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Apps in the Workplace

Best Free Apps For Small Business Owners in 2019

So what are the most useful apps for business owners?

Much like the 10pc Mauviel 6530.06 M’Heritage M250C 2.5mm Copper Cookware Set would be a lovely addition to my kitchen and beef up my cooking capabilities, there are loads of apps out there which will help you cook up a business that you’re proud of.

That being said, the landscape of apps is changing quickly. Here are the tried and true apps we like to use at Skymouse. I’ve also suggested some alternatives if you are looking for something new or different.

gif of notion application database

1. Use Notion for keeping all of your information accessible.

Free, Limited to 1000 Blocks,

As a business owner you have a lot to track. Notion can assist you in this task.

Keep everything all in one place: business model, customer profiles, and any slogan ideas for cups, mugs, shirts and futons with your logo on it. Notion helps you keep track of your projects and your teams projects allowing you to store documents in various workspaces as well as in private pages with infinite nesting pages.

How to use Notion in the workplace:

  • Use one workspace to store your calendar, notes, task, lists, etc.
  • Pages within pages. Drag and drop features mean your business can function hyper efficiently by being hyper organized.
  • Manage and share your teams projects with “Workspace” pages and keep your personal tasks in the same place with “Private” pages.
  • Use Notion “blocks” to edit and move content in a way like never never before.
  • Create lists and databases with the fully customizable table feature.

What’s new in Notion 2019?

Quickly import data from Evernote with a few easy clicks. They also added a handy search feature that allows you to easily search for specific documents.

What you might not like:

Notion creates a minimalistic space that allows you to build your blocks in whatever form or fashion that you find most useful. For those businesses and individuals that do not necessarily have custom processes, it does not provide much structure. You really have to be creative and have an idea of how you want to utilize Notion, otherwise the possibilities and options could be a bit overwhelming.

Alternates to Notion:

zapier logo graphic with orange background

2. Automate all your repetitive tasks with Zapier.

Free, Limited to 5 "Zaps"

Zapier may be my favorite app of all. It’s really quite amazing. Zapier allows you to make 5 Zaps for free; so, it makes getting started easy! I can promise that your life will never be the same.

Zapier connects different apps with each other. Using what’s called APIs it allows you to send information from one app to another app with an easy-to-use interface.

Using Zapier, you can automate pretty much everything in your life. The exception: spending quality time with your kids. (That’s something you should probably do in person.)

How to use Zapier in the workplace:

  • When I post a picture to Instagram, then post it as an actual picture in Twitter.
  • When I get a new subscriber in Mailchimp, then add them to HubSpot as a new contact.
  • When someone fills out a form in Airtable, then send me an alert in Slack.
  • When someone buys something in Shopify, then add them to a Google Sheet.

The possibilities are endless, and when every moment counts in the business day, Zapier helps cut out the busywork.

What’s new in Zapier 2019?

IF/THEN logic allows you to add conditional logic inside of your automations! This is a big deal when you want automations to take place only in certain situations.

What you might not like:

The only downside about using Zapier is that it may be a bit confusing if you don’t document your automations. I keep track of Automations in Evernote and have no problems related to automations.

Alternates to Zapier:

3. Send great looking email to your people with MailChimp.

Free, Up to 2,000 Subscribers

Mailchimp may be one of the more popular apps out there for marketers. I use Mailchimp all the time.

The main thing Mailchimp is used for is sending email campaigns to your customers, clients or followers. Their drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to create clean, easy-to-read emails.

They’ve been adding features pretty consistently over the years—they now have landing pages to collect email addresses and some other cool functions.

How to use Mailchimp in the workplace:

  • Create Groups and Segments in Mailchimp so your customers get what they need and only what they need.
  • Quickly design your own email templates, so you aren’t reinventing the wheel.
  • Automate when people get emails like when they sign-up, have a birthday, or leave your list.
  • Design pop-ups and other ways of capturing emails on your website or social media accounts.
  • Add tags to subscribers automatically after they’ve finished a drip campaign.

What’s new in MailChimp 2019?

Mailchimp is really good about growing their service expanding capabilities. You can now create landing pages in MailChimp, organize your contacts with Tags, and connect you E-commerce store effortlessly.

What you might not like:

If you are doing a lot of cold sales emails, Mailchimp is not for you. They are pretty strict about getting your subscribers to sign up for your emails directly. Your account might be shut down if you upload a bunch of emails without making sure it’s a list of emails that aren’t old and outdated.

Alternates to Mailchimp:

asana application logo

4. Track your projects like a pro with Asana.

Free, Minor Limitations

I’ve been using Asana for about 2 years now, and it’s great. They’ve also added some new features, so it’s an app that keeps on giving. The free version of the app is highly functional and works well even for very large projects.

Asana is a glorified checklist helping you tackle large projects and collaborate with other team members. It has a lot of flexibility so you can organize projects your way.

How to use Asana in the workplace:

  • We’ve created a project for each client and manage a board view, so we know the status of each client at all times.
  • We have internal projects like our website, social media, and a SkyDev project, so we don’t fall behind.
  • We can invite clients to their project, so they can also upload documents, finish their tasks, and see the project status.

What’s new in Asana 2019?

Portfolios allow you to see the real-time status of projects and whether or not you’re on track.

Timelines are basically a gantt chart view of how long aspects of a project will last and allow for dependencies.

Board view is also pretty new, which is my personal favorite.

What you might not like:

What I’ve found in Asana is that it can get confusing really quick: especially if you have a large project or a couple of large projects. Smaller teams might struggle to make sure projects are updated and that people are using it effectively.

I would suggest keeping tasks simple. As much as you might be tempted to make a task for every single detail of a project, over-planning can be overwhelming and unnecessary.

Alternates to Asana:

 slack logo with computer view and mobile view

5. Communicate sans-email with your team on Slack.

Free, Minor Limitations

Email can get really sloppy and is a pain in the neck for a lot of people. Slack has quickly become a super popular way of communicating in all sorts of groups.

It’s basically a high-powered messenger app helping you organize conversations and communicate quickly.

We like it a lot, and it’s made life easier at Skymouse!

How to use Slack in the workplace:

  • Quickly switch between organizations throughout the day.
  • Create an Evernote from within Slack. Great integration!
  • Create social media alerts that show up in Slack.
  • Establish calendar alerts and create new calendar events.
  • Get an alert in Slack when you get a new lead in Salesforce.

What’s new in Slack 2019?

  • Turn your conversations into action (i.e. Create tasks in Asana from Slack.)
  • See more of what’s new on the Slack Blog.

What you might not like:

Slack can be addicting and distracting, especially when you have a lot of people in your organization.

I recommend setting times in your day to mute Slack so it doesn’t bring you out of work mode and ruin your flow.

Alternatives to Slack:

buffer application graphic featuring mobile application

6. Post to all your social media with Buffer.

Free, Up to 3 Social Accounts

I’ve been using Buffer for almost 2 years now. Not only do I like the app, but I’ve come to appreciate the company. They have some cool principals, and their blog is also pretty great.

I’ve talked to a lot of people, and there are a lot of preferences out there when it comes to social media scheduling.

We use Buffer for our clients, and I use it for my personal account.

Using Buffer in the Workplace:

  • Schedule social media posts.
  • Track new feeds of things.
  • All your analytics in one place.
  • Easily integrate your own short URL for your links(i.e. skymse.com).
  • The mobile app makes scheduling on the go super easy.

What’s new in Buffer 2019?

You can now post to instagram automatically! (Previously you could only schedule reminders to post). Now, you can also add emojis straight from buffer.

What you might not like:

The social media work is an echo chamber of recycled information. While buffer is a good tool, it’s only as good as the content that you’re sharing. So, be original: focus on creating awesome content. That’s where the real magic happens.

Buffer also doesn’t take the place of live interaction. Engaging with your followers and fans works best when you’re in the native medium and can make the difference in how people perceive your brand.

Alternatives to Buffer for social media:

airtable application logo

7. Organize and view data like never before in Airtable.

Free, Minor Limitations

Airtable is the most recent addition to our arsenal of apps at Skymouse. It’s basically google sheets with way more functionality and more simplicity. Counterintuitive? Nope. They actually did it.

Much of the projects we work on only make so much sense stored as a document. Some information is really more like data and should be treated as such.

  • Plan your social media calendar.
  • Track employee or client feedback.
  • Keep all your client testimonials in one place.

Some of our favorite qualities about Airtable:

  • See record history on your fields! (So if someone deletes something, it’s still there.)
  • Easily manage “base” permissions with clients and other staff.
  • Embed and share your tables.
  • Switch how you see your data with the click of a mouse with the views functionality.

What’s new in Airtable 2019?

The paid version has a ton of additional functionality using their Airtable Blocks.

What you might not like:

There really aren’t many downsides to Airtable, to be honest.

Alternatives to Airtable:

 hubspot application orange logo

8. Keep you contacts all in one place and grow your business with HubSpot CRM.

Free, Minor Limitations

A CRM is the best way to track sales and your client life cycle. At Skymouse, we track our deals using HubSpot, and use a couple other HubSpot features that make life easier.

Many businesses and sales people hate CRMs and spend a lot of time and money on software they never use.

How to use Hubspot in the workplace:

  • A CRM is essential to making sure you’re focusing on the right projects at the right time.
  • Keep notes on clients and prospects right in the app, so you don’t repeat yourself and look foolish.
  • Know exactly how much money is in your sales pipeline.

Again, you don’t have to go crazy with your information. Just keep it up to date and use it enough so that you know who you are going after and when to go after them.

  • Multiple users can share information and data about your clients, prospects and leads.
  • Add a chat window to your websites.
  • Send emails directly to clients from without HubSpot.
  • Create forms to capture leads on your website.
  • Keep track of all your contacts and companies while easily linking them together as needed.

What’s new in HubSpot 2019?

This.

What you might not like:

The free version plugs Hubspot on its forms, templates and things like that.

Alternatives to HubSpot:

  • Salesforce
  • Drift
  • Pipedrive
  • Airtable

harvest application timesheet for time tracking

9. Track your team’s time with Harvest.

Free, Up to 2 projects

This is also a new one for me, I had been previously using Toggl.

Something Harvest taught me was how to think of my time in terms of the value.

If I’m doing business development vs. web development vs. a call with a client, I’ve become way more conscious of how I spend my time. I’m tracking my time this very moment. So meta.

How we use Harvest in the workplace:

  • Browser, phone, computer apps to make tracking time accessible.
  • Apply varied billable rates based on the type of task you’re working on.
  • If you’ve been inactive on your computer for an extended amount of time, Harvest will catch it and ask if you want to stop the timer and roll back the time.
  • Generate invoices for your clients from right within harvest.
  • Integrate with your accounting app (Quickbooks has a native integration. We use Wave for account, so I integrated that via Zapier.)
  • It also integrates with Asana right in the app!

What’s new in Harvest 2019?

Stuff.

What you might not like:

The free version is pretty limited. You can only have two projects. I upgraded because tracking my time is really important to me and how we serve our clients.

Alternatives to Harvest:

  • Toggl (The free version of this may be a better start if you have a lot of projects.)

pocket application graphics lineup of mobile app and computer view

Bonus: Read things later with Pocket.

Free, Minor Limitations

Chances are you read a lot. It’s not always the most convenient time to read though. The way I solve this: Pocket. I’ll get email newsletters with links to new articles, my dad might text me an article he found, or I’ll see some interesting blogs on the internet.

I’ll save them quickly with Pocket and be on my way. That way I can come back later and do all my reading when I’m ready for it.

Hopefully I can find a relaxing environment where I can focus and perhaps take some notes if something is particularly useful.

  • Organize your articles with tags.
  • The browser plugin lets you save for later with one click.
  • The app on iPad syncs everything you save on your computer
  • There is an awesome dark mode for reading in the dark without frying your eyes.
  • You can also save videos for later!

Free apps are awesome, but….

Here are some additional thoughts when working with free apps.

I would really encourage you that if you like an app and can afford it, to pay for the next version. Chances are it will provide value to you, and you are also supporting the great developers behind these apps.

These apps are created by talented teams that rely on people paying for it, so we should support them if we can and if we are really benefiting from their services.

While I think apps are great for doing business in the business universe of 2019, here are a couple tips to keep things in check:

  • Document how YOU use apps. Make it clear to your internal team what is acceptable and what is not.
  • Adoption can be slow, so take time to really get used to the app.
  • The fewer apps, the better. Don’t get too “App Happy” Keep things simple and effective.

I also included some noteworthy alternatives to each app, because not every app is perfect. Sometimes one app works better for your personal needs.

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Photo of Patrick Hanus

Patrick Hanus

Hi, I'm the other co-founder of Skymouse Studios. I enjoy making people laugh. I'm a huge fan of design and illustration. If it's late at night, I'm probably sleeping or writing a TV show.

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