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When you operate a small to medium-sized business, it can be difficult to pay the upfront costs you need to get started or expand. Often these upfront costs come in the form of infrastructural software, whether that be graphic design suites for producing marketing materials, office basics like a word processor or data management solutions, or collaboration platforms for liaising with your team, especially important during the pandemic. Thankfully, in a bid to expand their own respective market shares, many software businesses offer free solutions suited to SME’s needs, with the hope those businesses will be able to use them to expand and eventually upgrade to paid versions. Here are five of the most useful free pieces of software that can help out your business.

Slack
One of the major players in the collaboration tool space, Slack’s free version offers a comprehensive suite of features for SMEs to get started with. This includes an unlimited number of public and private channels, 10,000 searchable messages, one-to-one voice, and video calls and file sharing. This gives you the ability to communicate and collaborate with your colleagues much more effectively, especially if colleagues are working from home. You can even expand its functionality with up to ten apps.

Agile CRM
Agile CRM is an industry-standard CRM that has great data visualisation tools that communicate important insights about businesses' performance in terms of your sales, marketing, and other important metrics. While the free version does miss out on things like social media monitoring, it can still provide insights for things like email campaigns and it allows you to create your own data fields and deal milestones. With capacity for up to 1000 contacts and companies, it’s enough for a business to get started, but you may want to move on to a paid plan if it suits your business's needs as you expand.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider
For SEO heads, Screaming Frog is an excellent tool for auditing your website's SEO. The free version allows you to download and crawl up to 500 URLs, identifying broken links and server problems, finding redirects, analysing page titles and metadata for any issues, and discovering and removing duplicate content. It’s also a great of visualising your website's architecture by creating XML sitemaps. This feature set is pretty comprehensive for a free version and, provided your site isn’t too large, should serve an SME very well.

Shift
Moving on to more specific applications, Shift is a simple tall that pulls all of your messages into one easy-to-use application. This is particularly useful if you have multiple channels through which you receive inquiries, whether those be social media platforms, email, or messaging applications like WhatsApp. It even integrates into tools like Slack and Excel, keeping all of your work operations in one easy-to-navigate space.

Wave
This finance software is an excellent option for SMEs that need to manage their money. The free service offers some great data visualisation tools for tracking payments and expenses, including month-to-month and yearly comparisons, and free customisable invoices. You can even connect it to payroll and payment tools, such as Shopify.