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Starting a business requires an investment, and most of the time I’m a firm believer of, “you get what you pay for.”  However, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on everything.  In fact, there are some useful, well designed tools available that will help you grow your business and won’t cost you a dime.  Check out these 5 tools I use that are completely free, or have free versions you can use while you’re still in the bootstrapping phase.

Trello – If you’ve ever tried to organize a project using post-it notes and a poster board, you need Trello.  Trello is a place to organize ideas, create and delegate tasks, and share information in a simple, beautiful layout.  You can use it for business and personal tasks and, even in the free version, there’s no limit to the number of people you can invite to collaborate with.

Bonus: My friend and mentor, Dana Malstaff of Boss Mom, has a fabulous free training on how she uses Trello in her business.  You can check it out here.

Asana – Another project management tool, Asana is less visual and more list-centered.  When it comes to to-do lists, Asana is my go-to tool.  I can create separate lists by project, for each area of my life – home school, and business – and put each of those lists into sections and give it a due date.  One of my favorite features is that Asana automatically moves items due today to the top of the list, so I don’t have to search for what I need to get done.

Bonus: You can use Asana for repetitive lists, too.  I have a list for our annual Christmas party and travel prep.

Acuity – If you’re going to work with clients, you need a scheduler.  There’s nothing that turns clients off more than multiple emails back and forth in order to schedule a meeting.  It’s unprofessional and it forces your potential clients to jump through extra hoops to work with you.  Never a good thing.  A scheduling tool like Acuity allows clients to see your availability and schedule themselves at a time that’s convenient for them.

Bonus: Even at the free level, Acuity allows you to customize links and the appearance of your pages, so you always look like a pro!

Google Calendar – In the online world, there are few companies as ubiquitous as Google.  Have access to your calendar anywhere and add, edit, or delete appointments on the go, set reminders… Plus, Google’s calendar sync’s with most schedulers.  So when a client schedules an appointment with you, it’s automatically added to your calendar.  Besides the ability to share your calendar with your family (and they with you), but if you hire an assistant they can easily manage your calendar.

Bonus: Color code your appointments by person or category so you can easily see where your time is being spent.

Zoom – Meeting face-to-face is a fabulous way to communicate, but it’s not always possible.  This is especially true when you have an online business that allows you to work with anyone, anywhere.  Zoom is a video conferencing service that lets you meet with clients, colleagues, staff, or friends.  It also has the ability to record your meetings (video and audio) for publication or just to keep a record of what was said.

Bonus: Zoom also works in concert with schedulers like Acuity and other programs like Google calendar.

When you’re just starting out, every penny counts, but you also don’t want to substitute cheap for function (or quality).  These 5 tools will help you get started on the right foot without breaking the bank.

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Starting a business requires an investment, however, that doesn\'t mean you have to spend a fortune on everything.  In fact, there are some useful, well designed tools available that will help you grow your business and won\'t cost you a dime.  Check out these 5 tools I use that are completely free, or have free versions you can use while you\'re still in the bootstrapping phase.
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