When you run your own business, organization is key. Your clients won’t be impressed if you lose their commissions under a tangle of files, and your employees especially won’t be impressed if you forget to pay them. Luckily, the best tools and programs for keeping your business organized are cheap. Even better, many of them are free.
From accounting software to social media to task management to plain ol’ foolscap and ball-point pens, here are five of the best tools for organizing your small business.
Outright.com – Need help corralling your finances? Outright is there to help you. You can use Outright to import bank and credit card statements, and generate reports outlining profit and loss. Even better, Outright can provide a running estimate of how much you may owe the taxman at the end of the fiscal year.
GroSocial – Communication via social media is an increasingly effective way to put your business in the public eye. GroSocial can help you spruce up your company’s Twitter and Facebook pages with campaigns, including contests, giveaways, and more.
Google Calendar – Google Calendar provides the ultimate in time management—and it’s free to use as long as you have a Google account. You can use Google Calendar to mark appointments, share event dates, and much more. All your plans and data are stored to the cloud, so you can access it anywhere, anytime, even if your own hard drive decides to have an unfortunate meltdown.
HootSuite – HootSuite lets you manage your social media applications from one dashboard. Keep tabs on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, FourSquare, Google+, and much more with one program. You can also use HootSuite to track your site’s social stats and analytics.
Pens and paper – Sounds a bit silly and primitive, right? Not in the least. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you can’t slap down your ideas or the important points of a phone call on a computer or a smartphone. Always make sure you have a pen and paper nearby. You don’t know when inspiration is going to strike, nor do you know when an especially important bit of information is going to come sailing your way.
For more suggestions on tools and programs that will keep you and your business organized, visit:
10 Helpful Social Management Tools at Business Insider
270+ Tools for Running a Business Online at Mashable
Oh, time. No matter how rich or influential we think we are, time is the great equalizer. You can’t really buy more of it, nor is it something that can be manufactured, and goodness knows that we’re all short of it, especially nowadays. It’s odd: the more gizmos and gadgets we bring into our lives, the less time we actually seem to save. Someone get to the bottom of this. There’s a chocolate bar in it for you. Until then, take comfort in knowing that you can manage your time quite effectively. You might even get to the end of the day and realize, “Hey—I actually beat the sun for once!”
Here are five easy ways and time management tips that can help you organize your schedule, and workday, without tearing your hair out.
Focus – Remind yourself, however many times as is necessary, that your work, laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc, is not going to get done while you’re tooling around on Facebook. Think about how miserable you feel when you while away the hours without getting a single thing done. Now let yourself remember how nice it feels to get a good day’s work under your belt. Feel motivated yet?
Use an egg timer – The awesomely-named Time Management Ninja let the world in on his secret a while back: a plain old three-dollar egg timer is a cheap and effective way to really break your workload into manageable little chunks. Egg timers are especially useful for getting through those awful tasks that are seemingly insurmountable at first glance. Tackle the unpleasant chore for, say, twenty minutes, and once the timer dings, free yourself to do something that’s a little nicer.
Prioritize your tasks – Not everything needs to be done within the same hour, unless you’ve really managed to bung up your deadlines. Give serious consideration to what needs to be done first and foremost, and tackle your tasks in the appropriate order. Remember: none of them will complete themselves, unfortunately.
Learn to say No – Saying “No” to requests and favors is understandably not something we like doing. Most of us were raised to help out friends and neighbors whenever possible. However, you simply can’t expect yourself to do everything for everyone, especially if you have your own life to live. If you don’t have the time to perform a chore for a buddy, say as much—especially if you work from home, and are often called upon to “help out” because people erroneously believe that working from home means that your schedule is as flexible as a Yogi. Of course, you always push aside your day-to-day work if a friend catches on fire and needs your help, but give careful consideration to favors that are not emergencies.
Use browser extensions to limit the time you spend on social apps – How much time do you spend on Facebook? What about Twitter? Do you want to know? Internet browsers like Firefox and Chrome allow you to download and add “Extensions”—add-on programs that can very useful in helping you to manage your time. Try Chrome Nanny for Chrome or Time Tracker for FireFox to keep track of how much time you waste on social apps, and then use the programs to limit your access to your “trap” sites.
For more tips on how to manage your time, visit:
5 Tools to Track Your Time Online at MakeUseOf
5 Google Chrome Productivity Extensions at Vikitech
6 Tips for Better Time Management at WebMD
Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
If you’re an entrepreneur, especially for a small, independent business, then you’re going to have to learn a few things. First, you need to learn how to thrive on peanut butter sandwiches (at least until you start seeing some financial success). Second, you need to know about the best apps and programs for helping an entrepreneur get his or her business off the ground.
You need programs and/or apps for communication, organization, and managing your finances. Luckily, it’s all out there, and whenever it’s not free, at least it’s affordable. Here are the five best programs and applications for any entrepreneur who’s scrambling to find his or her footing in a frenzied time.
Evernote – Evernote is a free-to-download program that lets you save ideas, pictures, and sounds. It’s available across multiple smartphones, tablets, and computers, including PC, Mac, iOS, Blackberry, Android, and Windows Phone. Evernote’s search function lets you find what you’re looking for without a hassle. Never forget a prospective client’s name ever again—unless you really want to, for whatever reason.
FlightTrack Pro – Available for iOS or Android, FlightTrack Pro is a must-have application for anyone who spends a considerable amount of time in the air. With the touch of a few buttons, you can look up your detailed flight information, including possible delays and gate numbers. FlightTrack Pro even informs you of cancellations and suggests alternative flights. If your flying experience turns into a scheduling nightmare, you’re going to want FlightTrack Pro by your side.
Skype – Free Skype-to-Skype phone calls with clients or other workers can save you a bundle in phone bills. More importantly, whenever you travel out of the country, Skype-to-Skype calls via smartphone apps will prevent you from having to give up your first born child in roaming fees.
Dimewise – Dimewise helps you manage your budget as simply as possible. You can record and categorize your purchases, then take a look at your spending habits with the aid of a handy pie-chart. Dimewise is web-based, so you can access it anywhere you can find a browser.
Trillian – Many companies conduct a great deal of business via IM (instant messaging) chats. Problem is, everyone has their favorite, and they’re often not cross-compatible. Fear not. Trillian lets you log into several of your favorite chat clients at once, saving you the agony of having to juggle multiple programs. Trillian supports AIM, Windows Live Messenger, ICQ, IRC, Google Chat, Facebook Chat, and much more. It can be downloaded as a desktop program, or as an app for iOS, Android, or Blackberry.
For more great suggestions on programs that every entrepreneur should have, visit:
Top 25 Apps to Grow Your Business at AvivaDirectory
10 Best Digital Tools for Entrepreneurs at Forbes
10 Must-Have Business Apps for 2011 at Entrepreneur.com