laptop in your underwear).
For any budding online entrepreneur, you could need any (or all) of the following to get your dream off the ground:
- a website with the correct functionality built in
- a business name
- a domain name
- a logo
- graphic design (widgets, social media accounts, icons, etc)
- cohesive branding (across all online platforms)
- social media accounts (at least 1, up to 4 – but don’t over-commit, have only as many as you can do very well)
- legal documents (privacy, terms and conditions, etc)
- photo’s for you site and social media accounts
- lean marketing tools
- invoicing and accounting
- education about the new strategies and online landscape (yes, absolutely – don’t skip this part)
- potential partners
- a place to organise your ideas
- team members to help you
- and finally products or services to sell
You’re starting to realise there’s a lot of work that goes into it, right?
To help you out, we’ve collated our favorite free and low cost services to help you with all of the above. These were discovered through years of fumbling around the online landscape, following the experts and learning very expensive lessons. They come highly recommended by either us, or our entourage of brilliant business-y friends.
We didn’t want to create a list of 500 items – just the tools we’ve found to be most effective. What’s the point in sorting through another massive list?
Of course, we have our absolute favorites in each, [OptinLink id=10]so we’ve also created a simple, 1 page Cheat-Sheet with the 36 tools we’ve found to be the absolute best. Click here to download it instantly.[/OptinLink]. These favourites we choose strictly through personal experience – so you know they’re gooooood.
To ensure the integrity of this list, there are no affiliate links are included.
Here’s the essential list of free or low cost tools you’ll need to start your budding empire.
Website and Shops
- HTML5 UP: Responsive HTML5 and CSS3 site templates.
- Bootswatch: Free themes for Bootstrap.
- Templated: A collection of 845 free CSS & HTML5 site templates.
- WordPress.org | WordPress.com: Create your new website for free.
- Strikingly: Free, unlimited mobile optimized websites for strikingly domains.
- Layers: A WordPress site builder so simple. It’s free, forever.
- Bootstrap Zero: The largest open-source, free Bootstrap template collection.
- Landing Harbor: Promote your mobile app with a free landing page.
- Themeforest: Low cost themes for WordPress and other platforms. High Quality.
- TemplateMonster: Low cost themes for WordPress and other platforms.
- Wpmudev: Free and Low Cost themes for WordPress sites.
- Etsy: Online marketplace where you can sell handmade items. You may not need a website at all if Etsy fits your business.
- Ebay: Online marketplace. Good place to start if you’re selling items a lot of people are searching for, or already know about (household brand names).
Graphic Design, Branding and Logo
- Hipster Logo Generator: Stylish current logo generator.
- Squarespace Free Logo: Download free low-res versions of your logo.
- Signature Maker: A free web based tool that creates your handwritten digital signature.
- Canva: makes design simple for everyone. Create designs for Web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations and so much more.
- Freebbble: find 1000+ design freebies made by Dribbble users
- Premium Pixels: free graphic design resources.
- 1001 Free Fonts: A huge selection of free fonts.
- Font Squirrel: 100% free commercial fonts.
- Endless Icons: Free flat icons and creative stuff.
- Ico Moon: 4000+ free vector icons, icon generator.
- SmartIcons: Download 1450 premium icons for free.
- Recite: Turn a quote into a visual masterpiece.
- Meme Generator: The first online meme generator.
- Fiver: Hire someone to do nearly anything you can think of, for $5.
- 99Designs: Crowd sourced design. Pay a set fee (say $100), get designs from 50+ designers. Pick the winner, pay only your set fee. Great quality.
- TailorBrands: Instant custom made logo’s, made simple.
- DesignCrowd: Another crowd sourced design marketplace. More expensive than most others on the list, but great quality. Similar pricing to 99Designs.
- PicMonkey: Free online photo editing. Great for re-sizing images for different social media platforms
- Creative Market: Ready to use design Graphics, fonts, themes and photos starting at $2. Beautiful, custom made designs you can’t find elsewhere.
- Ace Free Fonts: A huge selection of free fonts.
- DaFont: Archive of freely downloadable fonts.
- Pixabay: Free stock photos, great quality and range. No attribution required.
- Stock Up: Free stock photo websites in one place. Mainly landscape.
- StockSnap.io: StockSnap.io has a large selection of beautiful free stock photos and high resolution images.
- Unsplash: Unsplash is a collection of free high-resolution photos and has arguably become the best source for stock images.
- Splitshire: Splitshire is a collection of delicious free stock photos by web deisgner Daniel Nanescu. The photos are free for personal and commercial use.
- Picjumbo: Picjumbo is a collection of totally free photos for your commercial & personal works.
- IM Free: A curated collection of free resources, all for commercial use. Since the photos are curated from various sources, some photos may require attribution.
- Function: 100% free to do whatever you want with.
- Gratisography: This site features some really interesting and different images for free, no attribution required.
- Shutterstock: Beautiful photos and fantastic range, but are not free.
- Dollar Photo Club: Great photos, all $1 each. You do need a membership to purchase though, which starts at $10 per month.
- Creative Market: Ready to use design Graphics, fonts, themes, photos and more, starting at $2. The place to go for beautiful, custom made designs you can’t find elsewhere
Invoicing and Accounts
- Invoice to me: Free Invoice Generator.
- Free Invoice Generator: Another free invoice generator.
- Slimvoice: Insanely simple invoices.
- BrightBook: Free invoicing and simple reporting.
- Xero: Great if you’re looking for Accounting software – will suit smaller and larger businesses, supports fast growth.
- Freshbooks: Alternative for online accounting.
- Nutcache: Free and simple. Invoice clients, track time and run your small business in the cloud.
- Paymo: Combines project management, time tracking and online invoicing into a robust tool.
- PayPal Payments: Send professional invoices using PayPal Payments. Free.
- Harvest: Time tracking and online invoicing. Free trial available. Intended for Freelancers, Large Enterprises, Mid Size Business and Small Businesses.
- Mr. Biller: Designed for small businesses and freelancers. Free.
- Zoho Invoicing: Send well-designed invoices, effortlessly track time for projects and gain critical insights on your business performance. Zoho is integrated with several payment gateways. Free.
- Paypal: The easiest place to start for online payments. Integrates with most shopping carts, or place ‘Buy’ buttons straight on your site. Great starting point and simple sign up.
- Braintree: Now owned by PayPal. Offers recurring and once off billing. Good integration with well known shopping carts.
- Stripe: Use as your payment processor and merchant bank account. Integrates well with larger shopping carts.
- Amazon Payments: Great for smaller priced items or services for sale (under $10).
- 2Checkout: Accept payments globally. Very user-friendly and integrates well with most shopping carts.
- Square: Great for in-person sales (consultations, services), rather than online sales.
- EWay: Great customer service. Offers once off and recurring billing, with very reasonable charges. Can select between payments over the phone (sales calls) or online (online store).
- Kiss: Free legal docs for startup founders and investors.
- Docracy: An open collection of free legal documents.
- Shake: Create, sign and send legally binding agreements in seconds. Free for personal use.
- My Free Legal Forms: over 400 free printable legal templates.
- LawDepot: Free Legal Documents, Forms and Contracts.
- Net Lawman: Full range of legal templates for business and personal use. Option to pay a smaller fee to have templates customised for your business by a lawyer.
Marketing and SEO
- SumoMe (Suite): Suite of tools to grow your website’s traffic. The WordPress plugin is a must-have for growing your site.
- QuickSprout: Marketing and Traffic growth articles. Be sure to check out the advanced guides. There’s a reason Neil Patel is famous for over-delivering free content.
- Buzzsumo: find the most shared content and influencers. Free plan available.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast: Helps you optimize your WordPress website for keywords you’d like to rank for. SEO must-have.
- SEO Site Checkup: Check your website’s SEO problems for free.
- Hubspot Marketing Grader: Grade your marketing.
- SimilarWeb: Analyze website statistics for any domain.
- Alexa Ranking: Analytical insights to analyze any site’s rank. Check out your own site or your competitors.
- Open Site Explorer: A comprehensive tool for backlink analysis.
- Ahrefs: Traffic analytics, Site explorer and backlink checker. Free plan available, awesome options.
- Copyscape: Search for copies of your page on the web.
- Contact form 7: Highly regarded WordPress plugin to collect email addresses and create simple forms for collecting data. Contact, registration, sales pages, etc.
- Mailchimp: Send 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free. Great cheap options for building a sales funnel or automated follow up email sequence.
- ManyContactsBar: Free contact form sits on top of your website.
- Hello Bar: Get more email subscribers.
- Sumome List Builder: Collect email addresses with light box popover. Can be used without the whole suite (above).
- Scroll Triggered Box: Boost your conversion rates — Wordpress only.
- Sumome Scroll Box: Capture more email addresses, politely. Can be used without the whole suite (above).
Social Media Tools & Management
- Facebook Power Editor: The best place to run ads through Facebook.
- Facebook: The almighty. The best online targetting for finding your ideal customers.
- Twitter: Great to interact directly with influencers, media and journalists.
- Instagram: Ideal for online product-based businesses.
- Pinterest: Also ideal for online product-based businesses.
- Linkedin: Works best for marketing in a B2B space, service providers usually.
- Click To Tweet: Get more shares on your content.
- MyTweetLinks: Increases Twitter traffic.
- Latergram: Easily plan & schedule your Instagram posts.
- WordPress Pin it Button for Images: Add a “Pin It” button.
- SharedCount: Track URL shares, likes, tweets, and more.
- Justunfollow: Follow / unfollow people on Twitter & Instagram.
- SocialRank: Identify, organize, and manage your followers on Twitter.
- Klout: Social media influence score on browser extension. Find influencers in your niche and connect with them.
- Buffer Free Plan: Schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+.
- Bitly: Create, share, and track shortened links.
- Addthis: Get more shares, follows and conversions.
- Sumome Share: Auto-optimizes your share buttons for max traffic.
- Digg Digg: Your all in one share buttons plugin.
- Disqus: Build a community of active readers & commenters.
- Tally: Create polls in no time.
- Survey Monkey: Create polls and questionnaires for anything you can think of.
- HootSuite: Low cost social media scheduling, post to multiple social media accounts at once.
- MeetEdgar: Social media management tool. Main point of difference is it recycles your previous posts automatically so your feed never runs dry. About $50 p/m.
- Coursera: Free online classes from 80+ top universities & organizations.
- Khan Academy: Free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
- Skillshare: Unlock your creativity with free online classes & projects.
- Mixergy: Learn from proven entrepreneurs.
- Lynda: Low cost, approx $9 per month. Learn anything.
- The Lean LaunchPad: How to Build a Startup.
- TED talks: Talks about technology, innovation and personal development.
- Facebook Groups: Find free groups for businesses and communities in your niche.
- Upwork: Hire freelancers from around the world (used to be Odesk).
- Fiverr: Buy $5 gigs for small jobs.
- Freelancer: Hire freelancers globally.
Find a Partner:
- JVHero: Find partnerships and joint ventures with other businesses.
- Founder Dating: Connect with entrepreneurs, startup founders, potential co-founders and company advisors.
- CoFoundersLab: Find a co-founder in any city, any industry.
- Founder2be: Find a co-founder for your startup.
Organisation and Idea Management
- Evernote: Free organisational tool for everything you can think of. Downloadable app for your phone as well.
- Google Keep: A free way to save your thoughts on your phone, tablet, or computer.
- Simplenote: The simplest way to keep notes. Light, clean, and free.
- Germ.io: Capture ideas, brainstorming, presenting them and turning eureka moments into actionable projects.
- Trello: Keeps track of everything.
- Google Drive: Store and share documents, spreadsheets and more in one place.
- Flowdock: Chat and team activity stream. Free for teams of five and non-profits.
- Slack: All your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.
Idea and Name Generators
- The Name App: Find an available name for your brilliant idea.
- Naminum: Discover a perfect company name.
- Short Domain Search: Find short, available single-word domain names.
- Wordoid: Pick a short and catchy name for your business.
- Hipster Business Name: Hipster business name generator.
- Impossibility: The best domain name generator ever.
Wholesalers and Dropshippers
- Wholesale Central: B2B wholesale and dropshipper directory.
- Alibaba: Wholesale directory, suits businesses buying larger amounts.
- Aliexpress: Same company as Alibaba, but specifically for people buying smaller amounts for wholesale. Most suppliers don’t dropship.
- Wholesale Hub: Find wholesalers in one place.
Domain and Hosting
- GoDaddy: Cheap hosting and domain registration.
- DreamHost: Good quality hosting with options specifically for WordPress. Often runs deals for hosting.
- CrazyDomains: Domain registration. Also offers hosting, not as specialised.
- BlueHost: Good quality hosting, you can also register a domain with a hosting package.
- 1&1: Hosting and domain registration.
We’d love to hear from you. Have we missed any from the list? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
[OptinLink id=10]Click here to download our 1 page Cheat-Sheet with the 36 tools from above we’ve found to be the absolute best.[/OptinLink]
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