Free online tools for your business or community group
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
When starting a business you want to be as lean as possible. Every dollar counts and if there is a free option for software (that is comparable) that is a good option!
I have put together a list of online tools that we use at Yellow Arrow (plus some others that we aren’t currently using). I envisage this post to be an evolving collaborative list, so if you know of any other great tools that aren’t listed here, please leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.
I have created a folder of templates that you might find helpful in organising your business or community group. Currently there is a spreadsheet that includes all the 2021 Victorian Universities semester and exam dates as well as the Victorian school dates. I find it helpful to see them all together when forward planning. I tend to colour code the cell and then comment on it with the detail. If you would like access to this spreadsheet - complete this form.
I have categorised the tools below into these subheadings:
I am a bit of an Asana fiend. In all my previous workplaces I would slowly bring my team onto this platform so we could easily organise and communicate about our projects. Asana is a project management tool that allows you to break projects down into tasks and deadlines that can then be delegated to others. On each task you can comment and chat. The great thing about Asana is that everything is visible which makes it harder for things to be missed. I find the use of Asana (or other project management tools) essential for when I am managing multiple projects and events. There are only so many things I can hold in my working memory so it’s helpful to dump them into an ordered online space. Another nice feature is that you can print off a ‘to do’ list of all your allocated tasks. I like this as I am still very much a pen to paper kind of guy. I tend to print out my list and then update the online version every week.
I don’t have a huge amount of experience with Trello as I’ve always tended to use Asana. I have friends who swear by it.
My engineer friend commented:
“Yes I use it all the time, mainly for work stuff. Love breaking up projects into manageable pieces and colour coding with the custom labels to track progress at a glance. Huge trello fan 😂”
My project coordinator friend commented:
“Trello diehard! - I’ve got all our teams on it. Excellent for breaking down projects to actionable tasks, scheduling, great interface and we’ve found it pretty great for collaboration (after working out some rules for how we communicate on it).”
I think a big drawcard for Trello over Asana is its aesthetic appeal. As a user you have more control over the background and look of the ‘board’.
Google comes with lots of great free collaborative tools. Within Google Drive there is an equivalent Microsoft word (docs), XL (sheets), and PowerPoint (slides). The great thing is that you can very easily share and collaborate on your documents with anyone. You can also plug in any number of open source apps (for example “Doc Hub - PDF sign and edit” which enables you to edit PDFs). Google Forms is also a fantastic tool, which I’ll talk about below.
We have opted to pay for G Suite as we wanted a more professional email (i.e. email@example.com)
We don’t use slack for Yellow Arrow, but I frequently use it for University units and assignments. It is so great to move away from emails. Slack enables quick chats and the sharing of documents and ideas. It can also plug into other apps such as Asana, Trello and Google drive.
In my old workplace I explored Microsoft’s Power Automate and I think that it is incredible. In a nutshell Power Automate enables you to connect all Microsoft tools. So you could set up a form that when it is completed triggers an email to be sent while also capturing the data in a spreadsheet and beginning an approval process. My friend described it like this: non automated processes (like paper based forms) are like a set of dominoes where they are just slightly too far apart and when you knock over one it just falls over and then you have to knock the next domino. Automation tools are like when you place them close together so each domino knocks the next one.
I haven’t had the chance to explore Zapier but I imagine it is similar!
www.flow.microsoft.com (not free)
Managing finance is very important for any small business. There are lots of expensive options for invoicing, budgeting and reporting. There are also some free options.
I haven’t used this software, I’d love to hear from someone who has and get some feedback!
Mailchimp enables you to send nice emails and track whether they have been opened. It’s an online marketing service and is incredibly helpful as you can automate emails to be sent if someone subscribes and send an email always on their birthday or for specific holiday celebrations.
We use Wix for our website. It is very easy to use and includes a blog function, which we have liked as we post a blog every Monday. Like Google we have decided to use premium as we wanted to have our own domain name: www.yellowarrow.com.au However, there is also a free model which provides lots of utility. I can guarantee that there would be a youtube video for any question you have when you start using it!
Later enables you to schedule posts for instagram and Facebook. This has made it much easier to manage our social media.
Plan makes is easy to plan the layout of your instagram to look much more aesthetic.
Canva is similar to Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. It doesn’t have all the same functionality as these Adobe tools, but for social media and creating basic documents - it is great! We have used it for all our social media posts and I’ve used it to make images that I’ve inserted into my videos.
There are loads of free creative commons high definition photos on Unsplash. There’s likely to be a photo that matches what you’re looking for. You don’t have to give attribution for the photos, but it’s a good thing to do.
Another great website for creative common pictures and vector graphics.
Very cool graphics that are great for presentations. The nice thing about the graphics on Undraw is that you can easily change the colours to match your design brief.
This is a nice free tool for making the background of your logo or image transparent (something that can’t be done on the free version of canva).
This is similar to Adobe Acrobat and enables you to split PDFs, merge, extract and rotate pages).
I have heard a number of times that marketing is where you should spend 80% of your time as a new business. Video content is gold and Davinci Resolve is a great free video editing software that is user friendly. As a complete novice with video editing, I found the software enjoyable to use. Whenever I came to a snag, I was able to find an answer through the thousands of how-to videos on Youtube.
There are lots of musicians who create music that is free to use for your videos. Again, like the free images, you need to provide attribution.
We haven’t started using Genially yet, but an old colleague does for creating online learning courses and it looks fantastic. Genially provides heaps of ways to make your content interactive.
A fantastic tool for mind mapping online with lots of different people. One of my lecturers used it for an icebreaker and asked us 4 questions. In response we had to paste images for our answers and share why. Miro provides heaps of different templates and is a great tool to be used in conjunction with Zoom or Google meets.
If you’re looking for creative activities to better understand your customer or client; develop new ideas or implement your solutions - Designkit is the place to go. Designkit was created by IDEO (the famous American design company) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The tools relate to the methods and mindsets of design thinking which you can learn by completing the Acumen+ Human Centred Design Course.
Free online conferencing software
Google meet has some cool addons that enable you to give a thumbs up, thumbs down, applaud, wave, and laugh. It is only possible to record if you are using the computer version. It’s useful for basic meetings if you are a gmail user.
Zoom has catapulted to fame due to Covid-19 and the fact that we are all at home! Anecdotally, it seems to be the best at this moment. Whenever my previous workplace hosted all staff meetings, they opted for Zoom rather than Microsoft Teams (as even the free version allows 100 participants!)
This is great for prompting discussion as you can create all sorts of interactive polls. All your participants need is a device that is connected to the internet. Basically you pose a question (could be short answer, could be multichoice) and then in real time the data is presented as it is received. It is a great way to begin a presentation as you can get a sense of the room immediately. As with all presentations you may like to have a backup plan in case there are difficulties connecting!
Wooclap is very similar to Pollev and helps makes presentations much more interactive and interesting.
With Quizlet you can create learning activities and games to help your students retain their new knowledge better.
Kahoot allows you to create online trivia games that make tests fun.
Thousands of free University units from Universities like Yale, and Stanford.
This is a free 9 week course introducing you to Human Centred Design (which is another term for design thinking). If you’re curious to learn how to innovate and design products and experiences with your customers' needs and wants at the forefront of your mind, this is a good place to start learning the skills.
Vollie connects people wanting to offer their skills online with not-for-profits who need skill based volunteers.
Academy Xi teaches Service Design and UX design to professionals. The great thing about the courses is that they couple their classes with real businesses so students can practice their new skills with real problems. We have engaged a team of their students to better understand the needs and wants of our customer.
Be Collective is a very impressive and free volunteer management software. You can log hours, post volunteer opportunities and keep track of your data.
If you know of any other great free resources please let me know and I'll add it to the list: firstname.lastname@example.org