First of all I must confess, I am a bit of a cheapskate. In a nice way, I think, in that I actively look to use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) if it offers the functionality I need. Thus, I run my business on a swathe of software and cloud services that can be used without a monetary cost. These include:

  • Ubuntu (a Linux-based operating system) on my main work PC, and as an alternative OS on my laptop
  • WordPress content management system for my and my customer’s websites
  • Google Apps – an online business collaboration suite including email, calendars, documents and much more (there is a free version that Google hide away a little bit)
  • Mailchimp – An email campaign management service that allows you to keep in touch with customers and prospective customers using newsletters, special offers and much more. The free service lets you communicate with up to 2,000 contacts!
  • LibreOffice – a successor to OpenOffice, a free suite of Office applications
  • GIMP – an image editing application with features that are not embarrassed by the very expensive Adobe alternative
  • Dropbox – a great way to backup important files, or transfer large files across the internet

When it pays to pay

There are many more free applications that I can and do use frequently, mainly running on Ubuntu. However, I do not eschew non-free apps and services completely. If I think that its worth the cost, then I will very happily open my wallet and hand over my hard-earned cash. Here’s a list of the main culprits, which I hope you find useful.

  • CapsuleCRM – A cloud-based CRM service that is tightly integrated with the Google Apps suite. If, like me, you can have multiple projects on the go then it’s a great way of organising yourself.
  • Various premium WordPress themes – having used free WordPress themes in the past I have learned the hard way that good free themes are few and far between. Premium themes aren’t an absolute guarantee of quality, but the relatively low cost often is repaid many times over in the speed of development and lack of ongoing issues. There are links to my favourite theme providers in the ‘Our Friends’ box on the right of the page.
  • Kashflow – another cloud-based service, this time for managing my financial accounts. It makes entering of day to day transactions very easy, and integrates very well with other services such as Paypal. Recently it has also added a means of setting up direct debits with customers, which for a small business could very easily provide an important cashflow boost.

What do you use?

The applications and services above are my favourites, but I’d love to hear what you use, either free or non-free. If you use a fee-based service that has a free alternative then let me know why you made that choice too.


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