Starting a small business can be exciting and stressful—all at the same time. While you are eager to perform your passion, achieve goals, and make a profit, you are stressed about how you will operate the business, how you will market and sell your product or service, and how you maintain a positive cash flow. Whether you have received a loan or are using your own funds, you always want to keep overhead costs at a minimum. Cost and effectiveness must be gauged when deciding what tools and technologies you will need for your business. That said, there are many free and low-cost solutions online that accomplish the same—if not more—functions as the more expensive options do for larger organizations. We have done the market research, and we have compared and evaluated. Here is the list of top communication, reporting, marketing, sales, and workflow automation tools that are needed for the modern-day start-up and small business and will enable you to compete with larger companies.

1. CommunicationG Suite by Google Cloud

Communication is key for any business. You must have the ability to communicate efficiently with your customers, as well as internally with your partners and employees. Google offers numerous communication methods with their business G Suite platform including a company email, safe and secure file storage and sharing for collaborative editing, video conferencing, and a shared calendar. G Suite enables business owners to create professional presentations, perform face-to-face meetings with clients from a distance, and allows for all communications to be accessed remotely.

2. Analytics and Dashboard ReportingZEIº by Timeular

Without being to track the time it takes to perform various business operations and employee work hours, it is nearly impossible to understand how to effectually improve business processes and productivity. ZEIº is a timesheet tracker, but it does more than just automate your timesheet process, it allows small business owners to assign activities, track the time spent performing those tasks, and create custom workflows that increase productivity. ZEIº also has an app for your smartphone so you can easily modify activities, in real-time, and keep track of time on-the-go. Plus, ZEIº’s convenient and useful reports can be downloaded as a CSV for further data analysis. Eighty percent of your revenue comes from 20% of your time; therefore, time truly is money. ZEIº’s powerful time tracking and workflow automation software enables small business owners to increase revenue by making better use of their time.

3. MarketingFacebook Advertising

There is no question that Facebook is one of the most visible social networking sites (SNS) today. According to Facebook, two billion people use Facebook every month, which is why it is the most valuable SNS to create awareness of your business. Facebook allows affordable advertising options for any budget. Their easy-to-use Ad Manager allows users to creatively build a digital Ad, select a target audience, and set their own budget. Ads can then be tracked for effectiveness and modified so you will get the most bang-for-your-buck.

4. BookkeepingQuickBooks

If you want to have organized financial and accounting reports, you’ll need a way to track all your sales and expenses and everything that comes along with it. QuickBooks offers several options for accessing their billing and accounting software including a cloud-based online version or the traditional, local desktop version.  An application for tracking sales and expenses is essential to any business. Plus, maximizing tax deductions is always a plus.

5. Workflow Automation – Biller Genie

Biller Genie is advantageous for any business, but especially for start-ups and small businesses who may not have the manpower available to manually track and follow-up on unpaid bills and invoices. It is inevitable that some customers will not pay their bill, and more often than not, it is simply because they forget. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to send payment reminders to customers; however, this can be a time-consuming, problematic task. Mistakenly sending an invoice reminder to a customer who has already paid may create confusion and frustrate the customer. Biller Genie is the solution. Biller Genie enables business owners to set-up automatic invoice reminders and even schedule automatic monthly payments. Plus, Biller Genie has an online payment platform so customers can easily pay their bill online immediately when they get it. Biller Genie syncs with both versions of QuickBooks creating the most powerful, automated accounting tool for small business owners, and best of all – its free!

With a few free or low-cost tools and a great product or service, start-ups and small businesses are able to gain visibility, generate leads, increase customer retention, and gain a profit. Make sure to check the Biller Genie website frequently for more tips of the trade, or join the conversation by following us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.