Small business owners have to juggle a lot of different tasks. Not only is a sole proprietor responsible for keeping the business running, but for marketing, hiring and firing, customer service and often bookkeeping. However, business owners are also reluctant to spend extra money they don’t need to spend because the savvy owner knows that even if business is good today, it is smart to plan for tomorrow when things might slow down a bit.
Because business owners worry about future funding, they often put off buying gadgets, software and tools that don’t seem absolutely vital to running the business.
However, there are some business tools that will make your life easier and help you grow your business. These are the tools you should invest in.
Litmus Test for What Business Tools to Purchase
So, if you have a limited budget, but you truly want to invest in tools that make running your business easier, what are you to do?
1. Make a list. What tools do you have to have to run your business? Is there a better tool out there that costs a little more? How can you upgrade what you already have?
2. What tools will save you time? A tool that saves you time, such as an automated calendar reminder that texts your cell phone, may pay for itself as you’ll be more productive.
3. Is there a free option that will work as well? There are a number of Open Source applications that may work nearly as well as more expensive software. You may also be able to find a combination of programs that will work. For example, one of my clients couldn’t afford PhotoShop at first, so she used a combination of LunaPic, PicMonkey and a free Open Source program. She was able to get by until she could buy the software that did all of the things she needed.
4. Will the tool help your business grow? If so, you may want to free up funds from other places to invest in your business.
A Few Tools I Like
There are some tools that I use for my business that I find extremely helpful.
This time management to-do list keeps me on track. As new work comes in, I plug it into Toodledo along with how urgent it is and the due date. The program will also let me track my time if I am charging by the hour or the client just wants to know how much time is being spent. You can pay extra and invoice right from here, but I actually use a different invoicing tool right now. Toodledo’s basic service is free. I purchased the app for my phone. I paid $2.99 for the app, but it’s great to be able to glance at tasks while on the road and know exactly what I have to complete when I get back to my home office.
Before GoDaddy, I was using CurdBee, which worked just fine. However, extra services add up and I was paying about $50/year to use it the way I needed to. I am also a BzzAgent, and I was given the opportunity to try out GoDaddy Bookkeeping for free for the year. So far, I love it. Invoices are not going missing and it has a lot of features that will allow me to see at a glance what’s been paid and what hasn’t.
Although I’ve kept backups on external drives for years, I see the beauty of the cloud system. I invest in iDrive both for business and personal use. iDrive saves me both time and worry. First, it backs up my files on its own by running in the background. I don’t have to worry about copying files over. I did find that because I had a lot of files, including books and photographs/covers that the initial backup was growing too time consuming, so I requested they send me a USB drive and I moved everything from my backup drives and desktop onto the USB drive and sent it in. They then uploaded it for me. They will do this once a year for free. Now, it just backs up new items for me.
Another thing I like about iDrive is that you get quite a bit of space, far more than I needed, for less expense than some other plans. Plus, you can backup external devices without paying more up to your space limit.
I also don’t have to worry about a fire or natural disaster destroying my backed up files.
This is a new online service I’m getting ready to implement for my clients. It allows me to put other people in charge when I’m on the road, access the site via an app while on the road and make sure my customers receive the best customer service possible. I believe it will be a time saver and will update you when I’ve used it a bit more.
This site is another way to stay on top of what your customers want and need. You can survey them about everything from whether they are happy with the last transaction with you or what they need that you don’t yet offer. You can use this site to grow your business as well as keep your current customers. You can sign up for free and use a basic survey or get more advanced tools, such as charts and analysis.
Formerly Google Documents, Google Drive allows you to collaborate easily with your clients online. Drive is free. You can upload documents, share with others, allow others to edit and so on. For example, one of my clients that I edit for and I use Drive to track articles. I built a database that allows us to track who is assigned what article, when the due date is, when the article is turned in and when the article is published. This gives us a quick view so that we can see what needs to be completed at a glance.
You can also simply use it to share a report and allow the other person to edit the report.
If you send out a newsletter, or have thought about it, then MailChimp is a good place to start. You can send a set number of emails for free and then you’ll need to buy a package. It’s still worth the cost as people can automatically subscribe and unsubscribe, you can put out a professional looking newsletter and even optimize for mobile devices and you get tracking tools, such as who opened the newsletter and how many hard bounces there were.
Take credit cards on the fly. Paypal has a card reader that works with your smartphone anywhere as well, but I could never get them to mail it to me. I don’t want to have to call them every time I want something set up, so I chose square.
You will pay a small fee per transaction, but you’ll also gain more sales by offering credit card processing.
Is It Worth It?
The bottom line in deciding whether the tool is worth the cost or the time to set it up lies in how valuable it is to you as a business owner. Sometimes, you won’t know until you actually try out the tool. Every few months, take a step back and evaluate which business tools are working for you, which ones needs replaces and which ones might need implemented. Trying out something new may just make your business run smoother than you ever thought possible.