Wouldn’t it be nice if there was just one tool to run every aspect of your business? Then you’d never have to worry about balancing your expenses, scheduling out your employees, ordering more products, or keeping tabs on your customers. You’d be able to sit back and enjoy all the spoils of the business you’ve worked so hard to create.
Well, that’s a bit of a tall order, but luckily there are tons of free or low-cost tools out there to help you automate and organize every aspect of your business for a more streamlined process. From finances and brand image, to employee and customer management, here are some tools to help you breathe a little easier (and maybe even leave work on time).
For Managing Finances
Wave. Wave is a free accounting software that was actually specifically created for small businesses. It lets you track your various sales and expenses, manage invoices and customer payments, and pay your employees. You can even scan your receipts to digitize them. All of this makes it possible to automatically generate reports, like balance sheets and sales tax reports.
Expensify. With Expensify, you can create an account by linking your debit or credit card to the app, which then automatically updates any charges into a real-time report. Or, if you don’t want to link your bank account, you can take a picture of a receipt with your phone, and Expensify will extract all the relevant information. Then, you can manually make an expense report in a few minutes.
Shoeboxed. Shoeboxed is a nifty app that lets you scan and organize receipts and business cards into one place. You can also manage business cards, track mileage, and create expense reports right in the app. At $10 a month, it is a little pricey for just an app, but it works with Evernote and Wave to help you scan in and keep track of receipts.
inFlow. inFlow is a free inventory management software, but paying the one-time fee gets you tons of features. With it, you can: organize your products by categories and location and get barcodes scanners. You can also calculate your sales costs, the cost of goods sold, your profit margin, and the inventory you have on hand (which will make your taxes much easier). You can also easily reorder any stock you need to.
For Communicating With Others
Skype Meetings. If you need a tool for videoconferencing, Skype Meetings is a great option. While there is a paid version, there are a number of useful free features, such as video calls with up to three people, a personalized URL, PowerPoint collaboration, and screen sharing. The personalized URL means that anyone can join the meeting with just one click. There are also built-in messaging features and a whiteboard option that allows you to draw and edit together.
Slack. Slack is a team messaging platform where you can organize your team’s conversations into public or private channels, or you can send a direct message. With features like drag and drop sharing and the ability to search within documents, it’s a great tool for project collaboration.
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Trello. Trello is another project management tool that makes it easy for you to track your team’s assignments and work flows. Members can add comments, attachments, checklists, and due dates to assignment cards.
For Organizing Day-to-Day Life
Evernote. Evernote is the take-anywhere note/planner that you’ll never forget at home again. With the app or the desktop site, you can make a to-do list, write a reminder, or snap a picture and place it all into a note, which is accessible wherever you go. Once a note is created, it’s instantly available on all of your devices. Plus, all of the content is searchable and shareable, even the written text.
Boxmeup. Boxmeup is a nifty (free) app that allows you to create a digital version of a container in order to keep track of the physical one. The app allows you to create QR codes to place on boxes in your office (or home) with a list of contents for each box. Then, if you need something at a later time, you can actually search for the item within the app to see which box you’ve placed it in and where that box is located.
CamScanner. If you don’t need a fax machine enough to purchase one, CamScanner is a great alternative. There’s a paid version for $50 a year, but for free, you can use the app to take pictures of documents, convert them to a PDF and email them.
ZoomShift. For just $1.50 a month per employee, ZoomShift is a scheduling app that allows you to schedule your employees at the locations they’re needed. The mobile app offers shift reminders, and your employees will be able to access their schedule anywhere, make availability requests, submit shift trades, and even punch in for their shift.
For Keeping Track of Your Customers
HubSpot’s CRM. HubSpot’s customer relationship management tool is an easy-to-learn CRM that lets you see your entire sales pipeline at once. You can also track customer interactions automatically, add unlimited contacts, and completely customize your sales process. The best part? It’s all completely free.
Appointlet. Appointlet can make your life a lot easier if you’re a business that runs on appointments with clients. With it, you can customize your online appointment page and even accept payments with some plans. Plus, it syncs with Google and Office 365 Calendar and displays everyone’s availability at once to ensure you’re never double-booked.
MailChimp. For email marketing, MailChimp has you covered. It’s free for up to 12,000 emails per month to up to 2,000 subscribers. You can easily build and manage mailing lists, and it has tools to help you create and send newsletters. You can also view performance reports about your emails, so you can make sure you’re sending out the most relevant content. Plus, it’ll also compare your stats to industry averages, so you know how you stack up against the competition.
For Building Your Brand Image
Canva. Canva is a free graphic design software that’s easy to use and makes it possible to create graphics for a website or to print. With Canva, you can create presentations, social media images, flyers, certificates, posters, business cards, and even brochures, invitations, and menus.
WordPress. If you don’t have a website, you should probably get one. If you do have a website, and want to make managing that website easier, WordPress is for you. It makes creating and updating a website easy, and for $99 a year, you can even have your own domain. Plus, there are so many WordPress plugins, it makes managing your online content a breeze.
While you can automate many things in life, unfortunately your small business isn’t one of them. But there are plenty of tools available to help make your daily life as a business owner a little less stressful. (And the ones listed here are just a sampling!)
Pick and choose which makes the most sense for your business needs.