Twenty free apps to help manage your business


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import, Resources, Technology

The cost of starting and running a business is getting lower and lower these days, thanks in no small part to the advent of free apps for the forward-thinking freelancer. Whether web-based or running on your mobile platform of choice, there’s never been a wider or better selection of free apps to make some of the necessities of business that little bit easier.

We’ve put our heads together and assembled a huge list of awesome free business apps for the savvy freelancer. Any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.

Dropbox

Get it: Desktop | Android | iOS | Blackberry

DropboxIf you’ve never used Dropbox then really, where the hell have you been? This sharing and syncing app has managed to achieve ubiquity in amongst an ocean of pretenders, and still offers the best all-round experience across a range of devices. It might not boast the most storage, but it’s seamless, polished, and massively useful. You’ll get 2GB for free, but you can bump that up to a mighty 18GB by referring your friends.

Useful for:

  • Sharing files or folders with just a link
  • Maintaining access to important files across a range of devices

Mention

Get it: Desktop | Chrome

A new monitoring tool for keeping track of conversations about your brand across the web, including social networks. Simply tell Mention the keywords it should look for and it’ll report back every few hours with anything it finds. The free version supports 1,000 mentions per month which, unless your business is really taking off, should be more than enough.

Useful for:

  • Spying on people talking about your business
  • Tracking your competitors and swooping in to pitch your services to their prospects

Tweetdeck

Get it: PC | Mac | Android | Chrome | iOS

Despite Twitter trying their utmost to ruin Tweetdeck shortly after they acquired it, the venerable London-based Twitter power-client isn’t dead yet, and is still the best multi-account Twitter app out there in many ways. If you operate both personal and company Twitter accounts then Tweetdeck is an absolute must-have. A simple interface and a couple of extra features like Tweet scheduling round out what is a remarkably useful package.

Useful for:

  • Accidentally tweeting obscenity-laden rants from the company Twitter account
  • Staying on top of hashtags you want to follow.

DropMocks

Get it: Web | Chrome

A devilishly simple image sharing site developed by a bored Engineer at Google, DropMocks allows you to simply drag images into your browser and gives you links to share them either individually or as a collection. The perfect tool for a quicky “What do you think of this?” share.

Useful for:

  • Sharing images. That’s really about it.

Google Drive

Get it: Web | Android | iOS | Chrome

Google DriveFarewell, cumbersome Microsoft Office. With Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) you can take care of your word processing, spreadsheet wrangling and presentation polishing online, across multiple devices, all for free. We’re constantly banging on about Google Drive and how great it is, but don’t take our word for it – sign up and never look back.

Useful for:

  • Collaborating in real-time with colleagues
  • Sharing documents with a link rather than an email attachment
  • Never again hearing the phrase “track changes”

GMail

Get it: Web | ChromeAndroid | iOS

Google’s fabulous email service, available on the web or through dedicated mobile apps. GMail has quickly established itself as the gold standard of online communication, breathing new life into the tired old email system with things like conversation threading and Priority Inbox. Don’t worry if you’re still attached to an old Hotmail or Yahoo! address – you can bring it with you.

Useful for:

  • Legitimately usable email on the go
  • Time-saving automation with labels and filters

GIMP

Get it: Windows

If you need a decent-calibre image editor and don’t fancy wading into Adobe’s new subscription model the questionably-named GIMP is an open-source alternative that offers 90% of the functionality of Photoshop for free. It’s a little uglier, a little clunkier, but it gets the job done.

Useful for:

  • Making Lolcats
  • Applying drop shadows and lens-flare

Google Analytics

Get it: Web | Android

Another mega-featured Google product that won’t cost you a penny. Analytics lets you track, analyse and optimise your website through a powerful dashboard providing just about any usage metric you could want. Set up goals to see if your website is performing as you want it to, measure engagement across social networks and even see visitors peruse your site in real-time.

Useful for:

  • Stalking visitors to see how they use your website
  • Seeing where your website traffic is coming from

Bit.ly

Get it: Web | Chrome | iOS

bitlyURL shorteners were born out of a desire to clean up messy 100-character addresses on the internet forums of old, and later found real utility in the character-limited world of Twitter. Bit.ly was one of the first and these days probably the best, and offers much more than just truncation services. You can track clicks by location and time, as well as bundle them up for easy sending. You can even register your own short URL and have bit.ly manage the technical back-end bits.

Useful for:

  • Hiding links to Rick Astley videos
  • Seeing what kind of link plays well on Twitter

Skype

Get it: Windows | MacAndroid | iPhone | iPad | Windows Phone

Completely ubiquitous, and for good reason. Skype offers free device-to-device calling, and low-cost device-to-number calling anywhere in the world. Multi-person video chats and screen sharing are also on the menu now, and their app is available for just about any platform you care to name (although notable by it’s absence is a good web app).

Useful for:

  • Meeting Russian brides
  • Making free international video calls

Crunch

Get it: Web | Android | iOS

Of course we would be remiss to not mention our parent company and freelancer accounting superheroes Crunch, who offer a totally free version of their powerful online accounting software. Raise invoices, record expenses, reconcile bank statements and more.

Useful for:

  • Keeping track of pesky late-paying clients
  • Making it rain
Note: The completely free version of Crunch is no longer available, you can still demo the software for free though.

LucidChart

Get it: Web

If you’re a designer or developer, LucidChart offers free web-based flowcharts and wireframing. If you’re just a regular person, LucidChart offers all kinds of other stuff too, like Venn Diagrams,  Site Maps, Organisational Charts. Really, if you want charts, this is the place to go.

Useful for:

  • High-level navigational gubbins
  • Hilarious Venn Diagrams explaining the differences between cultural groups

Chrome

Get it: PC | Mac | Android | iOS

chromePlenty of the apps we’re talking about here are available as Chrome extensions, so of course we must include Chrome itself. In our humble opinion the best browser around, Chrome now sports magic features like cross-platform bookmark and password sync. Despite being on version twenty-something now, Google have stayed true to their original vision of speed and simplicity.

Useful for:

  • Browsing the web quickly and easily
  • Using Incognito mode for “research”

WordPress

Get it: Web (hosted) | Web (DIY) | Android | iOS

Not an app so much as a way of life. WordPress is a blogging tour de force, boasting all the tools you need to set up anything from a simple landing page to a mobile-enable eCommerce site. As customisable and extensible as they come, WordPress is the standard for content management online.

Useful for:

  • Running Freelance Advisor
  • Blogging on the go

Wolfram Alpha

Get it: Web | Android | iOS

Slight cheat as the mobile apps aren’t free, but Wolfram Alpha is one of the coolest bits of tech out there, and the brains behind Apple’s Siri. Think of it as Google on steroids – a mega-powerful computational knowledge engine that gives you answers instead of web pages. Mind-bogglingly useful.

Useful for:

Passpack

Get it: Web

A password manager for the 21st century, Passpack is so much more than just a database of usernames and passwords. An ultra-secure cloud system means your passwords are available whenever you need them, and you can even selectively share login details with team members if and when you need to.

Useful for:

  • Staying safe and secure online
  • Making sure you use actually secure passwords

TransferWise

Get it: Web

TransferWiseNot technically “free”, but if you’re doing business in the Eurozone TransferWise will most likely save you money, which is better than free! TransferWise bill themselves as a “knab – the opposite of a bank”, and offer cross-border currency transfers at a fraction of the usual price, and at a better conversion rate than just about anybody else.

Useful for:

  • Paying foreign suppliers without the pesky bank charges
  • Gloating at friends still using PayPal

ZohoCRM

Get it: Web | ChromeAndroid | iOS

Many freelancers are happy keeping a mental record of all their clients, but if you’re lucky enough to have so many customers that you need some CRM software, Zoho CRM will probably have everything you need and more.

Useful for:

  • Making sure you don’t get Geoff mixed up with Jeff
  • Staying on top of your marketing

MailChimp

Get it: Web | ChromeAndroid | iOS

If you’re looking for some excellent, free email marketing software you can’t go wrong with MailChimp. Send up to 12,000 email per month for no cost, manage mailing lists and campaigns, and view reports all online or via their mobile app. If you’re the kind of freelancer who likes to send a newsletter to clients and prospects this is the perfect solution.

Useful for:

  • Spamming prospective clients with promotional material
  • Expanding your penis enlargement pill business

Remember The Milk

Get it: WebChrome | Android | iOS

Remember The MilkThe humble to-do list has reached a distilled, zen-like state with Remember The Milk. Add tasks, reminders and due dates and integrate the service with everything from Google Calendar to Twitter for universal access. Simple and fantastic.

The free version has everything you’ll need, but a Pro account will only set you back $25 for a whole year!

Useful for:

  • Remembering the milk
  • Remembering other things too

Photo by Gabriel Rojas Hruska

  • CassaAcustica

    Any article and list of “self hosted” collaborative tools? Not web-based please

  • gerri50

    Nice list of apps that would make life easier. As far as Tweetdeck goes, I would chose HootSuite over it. 

  • http://twitter.com/franswaine Fran Swaine

    This is a great list. Most of them I use – but I’ve just created an account with remember the milk and love it! I love that you can synch it with your Google calendar too!

    For people wanting to schedule tweets but not a fan of Tweetdeck or Hootsuite – I can recommend Buffer App. It installs a button on your toolbar and so you can add any page by clicking it. It even creates the title for you (although you can edit this) and adds it to your buffer queue and schedules tweets throughout the day. You have full control over the schedule. I really like it – but I actually use all 3 tools for different clients!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.whale Tim Whale

    other than Crunch isn’t actually free it is trial demo.

    • http://www.freelanceadvisor.co.uk/ FreelanceAdvisor

      Ahh good catch Tim, you’re quite right. Crunch don’t offer a free package any more – updated the article to reflect that.

  • Troy Stevens

    I’m surprised ‘Partridge in my Pocket’ hasn’t made an appearance for its ability to break the ice in almost any meeting..

  • Shabbar Abbas

    Very useful resources for freelancers