Janice K. Lee
Top 3 (Free) Tools Every Student Entrepreneur Should Use
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Useful. Simple. Free.
With remote working and learning, I’ve had more than enough time to sit back and think of what software and platforms have been consistently useful when it comes down to entrepreneurship applications. And after my first year at Rutgers University and a handful of business and pitch competitions, I came up with the most used-and-trusted tools that have helped me get through marketing material, slide decks for competitions, and class presentations.
Whether you’re a fellow student entrepreneur looking for free, simple, quality tools to use for your next endeavor or an adult interested in seeing what latest “student endorsed” tech has been, here are some tech highlights everyone can use- because they’re free!
A presentation I made using Canva using their wide variety of elements.
The Good: I’ve been using Canva like it’s the new Google Drive. It’s modern, fast, and versatile for just about any type of media (brochures, infographics, presentations, to newsletters, just to name a few). It’s easy to use with top-notch UX and UI. Even for every media, it has a wide variety of templates that are extremely versatile for every occasion from Startup Pitch decks, Sales Presentations, to Portfolio slides. It’s easy to manipulate the elements to change colors and tidbit adjustments without it getting too complicated. They also have an ample supply of high-quality stock images, which I have found to be very useful in many situations. Canva is easily one of my most used applications and with its fast, modern approach to creative work, it’s here to stay.
The Bad: The one downside to Canva is its website maker. It’s very simple in its publishing execution and if you want versatility and control, Canva shouldn’t be your number one pick. Their website platform is great for simple blogging and school projects, but not for a comprehensive web portfolio or your startup website. It’s also difficult to work as a team on Canva. On its free version, it lags a lot and needs constant webpage refreshing to see updates. If Canva would allow for more consistent teamwork and simultaneous updates, I would transfer from Google Slides in a heartbeat.
The Good: “Understanding the customer is key.” After learning this in my first ever entrepreneurship class, I sought ways to make “understanding your customer” a better process than just your basic “hey can you fill out this google form?” It’s easy to make a customer feedback form, but it’s harder to make one that’s enjoyable for the customer and fun to make for the creator. Typeform was my solution to that. It’s a surveying application that’s easy to use, customizable, and wide-ranging in the types of questions! Similar to Canva, it’s a very modern approach to old-school business. It makes the process of making surveys and collecting data insight a simple but fun experience. It’s also a pleasant experience to sit back and watch Typeform put together all of your results. For student entrepreneurs who are seeking a free outlet for customer feedback, Typeform is your best friend.
The Bad: The downfalls to Typeform is that in the free version, you can’t go past 10 questions and can only collect 100 answers per month (which is a decent number if you’re not an established business). I thought the premium version had some very cool features such as the “logic jump” feature that gives the customer different questions based on the answers they picked that aren’t available in the free version.
The Good: If you are interested in making an app (which is currently a popular solution for many student entrepreneurs), Figma is a must. It’s a free browser-based website that allows you to make prototypes for apps and websites for laptops and iPhones. It’s like Adobe XD’s simpler cousin. Its mechanisms are simple (in my opinion) but you can create so many things from one button. And unlike Canva, its “teamwork-ability” is wonderful- it has a handy commenting function and what they call “Multiplayer Editing” that allows simultaneous editing. It also allows you to create prototypes that have “click-through” operations that show how the actual product currently looks and works.
An app that my team and I made for a project using Figma.
The Bad: Some cons of Figma is that it may be difficult to use as a beginner (and I mean, “beginner” beginner like myself, who has never dipped their toes in photoshop and fancy editing software). The learning curve is steep, but once you get a basic understanding after tutorials and trial and error, Figma opens a door of possibilities, and maybe even your next startup!
Conclusion and Take-Away
When I went to the StartupGrind Global Conference in February, there were a good handful of startups that were tech-driven. As amazed as I was by these new platforms and software programs, I found myself realizing there was one shared sentiment between younger and older generations alike: we like simplicity. UX and UI are all the talk these days- and it’s especially important to younger generations who are adjusting to increasingly complex tech-driven platforms, and to adults who are busy trying to keep up with new and emerging technology.
All three of my top applications had a few things in common: simplicity, great UX and UI, and affordability (or, being free). For the upcoming generations of students, I’ve found that these are the top criteria for determining what we choose to use and disregard. And I can’t wait to see more companies deliver easily applicable platforms for more students and adults alike to use.