According to a recent survey, the average entrepreneur spends 68% of the time tackling day-to-day tasks and only 32% of the time on long-term goals, strategic planning, and other tasks that can help their business grow. Due to their limited operating budgets and small staffs, small businesses usually can’t afford the tools and systems that will help them streamline their daily operations.
We reviewed dozens of software platforms built specifically to help small businesses take care of the tasks that will help them thrive. We chose the best based on common business needs, quality of the platform, ease-of-use, and affordability. Here are our top picks.
The 7 Best Small Business Software of 2021
Best Free Software: Wave Accounting
Wave Accounting was created in 2010 by co-founders Kirk Simpson and James Lochrie who were frustrated by the lack of free and easy-to-use financial software for small businesses. Today Wave has more than 250 employees serving small businesses around the world. We chose it as the best accounting software because it lets small businesses track income and expenses, send invoices, scan receipts, track sales taxes, and more, all for free.
Wave helps users connect multiple bank accounts and credit cards and set up profiles for multiple businesses to help keep track of income and expenses. The software organizes accounts, payments, and invoices to make tax time easier and also offers robust reports to help identify cash flow trends.
Users can create and send professional, branded invoices from Wave’s dashboard or mobile app. The invoicing software can set up recurring invoices and automatic credit card payments for repeat customers and automatically syncs invoice and payment information with its accounting software.
Wave’s mobile app lets users scan receipts anywhere and sync them seamlessly with their Wave account to help keep track of business expenses. Users can also email invoices to their Wave account or scan receipts offline to be synced the next time the device is online.
Although Wave is completely free to use, it also offers additional paid services, including accepting credit cards and bank payments and setting up payroll for employees and contractors.
- Free accounting
- Free invoicing
- Free receipt scanning
- All Wave Accounting features
- 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction for Visa, Mastercard, Discover
- 3.4% + 30¢ per transaction for American Express
- 1% per ACH transaction ($1 minimum fee)
- All Wave Accounting features
- $35 plus $6 per employee/contractor per month (tax-service states)
- $20 plus $6 per employee/contractor per month (self-service states)
Best Website Builder: Wix
Wix was founded in 2006 by three entrepreneurs frustrated with the difficulty and expense of creating a website. Today, the company has a staff of 2,700 employees worldwide and 150 million users in 190 countries. We chose it for the best website builder since it lets users create professional-looking websites with no coding knowledge for an affordable price.
Wix comes with hundreds of professional templates and a drag-and-drop editor, making it easy to create a professional business site in just minutes. Every website is designed to look great on mobile devices and features engaging effects including animation, video backgrounds, and scrolling.
Businesses that want to sell online can take advantage of Wix’s advanced e-commerce features. Users can set up an online store, manage inventory and orders, and get revenue and conversion rate reports using a simple, intuitive dashboard. Wix also lets store owners accept payments via Wix Payments, PayPal, and AliPay and integrates with Instagram and Facebook.
Although creating a basic website is free, upgrading to a paid plan is the only way to unlock Wix’s business and e-commerce features. All of Wix’s paid plans include a 14-day free trial, free hosting, Google Analytics, and the ability to link a custom domain.
Business Basic Plan
- $23 per month
- Accept online payments
- Unlimited bandwidth
- 20GB storage
- Connect your domain
- Remove Wix ads
- Five video hours
- Google Analytics
- Free domain for one year
- $300 ad vouchers
- Site Booster app
- Visitor Analytics app
Business Unlimited Plan
- $27 per month
- 35GB storage
- All Business Basic Plan features
- 10 video hours
- Professional logo
- Social media logo files
Business VIP Plan
- $49 per month
- Accept online payments
- Unlimited bandwidth
- 500GB storage
- All Business Unlimited Plan features
- Unlimited video hours
- Priority Response
- VIP Support
Best Email Marketing Software: MailChimp
MailChimp was created in 2001 by web design agency owners Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius who wanted to create an affordable email marketing service for small businesses. It has grown into a full-fledged marketing platform offering landing pages, websites, postcards, and more. We chose it as the best email marketing software because it offers small businesses high-level email marketing with both free and affordable paid plans.
MailChimp’s free email software makes it easy for business owners new to email marketing to get started. The platform offers premade email templates, opt-in popups and signup forms, audience segmentation, and basic personalization. Users also get a mobile app that lets them view campaign performance and send emails with just a few clicks.
MailChimp’s drag-and-drop templates let users create professional, branded emails with no design skills. A built-in analytics tool also keeps track of open rates and clicks, and segments data to help show what’s working and what’s not. Users can automatically send out targeted emails based on user behaviors, like a welcome message for new signups or a related product recommendation for a recent buyer.
Most small businesses can get pretty far using MailChimp’s free plan. The paid plans add more subscribers and lists as well as more detailed automations:
- 2,000 subscriber limit
- 10,000 emails per month
- Basic email templates
- Integrations with 200+ apps
- Landing pages and popup forms
- Google, Facebook, and Instagram retargeting ads
- Single-step automations
- Basic reports
- $9.99 per month (based on the number of subscribers)*
- 50,000 subscriber limit
- 500,000 emails per month
- All Free Plan features
- Access to all email templates
- A/B testing
- Remove Mailchimp footer
- 24/7 email and chat support
- $14.99 per month (based on the number of subscribers)*
- 100,000 subscriber limit
- 1.2 million emails per month
- All Essentials Plan features
- Behavior-based automations
- Multi-step automations
- Send time optimization
- Delivery by time zone
* Use the MailChimp calculator to determine pricing based on the size of the email list.
Best Project Management Software: Trello
In 2011, a company called Fog Creek Software launched a prototype of a project management tool designed to solve high-level planning issues. Later named Trello, the software grew to over 500,000 users in just one year and 4.75 million by 2014. We chose it as the best project management software because it offers a free, flexible, and visual way to manage projects.
Trello uses Kanban-style boards for task and project tracking and makes it easy to manage both individual projects and ongoing workflows. Its simple and intuitive interface lets users create custom boards and lists with cards that can include images, files, links, checklists, due dates, and more.
Users can get started in seconds with a blank board or choose from hundreds of categorized templates created by other users that can be modified as needed. Trello offers integrations with Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, and dozens of other third-party platforms as well as mobile apps to streamline collaboration and workflows.
Trello offers a lot with its free plan including unlimited personal boards, lists, and cards. The free plan is limited to 10MB per file attachment, 10 team boards, and one third-party integration (Power-Up) per board. The Business Class plan comes with expanded features and a 14-day free trial:
- Unlimited personal boards
- Unlimited cards
- Unlimited lists
- 10MB per file attachment
- 10 team boards
- One Power-Up per board
Business Class Plan
- $9.99 per user per month
- All Free Plan features
- 250MB per file attachment
- Unlimited team boards
- Unlimited Power-Ups
Best Team Communication Software: Slack
Slack was originally built as an internal communication tool for a game development company started by Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield in 2009. Launched publicly in 2013, it currently has over 12 million users in over 150 countries. We chose it as the best team communication software because it offers real-time messaging, feedback, and collaboration in a free, online platform.
Slack was developed to eliminate the inefficiencies and delays of email communication. The software lets users create channels that can be organized around a topic, team, project, or even a client. Channels can be public and open to all users of a Slack account or private and accessed by invitation only.
Besides communicating in real-time, Slack offers tons of integrations letting teams share files, create polls, schedule meetings, and connect to third-party project management, cloud storage, and productivity tools. The platform offers free, one-click voice and video calls and even lets users spin-off discussion threads to keep larger conversations focused and uncluttered.
One of Slack’s most useful features is its search function. No more sorting through emails or written notes hoping to find that one valuable piece of information. Slack lets users search for a conversation, mention, or user and share or bookmark it no matter how long ago it took place.
Businesses that only need a single workspace, one-on-one video calls, and only a few app integrations can get by with a free Slack account. The free account also limits searches to 10,000 messages:
- Search up to 10,000 messages
- Up to 10 third-party app integrations
- One-to-one video and voice calls
- 5GB storage per workspace
- $8 per user per month
- Unlimited message search
- Unlimited third-party app integrations
- One-to-one video and voice calls
- Group video calls up to 15 people
- Screen sharing
- 10GB storage per user
- Guest accounts and shared channels
- Priority support
- $15 per user per month
- All Standard Plan features
- 20GB storage per user
- User management
- 24/7 support with four-hour first response time
Best Hiring Software: Freshteam
Freshteam was developed in 2017 by Freshworks, a developer of communication, sales, and marketing tools since 2012. The software allows businesses to manage hiring, onboarding, time-off, and employee information. We chose it as the best hiring software because it helps small businesses hire new employees in an easy-to-use and affordable online platform.
Freshteam’s applicant tracking system (ATS) makes it easy for small businesses to post jobs, screen resumes, track applicants, and even send offer letters. Users get access to job description templates and can post positions on free job boards, including LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, and Adzuna.
Freshteam helps users create custom workflows so they can track candidates from application, to interview, to hiring. The software can also automatically convert emails into applications and add senders as applicants. Finally, Freshteam lets users create a mobile-friendly career page and share job postings on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Once an employee is hired, Freshteam sends her all the paperwork she needs to sign electronically as well as employee handbooks, other internal documents, and a welcome letter. The software adds new employees to the business’s org chart, securely stores employee data, and can even manage employee time off.
Freshteam’s basic plan, called Sprout, is free for companies with fewer than 50 employees and lets users post up to three jobs. Every plan also comes with a 21-day free trial and 24/7 email and 24/5 phone support:
- Three job postings
- Basic career site
- Recruitment team inbox
- Candidate application via email
- Employee directory
- Employee org chart
- Mobile apps (iOS and Android)
- Basic time-off management
- $50 per month per 50 users
- 10 job postings
- Customizable career site
- All Sprout Plan features
- Recruiting automations
- Custom interview scorecards and kits
- Custom hiring pipelines
- Interview scheduling with Google and Outlook Calendar
- Job board Integrations
- Time-off approval workflows
- Up to two holiday calendars
- Up to two time-off policies
- $100 per month per 50 users
- Unlimited job postings
- Advanced career site
- All Blossom Plan features
- Social recruiting
- Offer management
- New hire onboarding
- Unlimited holiday calendars
- Sponsored job postings on Indeed
Best Document Management Software: Google Workspace
Formerly Google Suite, Google Workplace is a collection of online office tools, including email, document creation and management, cloud storage, calendars, chat, video meetings, and more. We chose it as the best document management software because it offers secure, branded, cloud-based document creation, storage, collaboration, and sharing.
Google Workspace is a great option for small businesses that want to create an efficient, collaborative, cloud-based work environment without having to pay for expensive software or worrying about everyone having the same computer. Because every tool in the Google Workspace platform is a Google product, users can move seamlessly from app to app.
Businesses can start by creating a branded email address using Gmail, one of the most popular mail apps on the marketplace. Other tools include Google Calendars for team scheduling; Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with real-time collaboration; Google Drive for cloud storage; Google Chat for team messaging; and Google Meet for video meetings.
Aside from the integrations between each app, Google Workspace also lets users connect to hundreds of third-party platforms, including Zoom, DocuSign, Salesforce, Trello, Asana, and many more. Google Workspace add-ons only access the minimum required data needed to complete an action to ensure that each business’s information stays secure.
Although anyone can get access to all Google Workspace apps by signing up for a free Gmail account, Google Workspace paid plans allow businesses to create business email addresses, get more cloud storage, and increase security. Google also offers a 14-day free trial on any Google Workspace paid plan:
- Personal email account
- One-on-one chat
- Personal calendar
- Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides
- 15 GB Google Drive cloud storage
- $6 per user per month
- Business email accounts
- All Free Plan features
- Google Chat and Google Meet
- Shared calendars
- 30 GB Google Drive cloud storage per user
- Admin controls
- 24/7 standard support
- $12 per user per month
- All Business Start Plan features
- 2 TB Google Drive cloud storage per user
- Cloud Search 1st party data
- $18 per user per month
- All Business Standard Plan features
- 5 TB Google Drive cloud storage per user
- Vault and advanced endpoint management
- eDiscovery and Retention Policies
- All Business Plus Plan features
- Customizable with no limit on storage
- Cloud Search 1st & 3rd party data
- Security Center
- Enhanced management and compliance tools
- 24/7 enhanced support
What Are Software Programs for Small Businesses?
Software programs for small businesses are designed to make small businesses more efficient by streamlining work, automating processes, and helping with day-to-day tasks which may be taking away from the business owner’s more important duties. These software programs are specifically designed to meet the needs of small businesses owners, who can use them to link banks and credit cards, set up business profiles, manage accounting and payroll features, and store documents.
How Much Do Software Programs for Small Businesses Cost?
Software programs for small businesses vary in their functions, features, and capabilities. They also vary in price. There are some free small business software programs. For paid programs, you can expect the cost to range from $5 per user per month to $150 per user per month. Credit card transaction fees are billed separately.
Are Software Programs for Small Businesses Worth the Cost?
Software programs for small businesses are worth the cost if they increase efficiency and allow the owner or managers to focus more on tasks that bring in money, help the business grow, and meet long-term revenue goals. Software that helps with automation is typically worth the cost so that the owner can focus less on mundane tasks and have more time for serving customers and managing employees.
How We Chose the Best Software Programs for Small Businesses
We thoroughly reviewed and researched the best software programs available to small businesses before deciding on our top choices. We eventually narrowed it down to the best options based on cost, features, functions, integrations, compatibility, and more.
Agility PR Solutions. "Time Management: New Survey Reveals How Biz Owners Are Spending Their Time—And How They’d Rather Spend It." Accessed July 13, 2020.