Feb 23, 2016
3 Free tools for your small business
Investing in small business sometimes means investing in the tools that help us do our jobs. As a designer, for instance, I subscribe monthly to Adobe Creative Cloud to access Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and all the other tools I use regularly.
But not every tool that I use is one that I pay for. Some tools bring great value and cost me nothing. Here are three free tools that I use most often to get work done.
PicMonkey is an easy-to-use, online, photo editing tool. For a small monthly fee, you can upgrade to the premium version, but I find that the free version does just what I need when I need it.
PicMonkey offers all the basics you expect from a photo editing tool, including:
- Resizing and cropping
- Rotation and straightening
- Adjusting exposure
But it also offers features that you may not expect in a free tool, including:
- Collage templates
- Overlays of shapes, frames, and text
- Textures and themes
I’ve used PicMonkey to create quick photo collages, which take more time—and steps—to create in Photoshop. It’s also great for creating web banners and social media cover images as well as touching up photos.
Because it’s available online, you can use PicMonkey from anywhere without downloading any software. Also, the free version doesn’t require registration, so there’s no need to remember your username and password any time you need to edit an image from another computer.
Hemingway Editor is a bare bones, online writing tool. The formatting options are limited, and you can’t save documents. You could do better in both areas using Google Drive. But there is one area in which this tool excels: its unique ability to help you improve your writing.
Hemingway Editor does more than spellcheck; this tool checks your document’s readability. It tells you how well your writing is understood by assigning your document a grade level (6th grade, 8th grade, and so on).
As you write, the editor highlights issues, including:
- Complex or difficult to read sentences
- Single words for which there are simpler alternatives
- Overuse of adverbs
- Use of passive voice
If you don’t like the highlighting, then you can choose Write mode, which is distraction free.
Despite the limitations of this online tool, I use Hemingway Editor to check short documents, including my professional emails and blog posts. It’s not ideal for longer documents in part because it lacks the ability to save.
I like this tool so much that I bought the desktop version. At $9.99, it’s inexpensive, and as long as the tool remains in development, I’ll receive free upgrades.
While the same formatting options exist on both the desktop and online versions, the desktop version allows me to save.
Despite having the desktop version, I still use the free version because it’s so readily available from anywhere. Like PicMonkey, you don’t need to login to use Hemingway Editor.
CreativeLive isn’t a tool, but a resource. This education website features free, online workshops with experts in areas such as business, design, music, photography, video, and more.
Nearly all the workshops are recorded and available for sale. Most workshop instructors include bonus materials when you purchase, but often there are free materials to download when you RSVP for a workshop.
CreativeLive offers a wide range of one day and multi-day workshops as well as multi-week bootcamps in five different tracks:
- Art and design
- Craft and maker
- Money and life
- Music and audio
- Photo and video
Their focus is largely the creative business owner or entrepreneur. You can find free pre-recorded or live workshops streaming on a daily basis.
I’ve watched a number of excellent workshops on such topics as:
- Email marketing
- PR for small businesses
- Instagram marketing
- Setting up an Etsy shop
The quality of the content and videos is top notch. Most of the expert instructors are either experts I’ve heard of or ones that I want to follow after seeing their workshops.
A few times I have purchased a workshop to rewatch whenever I like. I prefer their model of a one-time purchase to the monthly or annual subscription models offered by their competitors.
The web is full of great, free tools, and I’ll share them with you as I find and use them. In the meantime, check out the three tools in this article. You may find them useful in your small business.