There is a lot of work to complete between deciding to start a side hustle and making it successful for most of us. During that in-between time, you have to find ways to grow your business through networking and building your portfolio of work. Typically, your focus is on bringing in more work and building your client base during this growth period. You're likely aren't making a ton of money that you can turn around and invest back into your business quite yet, which is why you should take advantage of as many free tools as possible.
There are a lot of great online tools designed specifically for small business owners (yes, your side hustle is a business), and many of them allow you to use them for free or offer basic memberships or trial periods to test out the platform before totally committing to it. There are tools available for everything from project management to marketing to scheduling to basic graphic design, which can be used across various industries. Here are some of the best ones.
If you have a Google account, you have free access to Google Drive, which allows you to create, save, and share documents in various formats for free. You can create documents (like you would in Microsoft Word), spreadsheets, slideshow presentations, forms for surveys, drawings, and more. You can save all of these documents onto your Drive (cloud storage) and create links for other people to view, comment, or edit them individually.
You don't have to be a master graphic designer to create logos, banners, brochures, or website images. You only need to know how to use Canva, which is a free graphic design tool. It's a user-friendly platform that provides templates to help you create aesthetically pleasing designs that you can customize for your own business. If you're feeling up to it, you can create something unique using their pre-designed tools. The free membership has plenty of great design options for you to choose from, but there's also a paid version with additional designs if you need more.
Mailchimp has different tiers of memberships, but their free version offers plenty of marketing tools for someone who is trying to grow their small business. It will help you automate marketing emails and even has a “subject line helper” that will assist you in creating something eye-catching that will encourage your prospects to open the email. It also offers marketing management tools, website creation/management, social media assistance, and more.
Another excellent marketing management platform is HubSpot which offers tools for ad management, email marketing, live and bot chat boxes to use on your company page, contract management, team email, and more. You can start with the basics, and if you find the platform helpful, you can then opt to upgrade to a paid membership as your business grows (or stick with the free option if it works).
Wix or WordPress
For help building your website, you can use either Wix or WordPress. Both platforms offer free and paid options that help you create and customize your business website. There are plenty of templates to choose from so that you can get your online image just right, and there are options or guides for creating your domain name to make your website look even more professional (or, you can stick with their free domain option, which includes their brand in your domain).
Asana is a project management tool that will help you organize your workflow and even assign tasks to people you're collaborating with. With the free option, you can create unlimited tasks and storage space and collaborate with up to 15 people, view and manage your projects, and more. It also integrates with a variety of time management apps so that you can keep track of how long you're spending on each project or client for accurate billing or just for data on your end.
For basic photo editing, Fotor is a great (free) tool. You can easily resize, enhance, mark up, and completely transform your photos using this platform. It also allows you to create collages and your graphics using templates and designs within the platform. It is a particularly excellent tool if you're creating your website and want to resize an existing photo to look like a high-quality image from the user's side.
If you're frequently searching for stock photos for your website or marketing materials, Unsplash has a massive library of pictures that you can use for free and doesn't require any citation to use. All photos have a creative/artistic look to them and look high-quality on a computer, tablet, or mobile screen.
The chances are high that you've probably had your fair share of Zoom experiences since 2020, but in case you're unaware, it's a platform that allows you to create video conferencing meetings for free. You can host up to 100 people at once or have a one-on-one convo for up to 40 minutes. It's super easy to use and a platform many of your clients probably already have experience with.
Since not everyone uses the same online calendar system, you can use Calendly to help you schedule meetings with clients regardless of their platform of choice. You will create a schedule with dates and times you’re available and create a link to send to invitees so that they can choose a time to meet with you that also works for them. It will save you a lot of back-and-forth time and keep things organized.
If you use Google Chrome, then download the extension Grammarly, a writing assistant that is significantly better than simply using spell check. Grammarly will scan your writing for spelling errors and grammatical errors and offer suggestions to help make your writing even stronger. While this is an essential tool for anyone writing on the side, it can (and should) be used by anyone who writes emails, social media posts, marketing materials, or anything else that involves written language.
Business Growth For Free
Several other excellent free tools and platforms are available to help you grow and manage your side hustle. You've probably heard the phrase, "You get what you pay for" in the past, but that certainly doesn't apply here. Of course, once your business starts to take off, many of these platforms also offer enhanced memberships that allow you to do even more with their tools so that you can continue to extend your reach and showcase your work. Still, there's no rush to upgrade because the less overhead you have, the more you can enjoy your profits.
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