50+ FREE Tools to Ace & Launch your Side Projects
To help you build and deliver great side projects, we've compiled a list of the TOP, mostly FREE, or at least AFFORDABLE tools that will come in handy for each stage of your side project - right from inception to launch, and beyond.
We've tagged free-forever tools a [Free], and other tools under [Free version] and [Free trial].
You can navigate between sections here:
Phase 1: Getting the idea
A great idea can make or break a product, but to build great products, you shouldn't force-fit ideas. You should instead focus on making a list of problems that need solving and then try to think of ways to solve them.
1. Ideation tools
Miro's whiteboard toolkit is great for jotting down ideas, organising them, and sharing them with others for feedback.
A Web Whiteboard[Free]
A Web Whiteboard is a touch-friendly and very simple-to-use web browser-based tool that can be used for drawing sketches, brainstorming visually and collaborating with others.
Milanote is excellent for organising your ideas and projects into visual "moodboards". You can use it for gathering inspiration, collating your ideas, and exploring creative possibilities.
Notion is a jack-of-all-trades note-taking app with a clean and pleasant UI. It is free to use, highly flexible, and is perfect for writing down ideas in a structured manner and linking between notes.
2. Feedback platforms
Indie Hackers is a great community for entrepreneurs, which focuses on helping founders and side-project makers turn their businesses profitable and grow sustainably.
These two subreddits will help you find great advice from genuine entrepreneurs, gather initial users, ask for feedback, and promote your product.
Phase 2: Marketing front
While you're building your product, it makes sense to gather your beta users. For that, you can make a simple marketing website and share it to collect leads.
1. Marketing website
Unicorn Platform is an easy-to-use, no-code landing page builder that works great, and offers everything you need to create simple websites, apps, and SaaS products.
Carrd is a free tool that you can use to build simple and responsive one-page sites. It has some really beautiful templates to choose from.
2. Email marketing
Hunter helps you find verified email addresses of people (potential customers!) or even the email addresses of all employees of a particular company.
With Norbert, you can find verified email addresses of people via their business domain. The tool offers a range of useful integrations and a handy chrome extension.
Snovio is a great, free tool that helps you find email addresses, verify them, and run drip campaigns within the app. It has several 3rd-party integrations and even offers an API. Snovio also has a great email tracker for Gmail.
Phantombuster is a must-have tool for all indie makers. It is free, and lets you automatically scrape crucial data about potential customers, competitors, and social media following from just about anywhere - LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, and many more.
Mailtrack integrates into your Gmail and lets you know when your emails are opened, clicked on. It has a free Chrome extension.
ContactOut finds your leads' email addresses and phone numbers right on their LinkedIn or Github profiles.
3. Capturing users
Optinmonster is a powerful lead generation tool that helps you convert users who land on your page, via customisable popups, floating bars, gamified wheels, and more.
With Poptin, you can capture site visitors by creating engaging popups. You can also use it to conduct surveys, get feedback from visitors, gather email subscribers,
and reduce shopping cart abandonment.
Phase 3: Design the product
It is very important to design a great user experience into your product, while at the same time have a good-looking and attractive interface.
1. For Design inspiration
Dribbble is great for seeking design inspiration. It is a self-promotion and networking site for digital designers and creatives where you can browse thousands of designs based on a keyword.
Behance is like Dribbble but caters to a host of other design domains in addition to UI/ UX and visual design, such as industrial, print, branding, and fashion design.
Another site to get design inspiration from. You'll be able to find some of the best, most radical, and crazy website designs here, as voted on by the design community.
2. Design tools
Mockplus is a one-stop online design collaboration platform that helps you accomplish everything from prototyping to developer handoff.
Marvel is a holistic platform that enables designers to transform ideas into digital products by providing them with an environment to create, test, iterate as well as gather feedback.
Coolors is a fast, simple tool for generating great-looking colour palettes and gradients. It also offers an iOS app and Chrome extension.
With Brandbuilder, you can create a professional-looking brand within minutes. You can start from scratch to generate basic elements of your visual identity such as logo, colour, typography, pattern, and photography.
3. Free design resources
Scale offers over a hundred attribution-free, high-quality illustrations crafted by professional designers. You can customise them to suit the colours of your website, product, or app. One new illustration is added every day.
Undraw is another website where you can find open-source, customisable illustrations that can be downloaded or embedded directly into your website.
Itmeo is a subscription-based marketplace to buy design products, templates, UI kits, graphic elements, and logos. It also has a reasonable amount of free-to-use resources.
Phase 4: Building the product
If you're a developer, you'll probably know the best way to build your product. If you're not, there are a host of no-code tools that you can use to create simple and even complex software products. Even if you are a developer, it makes sense to save time by creating simple products using no-code.
1. Simple products, try NoCode
Webflow allows designers and non-coders to build customised and professional-looking websites in a completely visual canvas.
With Sheet2Site, you can create your own, fully-functional website complete with pictures, text, filters, and links all using only Google Sheets.
Airtable is an excellent alternative to Google Sheets, it but goes much beyond. You can use it to form a 'backbone' of your project, be it populating no-code websites or automating operations.
With Bubble, you can create interactive and responsive multi-user web apps. It includes all the features you need to build simple or complex sites, and comes with a database management system.
Zapier is an easy-to-use tool that helps you automate repetitive tasks between web apps, so you can focus on the more important stuff. It offers support for a vast selection of apps.
Integromat is an automation platform that offers more features and more tasks than Zapier, and a host of integrations.
2. More nuanced products
2a. Cloud IDE & Virtual Desktops
AWS Cloud9[Free trial]
Cloud9 is a cloud-based IDE (integrated development environment) by AWS that you can use to write, run, and debug code within a browser browser.
Codenvy is a cloud-based environment for coding, building, and debugging apps, and works on all major browsers. You can develop code with portable Docker runtimes, and collaborate with team members.
2b. Code Collaboration
CodePen is an online code editor and open-source social development environment for front-end designers and developers.
2c. Launch & Deploy
DigitalOcean App Platform[Free version]
App Platform is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that lets you publish code directly from GitHub, GitLab, or public Git repositories to DigitalOcean servers so you don't have to worry about the underlying infrastructure.
Netlify is a website hosting platform that helps you host sites in a secure and scalable way. It promises to multiply productivity and 10x your product shipping speed.
Phase 5: Launch
A successful product launch is often downplayed but it shouldn't be. If you do it right, you can get a major boost by reaching a lot of potential customers via your product launch.
1. Launch platforms
Product Hunt is a platform for sharing and discovering new products. It the go-to place for launching your product, getting initial users, or marketing an already existing product.
BetaList is a great platform for launching your product, getting early adopters, and generating user feedback. You can also discover and get early access to products and spark connections.
Betafy is a place for founders to meet other founders, showcase their products, and get relevant, high-quality feedback from the community.
Remote Tools is the best place on the web to discover and launch new remote-first tech products. It also has a community of remote workers, The Remote Clan.
Show HN (Hacker News) is a subpage in Y Combinator's Hacker News site that startup founders use to showcase their tech products. It can be pretty hard to get on the first page though.
Submit Juice[Free version]
Submit Juice is a service that helps you promote your product and generate PR by submitting your startup or product to over 150 directories and websites.
Loom is a simple tool that you can use to instantly record yourself performing actions on screen, and present ideas and workflows. You can use it to record your product launch video and share it with others.
Screencastify is a handy Chrome plugin that can be used to record, edit, and share videos. You can capture your tab, whole screen, or webcam while you narrate via your microphone.
3. Social media tools
Lempod helps you increase views and engagement on your LinkedIn posts by joining 'pods' where people engage with your content to give it initial traction. You can also create your own pods and automate the entire process.
Buffer offers a suite of simple tools that help you boost your social media presence, and handles publishing, analytics, and engagement.
Phase 6: Product feedback
You need to get as much feedback as possible before you even launch your product. However, even after launch, you should strive to reach out to your users for gathering real-life feedback.
UserTesting is a platform where you can get customer feedback from real people who test your product - be it a website, app, or any other product/experience - and send audio and video recordings of them trying it out and speaking their thoughts.
If your product is an iOS or Android app, you can use the open-source HelpStack to interact with your users, provide in-app customer support, solve bugs and get feedback.
You can use Typeform to build and seamlessly integrate interactive forms for gathering customer details or collecting user feedback.
Hotjar is an analytics tool for websites that helps you gauge how visitors are actually using your site via heatmaps, and collect user feedback.
Other useful tools/resources
Prioritize is essentially a 2-axis chart that helps you create, visualise, and prioritise tasks on a drag and drop interface with different priority boards or matrixes.
nTask is a comprehensive project and task management tool that offers collaboration, task management, meeting scheduling, project planning, and more.
Failory is a site where you can read about previous mistakes of entrepreneurs and gather insights for your business.
Accessily helps you find guest posting opportunities from high-quality websites in your niche.
This is a great newsletter that shares real, relatable stories of entrepreneurship, and actionable insights on how to create and grow a bootstrapped company.
This is a practical and comprehensive guide on how to build side projects, from getting ideas to building the product to marketing, and monetisation.