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22 Essentials for Business Success: The Best Free Resources & Insider Advice

Which online resources, tools and advice are really worth your time and money this year?

My ultimate list of the best free online business and freelancer resources, plus some insider tips from the purpose-driven startup founders featured on the blog this past year (scroll towards the end for these), has you covered.

And, as always, everything on the list has been personally trialled, tested and proven – no randomly sourced hyperlinks here folks!

Best Free Online Resources

Following is a list of all the free stuff that I use on an almost daily basis for my blog and freelance business. I recommend saving the links somewhere you can easily refer to them – trust me, it will only save you time in the future!

1. Wufoo

Whether you’re a freelancer or small business owner, you probably already know that one the most important parts of client service is ensuring that expectations are met – and results get delivered. Which is exactly why I always work with prospective clients to create detailed project briefs. When I discovered this free tool that allows me to create, email and track questionnaires online, I was hooked!

2. Canva

Hands down, this is the best free online design tool you’ll find on the internet right now. I know plenty of people that use it for designing social media posts – but I’d also encourage you to use it for business presentations and ebooks too.

3-4. Adobe Illustrator or InDesign

Ok, so you’re probably thinking right now – doesn’t this cost money? Well, yes, but you can get a free trial for both, which I highly recommend if you have a larger design project that requires a bit more than what Canva can deliver. Heads up: make sure you do the trial when you have some time on your hands because it takes awhile just to get your head around the functionality, so it’s slow-going at first.

5. Mac’s Dictation Function

I actually didn’t know this existed until I went in search of a better way to turn my blog interview recordings into text. By simply pressing the ‘fn’ ‘fn’ key twice, your Mac will turn audio into text. I use it to transcribe interviews directly into WordPress and while you do need to give it a good edit, it’s definitely saved me from the time-consuming grind of having to type everything.

6. Google Analytics

It’s no secret that this is probably THE most valuable free online resource out there. I’ve always used it to track my blog views but only recently discovered just how much you can track and report by taking part in the free Google Analytics Academy courses.

7. SumoMe

If you have a blog or a website, then I highly recommend installing SumoMe to encourage readers to share and subscribe. The free version gives you custom subscribe button options, basic analytics and customizable share buttons for your site.

8. Hootsuite

You don’t need to pay to schedule social media posts, you just need a free online tool like Hootsuite. I can literally schedule a month’s worth of posts in an hour – freeing up my time to do other things.

9. BuzzSumo

While their ‘free’ offering is limited, I still use it to see what keywords are trending, identify key influencers and track social media conversations.

10. PicMonkey

For some reason, I find this online design tool much easier to use for designing Instagram posts than Canva. The functionality can be tricky to master at first, but just do one of the many YouTube tutorials available and you’ll master it pretty quickly.

11-12. Pexels & Pixabay

These are some of the best websites for sourcing royalty-free high-res images for blogs and websites. Pexels has great business, food and general lifestyle pics, while Pixabay has more B2B and graphics-driven content.

13. Unsplash

When I can’t find what I’m looking for on Pexels, I go to Unsplash, Their collection of landscape and outdoor high-res royalty-free images are some of the best you’ll find anywhere.

14. MailChimp

Plenty of you are probably already using this, but if you’re not, you’re missing out on owning one of the most valuable assets of every business today – a solid email subscription list. MailChimp saves my newsletter templates and quickly updates my subscription list from SumoMe, making it way too easy to update and send out quality emails in 30 minutes or less.


Best Founder Business Advice

Over the past year, I asked successful mission-driven startup founders what their favorite app, resource, tool or book was – either something they use everyday or advice they found invaluable when starting out.

I’ve included some of their best insider tips below:

15. Tyler Gage – Co-Founder, Runa

Tyler had some great, and very honest, advice about just how hard starting up can be – especially when you’re looking to make a positive impact. He recommends purpose-driven startup founders read The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.

16. Christian Birky – Founder, Lazlo

Christian bravely started his ethical clothing business from scratch – without any prior fashion industry experience. His favorite book for anyone thinking of undertaking a similar project is Design Like You Give a Dam

17. Tobias Gerhard – Co-Founder, KANCHA

Inspired by his travels, Tobias chose to build a positive impact business in Kyrgyzstan. He highly recommends using the business model canvas when starting out!

18. Miki Agrawal – Co-Founder, THINX

THINX is doing more than generating positive social and environmental impacts with their business model, they’re also becoming leading advocates for women around the globe. Miki recommends the book Good to Great by Tim Collins for founders with a passion for doing great things.

19. Sam Goldman – Co-Founder, d.light

Sam’s solar-power startup business takes him – and his colleagues – all over the world. So it was no surprise that his favorite tool, resource or app was Skype!

20. Nur-E Farhana Rahman – Co-Founder, Knotty Gal

Nur-E provided some honest insights about what it’s like to start a purpose-driven business from scratch. With so much going on, she stays on top of everything by using the Wunderlist app

21 – 22. Andy Keller – Founder, ChicoBag

Andy successfully turned his prototype for a reusable and environmentally-friendly bag into a thriving business. He highly recommends using Salesforce and Google Apps


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