If you’re like me, then starting your own business is a daunting task. There’s simply no way around it, you will need to invest a great deal of time, energy and resources to get your venture off the ground.
The good news is that using the right technological tools can help you streamline your business operations and significantly reduce your initial investment.
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Here’s a closer look at some of the tech tools and software that can help you grow and manage your home business.
Manage your money
Manually keeping track of your expenses, payroll, income and tax documents can easily feel overwhelming—especially if you try to do everything on paper. Using automated billing software to manage the numbers for your business can greatly reduce the chance for human error while also saving you time and effort.
In addition to keeping an electronic record of your expenses and revenue, these programs can give your business extra credibility by letting you print out professional invoices, estimates and other work-related documents. Automated billing software also spares you from the task of remembering to send out recurring invoices or payments each month.
Particularly well-suited to the needs of entrepreneurs, Freshbooks offers a variety of helpful, intuitive features. Expensify is another effective, affordable option that specializes in keeping meticulous track of your business expenses.
Pro tip: Look for bookkeeping software in your industry. Oftentimes, specialized software provides other unique features to solve problems in your business. As a home daycare owner, I rely on services like Smartcare to automate my billing. Depending on your industry, you may be able to find a software solution that rolls multiple business features into one dashboard—further simplifying your business processes.
Stay on top of your to-do list
Given the multitude of daily tasks that you need to accomplish as a business owner, it can be easy to lose track of your time or your overall vision. Tools that help you manage your schedule, organize your tasks and track your progress can help relieve some pressure and ensure that you meet your business goals. Try the following:
- Use Calendly for syncing up to six calendars to manage your meetings and set your daily schedule
- For easy note-taking and reminders, use Evernote to keep a digital, easily searchable notepad on your smartphone or tablet
- Asana is a comprehensive system that helps you prioritize tasks, manage your workflow and create a plan for making your projects a success
Pro tip: Once you have an organized task list for the day, look for ways to complete them in batches. Set aside blocks of time to complete projects, rather than spreading them out throughout your week. I find that this simple strategy saves me time and stress.
Clean up your contracts
If sending contracts or other secured documents is a large part of your business, obtaining the proper signatures in person may prove to be very difficult or time-consuming. E-signature software eliminates the need for a pen and paper by collecting and applying your (own or a customer’s) signature electronically. These programs also include appropriate language to ensure that your documents are legally binding.
If you only process a few documents a month, you may want to look into the free version of HelloSign. If your work requires frequent signatures, DocuSign and PandaDoc are a couple of other popular options.
Pro Tip: If you don’t know which software to choose, most programs let you sign up for a free trial period before you have to commit. That way, you can play around with features to ensure that it integrates into your workflow.
Play well with others
Whether you’re working on a presentation, preparing a report or thinking about a new advertising campaign, collaboration with others can yield valuable input and help you perfect your project.
G Suite is a versatile tool that makes collaborating a simple task, including the following capabilities:
- Draft documents with multiple co-editors
- Create professional slide presentations and reports
- Build websites
- Cloud storage with a search feature on some plans
- Send materials via Gmail
- Manage contacts and meetings
Suggested Software: G Suite
Pro tip: Use the G Suite Marketplace to shop for third-party tools to integrate into your workflow. For example, Asana and Zoom integrate seamlessly into G Suite products—maximizing your productivity.
Secure your data and documents
While your business data is an invaluable asset, maintaining secure storage on-site often comes at a steep cost. Additionally, many business owners find that they need to access their data while traveling.
Cloud storage is an affordable option that gives you the flexibility to keep your data secure and easily accessible anywhere you can establish an internet connection. Both Dropbox and Google Drive offer smart organization and accessibility features, and secure encryption keeps your sensitive information protected.
Pro tip: For added protection, enable two-factor verification for all sign ins. Security and trust is one of the most important things to establish as a small business owner. Take every step to secure client and customer information. Verifying your account may be annoying, but it’s better safe than sorry.
Stay relevant on social
Social media puts instant, effective communication literally at your fingertips. If you’re not yet leveraging the power of social networks for your business, you’re likely missing out on several opportunities to connect with customers and promote your products or services.
Managing your startup’s social media accounts often takes time, especially if you use several platforms. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer offer features that streamline the process of creating effective posts and an active online presence.
Social media management tools allow you to:
- Draft posts for various social networks on one device
- Choose your desired dates for convenient automated publishing
- Track your customer engagement and response data
Pro tip: Use the scheduling capability to plan out a social media calendar. I tend to schedule posts at the beginning of every month, but you can plan things out as far as you’d like. Consistency is key to growing your following on social accounts, and this software makes it easy to do just that.
Keep in touch with your clients
Don’t overlook email marketing as a communication tool. Thanks to nearly unlimited text space and the ability to use eye-catching images, email is the ideal mode for sending larger pieces of marketing materials and newsletters to your customer base.
Services that offer automated email communication give you the chance to draft messages at your convenience and send them out on a pre-set schedule. SendInBlue, MailChimp and Constant Contact are a few services that offer a variety of options at affordable prices.
Pro tip: Start with a simple weekly or monthly newsletter. Include company updates, promotions, and an engaging call to action. Email marketing helps you stay in contact with current clients and entice leads to reach out to you.
Secure your online business
Unfortunately, potential cybersecurity threats are everywhere in today’s world. Without the proper protections in place, your financial records and customer contact information could be at risk, resulting in a negative impact on your professional reputation. Your revenue and profitability could also suffer.
Security software is indispensable for keeping cyberattacks at bay. Avast endpoint protection guards against viruses in both file servers and endpoint stations. Comodo is another option that offers a wide range of high-quality services at a low cost.
Pro tip: Once you choose an antivirus software, make sure that you keep it updated. Most providers come out with new updates to fix bugs and add protection. Your software is most effective when it’s the most up-to-date version.
The bottom line
You know your business better than anyone. Ultimately, that’s the best guide in deciding which tools are a good fit for your needs. Spend time studying the options in each category and take advantage of free trial periods to experience the product for yourself. Additionally, your professional network can be a great way to find out which products other entrepreneurs recommend.
The right tech tools can help you accomplish the behind-the-scenes tasks with less time and expense—leaving you free to focus on meeting your customer’s needs and growing your business.