There are two things that most small business owners will admit to lacking: time and money. So when it comes to brilliant software options that will make tedious business tasks a breeze, the natural reaction is to groan and ask, “Great, but how much will it cost?” But time-saving tech doesn’t have to be consigned to that vague time in the future when you have spare funds.

Whether you’re looking to increase efficiency in your accounting, your marketing or your data analysis, there is a software option available that won’t cost you a penny. You just have to know where to look…

Best for accounting — Countingup

When running a small business, there are few business tasks that people find more frustratingly dull than updating their accounts. There are also few tasks that could land you in quite as much trouble if you don’t get it right — a mistake in your books could land you in hot water with HMRC, and a failure to keep track of your profits could lead to an unpleasant (and unaffordable) surprise come tax bill time.

The solution is to find automated accounting software that will help you keep on top of your finances with minimal effort.

Countingup is the business current account that will automate your bookkeeping, allow you to keep track of your expenses with transaction notes and photos, keep on top of your profit and loss and it can be opened in as little as 10 minutes — Sign up for a free trial today.

Best for automation — Zapier

If you’re starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the ever-increasing number of apps on your phone or laptop, app-connecting software, Zapier, might be just what you’re looking for.

Zapier allows you to integrate the various software you use for business tasks, automating everything for you. For example, if a customer makes a purchase from your website, you can set a command that will automatically move the customer to whatever onboarding email sequence you have in place. Or every blog post you publish on your WordPress site can be automatically posted to your Facebook page or Twitter feed. The only effort involved is in setting up the command in the first instance.

Compatible with apps as varied as Slack, Salesforce, Asana, Stripe, and MailChimp, it’s worth having a look to see if Zapier could support the business tasks you perform frequently.

Best for email — MailChimp

Growing an email list can be one of the best marketing tactics to help you scale your business but without automation, it’ll be nothing more than a headache. With MailChimp’s free service you can create a signup form on your site that will collect subscribers and bring them into your email sales funnel, which you’ll be able to craft with the help of an easy to use ‘drag and drop’ design system. You’ll also be able to check email open rates to help you assess whether your email content is working for you.

As long as you’re sending fewer than 12,000 emails a month and have under 2000 subscribers you can take advantage of MailChimp’s Forever Free plan — you can always upgrade to a paid plan later if you’d like to explore the software’s additional features.

Best for graphics — Canva

To market your small business effectively, you need a strong brand — at the very least a great logo and consistent use of colour and font. All of which can get pretty expensive if you have to call upon a designer every time you want to create blog post graphics or a Facebook post.

Enter Canva. The tool allows you to design everything from letterheads to social media graphics to branded presentations. You can upload your logo files, your specific brand colours and fonts and it’s easy enough for even the most technologically challenged business owner to navigate.

Best for search analysis — Google Trends

Data analysis can be one of those things that sounds much scarier than it actually is, and given the positive impact it can have on your business, from product research to SEO and marketing, it’s definitely worth trying to get to grips with it.

And Google Trends makes it all so much easier. The tool highlights which topics are trending on Google’s search engine, so you can see which search terms are currently popular, which product features your customers are searching for and what they’re looking for in relation to your competition. This can help you find the right keywords for your content, develop products with features your customers value most or find the hottest products to stock. And you can narrow your search by criteria such as industry and location so you know it’s relevant to your business.

If you set aside a little time to play around with the software’s features you’ll find a veritable treasure trove of info that’ll help you make well-informed business decisions.

When there are so many great free software options around there’s no point waiting until you can afford paid options — many of these free tools include the option to upgrade further down the line so you won’t have the hassle of switching over to an entirely new system. Although you may well find that the free version does the job nicely. Time and money saved!

For more tips and advice on running your small business more efficiently, subscribe to our blog. And don’t forget you can trial our time-saving accounting software for free, today.