The hot trend in small business software is freemium.
To paraphrase from Wikipedia, freemium is a pricing strategy where basic software is provided free of charge, but certain features are only available for a fee.
In other words, you could pay for advanced features in tools like Hootsuite, Mailchimp, Asana, and Canva. But for solopreneurs and the smallest of small businesses, the free versions are usually just fine.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s free and what’s not in four popular free small business apps.
1. Mailchimp for Email Marketing
What is it? Mailchimp is an online email marketing solution to manage contacts, send emails, and track results.
What do I get for free? Signup forms, drag-and-drop campaign editor, and reporting for up to 2,000 subscribers.
What do I pay for? For $10 to $25 a month, depending on the size of your subscription list, you get basic marketing automation, targeting and segmentation by campaign responsiveness or location, A/B testing, and team collaboration features.
What’s the bottom line? Don’t pay.
Why? If you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you probably shouldn’t invest the time – let alone the money – in advanced tactics like automation or segmentation.
Learn more about generating email content ideas and deciphering standard email metrics like opens and clicks.
2. Hootsuite for Social Media Management
What is it? Hootsuite helps you manage social networks, schedule messages, engage your fans, and measure ROI right from a single dashboard.
What do I get for free? Message scheduling and basic analytics reports for up to three social profiles.
What do I pay for? For $9.99 a month, you get bulk message scheduling, enhanced analytics reports, and one additional team member for up to 50 social profiles.
What’s the bottom line? Don’t pay… probably.
Why? Enhanced reporting and additional team members are overkill for most small businesses. The choice to pay for Hootsuite mostly comes down to the number of social channels you’re managing.
3. Asana for Project Management
What is it? Asana is a light-weight program for task and project management across small teams.
What do I get for free? Unlimited projects, tasks with due dates, and conversations for up to 15 team members, plus a free mobile app to take your to-dos with you.
What do I pay for? For about $8 per user, per month, you get private teams and projects for sensitive work and guest access for third-party collaborators and reviewers.
What’s the bottom line? Don’t pay.
Why? Asana’s premium features are designed pretty specifically for agencies and multiple-team organizations. Your company will almost certainly get all you need from the free version.
Learn why task management is a productivity must.
4. Canva for Graphic Design
What is it? Canva is a simple web-based design suite for creating blog graphics, presentations, social assets, flyers, posters, and more.
What do I get for free? Drag-and-drop editor with preset filters and hundreds of free photos, plus icons, graphics, and fonts.
What do I pay for? For $12.95 per month, you get time-saving features such as brand kits, customizable templates, shareable photo folders, and resizable designs.
What’s the bottom line? Pay… maybe.
Why? The premium product was built for power users. If you’re very active on social media or you design a lot of print pieces for your brick-and-mortar store, you’ll likely get back your $12.95 in time saved.
See why we called Canva the only graphic design tool your small business needs.
Free small business apps, like the ones listed above, can help you reach more customers, look more professional, and, ultimately, drive more sales. But before you let them lure you into paying for add-ons, make sure it’s actually necessary. As you’ve seen here, the free versions are often all small business owners need to reap the benefits.