Digital workspaces have become the norm these past few years, with new companies and start-ups opting to forego physical sites entirely because of how easy it is to work digitally.
It’s not easier than ever to have your documents and tools for work available anywhere with an internet connection, but sometimes not even that is necessary. This allows business owners to stay mobile and keep the work flowing without ever being constrained to one location.
And you might think that such a jump would be costly, but on the contrary, it can be totally free. Of course, some more advanced tools can be bought or subscribed to, but you can start for free, no matter your business.
Documents and Sheets
Being able to write documents is essential to a contractor. You need to send invoices, write contracts, create business propositions, outline plans, etc.
The Microsoft Office pack (with Word and Excel being the most useful) is well known by most, but their desktop versions aren’t free, only the online version. If you already own Windows it’s not a big jump to invest in the Office bundle.
But if you want something free, there are two main options: first is the suite of Google apps, most notably Docs and Sheets. They’re entirely free for anyone with a Google account, automatically save your documents in the cloud, and can be set up to work offline.
An advantage of the Google apps is that they save your files on Google Drive, a cloud storage option that I’ll mention again soon.
The other option if you prefer desktop apps is the Open Office bundle. Essentially, it’s a free alternative to the Microsoft Office apps, with an alternative for Word, Excel, etc.
Check out other free resources every contractor should know about!
Cloud storage is useful because it allows you to save a huge number of files online, giving you easy access to them no matter where you are – or which device you’re using. For example, if your computer “blue screens” you can still access your files from your phone or any other computer as soon as you log in, allowing you to resume work while your computer is being fixed.
There are many options out there, most of which offer a lot of space for free (all of these can have their storage expanded with a paid subscription if necessary):
Google Drive – 15GB free
OneDrive – 5GB free
Dropbox – 2GB free
MEGA – 50GB free
Important to note that out of these services, MEGA offers the most storage for free, but it doesn’t have any innate apps for documents, while Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox all do. This makes it useful if you only need a place to store files, but you would need other apps to edit them.
Notes, organization, and communication
Every team needs a way to stay organized and in touch with each other. There are hundreds of tools for that out there and fortunately, many of them are free.
I’m recommending here a few that I’ve mentioned in the past and have proven to be some of the best in their class:
A powerful note-taking app that works well if you like to use notebooks. Create a notebook for each category and fill them with notes, pictures, PDFs, etc.
A great way to organize tasks and manage teams visually with a friendly UI that’s easy to understand.
The best messaging app for work. Create channels for every team and link documents directly in chat seamlessly.
Similar to Slack but offers more for free. Not built for work, but can be used in that setting just as well. Both Discord and Slack allow for video and audio calls.
App for organizing tasks and managing teams. Similar to Trello, but the view is more list-based.
When it comes to graphic design, there’s no better option than Canva.
To create social media art, you would need something like Photoshop, but this is an expensive app that’s very hard to learn. Canva offers a lot for free and simplifies the entire process with tons of templates, fonts, and other tools that allow you to create a visual identity with minimal effort.
Publishing a website isn’t free without severe limitations (because you have to pay for the domain), but you can start for free. This will allow you to get everything ready and test the tools for yourself before committing to a subscription, which is always valuable.
WIX and Squarespace are better for beautiful websites with tons of features because they have proper creation tools that anyone can use without having to code. WordPress is the best blogging platform by far, but it will require some knowledge of coding to really customize.
Learn more about these and other website builders!
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