When you’re trying to grow and scale a business, keeping costs low is hard. Especially if you find yourself looking at every shiny, new tool on the market. And if this is you – trust me, I know the struggle.
Today I wanted to write about some budget friendly business tools that you can use to run and grow your business on a limited budget. Some of these are free and some of them cost money but will give you hours of time back in return.
So, let’s get right into it!
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links within this post are affiliate links, which means that I’ll make a commission if you choose to purchase something through them at no extra cost to you. If you do, thank you! If you don’t, thank you for reading anyway. I only recommend stuff I actually use and like and would recommend to a friend.
1.) Using an all-in-one website platform
Two of the biggest issues you can stumble across in the world of online business are “shiny object syndrome” and tech bottlenecks. Until you can hire out help for every little bit of your business, it’s smart to stick with a website platform that you feel comfortable with and know your way around.
Now, I could sit here and make a case about why I love WordPress and think it’s the best platform ever, but I truly think that any website platform can be a smart choice as long as you’re actually using it and it’s getting you results in your business.
The last thing that you want as a business owner trying to grow or scale is to have to jump around to different tools every time you need to create a new landing page, sales page, or launch a new offer. (Unless you have the ability to hire someone to deal with all of that for you.)
So, whether your website platform of choice is WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, ShowIt, Kajabi, or Kartra, make sure that you know your way around it and you’re able to create new pages with relative ease.
Here’s a few things you’ll probably want to know how to do:
- Create a new landing page for an email freebie opt-in
- Put up a new sales page for an offer you’re launching
- Add a new portfolio icon
- Add a digital product to your online shop
- Update links
- Add something to your blog sidebar
- Write, schedule, and publish blog posts
- Update or optimize your SEO
Of course, it’s great to outsource any of this work, but if you’re a one-woman show for now, you don’t want your website platform to hold you back.
So pick something powerful and that has the functionality you need for your business, learn how to use it well, and stick with it. Ignore the shiny object syndrome and don’t worry about switching platforms unless you know the platform you’re on is holding you back.
You can be successful no matter what you use: WordPress, ShowIt, Wix, whatever! It’s not the platform that determines your reach and ability to be profitable – you just need to find a platform that empowers you to create and get your stuff out there.
2.) Good website hosting
I know this is kind of a boring topic so I’m going to keep it quick, but this is really important! You need to find a solid website host to use, otherwise, you’ll have issues as your business starts to scale. Ideally, you can find a host that will let you scale up as you go pretty seamlessly without overcharging you in the beginning when you’re not getting a lot of traffic or using a lot of hosting space.
Cheap and popular website hosts like Bluehost and GoDaddy are fine if you want to use them to get started, but once your website becomes an important part of your business, you’ll want to switch to a hosting provider that can scale with you, has better uptime, doesn’t have spammy servers, and takes security seriously.
Here’s a few web hosting platforms great for beginners, with less expensive, shared hosting packages that are still pretty decent:
And here’s a couple of hosting platforms that are more ideal for more experienced website owners who rely on their website heavily and get larger traffic numbers:
Getting high-quality hosting in place will save you so many headaches and long waits for chat support to get back to you down the line – the last thing you want is your website going down during a launch.
Moving hosts is a little bit of a pain, but only really takes a few minutes of work setting up a new hosting account and pointing your domain’s nameservers to the new host. Well worth it in the long run!
3.) A solid social media scheduling program
Ahh, social media. You’re either obsessed with it or it’s kind of the bane of your existence. For a lot of us, though, it’s a critical part of our long-term marketing strategy. You can make social media a lot easier for yourself by batch creating social media posts and scheduling them in a program that will post them automatically for you.
This is awesome because you only have to sit down to create social media content 1x per week (or less often if you want to schedule more posts per session) and then you don’t have to think about social media for the rest of your week, aside from any engagement you want to be doing.
I’ve used Later (free) for scheduling and loved it. Now I use Publer because of all the extra features that come with it, like its ability to recycle old posts so that you can sometimes take a break from content creation by building up an evergreen content library. Planoly is another one I’ve seen recommended a lot.
4.) Tailwind for scheduling pins
Use Tailwind to automate most of your pinning! Pinterest is such a powerful marketing platform for most business owners, both online and brick and mortar. If you do any kind of content marketing in your business, you’ll especially benefit from Pinterest marketing.
The problem is that for the best results, you’ll need to be pinning a lot. Pinning your own content as well as other, relevant content. This’ll help boost your visibility on the platform significantly. But no one wants to be on Pinterest every dang day.
Some experts say that it’s a good idea to hop onto Pinterest and do some manual pinning here and there, but most Pinterest marketing people are still recommending Tailwind. It makes Pinterest marketing relatively hands-off, which is amazing.
I use Tailwind about 1x per month when I sit down to schedule out pins for the following 1-2 months. You can grab a free trial of Tailwind right here and start automating most of your pins, which will save you a couple of hours per week.
5.) An email marketing platform
Email marketing is still super relevant and historically provides a better return on investment than most other marketing channels. Sign up for an email marketing platform, create a lead magnet for your target audience, set up a workflow to have it delivered to people who sign up, and enjoy growing and interacting with your list.
Check out this video by copywriter Alex Cattoni if you need convincing about why you should do email marketing:
Email marketing is especially important, because you actually own it, unlike a social media following, which can be shut down at any time. (Same goes for your website – you probably own that!) The more platforms and audiences you have ownership of, the easier it is to run a sustainable business.
- MailerLite is a great email marketing tool that’s free for up to 1,000 subscribers. I recommend it to anyone just starting out with email marketing or anyone with less than 1k subscribers. I used them pre-1k subscribers and for the other blogs I run.
- Flodesk is a paid email marketing tool that’s good for anyone who wants an easy-to-use email marketing platform with a low price tag and not a ton of bells and whistles. This is an amazing platform for anyone who doesn’t need advanced segmentation and fancy features. I use Flodesk currently for this website and love it.
- Klaviyo is a paid email marketing platform best for e-commerce site owners who want a super-powerful, customer-centric platform to keep on top of everything in their product-based business. If your business is on Shopify, Woocommerce, Bigcommerce, or a similar platform, look into Klaviyo because it’s seriously the best for those kinds of businesses.
6.) A page builder, if you’re using WordPress
Make WordPress a heck of a lot simpler with a drag and drop page builder plugin. These are great for anyone who wants to speed up their web design workflow in WordPress. I use Elementor and I am obsessed with it.
It’s so easy to build out pages and reusable templates for sales pages, landing pages, etc. There’s actually a few page builders out there to choose from, so check them all out and pick one that looks like it fits your needs. Here’s some of the options: Divi, Beaver Builder, Thrive, Oxygen, and Elementor.
Just… stay away from WP Bakery/Visual Composer, haha. That thing is archaic.
I like Elementor because it’s a balance between power, ease of use, number of widgets, and site speed. I have found Divi to be a little less intuitive to work with and a little bit slower. I like Beaver Builder, but it doesn’t do as much as Elementor. Oxygen is powerful and super fast but has some accessibility issues as of now.
Also, Elementor has a free version that you can check out before committing to it. Here’s a link to Elementor’s site, where you can see the free and pro versions and what they come with!
7.) A keyword research tool
SEO is so important if you do any kind of content marketing or if you sell products on your website. And good SEO all starts with keyword research. There’s a whole lot to SEO, but at the end of the day, if you’re not doing keyword research and picking keywords that make sense for your content, you’re probably wasting your time.
Get familiar with a couple of keyword research tools so that you can refer to them when you’re building out content ideas for your website. I’d recommend using multiple of these because the data will always be a little bit different depending on the tool you’re using, so it’s best to get your data from multiple sources for a better idea of the true potential of each keyword.
Free keyword research tools:
- Google Search Console (You need this set up for your site, by the way! So much great data in here.)
- Google Keyword Planner
Also, check out this post by Fulltime Blogger that outlines how to just use Google search for your keyword research. This method has worked well for me and many others who want their info straight from the source and don’t want to pay monthly for a paid keyword research tool.
Premium keyword research and SEO tools:
There’s a lot of tools out there that can help you massively with your SEO but it’s best to master the basics before you jump into these because they’re pretty complex and generally expensive ($100-$300 per month.)
The main players are Moz, SEMRush, and Ahrefs. All are great, but all are only worth it if you’re utilizing them pretty heavily multiple times per week and you’ve taken the time to get to know the ins and outs of all the functionality you have access to.
Getting a premium SEO tool without a monthly subscription:
If you’re thinking about upgrading from free keyword research tools but you don’t want another monthly subscription, I recommend stalking AppSumo for a lifetime deal on an SEO tool that looks good, that way you’re just paying one time for it. I grabbed Labrika and highly recommend it if it’s available. Paying $69 one time definitely beats a hundred a month and I get a lot out of it. 😁
8.) A CRM
A tool to organize your business’s sales pipeline and various workflows. Bonus points if it comes with invoicing, contract signing, and proposals! Getting set up with a CRM will seriously help you avoid running around like a chicken with its head cut off when you land a new client.
Here’s some popular CRMs to check out:
9.) Google Drive
Because Microsoft Office is way behind the times and it’s another paid subscription you can easily get rid of if you have it. Google Drive has equivalents of all Office tools and a lot more. You also get 15 gigs of cloud storage, which is awesome.
Use it to store all of your business-related docs, graphics, spreadsheets, pitch decks, webinar slides, and a lot more.
Canva is a graphic design program for everyone no matter how skilled you are at design. You don’t need to download it – it’s all in your browser and you can create as many designs as you need.
As a business owner, you’ll have a lot of graphic design needs, and this is a great way to get graphics done quickly and avoid outsourcing until later on down the line when you’re on better financial footing in your business.
Pro graphic designer note: I’m not advocating against hiring a graphic designer. I think it’s a smart business decision for a lot of people! It’s just not financially feasible for a lot of newer business owners, so I also advocate for using Canva in the meantime.
In Canva, you can design:
- Facebook page and group headers
- Instagram carousel and grid graphics
- Story graphics for IG, FB, YouTube, and Pinterest
- Pinterest video and regular pins
- Business proposals and pitch decks
- Webinar outlines and slides
- Workbooks, checklists, and planner pages
- Lead magnets for your email marketing strategy
And soooo much more. All in the free version of Canva! I think a free Canva account will work fine for you if you’re one person with not a lot of graphic design needs and you just want to get your social media accounts set up and create content for them.
Here’s some of the benefits of Canva Pro:
- Save images with transparent backgrounds
- Schedule and publish straight to social platforms
- Use stock photos and graphics included with Canva Pro
- Upload custom fonts and use additional, Pro-only fonts
11.) A payment processor
You’ll need some kind of way to take payments if you’re not using a platform that handles all of that for you (like Etsy, for example.) Get yourself set up with a PayPal business account, a Venmo business account, a Stripe account, a Square account, or a Wave account (that one is US-only.)
I’d pick 2 payment processors to open accounts on just in case you end up having issues with one of them. Each processor operates a bit differently and will charge you a small fee for each transaction you use them for. I use PayPal Business and Stripe!
12.) Branded social media templates
Having on-brand social templates available in your business toolkit will save you so much time. I literally cannot stress this enough.
For most of us, content creation is a big part of what we spend time doing week after week and you can cut down significantly on that amount of time by having templates ready to go each time you sit down to churn out a batch of social media posts. (By the way, if you’re not batching your work, definitely consider it – I save hours per week working like this!)
Whether you design the templates yourself or you buy a few sets from Creative Market, Etsy, or even my own template shop, make sure you have templates available for all the social platforms you use regularly.
I make all of my social media graphics on Canva and I think it’s great for 90% of simple graphic design jobs – if you’ve been told that Canva isn’t as robust of a tool as Adobe Illustrator, please don;t worry. That’s true, but you don’t really need Illustrator for social media graphics anyway.
I use Pinterest, Instagram, IG Stories, and Facebook regularly in my business, so I have branded templates for all of those platforms! I also have a template set for blog post image graphics and web page share graphics (This is the pic that shows up below a link when you share one of your website pages on Facebook!)
13.) A project management tool
Keeping projects on track sounds a lot easier than it actually is. Aaaand if you’re done any project management or had a single freelance client, you already know. There’s a lot of great project management tools out there, both free and paid, and it’s super easy to get caught up in shiny object syndrome when you see new PM tools pop up.
What I’ve found worked was to take the time to try out like ALL of them and then make a decision and stick to that one, as long as it’s working well for me.
Wrapping everything up: Top budget friendly business tools for growth
I’ll just list everything here again for a quick reference of the budget friendly business tools I recommended so you don’t have to scroll through this monster of a post again to find what you’re missing!
- A website platform that you know how to use well + has all the functionality you need
- Reliable and secure website hosting (Dreamhost or NameHero for smaller sites. Flywheel or Cloudways for bigger sites or more traffic, important launches)
- Social media scheduling tool (Like Later, Planoly, Canva Pro, 0r Publer)
- Tailwind, for automating pins on Pinterest (Get a free trial with my link!)
- An email marketing platform (Like MailerLite, Flodesk, or Klaviyo)
- A page builder plugin, if you’re using WordPress (Elementor is the GOAT)
- Keyword research tools
- A CRM (Like Dubsado, Honeybook, Pipedrive, HubSpot, Clarrow, or Plutio)
- Google Drive
- A payment processer (PayPal, Stripe, Square, or Wave)
- Branded social media templates (Make your own with Canva or buy some!)
- Project management tool (I use ClickUp)
I hope you discovered something new on this list! Let me know if there’s something missing here in the comments and pin this for later if you want to hang onto this list.