I know I know… getting started in the business world can be intimidating. One of the most limiting factors for many is the startup costs needed to pay for things like website hosting, brand design and marketing. Guess what, you can do this! Here are my top 5 FREE tools for starting you business.
When I started my business, Baja Girl, I completely overlooked the fact that I’d not only did I need to make quality and fashionable bangles and bracelets, but I also needed to learn about every other aspect of business! Because I wanted to invest my time and money into my products, I was hesitant to spend lots on everything else.
I did a bit of research, listened to podcasts, took training and found there are plenty of free tools that are ideal for getting started. To save you having to do the same, I’ve collected my top 5 free tools that I used (and still use!) in my business that you can apply to starting your own business.
Free tools for starting your business
The first step for any business is to have an established business email address. Not only will this be how you’ll primarily correspond with customer queries, but you’ll also use it for speaking to suppliers and events. After deciding on your business name, setting up an email address should be the next thing you do.
While there are plenty of free email hosts to choose from, Gmail wins simply because it’s really easy to use and comes with access to loads of free software on the Google Drive, such as Google Docs and Sheets. If you don’t have the money to invest in word processing and spreadsheet software, this can be a massive help.
I simply set up a Gmail email address formatted like this: email@example.com – and used this for the first year. Once you’ve got a bit of spare money, consider upgrading to your own domain and business suite. This is only around $60 per year and looks much more professional. I now use firstname.lastname@example.org
Mailchimp is possibly one of the most useful tools you can use as a small business startup. It primarily allows you to send out email campaigns, set up landing pages, and start to grow your email list. Building a mailing list during the early stages makes it much easier to communicate with your customers, providing business updates and offers.
Mailchimp can also be used for setting up fairly simple websites, meaning you can get an online presence before you’ve set up a domain and website for your business. Considering most professional website packages will charge, this is a great way to get a head start.
The free version of Mailchimp allows you to grow you list to 250 before you start having to pay for the service.
One of my main missions with Baja Girl was to build a community, which started with my handmade bangles, but developed into a sharing platform. Mailchimp helped with this because it allowed me to send mass emails to my new customers really quickly.
- Social media
Social media is one of the best ways to drive organic growth to your business in the early stages, and it’s completely free! Of course you can choose to pay for sponsored ads, but that should come much later in your business plan.
Don’t just stick to one platform because they all have their uses. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are great for visuals, whereas Twitter and Facebook are more about customer engagement. I’d recommend setting up an account on each, and make sure your username stays consistent! This makes it much easier for people to find you.
Then, focus on finding the right hashtags to generate leads to your business. With Baja Girl, I might focus on keywords like shell bangles, Hawaii bangles, gold bracelets, and so on. Develop a strategy for designing and producing posts that are engaging, using a tool like Hootsuite to plan and schedule multi-platform posts.
Looka allows you to build your brand identity. You put in your business name and choose a color scheme and the platform generates logos for you to choose from.
You can choose to purchasing your logo package that costs around $100. With that option you get full usage rights, vector files and black and white variations.
To be honest, you don’t even need to buy the files, but it can be a great free tool for getting some logo inspiration. You could then consider using a site like Fiverr to hire a freelance designer for your final logo.
Canva lets you become your own graphic designer, and is really useful for things like Pinterest graphics and Instagram stories. The website contains templates and inspiration to get you started. It’s also completely free to use.
In the early stages of Baja Girl, I had difficulty establishing this kind of brand content. I knew what I wanted my image to be, but it was a challenge to sum up “matching mother daughter bracelets” or “Hawaii bangles” into a business look. Luckily Canva made it really easy to get initial ideas, and I just went from there!
Bonus tip – Free education
Starting your own business means learning how to do every area yourself, which means a lot of learning! I’ve picked quite a few things up on my own from having a degree in business, but I still value free podcasts and books for interesting and helpful snippets of information. There is ALWAYS more the learn.
Some of my current favorite free podcasts include:
- Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher
- The Mindset Mentor by Rob Dial
- Side Hustle School by Chris Guillebeau
Once you’ve got a bit of spare cash, however, I’d really recommend investing in some online courses in areas of weakness, such as accounting, business admin, or marketing. The initial cost might be a bit high, but you’ll make it back in no time!
Starting a business doesn’t have to be a massive financial investment. These tools helped me focus on my passion for making handmade bracelets and build a community.
Don’t underestimate the value of free tools to get you started! They make it much easier to establish a presence, allowing you to upgrade to better tools once the money starts flowing in.
You got this!! If you have any other suggestions for free tools, let me know below! You don’t need to be an expert to start a business.
From one Baja Girl to another,