Free Tools for Small Business

I just wanted to share a few of my useful vendors that make my job easier – from an accounting, time and task tracking, and taking payment point of view. I have tried a ton of them, some paid and some free, and settled on a few that make my life easier without a sticker shock, that balance features and functionality with that cost. Free is always better, obviously, but at some point you do need to pony up to the next level: some tools have per-transaction fees but are for the most part “free”.

So first off, accounting – I had been using Quickbooks for years, but the only problem with that is you need to either have the computer that quickbooks is on with you, and typically that one needs to be Windows based. There is Quickbooks for OSX, but I wasn’t willing to shell out the money (again) to switch to the Macbook I do web development work on. You also need to manually track payments and deposits, process payment manually, and good luck writing an invoice when it’s not with you.


My colleague over at UFV, Anthony, told me about the online software package he uses – Wave. To give you an idea of what it does, take a look at the screenshot below. Everything you do on it is free – invoicing, tracking expenses, linking it to your bank account to monitor transactions, reporting, etc. It lets you invoice, receive payment, and track deposits all from your browser.


Where you pay is when you want them to process payments online – yes you can send invoices and process them manually, but it’s so much easier when a client opens up the invoice, is presented with a payment option, and can enter in their credit card details right away. It takes about a week to set up payments, and requires your license to be scanned and business information to be sent over. After that, it’s smooth sailing, with about 2.9% per transaction and no monthly fee. If you want payroll options it is about $10 a month over and above that.

Task Tracking

If you have a problem with distributed work, where you’re not in a single office all day every day, hop on the Wunderlist bandwagon. It was so good that it was bought by Microsoft, but still does everything that made it famous before, for free.


It works on all devices, has grouping for types of tasks, task checklists, notes, options for reminders (including email reminders), collaboration with co-workers and colleagues, and an app on all platforms. Again, free.


squareKind of a big one – you want to get paid for your work, right? Well you definitely have the option of using Wave, but for other transactions where you want the person to sign, maybe swipe their card, and pay slightly less per transaction, I use Square. 2.65% per swipe, no monthly fees, and all you have to do is carry your phone with you – wait, you do that already! Awesome!

I mean, really – why are people paying an arm and a leg for merchant fees, a terminal, and another cell connection for one you take on the road with you, when you can just have the ease and simplicity of something that you just need an app for?

Anyways, it takes about a week to link to your bank account, but I use it pretty regularly when I just want to quickly process a card and most clients pay by cheque.


rbcYes, that’s right, you need a business bank account in some cases, especially if you register the business or incorporate. Wave, Paypal, and Square all allow you to use your name (and subsequently your personal bank account) as your business, but if you want to be a recognized business then you need to pay up the $100-odd dollars it takes to register and run a name search. Worth it!

In terms of business banking, RBC appears to have one of the better options around – Free. Find out more about their current campaign. I had originally started using their $6/month account, but then switched to their e-account, as you can basically do all of your online transactions at no cost. For cheque deposits it hurts the pocket as you pay a per transaction fee, so I now have both – $6/month for chequing, and free for savings (you can use the debit card anywhere for free, online transfers and transactions for free, etc). Just bring your registration papers with you and you’ll walk out with everything you need.

Call Direction (Phone Mailboxes)

I figured I would add this in as an afterthought, as I have quite a few clients set up on RingCentral using their 1-800 service. Basically, for $30/month, you get a virtual phone mailbox (pbx) system which will answer your calls and direct them to the right mailbox (press 1 for accounting, 2 for service, etc), as well as a host of other features. Call forwarding, screening, Area-code redirection (for instance, if you have multiple locations in different calling areas, person “a” in the 123-#### calling code area can reach store “a” and person “b” in the 321-#### can reach store “b” without a huge amount of effort and setup on your end. Voicemail to email too!



Well, there you have it: Your business is equipped to handle everything you need, at low-to-no monthly cost. Worth it!


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