The 12 Best Apps for Small Businesses, Straight From Real Small Business Owners

November 17, 2021

Entrepreneurs and independent workers all over the country shared their favorite apps for running a business. From project management to marketing—or even getting liability insurance—you've got access to so many tools in the palm of your hand.

We’ve been polling our readers to discover what the best apps are for every type of small business. Entrepreneurs from every industry weighed in to tell us about their must-have apps for running their business—from finding customers to invoicing to keeping track of all those pesky accounting details.

After digging into the results, we realized there were some absolutely essential apps that were loved by almost every small business owner, regardless of industry. This list represents the best-of-the-best. Think of it as your mobile small business starter pack.

If you lean strongly toward any one of these apps, be sure to vote for it in the survey.

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Along with its photo editor Lightroom, the entire Adobe Creative Cloud is a fan favorite among savvy small businesses. Like we’ve said, social media is huge in any robust marketing strategy, and the Adobe Creative Cloud allows you to edit photo, video, and audio; design logos, and keep your assets fresh. As cloud-based software, Adobe makes it easy to get started and access your projects anywhere.

Pros:

  • 20+ apps that allow you to create stunning digital and print media
  • Adobe’s apps provide professional quality in an accessible way
  • Has been the gold standard in graphic design for decades
  • Subscription-based model means you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars at once

Cons:

  • Adobe’s software is powerful and has tons of options and settings—it’s not something you can learn to use overnight
  • Not every program in the suite will be useful for everyone
  • Many programs use substantial system resources

Price: Various

App store rating: Various

Even for businesses without a proper website, Facebook is a cornerstone of digital marketing. It’s the way millions of people find the services they’re looking for, and they can easily crowdsource recommendations from friends to find great businesses like yours. You can build a profile for your business for free and then access their paid services, such as advertising across Facebook and Instagram.

Pros:

  • Access to the world’s largest social media audience
  • Can fine-tune ads to target specific types of users
  • Great analytics

Cons:

  • Very unlikely to succeed without using paid ads
  • Most businesses get low engagement
  • Requires time and energy to maintain a presence and moderate comments

Price: Free

App store rating: 2.2

Being in business means staying organized, and Google Calendar is built for organization. With daily, weekly and monthly views, Google gives you the power to schedule your days down to the minute. You can set up to-do lists, reminders and alerts and easily share your calendar with clients or business partners.

Pros:

  • Toggle between daily, weekly and monthly calendar views
  • Create tasks, events and reminders with a few taps
  • Automatically imports event dates (like flights or concerts) from Gmail
  • Share calendars with other Gmail users.

Cons:

  • Full functionality won’t be appreciated by non-G Suite users
  • Limited search functionality

Price: Free

App Store Rating: 4.6

It’s the modern-day business card. It’s no secret that Instagram is the way most people discover new products and services, and small business owners across the country backed that up. From DJs to lawn care professionals and career coaches, businesses of all shapes and sizes use Instagram to promote their business.

Pros:

  • Instagram allows you to market for free—if you’re willing to put in the time
  • Dozens of filters, lighting and photo editing options
  • Stories adds a new layer to your content marketing
  • Scalable sponsored posts

Cons:

  • Lots of competition
  • Can be hard to gain traction with a new account
  • Time consuming to use effectively

Price: Free

App store rating: 4.7

Great marketing relies on great content, including visually-compelling photos that highlight what you do best! Throughout our surveys, small business owners consistently mentioned Lightroom as their go-to app for editing photos that can be posted across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and their websites. It’s a simple tool that allows you to snap a photo, enhance it, and share it—right from your mobile phone.

Pros:

  • Quickly edit and adjust photos using free presets
  • Allows you to adjust contrast, exposure, highlights, and shadows on all your photos
  • Create and save your own presets

Cons:

  • Lacks graphic design elements of Photoshop
  • Limited capabilities while using the mobile app
  • Free app lacks some crucial features

Price: Free, $9.99/month (Premium)

App store rating: 4.8

For freelancers and consultants, building a professional network is a big part of the hustle. LinkedIn is the world’s premier professional networking platform, and it can be used as a potential money-maker for any self-employed professional. Form new professional relationships, share your expertise, and message potential clients all within the app.

Pros:

  • A well-constructed profile can attract clients
  • Great for researching potential clients
  • Huge platform with millions of users
  • Platform allows you to build a brand

Cons:

  • Networking can be time consuming
  • There are plenty of “scam opportunities” on the platform
  • Setting up or adjusting your profile in the app can be difficult0
  • Learning curve can be steep for beginners

Price: Free

App store rating: 4.3

There are lots of payment apps out there, but this is the only one to make our list of apps that all small businesses love. It’s the total package of what you need to send and receive payments for a business: processing debit and credit cards, PayPal payments, PayPal Credit, card readers, and their online platform.

If money talks, then PayPal speaks the language of small businesses everywhere.

Pros:

  • Very easy to set up and use
  • PayPal is well-known and trusted among most buyers and sellers
  • Instant push notifications for spending and payments

Cons:

  • Creating invoices within the app is more difficult than using the desktop version
  • Balance transfers often take longer than expected
  • Spotty customer service reputation
  • PayPal can suspend accounts at any time over activity they deem suspicious

Price: Free to use, 2.9% plus $0.30 fee for all sales

App store rating: 4.4

Once you’ve sent and received all those payments, you’ll likely need to balance your books. Intuit’s QuickBooks easily makes our list of the best apps for business, with clean design and affordable options for accounting, payroll, and managing your money (even as a freelancer). And with a name like that, QuickBooks is an easy sell.

Pros:

  • Plenty of financial analytics options
  • Invoice tracking
  • Double-entry accounting
  • Intuit is always adding new features
  • Dashboard allows an at-a-glance view of your company’s financials

Cons:

  • Lack of invoice customization options
  • Some users report poor customer support
  • Steep learning curve for non-accountants
  • Not every desktop function is available in the app

Price: $15-$150 per month

App store rating: 4.7

The ability to talk to your team no matter where you are is crucial. Slack makes it super easy to keep a group in sync, with polling, video calls, and channels to keep the information (and hopefully the revenue) flowing. At Thimble, we’re big fans of Slack.

Pros:

  • Wonderful user interface
  • Easily integrates with other apps like Zoom and Google Calendar
  • Customizable notification system

Cons:

  • Audio and video call features have quality issues
  • App can have performance issues after heavy use
  • Poor search functionality

Price: Free

App Store rating: 3.9

For local professionals, finding new clients can be the hardest part of staying in business. Thumbtack helps by matching professionals with locals who need their services. It features a guided profile creation system and allows you to start bidding on jobs as soon as a potential customer contacts you.

Pros:

  • Creating a profile is a breeze
  • Customers reach out to you
  • Huge variety of types of jobs available
  • Great for more seasoned professionals

Cons:

  • You’ll be charged per lead, even if they don’t result in a job
  • Pros can’t send personalized messages to prospects
  • Some users can inundated with irrelevant leads

Price: Free to download, pros are charged per lead

App store rating: 4.4

All of these apps allow you to get things done—but how do you put your to do list in order in the first place? A good project management app may very well be the driving force behind your entire operation. Small business owners love Trello because the online board allows you to stay organized, and their app allows you to mark off tasks on the go, even if your “office” is on four wheels.

Pros:

  • Useful for teams looking for something more dynamic than a simple calendar
  • The focus on collaboration makes Trello a top choice for creative teams
  • Simple and easy to use

Cons:

  • Not always the best option for larger, more complex projects
  • In-app messaging functionality is lacking
  • Big picture focused, smaller details can fall by the wayside

Price: Free, Premium plans start at $12.50/mo

App Store Rating: 4.5

Accounting, invoicing, payroll, and more, managed in a seamless user experience. This makes it clear that entrepreneurs want simple ways to organize the seemingly difficult aspects of running a modern business.

Pros:

  • Free accounting software
  • Double-entry accounting
  • Great for freelancers
  • Extremely easy to set up and use

Cons:

  • Wave Accounting doesn’t have a mobile app yet
  • Lacks some of the finer details of more advanced accounting software
  • More suited for freelancers or one-person businesses

Price: Free

App store rating: N/A

(We didn’t prompt this, we swear!) We’ve covered payments, bookkeeping, and marketing, but one oft-overlooked necessity for a successful business is insurance. It’s overlooked because most insurance is clunky, hard to understand, and not designed with small businesses in mind. Thimble isn’t most insurance. With liability policies sold by the hour, day, week, or month, you can get insurance that works when you do and save money when you don’t. And unlike most insurance companies, we’ve got a killer app. Learn more about Thimble’s Small Business Insurance.

We’ve covered the 12 most essential apps for all entrepreneurs to consider. Are there any you really rely on? Let us know in the survey!

  1. What’s your favorite app?

    • Adobe Creative Cloud
    • Facebook
    • Google Calendar
    • Instagram
    • Lightroom
    • LinkedIn
    • PayPal
    • QuickBooks
    • Slack
    • Thumbtack
    • Trello
    • Wave
    • Other
    • Vote

Written on May 20, 2020 | Last updated: November 17, 2021

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.