When you’re running a small business, technology has many great advantages to improve your productivity and make the best use of your time. While you can get overwhelmed with just how many there are, here are a few of the best that I’ve either tested or use myself.
Many offer a free trial. Some are totally free for a single user with basic options that are fine for solo businesses or a there’s a Paid, Premium version with added features, functionality or integration for small and larger business needs.
Most run on multiple devices, meaning you can use and update them from your smartphone, tablet or laptop while on the move or away from the office.
Several have applets, extensions or plug-ins. Take this into account if you want them to be compatible with your existing systems and applications such as your Mail, Calendar or Website.
I use G-Suite which makes it really easy to access everything I need for running my business and several of these apps plug straight in to Gmail and Calendar with extensions or applets.
Using a spreadsheet may be a simple and effective solution when you first start your business if your accounts process is straightforward but it’s worth investing in one of the packages aimed at small businesses.
Improve your productivity, save time invoicing; reconcile your accounts; check your cashflow; manage your expenses; automate feeds from your bank and track your Tax and VAT. Takes a little while to set up but once done you can stay on top of your finances and share your accounts with your book-keeper or accountant with one or two clicks.
Most of these have very similar functionality and all offer the basics for online, small business accounting. All of them have a free 30 day trial.
- FreeAgent – unlimited users, clients and projects with all packages. No contract or set-up fees. The ‘Free’ refers to freelancers rather than having a ‘free’ option.
- Quickbooks Accounting Software – from self-employed single user to 5 user version. Run your payroll and VAT; mobile app; email integration; time tracking; cheque printing.
- Sage Solutions – Two different packages depending on the size of your business. ‘Start’ package with basic features and ‘Accounting’ package for multi-users, cashflow forecast and statements. Separate Payroll add-on and Accounting package.
- Xero Small Business Accounting* – Three different packages, all include Payroll and VAT. Email integration; cheque printing; mobile app. Multi-currency available with the Premium version.
Essential if you want to create, manage and grow an email list. Keep all your email addresses in one place, manage subscribers, send out targeted articles, information and offers to your users or clients. Easy to create and use templates or customise with your branding. Track your stats. Pick one which will expand as your business grows. It’s easy to go with one that’s free but can be a problem if it doesn’t have the features you need when you expand beyond the ‘free’ limit.
- AWeber* – I’ve used this since the beginning. New features and functions are added all the time, provides easy to use templates; set up campaigns, segment and target users; built-in image library; email scheduling; broadcasts; follow-ups.
- ConstantContact – similar to AWeber with a similar range of functions
- Mailchimp – popular because it has a free account for start-ups and smaller lists. Doesn’t require double opt-in to add users to a list.
Set up a link on your website or in emails to enable clients and customers to book time with you either individually or in groups. Useful for anyone who books appointments and needs an easy way to manage, monitor and update. Allow clients to see your real-time availability or pre-set your availability. Link to your calendar, send intake forms, reminders, take payment.
- Acuity* – one of the easiest to use and popular with a variety of businesses. Integrates with a large range of business systems and apps. Available for one to multiple users in multiple locations.
- vCita – integrates with calendar and popular autoresponder apps. Facebook plug-in. Pop-up appointment box can be a useful feature. Max 3 users.
- Doodle – a simple tool for finding a time that works for 2 or more people. They enter their names and pick a date. Works well if you’re trying to find a good date and time for group bookings.
Task and Project Management
Organise, prioritise and manage all your tasks and projects.
For teams or larger projects or for contact management:
- Streak* – integrates into Gmail. Manage leads/clients, projects and events. Basic features are good for small scale users. A few of the features in the Corporate edition might be useful. Email filtering, task/reminders.
- Trello*/Asana / Monday – all work on the basis of boards and cards. Trello is simple and easy to use. Asana not quite as intuitive. DaPulse provides high level views of projects.
- Insightly – somewhere between Streak and Workfront.
- Workfront A fully integrated work/project and task management tool. Mainly targeted at larger sized Marketing and Digital businesses.
Manage your social media profiles. Use scheduling to add to your feed. Autoschedule for the optimum time for your followers. Keep track of and respond to discussions, chats and interactions. Find and post content directly from your browser.
- Hootsuite* – manage multiple social media accounts and keep track of mentions, RTs, chats, blog posts feed. Up to 3 accounts with the free version but worth the upgrade to manage multiple accounts. Schedule from a browser with the Hootlet plug-in.
- Tweetdeck – manages Twitter accounts only. Get notifications of new messages in your feed.
- Buffer* – find content, schedule posts to your social media accounts from within the app or from your browser.
Online and Cloud based so you can access your documents from anywhere. All enable you to easily share files with your team, users, clients, colleagues. Sync across devices.
- Dropbox* – limited free storage with the Basic account, upgrade or share and complete actions for additional storage.
- GoogleDrive* – links into GoogleDocs, Sheets and Slides. Share files and folders with users. Need a Gmail account to access.
- iCloud – if you’re an IOS user. Upgrade for more storage.
- OneDrive – Microsoft version of Cloud storage.
Evernote* for note taking, book-marking, save files, clip from your browser for later, add to documents. Sync with two devices for free or upgrade for more.
RescueTime* – track your computer usage – the applications you use and the sites you visit. You can select and sort your sites into categories so you can see when and how you’re working within a given day or week and just how productive you are.
IFTTT – stands for If This Then Than. A whole range of applets that connect with your apps and devices to let you do more. Little things that your apps don’t do but you wish they would. Includes some useful stuff and some just for fun. Search by device, app. Use an existing applet or you can even create one yourself.
What products have you used that you couldn’t run your business without?