There aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. Nobody knows this more clearly than the small business owner. Time tracking. Payroll. Project management. Social media. How can even the most talented, hardworking team handle everything?
Simply put, they can’t.
But there is something that can. Something located right at your fingertips, only a click away.
That’s right: software and apps.
Nowadays, the phrase “there’s an app for that” has never been truer. Software can automate nearly every aspect of running a small business. Everything from filing your company’s taxes to finally relaxing at the end of the day can be made easier and more efficient simply by choosing the right app.
Here are five apps specifically tailored to some of the most difficult elements of running your small business. Best of all, every software solution on this list is absolutely free!
Toggl: Right on Time
Toggl does so much more than merely track work hours. Its project-based system allows business owners to observe exactly how much time and manpower each task requires. Plentiful data is provided via straightforward, easy to interpret charts and graphs.
As a bonus, Toggl offers a variety of productivity-boosting tools. “Idle detectors” prevent distraction by monitoring activity levels over a set period of time. “Pomodoro timers” utilise a well-tested method to increase worker output, balancing 25-minute work periods with 5-minute breaks.
The Basic Toggl plan is completely free. However, business owners hoping for a greater amount of automation can also explore two paid plans, each offering a 30-day free trial and they can even be used for contract management purposes as well.
Wave: Accounting Made Accessible
Is there any greater fear for a small business owner than going over budget? With Wave, this fear will never become a reality!
Wave automates every difficult aspect of business accounting. See where your money is being spent. Send invoices using a professional, easy-to-read template. Monitor profits and losses across all departments of your company. You can even connect Wave to your credit card and bank account to make moving money around simpler than ever before!
Wave Invoicing & Accounting are available for free. Business owners can choose to pay a little extra to completely automate their entire payroll system.
Trello: Tracking Each Task
Trello is an innovative online re-imagining of the classic “corkboard method,” in which notes, reminders and to-do lists are physically pinned to a board. You can create “boards” for each project, and attach “cards” to them representing steps, tasks and checklists.
When it comes to organisation, Trello goes above and beyond with its simple, visually informative design. Assign workers to each task to eliminate confusion. Mark cards with dates for a greater understanding of each project’s timeline. Colour-code cards according to priority, topic, or a system of your choice.
Slack: Eliminating Endless E-mails
It’s all too easy for important information to get lost amid lengthy, poorly formatted email chains. Slack removes this confusion by creating organised messaging channels for each project, task, or team.
Slack is so much more than the simple messaging app it may initially seem to be. In addition to chatting, it supports voice and video calls, perfect for businesses with an international presence.
New channels can be created as needed, with anywhere from two to two hundred members. Images and attachments can be shared and stored, allowing employees to efficiently share data and progress.
The basic Slack service is free. Business owners desiring add-ons such as greater storage space can choose from several paid plans.
Zapier: Making the Right Connections
The powerful Zapier is an app which automates… your apps! With Zapier, you can link various apps and software together, creating chains which will perform routine tasks for you each time you need them.
Want email attachments to be automatically downloaded to Dropbox? Hoping to speed up social media marketing by simultaneously posting to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Need to give your employees an important update through both Trello and Slack? Zapier can do all these – and more! – with a few simple clicks.
The free Zapier service allows for the creation of five automation chains – called “Zaps” – but business owners may purchase additional Zaps through various paid plans.
Don’t Forget “DIY”!
Struggling to automate that one tricky task? Need an app that just doesn’t seem to exist yet? An oft-overlooked solution is to create your own software. This allows you to tailor-make apps to the exact specifications which your business requires. Plus, if your app fills a currently vacant niche, you can even market it to fellow small business owners to further increase your profits!
You can’t do everything yourself. But, the good news is, you don’t have to. With assistance from handy apps and software, your life as a business owner can become easier, more efficient and definitely more stress-free – starting today!
Michael Deane is one of the editors of Qeedle, a small business magazine. When not blogging (or working), he can usually be spotted on the track, doing his laps, or with his nose deep in the latest John Grisham.