When you are first starting out in business and you have few clients, you must keep your costs down. You can certainly claim expenses such as hardware and software against your tax burden, but if you are not likely to earn enough to pay tax, it feels pointless. That’s why many people make do with the wonderful world of free software at the beginning and sometimes stick with them.
No small business can succeed without Skype today. This is especially true if you expect to have customers and clients outside of the UK. Skype is a communication tool that allows you to text chat directly (Instant Messaging) or video chat with somebody on the other side of the world. You can pay for a phone call service but you should not need this. Video quality varies depending on internet connection at both ends. For the most part, you should be able to communicate clearly. Video chatting is more engaging than a phone call.
This is the storage tool you never knew you needed. Dropbox looks like a normal folder on your laptop / desktop computer. However, it is a cloud storage tool. That means anything saved to it on any device will also appear on all other devices. For example, if you put a word document (or an image, a video clip) into Dropbox on your main computer and then synchronise your other devices that has Dropbox, it will appear on those too. This is useful in that you can share files while on the move without having to take your main device.
Like Dropbox, Evernote is Cloud sharing software. The difference is that it is designed for multimedia. It is also best used on a mobile device to synchronise to your main machine. It’s a diverse piece of software allowing you to take snippets of web pages, video clips, photographs and sound recordings through the software. It’s very easy to use; all you need to do is synchronise it and the data will appear on all devices.
Special note: In July 2016, Evernote will limit free users to two devices. If you wish to install Evernote on more than two, you will need to pay for one of their packages.
Are you put off by the price of Microsoft Office? Although the office package giant now offers a number of fee structures to make their software more affordable to more people, you may wonder whether the cost is justifiable when you are starting out in business. OpenOffice is a great free version released using the same code as MS Office. This means that with OpenOffice, you can read, open and alter Microsoft files and save them into many types of format. There are some operational differences, but you should find it easy to adapt to OpenOffice.
Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides
Google’s online office platform is a great way to share office files between multiple parties. Google Docs is a word processor, Sheets is a spreadsheet and Slides is a presentation (like PowerPoint). It is entirely web based. The beauty of it is that you can upload your existing Word documents and convert them to the format, meaning that many people can modify the file at once. This is the best way to share and edit at the same time – something for which Dropbox and Evernote are unsuitable.
Do you want to do some basic photo editing or artwork? Although professionals will always recommend one of the premium packages such as Photoshop, paint.net is suitable for those basic photo manipulations and editing. If all you want to do is resize and add some simple effects including filters, then this should be just about enough and you won’t have to pay hundreds of pounds for some basic functions.