There is no more difficult job to have than that of a small business owner, probably because small business owners have to wear so many hats.
You’re not only a boss, you’re a secretary, an accountant, a marketer, and you represent the entire HR department. That’s a lot of hats to wear -- for anyone.
Luckily for you, technology is available to lend a helping hand. While in the past, you would have had a pile of to-do’s on your desk, these days, you can rely on thousands upon thousands of apps to help you do everything but burp your business -- not that you’d want to do that anyway!
Keep reading to find some great apps for your business to simplify your job and increase your business’ productivity.
Evernote allows you to take notes on just about anything you want. You can take notes at meetings, you can journal, you can create lists, keep track of contacts, embed pictures, audio or video, and save tweets or emails for retrieval later. You can store the information how you want and tag the information to be able to find it later using your own wording. Evernote also allows you to create “notebooks” full of information and share it with your company employees. Evernote comes in two versions: the basic version, which is free; and the business version, which costs \$12 a month. If you choose the business version, you get administrator controlled access and unlimited upload space.
Another highly-rated productivity app is Wunderlist, which is a to-do list with teeth. Wunderlist allows you to create an infinite number of lists and tasks, and share them with your employees or others who need the list. The lists sync automatically, so when you or an employee completes a task on the list, they can mark it off. This app, like Evernote, has a free version and a business version. The business version allows you to give employees specific tasks, has room to break tasks into subtasks, set deadlines for completion of tasks and issue reminders for task completion.
If you are worried that you or your employees are wasting time looking at kitten videos on YouTube, or feeds on Facebook and Instagram, you may want to think about getting RescueTime. RescueTime allows you to see where you are spending your time, either online or offline. It can even show you which websites you are spending time on. RescueTime can set goals for your productivity, and can warn you when you have spent too much time on one particular activity. RescueTime also has an app for your phone as well, if you are an Android user. There is a free version as well as a business version, which is \$9 per month.
Toggl is one of the best apps on the market if you need to track your time for contract purposes or for billable hours. It allows you to track specific projects or clients of your business. You can also sync your timesheets and hours to other applications, such as project management software. Toggl can be used by employees as well, and you can divide them into individuals or groups. Toggl’s basic version is free, but you may want to spring for the pro version, which allows you to have and track as many employees as you want, create subcategories for projects and add billable hours for \$5 per user each month. Many businesses start out using Toggl’s free version, and then upgrade to a pro version as their employees grow.
Basecamp is the best-known project management app, and many business owners have found its ease of use to be one of its best features. With Basecamp, you can all collaborate on the same project, attach files for people to work on, create checklists for work progress, and track each person’s progress through the app. Although Basecamp is easy to use, it’s not for everyone. Some businesses with long-running or complicated projects may find Basecamp to not be a good fit, and they may want to try a different app, but for small businesses with short-term projects, Basecamp may be a great fit. Basecamp’s payment system is by project, not by user. Plans start at $24 a month for up to 15 projects, with a maximum of $150 per month for unlimited projects.
Another popular application for project management is Trello. One of the reasons businesses like Trello is that it is oriented for visual people. Projects have cards on Trello that can be moved around depending on the timeline for the projects. Members can be assigned to each project card, and the cards also have a chat function. The cards are constantly updated as members work on projects. Trello is free if you are the only user, but it costs \$12.50 a month per user if you want to sign up employees.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software represents the future for any business, as it allows small businesses to keep track of customer contact information, purchase history, preferences, and trends in purchasing from year to year. In addition, CRM tools allow you to keep in touch with your best customers, offer them freebies, special sales and discounts, because these days, customers are looking for personal touches and businesses who recognize the importance of client relationships. Several applications are available to help you manage customer relationships.
Streak arranges your customer lists based on where you are in the client-business relationship, and works well with either Gmail or Google applications. Streak begins to track a client from first contact and then moves them forward as you progress in your relationship. All of your employees can be advised of the customer relationship process through a feed, and all client emails are organized by client, so that your employees can interact with clients with all of the knowledge from previous client interactions. While the basic Streak service is free, the pro plans range from $50 to $99 a month per employee.
Another app that many businesses like for CRM is Insightly, which allows businesses to organize their contacts with tags, keep up with clients social media profiles, and prioritizes leads. In addition, to put some teeth in the app, Insightly allows you to create client management tasks for your employees, track the status of those tasks and email them to make sure that tasks regarding clients are completed on time. A basic version of Insightly is available, but the business plans are available from $29 to $99 per year.
For point-of-sale purchases, you can try Square. Square operates by using a card reader that can attach to a smartphone or tablet, and it allows you to swipe cards for payment processing. The system does not have to be connected all day to the Internet receipts can be emailed or texted to the client, and there is a tip option, which is vital for service-oriented businesses such as a beauty salon. Square doesn’t charge a fee, instead you pay between 2.75% and 3.5% of the total in transaction fees.
Dwolla is a little more complicated than Square, and it doesn’t do point-of-sale purchases, but if you want to request money en masse, you may want to try Dwolla, especially since it is free for the basic features. Payments can be accepted via bank transfer. You can request those mass payments from clients, or set up a recurring monthly payment, if you are a service-oriented business.
Wave is a different type of application that works as a way to track your income coming into the company as well as your expenses. The app also allows you to import information from your bank, customize your accounts, and keep track of all of your transactions. Wave also has a payroll feature, which allows you to pay all of your employees via direct deposit, and keeps track of your taxes.
Wave also allows you to invoice your clients, and receive payments online. There is a receipt scanning tool to help you keep track of expenses, as well as mobile apps that allow you to do invoices, payments, receipts, and payroll on your mobile phone, which is amazing if you are always on the go. As with some of the other apps, Wave charges a percentage (2.9%) plus .30 in fees per transaction.
QuickBooks Online is one of the most popular accounting applications for small business. The dashboard is easy to get around, and allows you to invoice, print checks, connect with your band, approve estimates for services, and keep track of all of your taxes, expenses and income. QuickBooks can link up with PayPal, so you can invoice customers and receive payments.
QuickBooks charges $15 per month for the basic version. More expensive versions of QuickBooks run anywhere from $35-50 a month -- but those also allow you to schedule payments, manage protestors and track inventory.
Another great application for accounting is Freshbooks. One of the best reasons to have the Freshbooks apps is that the mobile version is really easy to use. You can track hours that you or your employees are on the clock, you can also log in receipts, and send invoices from your tablet or even from your cell phone. Freshbooks also integrates well with other work-related applications including Basecamp, Google and G-suite, and ZenPayroll. However, you should know that double-entry bookkeeping features are not available on FreshBooks, but some small businesses don’t need them to do their accounting. Base plans for FreshBooks starts at $15 per month for the basic version and the unlimited client versions start at $50 a month.
Ok, so you’ve done the hard part. You have successfully started your business, you stayed open despite hardships, and you have begun to hire employees. You are really starting to see your business move forward. Great job! You should pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and take a minute to reflect on your success.
With that being said, you need to find ways to continue to move your business forward. Some of the applications we have talked about here can help you out and reduce the amount of paperwork landing on your desk on a daily basis. With the right mix of tools and knowhow,you will be able to continue to move your business forward. Who knows, if you keep working your business the way you have, you could be having lunch with Jeff Bezos before you know it. While we are kidding -- a little -- there is no doubt that the right tools equal a more successful business venture.
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