Best free messaging apps for business (2022)

  • Team communication can be tricky when you rely on multiple messaging threads and personal employee phone numbers rather than a business messaging app
  • Free business text messaging tools can boost team collaboration and task management
  • Homebase’s team communication app makes it easy to send messages to your employees and keep everyone on your small business team informed and up to date

8 features to look for in a small business messaging app

There’s a range of chat tools for businesses in the app store. But be selective when scrolling through them because many cater to large organizations, not small businesses like yours. That means some options don’t offer all the features small business owners need to support their teams of hourly workers.

Plus, advanced business messaging apps often include tools you don’t need for a higher price tag. For instance, most small businesses don’t need group video chats or voice messages. You’re better off with an app that only provides you with what you need at a lower price point.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of features that an ideal small business messaging app should have to help make your research process easier.

1. Cross-device availability

Your staff members probably all have different types of mobile phones and smart devices, so your messaging app needs to be compatible with all the most popular operating systems. At an absolute minimum, it should be easy to download onto Apple iOS and Android phones.

Remember, if some of your team members can’t use your app, they’ll be out of the loop. You’ll have to fill them in personally which will take the time the app was supposed to save in the first place! 

2. Affordable pricing

Small businesses have tight profit margins. So you need an app that’s either free or affordably priced.

Some messaging apps may offer extra frills and features like video calls, custom emojis, and GIFs. These are nice to have, but often come at an extra cost. And because your staff members work in fast-paced environments, they’re not likely to have their hands free to enjoy them.

Instead, it’s better to choose a team communication app like Homebase that offers all the essentials small businesses need at a lower cost. 

3. Privacy and security

Given that you might need to send sensitive information within your messaging app, make sure you choose secure software. You don’t want any unintended recipients to get ahold of documents with your team’s personal information or bank details, so always look for end-to-end encryption.

Also, consider your staff members’ privacy concerns and preferences. Certain employees may not want to share their contact details with their colleagues  — especially if they’re new hires and don’t know anyone very well. So an app that doesn’t display your team members’ emails or phone numbers publicly may be a popular choice.

4. Instant messaging

A great business messaging app should support different types of instant chats. For instance, small business owners and managers need to be able to message:

  • Individuals to discuss their duties or challenges they might be facing.
  • Groups according to shifts, roles, and locations.
  • The entire team for general updates and announcements.
  • Other managers to coordinate running the business.

Not to mention, staff should be able to message each other freely to arrange shift swaps or coordinate tasks. And unlike SMS messages or phone calls, instant messages with an app like Homebase don’t cost a thing, provided your staff are connected to WiFi.

5. Integrations

The best messaging apps offer everything you need within one platform or have a wide variety of integrations with other essential platforms. As a small business owner, you’re probably looking for a messaging app that combines tools for:

Messaging apps with built-in integrations save you time because you don’t have to constantly switch between devices, apps, and windows. And better yet, you reduce the errors you make transferring data from one platform to another.

6. Multimedia options 

Depending on your business needs, you may need a messaging app that supports forms of communication other than just text. Most small businesses can benefit from:

  • Fire sharing to instantly send vital documents, like those related to hiring and onboarding.
  • Image sharing to clarify information or provide visual references or aids.

But think just as carefully about what multimedia options you don’t need. More features mean slower loading speeds, screens that feel cluttered, and a steeper learning curve. That’s a lot of hassle when your staff can’t even play voice or video messages on your shop floor. 

7. Reminders and alerts

Reminders and alerts help keep everyone organized without requiring any extra time and effort. You can set them up to nudge your staff members about important events, training sessions, or daily tasks like clocking in and out. 

And if you’re using an all-in-one solution like Homebase, you can even sync your team’s alerts and reminders with your employee schedule. That means your alerts will get updated automatically whenever you adjust your staff members’ shifts or working hours. 

8. Announcements and shoutouts

Sometimes you need to send your entire team an important message, but there’s a risk it’ll get lost in the group chat. An announcement feature lets you pin your message somewhere visible for as long as it needs to be there.

The same goes for shoutouts. Praise is a powerful motivational tool, so your staff thank you messages need to stand out. You can be sure everyone will see your shoutouts if you use a messaging app with a feature that lets you post wins to a central dashboard.

How do Homebase’s features stack up against other business messaging apps?

We’ve compared Homebase with some of the other top team messaging apps on the market. Here’s a summary of what each platform has to offer:

App Cost (US$ per month) iOS and




Media options Top integrations Noteworthy features


Free basic plan

Upgrades start at $20 per location



Homebase’s all-in-one HR suite, Quickbooks, Paychex

-Announcements & shoutouts

-Automated alerts & reminders

-“Who’s working” chat feature

-Shift notes


Free basic plan

Upgrades start at 1 cent per message



Files (2GB limit)


WhatsApp Business, Dropbox, Hubspot CRM -Built-in camera
-QR Code scanner

Facebook Messenger

Free Image




Meta Business Suite, Asana, Shopify, Dropbox

-Built-in camera

-Forwarded messages


Free basic plan

Upgrades start at $7.35 per person





ClickUp, Gmail, Dropbox, Quickbooks, Google Analytics -Built-in camera

-Forwarded messages

Microsoft Teams

Free basic plan

Plans start at $4 per person





Microsoft Office suite, ClickUp, Trello, Salesforce

-Built-in camera

-Live captions

Google Chat

Free basic plan

Upgrades start at $6 per person





Google Workspace, Zapier, Hubspot -Built-in camera

-Document collaboration


Free basic plan

Upgrades start at $10 per person





Jira, Zendesk, Github

-Guest accounts

-Granular permissions


Free basic plan

Upgrades start at $14 per person





Dropbox, Salesforce, Zapier -Built-in camera

-Virtual whiteboards


Telegram Free basic plan

Upgrades start at $4.99 per person

X Image




Dropbox, Todoist, Discord -Voice-to-text conversion


Free for basic plan

Upgrades start at $4.50 per person





Github, Asana, Trello


-Mailing lists

Comparison table key takeaways

  • Homebase offers the best value prices for groups. As our platform is small business-oriented, we only charge per location, not per person. That means your price won’t increase every time you add someone to your team.
  • Homebase provides the essentials you need without any frills. Other messaging apps offer tools for larger organizations with hybrid and remote teams, like voice calls and video chats. But Homebase knows that small businesses prefer lean, straightforward apps so they don’t have to pay for any features they don’t need.
  • Homebase matches popular team chat apps where it counts. Our app is compatible with popular operating systems, so anybody can download and start using it. And we don’t skimp on security, either. Homebase has end-to-end encryption, which uses the same Transport Layer Security (TLS) as Facebook and Mattermost.
  • Homebase provides the deepest integrations with other HR software. Popular apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp prioritize integrations with social media and customer service platforms. But as small businesses don’t have dedicated sales teams, they don’t need advanced customer care tools or chatbots. Instead, Homebase gives you access to the HR features small teams really need, like scheduling, payroll, and a time clock.

The benefits of adopting a messaging app for your small business

You might be wondering whether you really need a chat app to manage your small business team. After all, you may have as few as ten people to message. And if you run a small shop or cafe, your staff members probably already cross paths and catch up face-to-face all the time. 

So, would a business messaging app make a significant difference for you? 

The answer is yes. Messaging apps have benefits for businesses of all types and sizes that go far beyond just letting people talk to each other. Here are some of the advantages you could enjoy:

  • More team collaboration: Every business has maintenance tasks like cleaning, doing inventory, and installing displays. But these can be difficult to coordinate with shift workers. With a chat app, day shift team members can leave notes for the evening shift about what tasks they did and what still needs to be done. That way, everything gets done fully and efficiently. 
  • Better organization: When you choose a messaging app that connects with other HR tools, communicating with your staff will become part of your normal workflow. For example, if you’re trying to find someone to cover a shift, you can ask your team who’s available straight from the app. That means getting all your tasks done faster and reducing the risk of forgetting something important.
  • More efficiency: Even if you’ve got a small team, the minutes you spend messaging everyone individually can add up. Chat apps reduce the time you have to spend on day-to-day communications by automating messages like shift and clock in reminders.
  • Increased staff accountability: When things go wrong at work, employees may blame communication issues. For instance, they may claim they didn’t get a message or couldn’t find someone’s phone number. But if your business uses a reliable messaging app, your staff members will know they can’t fall back on that excuse and it may push them to perform better.
  • More employee well-being and happiness: When you organize and streamline the way you run your business, fewer issues like under or overstaffing will come up. Employees will also have a better idea of what’s happening in their place of work. This leads to more job satisfaction overall, which is excellent for productivity and employee retention.

Why Homebase is the best messaging app for small businesses 

Now you’re sure you need a messaging app, discover why Homebase is the best pick for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Designed specifically for SMBs

Every aspect of Homebase’s team messaging app has small businesses in mind. Our platform was intentionally designed to help:

  • Small teams
  • Shift workers
  • Businesses with multiple locations
  • Staff who are often on their feet or don’t have their hands free
  • Industries where employees frequently have to leave the premises (like for deliveries, in-home services, or events)

A highlight of our app is its simple but highly effective customizable chat rooms feature. Homebase allows you to easily create groups for everyone on shift, everyone who works at a specific premises, and everyone who has a certain specialized role.

That means you could warn employees that a known shoplifter was spotted at a specific business location or request a driver for an urgent delivery — all without confusing or distracting everyone else.

An all-in-one HR solution

As a small business owner, it likely doesn’t make sense or isn’t affordable for you to hire dedicated human resources employees. That means all the responsibility for keeping your business running smoothly and staying compliant falls on you.

Homebase solves this problem by providing an all-in-one HR tool that integrates with our messaging app. That means your entire team can communicate, and managers can carry out tasks like hiring and onboarding, paperwork, and self-auditing without any specific HR knowledge or staff. 

Simple for the entire team to use

There’s no point in choosing a messaging app that your team members don’t understand how to use. Homebase puts your employees at the heart of its design by keeping the platform simple and intuitive. When your employees receive an invitation to join the app from you, it’ll only take them minutes to download it and get familiar with it. 

And your team won’t just find our app easy — they’ll also enjoy many of its features. For instance, staff members can swap shifts, indicate their availability, and claim open shifts using the chat and scheduling tools, which gives them more flexibility and control over their working hours.

An affordable choice

Small businesses have tight profit margins, and Homebase respects your budget by providing you with free or affordable communication tools.

Managers and teams that work together at one location can sign up for Homebase’s Basic plan for free, which includes messaging. You can also chat with Homebase support via phone, chat, or email if you need help getting started.

And if you want to access our wider range of features, you can upgrade to our Essentials plan for just $20 per location. That means you don’t have to pay per employee like other popular messaging apps. This plan includes more advanced team communication features like shift notes, automatic reminders, and read receipts.

A few questions to ask before making your final decision

When you’ve narrowed your list down to a couple of final options, you may need some help deciding between them. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this app the best fit for my business? Although your budget is important, don’t let it be your only deciding factor. Also, consider things like what types of roles your employees perform and how much time you could save by automating certain tasks. If you can make your business more efficient, your messenger app will make a good return on your investment.
  • How will my business needs change in the future? When many messaging apps are free and easy to unsubscribe from, it’s tempting to choose one that suits you right now. But you’d be better off selecting a messaging app that can grow and change with you. For instance, if you think your business will expand in the years to come, go for a solution that allows for extra staff and multiple premises at an affordable rate.
  • Can my staff use this app? Your entire team needs to be able to easily access your app and understand how to use it or you won’t enjoy its full range of benefits. That means choosing a beginner-friendly solution that works on a variety of devices.
  • How will the team manage their conversations? Think about when and how your team members will be messaging each other. While you might spend a lot of the day behind a desk, do all your staff? If they’re often standing, working in loud environments, or using their hands for their jobs, get an app that accommodates that and lets them work on the go. 

The verdict: Our picks for the best messaging apps in 2022

If you and your employees largely work in an office environment, you can’t go wrong with Slack or Mattermost. These two popular messaging services offer most of the features you’ll need on their free accounts, especially if you have remote or hybrid workers.

But if you run a small business like a shop, salon, cafe, or bar, Homebase is the best choice for you. Our team communication platform gets straight to the heart of what small teams need to thrive. We let your entire team stay connected and collaborate no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

Best messaging app FAQs

homebase customer photo homebase customer photo

What is the best group messaging app for work?

The best group messaging app for work depends on your business type and size. The most popular messaging apps for large organizations and office environments are software giants like Microsoft Teams and Slack. 

But small businesses benefit most from specialized messaging apps like Homebase, which is part of a larger suite of HR tools like scheduling and payroll.

What is the best instant messaging app for business?

The best instant messaging app for businesses with large customer bases are platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which integrate with sales and support software. That means you can connect with customers much faster and easier. 

But for small businesses with more foot traffic, you’re better off choosing a team communication tool like Homebase that prioritizes keeping your small business team connected and your day-to-day operations running efficiently.