13 Great Software Options for a Bootstrapped Small Business

Paige Smith

When you’re starting a business using nothing but your own finances, it’s critical to have effective and affordable tools on hand. Enter: budget-friendly business software. Great business software doesn’t just reduce your operational and administrative workload—it also supports your business’s bottom line and growth. 

If you need more resources for bootstrapping your business, our guide has you covered. Get practical advice for evaluating your software options and explore some of the best software for small businesses on a budget. 

How to figure out what type of business software you need

You can find a software solution to support every single aspect of your business operations—but you don’t necessarily need to. When you’re figuring out which tools to prioritize, it’s helpful to think about 1) what will give you the most runway to grow and 2) what you don’t have the time or skills to accomplish on your own. 

Take some time to reflect on these five factors first:

  1. Business model: What’s your business structure? Some software providers have specialized tools for certain types of businesses, like ecommerce retailers, while other providers have tools that work across industries. 
  2. Short-term business goals: What are you trying to accomplish in the next couple of years, and what type of software will support you along the way? 
  3. Operational needs: Which business processes do you need the most help with? Which operational areas will benefit most from automations or insights?  
  4. Personal pain points: What aspects of business management do you personally struggle with as a business owner? Maybe it’s taxes or maybe it’s hiring. Look for a software that will eliminate your day-to-day stress.   
  5. Budget: What’s your budget for tech? Think about how you can maximize your funds. 

Choosing the right software for bootstrapping

When you’re bootstrapping a business, your main constraint is finances. You need every cent you spend to fuel your business’s growth and profitability. That’s why it’s important to prioritize tools that:

  • Can scale with you: Look for software providers that offer multiple plans, and options to add features or users as your needs change.
  • Have multiple integrations: Look for solutions that can integrate with a variety of other tools—including your email, customer database, and accounting platform—so you have all your business data in one place. 
  • Are easy to use: Prioritize platforms that feel intuitive to navigate, and don’t require upfront technical knowledge or experience to implement or maintain. 
  • Have dedicated customer service and resources: Look for a provider that offers hands-on customer service and extra resources, like online training or tutorials. 
  • Gives you an excellent ROI: Choosing free or low-cost tools is a great way to go, but it’s important to think beyond the initial subscription price and consider the long-term ROI you’d be getting. If the money you spend every month ends up increasing your customer acquisition rate or doubling your sales, it’s well worth it. 
  • Have relatable and positive user reviews: It’s a good idea to choose software solutions with high overall user scores, but it’s also helpful to make sure the tools in question have been vetted by businesses similar to yours. Search for user reviews of businesses in your same industry and size to see what they’re saying. 

13 great options for budget-friendly small business software

Check out these awesome software options to help you bootstrap your business—and keep growth steady. 

Business planning

1. Upmetrics

Upmetrics is an all-in-one business planning software that helps you build a comprehensive business plan. With their AI Business Plan Generator, all you have to do is answer a few questions about your business, strategy, and goals, and you’ll get a custom template and step-by-step guide to filling out every section of your business plan.

Cost: The starter plan is $7 a month.  

Upmetrics is a great option if: You’re starting a business for the first time and want practical tips for tailoring and refining your business plan. 

2. LivePlan

LivePlan is a business planning and financial planning software that makes it easier to map out your business growth and finance allocation. Not only can you use LivePlan’s AI-powered writing assistant to create a detailed business plan, you can also use the software to automatically generate cash flow forecasts, profit and loss statements, sales forecasts, and realistic budgets.  

Cost: The Standard plan for creating business plans is $15 a month; the Premium plan, which includes financial tools, is $30 a month. 

LivePlan is a good option if: You want AI-powered support with your business plan and financial forecasts. 

Payroll and HR 

3. Gusto 

Gusto is an all-in-one payroll and HR platform that lets you pay and manage employees on one simple platform. Gusto handles every nitty-gritty payroll and compliance task so you don’t have to, including automatically running payroll, filing payroll taxes, identifying opportunities for tax credits, and tracking expenses. 

You can also use Gusto to save time during the recruiting process, facilitate employee onboarding, track employee time and attendance, manage employee benefits, help employees stay on top of training, and conduct performance reviews. 

Cost: The Plus plan is $60 a month, plus $9 a month per person. 

Gusto is a good option if: You want expert support with everything employee-related—from payroll to performance reviews. 


4. Xero 

Xero is a cloud-based business accounting software that simplifies countless accounting and financial tasks. Think: paying bills, accepting payments, running payroll with Gusto, automating accounting and expense reconciliation, sending invoice reminders, creating purchase orders, and generating custom reports.  

Cost: The Growing plan is usually $42 a month. 

Xero is a good option if: You want a comprehensive accounting solution designed for small businesses, with integrations to payroll and HR tools like Gusto. 

Customer support

5. HubSpot

HubSpot’s free customer relationship management (CRM) software comes with a variety of features to help you nurture leads and build better relationships with your customers. 

With HubSpot, you can organize and track leads in an intuitive database, manage all your customer communications from one universal inbox, solve customer requests faster with a help desk, and get valuable insights into your customer connections. 

Cost: Get the free CRM here

HubSpot is a good option if: You need a free—and effective—solution to track leads and stay in touch with customers. 

6. Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM is a comprehensive customer platform designed to save you time and help drive sales. The Zoho platform makes it easy to organize your contacts, track leads, automatically update customer information, follow up with prospects, and respond to customer questions and comments in one place. 

Zoho CRM also integrates with your business email, social media accounts, and other productivity tools

Cost: The Standard plan is $14 a month; the Professional plan is $23 a month. 

Zoho CRM is a good option if: You want a flexible, easy-to-use CRM that can scale as your business grows. 

Project management 

7. monday

Monday is a work management software that connects all your business processes, tools, and people on one platform. With monday, you can collaborate on projects with remote team members; assign, track, and manage tasks; streamline a variety of different business workflows, from supply chain management tasks to resource allocation; and set and adjust business goals. 

The best part: you can get insights into your work processes and task completion rates using monday’s analytics dashboards. 

Cost: The free plan is great if you’re still a one-person operation; otherwise, the Basic plan is $9 a month and the Standard plan is $12 a month. 

monday is a good option if: You want one tool to keep your backend processes and to-do list organized. 

8. Asana

Asana is a comprehensive work management platform that supports small businesses, enterprises, and startups alike in running smoother operations. You can use Asana for everything from project management and goal management to strategic organizational planning and product launches. 

When you’re bootstrapping your business, Asana can help you set goals, plan for annual growth, and manage a handful of different operational processes and projects on your own or with other employees. 

Cost: The free plan is for individuals and small teams; the Starter plan is $10.99 a month per user. 

Asana is a good option if: You want an all-in-one work management solution that can grow with your business. 


9. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media marketing and management software that lets you create, publish, and analyze content in one place. You can manage all your social media messages with Hootsuite Inbox, use Hootsuite’s OwlyWriter AI to generate social media captions and post ideas, get suggestions for the best times to post, and see real-time insights into your social media engagement and post performance. 

Plus, Hootsuite has a huge backlog of helpful blog posts and resource guides for small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to improve their social media marketing strategies. 

Cost: Hootsuite’s professional plan starts at $99 a month. 

Hootsuite is a good option if: You want one platform to manage everything social media-related—and you want to take advantage of AI automations and suggestions.  

10. ChatGPT

ChatGPT—the popular generative AI tool—can support your marketing strategizing and content creation. You can use ChatGPT to flesh out your customer personas, draft a marketing plan for a specific campaign, and write tons of content. That includes website copy, product descriptions, blog posts, emails, ads, newsletters, and social media posts. 

Cost: It’s free, but if you want more features, ChatGPT Plus is $20 per user per month. 

ChatGPT is a good option if: You want quick, convenient content support without having to sign up for a platform. 

11. Mailchimp

Mailchimp is an email and marketing automations platform designed to help businesses grow. Mailchimp makes it easier—and faster—to create and execute compelling marketing campaigns from start to finish. 

Wth Mailchimp, you can automate email and SMS marketing, segment customers based on buying behaviors and demographics, personalize emails with AI-powered suggestions, generate beautiful email templates, and measure your results. 

Cost: You can try it for free for one month; after that, the Essentials plan is $13 a month. 

Mailchimp is a good option if: You want AI-powered support for marketing campaigns. 


12. Shopify

If you’re bootstrapping an ecommerce business, Shopify’s all-in-one commerce platform can help you get off the ground and grow at a steady rate. If you’re still in the business planning stages, you can use Shopify to generate a domain name or logo, create a purchase order template, and draft your terms and conditions and return policy instructions. 

From there, Shopify helps you handle everything: building an engaging website, finding and connecting with new customers, and tracking sales and orders. 

Cost: Your first month costs just $1; from there, the Basic plan (for solo entrepreneurs) is $29 a month. 

Shopify is a good option if: You want ecommerce software that supports you at every stage, from planning your business to expanding it. 

13. Wix

Wix’s website-building software lets you create a custom ecommerce store tailored to your industry, products, and customers. Wix facilitates every stage of setting up an ecommerce business, from designing a website and connecting your products to online marketplaces to managing your store and expanding your marketing outreach.

Cost: The Business plan is $36 a month.  

Wix is a good option if: You want best-in-class storefront design, plus store management and selling features. 

How to get the most out of your business software

Keep these tips in mind: 

  • Take advantage of free trials: Get a feel for the user interface and features, then test out a few of your standard processes and tasks. 
  • Say yes to the digital tours: Make sure you understand exactly how to work your tools; take the digital tours and watch the training videos. 
  • Embrace the built-in resources: Most software platforms have dozens of free blog posts, webinars, and ebooks with specific strategies for making the most of your tools. 

Bootstrapping a business is hard work, but helpful business software can make the process easier. Want more intel on how to grow a business without overextending your budget? Check out Gusto’s robust resource library for all things business growth

Paige Smith Paige is a content marketing writer specializing in business, finance, and tech. She regularly writes for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies and small business lenders. See more of her work here:
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