Starting a Business on a Shoestring Budget : Free Online Tools

Starting a business on a shoestring budget

Starting a business on a shoestring budget

As those of you who follow this blog know (and for those of you who are new, hello and welcome!), I have an online vintage clothing shop that I run from my home office full time. I just recently took the leap from working at a restaurant a few times a week to supplement my income to jumping into full time entrepreneurship, so as you can imagine I have not had a ton of money to invest into the business along the way. It's been a few years of adding new inventory as I could and investing what I could afford back into the business as much as possible.

A good portion of my time also included researching and discovering free resources where I could in order to save a few dollars along the way. Saving $10 a month may seem trivial to some, but when you’re first starting out there are a lot of ways you could invest that $10 elsewhere to help you grow.

I’ve decided to compile my most-used list of resources here in the hopes that some might find it helpful as they consider starting their own online business. A lot of these may seem obvious, but sometimes you just need to see it written out to realize how it might help you in a way you hadn’t thought of. So without further ado, here is a list of free resources and programs I use for my small business.

If you are looking for a photo editor along the lines of Photoshop in which you can edit photos, use a clone tool to touch up backgrounds, or add a filter, iPiccy is one of my favorites. And it’s free! You can also layer photos, text and shapes to create graphics for marketing or blog posts. Something I find super helpful for Instagram posts is the ability to create a collage in iPiccy in just about any configuration you want. While their selection of fonts is not the best, I never have a problem finding one that will do the trick.

One of my favorite elements of iPiccy is the fact that it saves all your photos you’ve uploaded, even if you don’t sign in or create an account. This means that every time you go to the website they all are there and ready to be utilized.

TIP Make sure to clear out old photos you don’t need saved in iPiccy every once in awhile, as leaving too many in there can really slow down it’s speed.  

Canva is perfect for those of you who are looking for pre-made graphics templates (ie. a Facebook cover photo, Instagram post, blog graphic, or email header). While you do have to pay $1 for some of the better designs, there are still a ton of free graphics available to spice up your marketing campaign or your social media channels. I like to use Canva for Instagram posts when I run a sale, or for holiday themed ads. Its also great for creating a fun Etsy banner. Basically for any project where you might need a little extra help or inspiration with the graphic component, Canva can help you out.

TIP Make sure to play around with different fonts, colors, shapes within the template you choose to keep it looking unique.

Polarr is one more online photo editor I wanted to mention for those of you who prefer to shoot photos in RAW format. Its an easy to use tool that will let you edit the unprocessed photos other online photo editors won’t. It also has a ton of great filters available.

I know I know, duh right? But just in case you were considering buying Microsoft Excel, Word or Powerpoint, you can do a LOT of the same things with Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides, and all for free! I use Google Sheets to track my business income and expenses, and this is coming from the girl who dropped her Excel course in college because she couldn’t wrap her head around it. (insert a smack-forehead here for 19-year-old Kristin) I also am all about writing everything down, so I use Google Docs to make checklists, list ideas, write drafts of blog posts, etc. Use Google calendar to schedule meetings, plan your days out or make an editorial calendar for your blog. Then sync it to your phone to keep you movin' and groovin'.

If you are running a business online, you will definitely need to set up a Google Analytics account. At the very least, it shows you how many pageviews your website is getting, where your customers are located, what device they are viewing your website on, the length of time they browse, and so much more. I am just beginning to utilize this more, but wish I had from the start.

If you’ve done any research yet for building your business, you know growing your email list is huge for gaining a solid customer base. Mailchimp is an automated email service allowing you to have customers sign up for a recurring newsletter you write, and sends it out to them at a scheduled time. If you are just starting out with your list (like I am), Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails per month.

Hopefully you guys found this helpful! Next in this series I will be sharing my favorite blogs for small businesses, and specifically the most helpful posts I’ve come across. Happy weekend!


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