7 Free Productivity Hacks For Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs

Looking to get work done more efficiently but don't want to spend anything? Then take advantage of these free apps and email hacks to power your productive workday.

When bootstrapping entrepreneur Tracy Osborn saw her bank account dip under $5,000 last year, she started to keep a tight watch on finances—and learned to get the most out of free apps.

It's about getting the most value out of the cheapest services, she explained in a blog post. That echoes Contently founder Shane Snow's definition of entrepreneurship: "the art of creating systems that generate more value for less effort."

In her original post Osborn lays out a range of low-cost services for the cash strapped bootstrapper. Since the best price is no price at all, we've gathered our favorite of the free deals.

1) For getting through your email faster: Canned Responses

You are likely spending 28% of your workday going though email. And it's not like there's a great diversity of messages being sent: Osborn says that she finds herself sending the same emails over and over again—about blog features, managing her vendor network, parceling out payment receipts, and the like.

So instead she writes a "friendly, human response" that she can use over and over—saving her the time of retyping emails. And possibly adding 30 minutes to her day.

2) For routing communications: The Autoresponder

Your autoresponder isn't just for vacation. If you're a founder getting inundated with inbound emails asking after various arms of the company, an autoresponder can provide an upfront guide, as HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes told us.

"I don't want to become a switchboard for my company," he says, "but I found I was doing that. I was spending a lot of time on these things that I didn't need to rewrite every time, so I'm just going to put this in front of people so they can go and chase down and be self-empowered."

3) For finding domains: WeDomainSearch

The naming (and domaining) of a company is incredibly important. If you are working with a cofounder, a service like WeDomainSearch, lets you and your cofounder search through domains together and star the ones you dig.

4) For getting richer contacts: Rapportive

As an author, investor, and advisor of startups, Whitney Johnson lives by the written word and relationships—which, surprisingly enough, finds its intersection in email. But as networking nerds always say, the more you know about the person you're writing to, the better you can relate. Enter: Rapportive.

"I can't live without Rapportive," she told us, "every time I get an email from someone, or send an email, I know who they are, what they are up to, and I love to be able to finish up interacting, and then tweet something they've just posted."

5) For protecting your website: CloudFlare

Optimize for faster load times? Limit bots? Block threats? CloudFare aims to increase performance and reduce threats.

As Osborn says:

I pay for CloudFlare (since I have SSL on one of my websites), but the free version is more than enough for the typical bootstrapped startup Even better, I only need to pay for that one website, and the other eight are protected on free plans. Caching, better load times, and threat protection for free—a no brainer.

6) For seeing who read your email: Streak

This is a little creepy, but you know how on iMessage or Facebook you see if someone read your email (and had the nerve to not reply immediately!). Streak lets you do that with your email, too—so you can see who's read a message, when, and on what device.

7) For email-less collaboration: Asana

This one's a bit of a fudge: Asana is free for teams of up to 15. That said, Asana is a super friendly method for collaborating, allowing you to put your conversations and tasks together—allowing you to do less work about work and get more of your actual work done. As you might expect from a company that has mindfulness built into their business model.

Hat tip: Tracy Osborn at Limedaring.com

[Image: Flickr user Thanakrit Gu]

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3 Comments

  • Joe Jackson

    Thank you Drake!

    Anyone heard about Nutcache? I just discovered this amazing free invoicing and time tracking app. It's the perfect tool for entrepreneurs and freelancers. Well worth checking out!

  • Brad Patterson @ Kwaga

    Great tips as always, Drake.

    Huge fan of canned responses and rapportive. Boomerang is a go-to tool as well, and Evercontact helps to streamline contact additions in google contacts. Haven't tried Asana but Trello is great for project management in the same way.

    I top it all off with Rescuetime to make sure I'm spending my time where I need to!