Small business owners are more aware than anyone of the importance of tight budgeting and finding savings wherever they can (without compromising on quality, of course).
And making use of free business apps is a great way to access a range of handy functions without breaking the bank. From accounting software to video conferencing and marketing apps, there are tons of options available in your app store to help you with productivity, efficiency, and communication.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular free apps in various categories to help you choose the ones that are best for your business:
- Communications apps
- Finance apps
- File storage and sharing apps
- Payment processing apps
- Project management apps
- Customer management apps
- Other marketing apps
🔍 Are you looking for a new communication app and unsure how to get started? Here’s a checklist to help you pick the right one for your business.
For small businesses that need a variety of different options for communicating with teammates, prospects, clients, freelancers, and more… our recommendation is always to find versatile apps that can do multiple things well.
Because if you can streamline your tools that way, then you’d be paying for fewer tools every month (one-trick-pony types of tools can add up fast and are hard to keep track of when you have 10 or 15 subscription fees every month) and also spending less valuable time trying to manage all those tools.
That’s why Glip is our pick. It’s a desktop and mobile app that gives you both team messaging and video conferencing for free in one easy-to-use interface:
Not only does it give you a maximum of 24 hours per meeting (no 40-minute caps), it also lets you have smarter meetings by giving you the full pre-meeting, in-meeting, and post-meeting experience.
Need to prep an agenda? It integrates with Google Calendar and Outlook to automatically add your video meeting PIN and other details right into the invite. And after the meeting, it lets you create a group chat with the attendees from that meeting to stay organized and keep track of follow-ups and other tasks.
Plus, with Glip’s free plan, you can…
- Call up to 100 participants for up to 24 hours at a time.
- One-click host and join: No downloads needed. To join a meeting, just open your internet browser to enter the meeting code. (Or use the app!)
- Create and assign tasks to your team:
- Share files and create team events:
- Share your screen.
- Send in-meeting private and group chats.
- And more…
When looking for accounting apps or bookkeeping tools, two of the names that spring to mind are FreshBooks and QuickBooks. These both have great features for small businesses, but neither offers a free version. Here are some free alternatives:
Wave is a free app with features aimed specifically at small business owners. It’s cloud-based, so there’s no need for downloads or installation, but the relatively poor performance of the iOS and Android mobile apps may put some people off.
- Unlimited invoices, customers, and transactions
- Automated cash flow and expense tracking
- Ecommerce feature
- Direct integration with Etsy
This double-entry accounting system is free to use and includes standard invoicing, ledgers, and expense software. It’s mainly aimed at Windows devices but can also run on Mac and Linux.
- Stock control and purchase order tools
- HR and payroll options
- Multiple companies and multiple currencies
- Connect to receipt printers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners
Expensify is only free for a trial period, but at least you can see if it’s suitable for you before committing to a pricing plan. It’s simple to use and works with iOS and Android.
- Most tasks can be automated
- Unlimited expense/receipt upload
- Real-time expense reports
- Easy integration with accounting software
With the rise of remote working and paperless offices, digitized storage and sharing of files becomes crucial. RingCentral’s Glip is the best app for file sharing and collaboration with free unlimited cloud storage, but here are a few other options:
Great for efficiency, this app enables you to organize documents, notes, images, and recordings in one place. It’s especially handy for remote working, as you can jot down notes on the go.
- Share notes with colleagues
- Search for text in handwriting and images
- Drag and drop key documents into a new note
- Make notebooks accessible offline
- Use on Windows, Apple, Android, and iOS
2. Google Drive
With this free app, you can create and save files online, share them with team members, and access them from any device. That said, it’s best for those who are already using Google Workspace. It is available for iOS, but Android users will find it already integrated.
- Generous free storage
- Invite others to edit or download files
- Offline access available
- Link to other productivity tools
3. Microsoft OneDrive
This cloud storage app is best for those who already use Microsoft Office. If you have Microsoft 365, you’ll automatically get 1 TB of space per user for free; otherwise, it’s only 5 GB.
- Edit files online without downloading
- Share files with people who don’t have OneDrive
- Integration with Outlook and Windows 10
- Offline access available
- Compatible with Android, iPhone, and iPad
A well-known cloud computing app that allows you to sync files and folders across various platforms, Dropbox has a very basic free tier with just 2 GB of storage (we’d recommend just going with Glip’s free plan since it’s fully integrated into your team messaging anyway)—but you can try the paid plans free for 30 days.
- No-download web browser option
- Works on Windows and Mac, Android, and iOS
- File sync and recovery
- File previews and collaboration
This popular payment app for small businesses is free to download, although Square deducts 2.75 percent from all credit card transactions, and you’ll need to pay extra for a reader that accepts contactless cards.
- Free reader to swipe credit cards
- Pay, tip, and sign right on your device
- Invoice sending and tracking
- Send receipts via email or text
- Real-time sales data and history
We’re all familiar with PayPal, which is simple to use and boasts no sign-up cost or direct fees. You only pay after you make a sale, when it will take up to 4.4 percent—but its simplicity makes it attractive to small businesses.
- Express checkout
- Barcode scanning
- Inventory tracking
- Mobile card reader
- Online invoicing
Project management tools are a great way to maximize efficiency in small businesses. While Glip by RingCentral already gives you a way to create and assign tasks to teammates, if you tend to have a lot of really big and complex projects, here are a few other tools to choose from:
Trello lets you organize all of your work-based and personal projects through your mobile device or computer. There’s a free tier, but it does put a 10 MB limit on the size of file attachments.
- Set tasks and track progress
- Delegate tasks and make to-do lists
- Customized workflows
- Upgrade to integration with Google Hangouts and Slack
- Runs on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
With an emphasis on teams and tracking, Asana offers some great features for managing projects—although the free version could be seen as a bit basic.
- Create to-do lists and reminders
- Add due dates, instructions, and comments
- Share images from other apps
- Track everything you and your colleagues work on
- Suitable for Android and iOS
Basecamp is an effective tool for teams that need to collaborate on projects, and it’s got a solid reputation after more than 10 years in the game. The free version lets you work on up to three projects with up to 20 people—for more functionality, you have to upgrade to a single paid tier.
- Direct messaging for quick discussions
- Set notifications for work hours only
- Applause button to praise colleagues
- Save and track client feedback
- Mobile apps for Android and iOS
Customer management is a crucial part of keeping your business running smoothly, because happy customers = loyal customers! Apps for this purpose will help you learn more about your customer base and target the right services to the right people.
1. Zoho CRM
The free version of Zoho CRM is good for the very smallest businesses, as it allows up to three users. And if you upgrade to the affordable Standard plan, you can take advantage of its integration with RingCentral for a better call-handling and CRM experience:
- Lead management
- Automated workflow
- Advanced analytics
- AI assistant included
- Apps for iOS and Android
2. Hubspot CRM
This easy-to-use CRM offers access to sales tools and data to help small businesses generate sales and implement loyalty campaigns. It’s free of charge and compatible with both Android and iOS.
Again, like Zoho CRM, you can hook up HubSpot to your communication platform or business phone app to make it possible to call your prospects and customers straight from your HubSpot dashboard. Here’s how it looks with RingCentral’s integration:
- Unlimited users and up to a million contacts
- Chrome email add-on
- Record calls and track website activity
- Live chat and chatbot included
Once you’ve learned what your customers’ preferences are, you can promote your services accordingly—and marketing apps can do much of the hard work for you by email, social media, and more.
If you need a little help in making your marketing emails stand out, Mailchimp is for you. The free service (up to 10,000 monthly emails) offers marketing tools to create, manage, and analyze your email and ad campaigns.
- Templates for emails and newsletters
- Easy personalization options
- Advanced analytics and tracking
- Ecommerce integrations (Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento)
- Cross-platform compatibility
2. Foursquare for Business
This location-based social networking service is a free and instant way to advertise to a wide audience and interact with customers. Basically, you manage your own listing on the app, and people can then check in and share with others on Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter.
- “Claim” your physical location and list your business
- Send updates to people who’ve previously checked in
- Promote specials, coupons, and deals
- Create badges for users to collect
- Cross-platform compatibility
Which free business apps will you use?
No matter what type of small business you own, there’s bound to be an app for you. In a crowded market, it pays to do some in-depth research before making a choice. But the great thing about these apps is that they’re free—so if you don’t get on with one, you can always ditch it and try another! Your bank account will thank you for it.
We’re aware that we’ve given you a lot of information to look through, and that not all the apps listed may be relevant to your business. But remember that in all businesses, keeping in touch with your team and with your customers is key—and RingCentral has everything you need to make communication a breeze.
Originally published Dec 15, 2020, updated Jan 30, 2023