The 15 Best Cheap (& FREE) Online Programs to Boost Your Brand

The 15 Best Cheap (& FREE) Online Programs to Boost Your Brand

When you approach the marketing of your business, you might feel a little lost. You’ve got a great idea, you’ve got clients, but you don’t know how to produce great looking digital content. From infographics to social media posts to videos to timing your Instagram posts, there are super-cheap, super-awesome programs online that can help you market without driving you insane or breaking the bank.  

From graphic design to email marketing to general business assistance, this list has a program that literally EVERYONE could benefit from. If you’re sick of 30-day trials and just want to find the best, most efficient way to boost your business online, these 15 programs should be on your short list!

Graphic Design & Creation

If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur and are looking to boost your brand and get your name out there, but you have no idea what you’re doing when it comes to graphic design, you’re definitely not on your own. Graphic design is a skill people spend years developing, and takes a large amount of intrinsic talent. Lucky for you, these programs make graphic design accessible and possible for people like you (and me)!

Animoto

If you’re tuned into trends on the internet,  you’re no stranger to the idea that video is king. If you aren’t experienced in video production, and video editing tools are a foreign language to you, Animoto is your saving grace. They make creating a video super easy by having an easy-to-use storyboard format.

Canva

If you’ve ever opened up PhotoShop and felt like you were reading a Sanskrit language, you’re not alone. Some sophisticated photo editing software takes years to master and is simply too advanced for some people. If you’re looking to make banners, advertisements or social media posts, familiarize yourself with Canva. A basic Canva membership is free and comes with templates, pre-sized images and is quick and easy to use!

Animaker

Video usage is on the rise, and Animakers allows you to create infographic videos that can really contribute to your content. In all honesty, the free trial isn’t ideal; the Animaker watermark will show up on all of your videos and your graphics are limited, but it’s worth it to play around with!

 

Business Tools

Managing a business can be tricky. From communication to vetting you contributors to boosting your brand, there’s a lot of balls in the air at all times. These programs can help you streamline these processes!

Moz

Moz is a free plugin you can download that allows you to look at the DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority) of every page on the internet. This is particularly helpful for small businesses because you can rapidly see the validity of other sites who come to you for collaboration or link building.

HARO

If you’re new to the publishing world and are dying to get some link-building going, HARO is perfect for you. HARO (Help A Reporter Out) sends out email blasts a few times a day of specific topics their journalists are looking for authorities on. If you catch the email first and respond with a link to your written work that fits into their desired category, you might get featured and linked to. It’s not a perfect science, but it’s a great way to try and get your name out there without having to cold-email people.

Slack

Great way to communicate with your team. Slack is a freemium model but I’ve been using it for over a year and haven’t paid yet. Slack is essential for any business that hates long email threads and someone saying they didn’t see the attachment because someone only replied instead of replied all. There are some Slack haters but I’d argue unless you’ve tried it don’t worry.

 

Optimizing Photos

Photo optimization isn’t something that should be considered optional when building your website. It’s mandatory. These tools will help you get there without adding any stress or confusion to your day.

Compressor

Resizing your images is just the start. Use Compressor.io to losslessly compress the photo. I realize that the image quality won’t always be the same. However, ask yourself can you notice the difference or better yet can the consumer? Reducing the page load time in exchange for having the photo look 90% the quality is more important.

ImageOptim

Resize your photos from your photographer to a dimension at a maximum of 1600 pixels. Next utilize and download the Mac OS app for ImageOptim and drag all your images into the app to reduce the file size. A great way to optimize many images as once.

 

Social Media

We’re all familiar with the monster that is social media. No matter the size of your company or the industry your brand is in, your social presence has become increasingly important, and a genuinely awesome way to get your name out there. But, it takes up a lot of time. These applications will help you save time and stay consistent without interfering with your daily schedule.

Buffer

Stop spending your whole day reminding yourself to post at peak times of social media. Use a tool called Buffer where you can automate your social media. Here’s how the free plan works. You are allowed to connect your Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram. I right now am only on the free plan but allowed to ‘buffer’ up to 10 tweets in my queue. I average 2-3 tweets a day so that means I only have to spend 15-20 minutes every 2-3 days to put my next batch of tweets in. This is essential and a big time saver. Better yet Buffer tracks your engagement and you can tweak your posting times to optimize your engagement.

Tailwind

When you’re an entrepreneur or someone working for any small business, social media can become overwhelming. That’s where Tailwind comes in. Tailwind allows you to schedule social media, primarily Pinterest and Instagram, and provides simple analytics on your performance.

Later

I’ll admit that I used Later for a bit but didn’t see the $9/month worth. Since you aren’t able to schedule posts in Instagram, Later is a tool where you can plan out your content calendar on Instagram and then it’ll automatically remind you to post. For example, if I wanted to post a pic at 11:30AM, Later would send me a push notification. This allows you or your social media strategist to plan out weeks and months of social media content and only have to press a few buttons instead of thinking of a clever caption.

 

Email & Email Marketing

Generating and curating your email list is not just important, it can take up a ton of time and money if you use the wrong company. These email marketing tools allow you to get the look you want, curate the list you’ve got, and get your message to your audience exactly when you want.

Mailchimp

For the first 2,000 contacts Mailchimp is a free service. Regardless of your opinion on freemium SaaS, Mailchimp is a quick and easy way to get setup on email marketing. They provide easy-to-use templates and integration options that make email marking EASY. If you’ve dabbled in email marketing, you’re probably well aware of how difficult some companies make it. Their templates are ugly and difficult to edit, their integration options are confusing and slow. Not Mailchimp! It’s SO important to explore your options so that your email marketing campaigns look the way you want them to.

Boomerang

Writing a email at 1:45am in the morning and want to schedule it to send the next day? No problem. Boomerang allows you to schedule when your emails send. Additionally Boomerang allows you to clear out your inbox by having that email come back in a few days. For example, received a email for a upcoming meeting 5 days away? Don’t keep that email in your inbox. Have that message Boomerang 2 hours before the meeting so you don’t forget important notes, reminders, etc. Boomerang allows offers a paid service called responsible where it gives you idea of how likely your email will get responded to.

 

Payment Processing

Stripe

I used to not utilize Stripe to accept payments on invoices. I didn’t like receiving a invoice for a few thousand dollars and having to pay Stripe 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction. However, this is so much better than tracking down businesses to pay invoices and wait for the check in the mail. Small business is about cash flow and I’m willing to give up 3% of the sale to get paid as quickly as possible.

Pro tip: A great way to use stripe is with recurring subscriptions. For example, we offer our MG Care packages on a monthly basis and having our customers credit card through our Stripe account makes the process as painless as possible on both sides. No more calling the business owner to remind them to pay the invoice. Automation is the key and someone I’m willing to give up 3% per transaction to make it efficient.

Task Management

Trello

Trello is awesome! I use Trello to setup a Kanban board of my upcoming tasks, what must be done during today, what’s in progress, what’s in the backlog, and what is done already! It has checklists, you can assign due dates to specific ‘cards’. Overall, Trello has saved a lot of time and helps you visualize what has to get done!

There are a lot other tools besides Trello. I’d encourage to find one that sticks for you! Not all are as user friendly or easy to use as Trello. However, some are more advanced. I like Trello because I like to keep it simple. I’m not going to check something that makes it hard to import tasks into a system.

Here is a screenshot of my Trello board: