All business owners know they need to keep expenses low in order to maximize cash flow. It becomes even more crucial for those who are just starting their business. And most of us have been taught from an early age that “a penny saved, is a penny earned”.

As a naturally curious person with shiny object syndrome I love to try out new tools, especially those that are free or low-cost, which help me run my business and help my clients more efficiently. All of the ones listed below are free unless otherwise specified.

Since I wrote this post in 2009 there are new ones I’ve found that either replace items on that original list or are entirely new.

Payment Processing and Financial

  • Most cringe at the percentage Paypal keeps for themselves. I’ve been using IPN since June 2010 and pay all of my subcontractors that way. As easy as Paypal and payments made by check, no matter the dollar amount, are only charged $.50. I do not have my account set up to accept credit card payments so I’m not sure how the fees vary.
  • Stripe is a Merchant Services option for those who want to accept credit card payments. I have two bookkeeping clients using it and it’s incredibly powerful, offers high level customization and no annual compliance fee. (I hope to have a guest post here from one of my clients, a developer, detailing more of the customization offered)
  • Dwolla is a money transfer system, only charging you $.25 to get money. You can send money via Twitter, Facebook, email and more.
  • Reduce paper clutter and access your financial accounts (and much more) with Manila.

 Cloud Storage and File Transfer

  • Dropbox – Cloud Storage provider that is incredibly popular and the one I love most (especially because I have my phone set up to automagically sync any pictures I take into a specified folder). Starts with 2GB for free.
  • Carbonite – an inexpensive, automatic file cloud backup service. A loyal user since 2008. It saved me when I had a vicious virus wipe my machine and to transfer all 154,781 of my files onto the new computer I bought last month.
  • TransferBigFiles – an incredibly easy to use to transfer large files to people via email.
  • Want to send your own link to a file download? Easy, peasy with Minus.

General Administrative

  • Don’t need the full Adobe PDF product? Several converting options available here.
  • Photo Editing: Free alternatives to Picnik (they shut down in April 2012). PicMonkey is my favorite of the three.
  • Batch resize photos with Shrink-O-Matic.
  • Need to sign and fax a document but don’t have a fax machine? Check out EchoSign (free for 5 per month) or HelloFax (my favorite, also has free starter plan).
  • Keeping private client login info securely locked down is crucial. Check out Passpack, you can even share entries with team members.
  • Sometimes things are easier to explain with a visual. Jing and Awesome Screenshot for Chrome both rock!
  • Editing audio files is a breeze with Audacity.
  • Looking for a free video recording option? Check out CamStudio.
  • Set up a screensharing session with a friend or client with
  • Fences by Stardock this is by far one of my favorite applications – this funky software will turn a cluttered desktop instantly into a highly organized one. (No longer free but very inexpensive)

By no means is this list all inclusive. I’d love to have you comment below with ones you also love that should make the list and why!

Updated March 16, 2013 with cometdocs. Learn more about it here.

Photocredit: Photoxpress user  kidneri