I’ve built and re-built my business several times over. Usually my “startup budget” was negligible and competed with grocery money for the week. I’ve come to rely on free tools to help me with my daily, monthly, yearly and overarching tasks. Let me share a few of my staples.
1. Free phone calls and texts using Google Voice
Holla! I am so happy with this service. It has literally saved my business! Due to unforeseen circumstances my phone was indisposed, and I had no way to send or receive phone calls or text messages. I got an email from a prospect who needed to have a telephone conference. They’d had bad experiences with previous designers and wanted to vet me. They also needed my assurance that I would be available as much as possible. I thought I was stuck. No way do you want to tell a client that you can’t be reached by telephone.
So I did a bit of research and discovered that my Google Voice number would couple with an android app to send and receive calls and texts for free … over WiFi! Saved! I downloaded GV Phone and had a great meeting to land the job.
To use, go to http://voice.google.com and sign in with your Gmail account (if you don’t have one, you’ll need to set one up first). Follow the steps to get your own Google voice number. You will need a phone number to which this will forward. The great thing about Google Voice is that even if my cell phone number changes, I still have my Google number that I can set to forward to it. So my business cards never become obsolete just because I’m traveling or moving or just making a change.
Once that is set up get on your phone and install GV Phone from the Google Play Store. IPhone users can download it from iTunes.
Filezilla is an FTP program absolutely free to download and use. If you do any sort of file transfer between server and your computer, Filezilla is pretty much the standard. It’s a tool in my arsenal I cannot be without. For years I used WsFTP, and it works just fine. When I discovered Filezilla, I was home. It’s just so easy to setup and use. For my kind of work, I use it daily, so it has to be a well-oiled machine, do it’s job and be dependable. Filezilla is all that for me.
You can get it here. Be sure to download the client rather than the server.
I wouldn’t work without Textpad. Notepad doesn’t cut if for me. With Textpad, the formatting is nice. It offers intuitive word wrap, line numbering, and doesn’t mess with anything. Textpad sits in your ancillary menu ready to use to edit anything. It loads quickly, allows tabbed viewing, and enough extra features so that no other editor is ever necessary. Every time I get a new computer or have to wipe this one, Textpad is one of the first things I install. I recommend it to everyone who does any editing.
I use Photoshop nowadays, but in the beginning Gimp was the answer to my designing-on-a-budget woes. Gimp has a learning curve even if you’re familiar with Photoshop. However, it is robust and has a ton of support from a rather devoted community. You can find loads of brushes, plugins and more with a quick Google search. There are tutorials at Nettuts and Youtube as well.
You can download Gimp from Gimp.org.
Organize every though with Evernote. I use Evernote on my laptop as well as on my smartphone. It still has notes from years ago that are at my disposal anywhere. It is simple to use, just log in and create a new note or upload a photo, save a website, audio or even video. It is quick and painless information organization.
Download Evernote at Evernote.com.