I’ve spent the past decade working with small businesses to identify their inefficiencies. By recommending and implementing systems and online tools to streamline their operations and improve productivity, I can confidently say that I leave my clients in a much better place than I find them. My mission is to create systems that can be easily maintained long after my job is done... and I've become so good at it, that I've even worked myself out of several jobs.
While I understand that I may be more tech-savvy than most, user experience and fit will always remain the most important factors when onboarding with a new program. Is this tool user friendly? Does it do everything I want/need it to? Does this actually make me more efficient, or is it just another ‘thing’ to manage? If you’re new to digital systems, or want to learn more about some free online tools that you could be leveraging in your business and life, you’ve come to the right place. I’m excited to share my top six free online tools—all of which have both desktop and mobile versions (so you can optimize your productivity from wherever you are!)
Before we get started, I think it’s important to mention that free does not mean better. Many of these programs have additional features and automations, to improve user ease, on their paid plans. Consider upgrading as your needs change, or when you’re ready to grow/scale your business.
I feel like I’m kind of cheating listing Google Workspace as one tool. This all-in-one platform houses my day-to-day emails, calendar, digital storage and document creation/sharing. Basically, my life. Because everything is saved in the cloud, it can be synced and shared across all of my devices AND shared with others when I’m wanting to collaborate. I love having all of my favourite productivity apps in one place.
The following Google tools can be accessed under one single login:
Gmail – Communicate with personal and professional contacts via email
Google Calendar – Manage your personal & professional calendars
Google Drive – Store and share documents/photos
Google Docs/Sheets/Slides – Create and share documents/spreadsheets/slideshows (The days of paying for annual business suite renewals are over!)
Google Meet – Jump on a video call with personal or professional contacts
Google Chrome – Browse the web and save your most commonly visited sites
… and SO much more. If you’re familiar with Google Workspace and want to further optimize your productivity, check out Google Chrome extensions. There are tons of programs and features you can integrate with your web browser to make your experience more convenient. Two of my favourite extensions are Toggl Track (to track my time without having to leave my current window) and Grammarly (to vet grammar as I type.)
This scheduling tool has eliminated the back and forth communications often involved when trying to schedule a call with someone. And the setup is simple! You add your calendar account, set up your availability and then send out or post your booking link. People can book a slot directly in your calendar (they do not have to have their own account!) and you will receive an email confirming their appointment. The best part, is that this tool syncs directly with your online calendar—so when I block time in my Google Calendar, the slot is no longer available in Calendly. You will find my Calendly link integrated throughout my website!
Calendly alternatives include Acuity and ScheduleOnce.
I would not be as productive as I am without this task management tool. I use Asana to house ALL of my personal and business to-dos. This powerful tool can be utilized by individuals or businesses looking to manage tasks, document workflows, track progress and optimize productivity. You can set up due dates, notes, email reminders and tag others to collaborate. My favourite asana feature is the recurring task function—it takes the guesswork out of my day and helps me prioritize my to-do’s.
Asana alternatives include Trello and ClickUp.
This online tool is a game changer if communication is a big part of your business. You can direct message, create private groups and organize channels (think chat rooms) by topic. It’s so much easier to drop a screenshot in Slack than it is to send an email or text. And while all of these features are great, the greatest benefit of this program is the way it’s supported my personal and professional boundaries. I no longer receive texts from clients and am able to protect my time by setting ‘away’ hours and pausing notifications.
Slack alternatives include Google Meet (less widely used) and Microsoft Teams.
The days of wet signatures are over! This online tool simplifies the sending, receiving and managing of legally binding contracts. I have been paperless for over three years now and will NEVER go back. I don’t even own a printer! This program allows me to create and submit contracts with a breeze and avoids having to print, sign and return documents altogether.
HelloSign alternatives include DocuSign and PandaDoc.
If your career (or hobbies!) involve design and content creation, you’ll want to check out this fun graphic design tool. Easily create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and so much more! With free templates, you can choose a design you like and then customize it to suit your business. This is where I house my brand guide, logos, social media posts, course slides and more!
There you have it! These are six free tools that I use in my business and life every single day. If you want to start leveraging online tools this week, I recommend choosing just one to start. Learning new tech can be overwhelming and mastering one program at a time is the way to go. If you’re needing support making online tools work for YOU, you know who to call.