Running a small-to-medium-size business (or SMB for short) is as challenging as it is rewarding. And one of the biggest pitfalls to look out for as an SMB is the cost of running the business—they can add up fast. That’s why it’s so important for SMBs to review their decisions critically.
The good news is, if you’re looking for affordable business solutions, you’ll find more and more business software offerings emerging on the market.
And the best thing? Many of them are free. Free business software will help your business optimize workflows while saving money. Amongst other things, SMB software can help with anything from sales to marketing to even accounting, billing, and managing employee salaries.
Ideally, you want a solution that can handle multiple aspects of the business. For instance, many companies have one app for video conferencing, another for team messaging, another for task management and so on. (As we’ll see later, there are some great, versatile apps that’ll do all of these things!)
So, how will should you choose the best software for your business? Well, we’ve put together a go-to guide specifically for small and medium-size businesses that are looking for the best tools.
Let’s take a look at what we’ll be covering in this article:
- What software do small businesses need?
- 5 free business software for communication
- 5 free business software for sales
- 4 free business software for marketing
- 5 free business software for accounting / payroll
🔍 Are you thinking about purchasing a new communication tool and unsure how to get started? Here’s a checklist to help you pick the right one for your business.
No small business is the same. When it comes to deciding what software is best for your business, think about your organization’s unique pain points and requirements. Your requirements will depend on the size of your business and particular industry needs.
In order for small businesses to scale and grow, they will likely need the help of small business software along the way. Most small businesses require tools that can help handle the following processes:
- Operations management
Whatever it is, you need to know your business process first before picking the software to back it up.
Let’s get started with some of the most common business pain points. Most small businesses will need software to help with all-round business functionality. If you’re in the process of sourcing a new SMB software, prioritizing these features is a good place to start.
So, what are some of the most important types of software for small businesses?
- Communication software lets you share files, audio, text, and video communications. Software like RingCentral’s desktop and mobile apps gives you team messaging, video conferencing, and a phone service—all in one app:
- Customer relationship management software helps analyze customer data. CRM software manages interactions with past, current, and future clients. This allows companies to analyze, and strategize, their own interactions in a data-driven way. A business hack: find a CRM that integrates with your communication platform, and it’ll let you dial your prospects and customers right from your CRM dashboard on your computer—like this Salesforce integration with RingCentral:
- Payroll software helps process employee payrolls, salaries, and wages. These software applications automate employee payment and maintain payment records.
- Project accounting manages the financials of every business project. Project accounting software helps track project data in order to identify what it is that makes a project profitable. This helps businesses optimize workflows for long-term profitability.
- Fixed-asset management tracks the details of fixed assets like depreciation and maintenance history all in one centralized database. This type of software automates the financial tracking of assets to increase efficiency and avoid unnecessary expenditure.
- Tax software tracks all tax-related transactions and ensures legal compliance. Tax compliance software assists with income tax, corporate tax, service tax, sales tax, use tax, VAT, and customs.
- Bookkeeping software records all your business transactions. Accounting software like this records and processes accounting transactions and categorizes them into functional categories—accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, etc.
- Time tracking software allows employees to accurately record time spent on projects. Time-tracking software is great for professionals who bill customers by the hour, as well as freelancers and workers paid by the hour.
- Project management software helps managers control their costs and meet deadlines. This type of software can help plan, organize, and manage resources and tools in order to develop accurate project goals and financial estimations. Having a unified workspace is vital here, as Lake Expo found when implementing RingCentral’s solutions to manage the team’s workflow.
- Website building software helps SMBs create websites from scratch without coding. Website building software allows the constructions of websites simply and easily. The software is usually provided directly by the web-hosting company itself.
- Payment transaction software helps process customer payments in person or online. This is usually a stand-alone application that records all the payments made by a customer and allows businesses to view payments alongside the customer’s details. It needs to be able to handle most payment methods, including credit cards and PayPal.
- Sales and marketing software helps track customer journeys and sales funnels. This type of software helps businesses execute their sales and marketing campaigns by tapping into their target markets. This maximizes resources and boosts conversions.
Now that we’re familiar with the basics, let’s dive into some specialized software solutions for different departmental and business needs.
Collaboration software is sometimes known as groupware. These applications are designed to help team members communicate, collaborate, and carry out business tasks efficiently from remote locations. Let’s take a look at some of the best collaboration software on the market today:
1. Glip by RingCentral – Free integrated video conferencing and team messaging (and more), all in one app
RingCentral is a leader in providing business and customer service communications solutions for businesses of all sizes.
And Glip is its free offering that’s designed to help you meet smarter and communicate faster (and more effectively) through team messaging and video conferencing—in the same app.
Not only does this small business software help teams stay in sync with each other and clients, no matter where in the world they are, it also comes with other useful features like:
1. HD video
2. File sharing and collaboration
3. Task management
4. Screen sharing in online meetings
5. 24-hour meeting durations
6. And more…
Glip is perfectly suited to remote teams—your guests can join a meeting without downloading anything (all they need is to put your meeting URL into their web browser). Plus, the software is simple to download on both mobile and desktop apps, allowing you to work together, from anywhere.
Case Study: Pandamoon Publishing
Pandamoon Publishing has made the tech-savvy decision to mobilize a flexible communication app for its globally distributed workforce. So, they used RingCentral Glip to unify their team communications. Now video calling, real-time team messaging, task management, and file sharing are all in one place.
“Glip lets us work with the best people anywhere in the world, not just within driving distance to our offices.”
Zara Kramer, Founder and Publisher, Pandamoon Publishing
Slack is a popular B2B messaging application. Its interface is similar to other messaging applications (WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, for example), but offers business-friendly features to streamline virtual team meetings. These include:
- Threaded messages
- File transfers and screen share
- Audio and video call
- Shared channels
- Instant and asynchronous messaging
- Searable information database
Zoom is a well- known video conferencing platform, and 2020 really brought Zoom into the mainstream. This collaborative software is known for making it quick and easy to communicate over video conferencing. Other features include:
- Zoom Phone
- In-line translation and transcription
- Conference and waiting rooms
- Hand-raising features
- Question and answer features
Cisco offers user-friendly collaboration software that combines messaging, file sharing, and business calling. Cisco is all about cognitive collaboration, – meaning they bring artificial intelligence into the business environment. That means virtual assistants, people insights, and virtual whiteboard, amongst many other features:
- Secure end-to-end encryption
- Integration with Cisco equipment
- Video and audio conferencing
- Screen and file sharing
- Integrations with third-party apps
5. Microsoft Teams
This application was developed as the business equivalent of Skype and has quickly developed some advanced features. It is now a fully fledged collaboration tool. Teams allows users to connect with employees through web conferencing and online meeting platforms. It boasts extensive features, such as:
- Third-part app integration
- Business phone
- Admin control
- Team and one-to-one messaging
- File sharing
Sales software helps businesses optimize their customer lifecycles. In other words, good sales software speeds up the selling process. It gives sales representatives the tools they need to reach and exceed sales targets. Let’s take a look at some of the best free sales software applications on the market today.
Surprise! Glip by RingCentral is a key way in which sales teams can keep each other updated—and also stay in touch with clients.
But beyond this free smarter meeting solution, RingCentral also has an outbound contact center product (though this isn’t free) that allows salespeople to track their campaigns, log call scripts, and much more. Here’s a quick look at how it works:
What’s more, businesses have the option to seamlessly integrate their RingCentral communications solution with their existing CRM software (like HubSpot and Salesforce) to make it even easier for their sales teams to talk to their prospects and clients:
That’s a sure fire way to achieve velocity sales. Features include:
- Call logging
- Performance reporting
- Meeting scheduling
- Instant screen pops
2. Really Simple Systems
This is an entry-level customer relationship management system (CRM). Prospect tracking features help sales reps generate more sales by making sales pipelines more visible. The software is completely free for up to two users. It boasts instant invoicing and quotes from its opportunities dashboard, as well as:
- Conversion estimations
- Opportunity histories
- Opportunity lines
- Powerful report writing
- Weighted value forecasts
This CRM software from Freshworks lets managers see where their employees are interacting with customers. It’s designed to help you track your pipeline status, and has a handy automated data entry feature. Even better, the Freshworks CRM software has an integrated phone and email sync. Other features include:
- Workflow automation
- Intelligent insights
- Customer touchpoint tracking
- Mobile application
Streak is a sales software that’s built right into Gmail. It helps companies achieve efficient pipelines on autopilot. Users add data to the app’s spreadsheet tool. They can then filter through customer information and create any necessary notifications.
This drives sales by allowing sales reps to capture customer data from emails and contact lists. Other great features include full integration with other Google apps and view tracking, which allows users to see if their emails have been opened and send follow-ups accordingly.
Streak is rapidly growing in popularity and is completely free to use in its standard form. Some of Streak’s other great features include:
- Automated data collection
- Send later scheduling
- Email snippet templates
- Mail merging
5. Agile CRM
Agile CRM is a full-service CRM software, boasting excellent features such as custom appointment calendars, drag-and-drop automation, email reports, widgets, and plugins.
And as you can see, it also integrates with tools like RingCentral to make it easier for you to connect with prospects and customers directly from your dashboard.
The free plan and software option is wide ranging, offering email campaign tools, web engagement analytics, email tracking, milestone alerts, and unlimited documents, deals, and tasks.
Marketing software helps businesses run successful marketing campaigns by tapping into their target markets to convert leads in sales. Marketing software is a staple tool for any business. It’s one of the most effective ways to maximize resources and make the most of employee time. Let’s take a look at some of the best free marketing software applications on the market today.
1. Screaming Frog SEO Spider
This SEO company specializes in free tools for small businesses. Their SEO software will audit your business website and offer insights to help you boost your SEO strategy. The free version will audit up to 500 URLs. Other features include:
- Troubleshooting links and servers
- Website redirects
- SEO auditing across page titles and metadata
- Duplicate content removal
- Data extraction for reports
- XML sitemaps
Canva is a great option for digital and email marketing. This tool is a simple editing and graphic design solution offering templates for social media posts and websites. This helps SMBs professionalize their assets and content with up-to-date, pro-standard graphic design elements. Canva offers an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface and an extensive library of graphics.
Other features include:
- Infographic designs
- Templates for charts and case studies
- A library of more than one million images
Hotjar analyzes your customer behavior to see where they click and what they find most useful. This helps SMBs make strategic decisions when developing their content. The software includes:
- Heatmaps to track where customers are spending most time on your site
- Conversion funnels to show you the steps users take before purchasing
- Surveys and polls to generate even more qualitative data
- Recordings to use in training
This tool boosts marketing ROI to help SMBs get the most out of their marketing campaigns. Optimizely tests your targeted messaging to help you personalize campaigns strategically and runs constant A/B and multivariate testing. Features include:
- Marketing experiments
- Activity tracking
- A/B testing
- Visual editing
- Workflow experimentation
Accounting software helps bookkeepers and accountants to manage all of their financial transactions. This saves an inordinate amount of time and energy that used to be spent on repetitive jobs, freeing up company and employee time for other tasks.
In the age of remote working, small business accounting teams need to serve their organizations and customers from anywhere. Pairing a free business accounting software with flexible cloud-based communications like RingCentral is the way to go. That way, accountants can meet clients where they are while continuing to provide a consistent service.
Let’s take a look at some of the best free accounting software applications on the market today.
CloudBooks is a free invoicing and accounting tool. It allows SMBs to create professional invoices, accept online payments, send quotes and estimates, and track transactions in and out of company accounts. The free trial lasts 30 days and includes the following features:
- Invoicing templates
- Invoice support
- Branding customization
- Quotes and estimates
- Expense reporting
- Payment tracking
A good beginner option that helps small businesses automate their accounting. QuickFile users can connect to bank accounts and web services to view their financial data in one place. The best thing about this software is that it also integrated with hundreds of other web services and banking feeds. Other features include:
- Invoice and quoting templates
- Receipt uploads
- Automated reminders
- Tagging for receipts and invoices
- VAT support
3. NCH Express Accounts
This is a free desktop accounting software. For small businesses with less than five employees, the free version of this software is sufficient for managing day-to-day accounts. As part of the free software package small businesses can:
- View 20 financial reports
- Analyze revenue by customer, team member, or item
- Manage accounts receivable and accounts payable
Wave is all about money management. Users can sign up with Google or create a new account to access free reports and expense tracking. A great option for creating professional invoices, recurring billing, and automated payments. Other features include:
- Checkout and payment management
- Business health reports
- Annual and monthly comparisons
- Shopify tracking
- Various payment options
Pandle takes transactional information from your business accounts and categorizes them. This helps business owners get paid faster with the help of payment links and customizable invoicing. Features include:
- Bank imports
- Invoicing and quotes
- Recurring transactions
- Currency management
- Report creation
- VAT management
- Payroll integrations
How software can grow a small business
Software is a saving grace for small businesses as they start scaling their operations. But growing your business is no easy task. You’ll need to maximize efficiency to bring in more revenue. Luckily, software solutions can help you achieve your goals, by streamlining workflows, saving time, and reducing costs. Here are some ways that software can help grow your SMB:
- Simplifies tasks: Time tracking software helps employees complete timesheets and helps businesses track them. Managers and supervisors can then stay on top of their employees’ progress, and small businesses can integrate appropriate software to help improve workflows accordingly.
- Helps follow sales leads: Software helps store, capture, and track sales prospects. Lead generation and management software options help small businesses hold on to their clients by making it easier to process new leads and engage existing ones.
- Improves customer relations: Customer relationship management (CRM) software boosts satisfaction and repeat business by optimizing communications. CRM software helps small businesses streamline their relationship building and after-sales services to encourage repeat business.
- Makes your business more competitive: Small business software improves service quality, efficiency, and customization. This can help businesses stand out from the crowd with their unique services. Implementing the right software can help your business scale, as 24 Hour Tees found after migrating to RingCentral.
“I’d estimate this automation with the RingCentral API has saved us the need to hire about four additional full-time employees.”
Using the right software tools will help you reduce managerial overload and even take time-consuming tasks off your plate. Plus, your employees will get the job down with increased speed, precision, and satisfaction.
Start using free business software today
If you’re a small-medium sized business in need of some extra resources to streamline your workflows, you’ve come to the right place. Think about your organizational pain-points and choose some free business software to try out. This will help you find out which tools really work and which aren’t worth investing in.
Once you’ve found your go-to favorites, it’s worth looking at their pricing plans and add-ons. Often, paid versions have increased functionality that might help you in the long run. Business software is a great way for companies to scale up their operations, manage their business finances, and improve their workflows.
As a quick recap, Glip is one of the best free business software options available, giving you…
1. Team messaging: Glip offers free real-time team messaging—anytime, anywhere. A great way to engage remote teams and build stronger relationships with new and existing customers. Skip lengthy email chains and message teammates, clients, and external collaborators quickly and easily.
2. Video: Glip offers free, built-in, one-click dialing enabled video calls and meetings. Small businesses no longer need to use a separate video applications. Meet face-to-face even when you are away from the office, screen share, and annotate your presentations.
3. Task-management: Glip helps small businesses assign and manage tasks. Create teams based on projects, themes, or departments and share files instantly directly in Glip.
4. Integrations: Glip integrates with your existing apps, like Google Workspace, Outlook, and more to ensure a seamless workflow that doesn’t add any bloat to all the tasks you already have
Originally published Dec 16, 2020, updated Aug 13, 2021