If you’re a small business owner, you’re always looking for ways to streamline administrative tasks and save time, so you can focus on what you do best. Fortunately, there are tons of free and inexpensive online services specifically designed for entrepreneurs like you. Here’s a roundup of a some of the best business software for small and medium-sized businesses.
MoneyPenny is the painless invoicing and time-tracking software designed to simplify small business accounting. Live presence monitoring, tap & go timers, detailed time reports, instant updates received on your phone about projects and staff activity, auto synced time logging and invoicing. All made simple, slick and automated in just one virtual place.
With MoneyPenny you can run your business on the fly, from any tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop. Freelancers, startups and small business owners can work closer with their teams, no matter where they’re based. The unique live time-tracking feature gives you access to live team management. This means that business owners get to manage teams in real-time, check who is working on what task, who is away on a break or for vacation. The best news: you can try MoneyPenny for free, for one month. If you like it, you can subscribe for a quite reasonable monthly price.
Harvest is a time tracking and invoicing solution. Because it was originally designed as a time tracker, that’s where you’ll find its most powerful functionality. You can set both hourly and flat fee budgets, and track billable and non-billable time by employee, task, client, or project.
You can easily generate and send invoices, based on your tracked time. Bill in multiple currencies, then accept payments through PayPal, Stripe, and other services. Harvest also supports estimates and job-related expenses. It also offers a separate service called Forecast which allows you to schedule project work, as well as associated team member time, in advance. The two services integrate seamlessly, so you can compare planned work with actual expended time. You’ll pay for Forecast separately, though.
If you’re looking for a better way to manage projects, consider Trello – a deceptively simple project management tool that organizes cards on boards. Think of a work-oriented Pinterest on steroids that’s much easier to navigate. Need a blog post written? Create a board for Blog Posts, add a new card for the specific post, assign a team member to write it, and use the calendar feature to set a deadline. You can even include a checklist of tasks or resources to use in the post, and attach relevant files. Once the draft is ready, the author can easily move the card to a reviewer’s to do list, and that team member will get a notification. After you’ve published the post, you can archive the card, and search across your archives later on.
You can give all relevant team members access to a board, and assign them to a particular card. That way, everyone can comment on what’s happening, stay up-to-date, and track progress on a project from a central place. They’ll also have access to all of the attached files.
Keep in mind that Trello is fairly bare-bones; it doesn’t support Gantt charts, time tracking, or reports. On the other hand, its simplicity and drag-and-drop interface make it one of the most adaptable and intuitive project management tools out there.
Office Tools & Communications
ZonePDF is a newer PDF processing site that improves upon similar services that have been around for a while. It offers a suite of tools you can use to split a PDF and extract the pages you want, or merge multiple PDFs together. You can also convert JPG, PPT, Word, and Excel files to PDF, then merge them to create customized documents. That means you can merge screenshots and wireframes with spreadsheets containing Web analytics or A/B testing results.
The sites tools produce high-quality files that preserve all of the original documents structure and formatting. It’s also fast. While similar tools can take up to few minutes to convert a large PDF to a JPG, ZonePDF can do the conversion in just a few seconds. It transfers the files over a secure connection and deletes them within a few hours.
The interface is well-designed and easy-to-use. Registration is optional, but the number of operations you can perform will be limited without it. You can sign up for a free account for unlimited file conversions.
This tool is a real-time chat platform for teams. It supports both synchronous and asynchronous communications. You can set up public and private channels for specific projects, departments, or areas of your business, or communicate with someone privately. It’s easy to share files on Slack; simply drag them into the chat box. You can also integrate Slack with Dropbox and money other third-party services. All of your messages and documents are searchable.
Slack helps you stay in the loop and follow a project in real time, without clogging up your inbox. While it’s ideal for working with virtual teams and remote workers, it’s popular for in-house collaboration too.
If you don’t have a designer on staff, you may want to try Lucidpress, a free online editor for making print and electronic documents. Simply choose a template, then drag-and-drop images and text boxes to lay them out on a pamphlet, brochure, flyer, ebook, or magazine. You can even upload your own fonts, embed YouTube videos in digital documents, and experiment with layers.
Each document has its own chat box, so your team can collaborate in real time. Best of all, Lucidpress is free. You can upgrade your account if you need more storage space or want more template options.
Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Solution) is just what it sounds like – a cloud file storage service from Amazon.com. You can upload files directly, or use S3 as an automatic cloud backup service for your website, app, or operating system.
The service stores your files in buckets, which are similar to folders. Amazon will store your bucket in one of 11 regions around the world. Choosing the one that’s closest to your target audience can speed up delivery of your content.
While the files are private by default, you can make them public. This is a popular way to host a WordPress website. The free version gives you up to 5GB of space, but you can always scale up as your business grows.
Looking for a sophisticated, reliable ticketing system? Zendesk is a popular customer service solution that centralizes all of your customers messages in a single system, regardless of the channel they originated from. You can create rules to route, assign, and escalate tickets automatically.
There are also several la carte services. If you’re tech-savvy or have a developer on staff, you may want to spring for help content you can embed right in your app. Zendesk also offers a Help Center (a knowledge base and online forum), live chat software, a VOIP-based call center solution, and an internal IT service desk solution.
Email marketing is critical to small businesses, and Mailchimp is undoubtedly the leader in this area. It’s fairly straightforward to use; just import your contact list and customize one of the available templates for a smart-looking email campaign – no coding skills required. Send it right away, or schedule your messages in advance. Mailchimp supports scheduling a specific time for each time zone.
E-commerce companies can connect their stores using third-party integrations. This enables them to easily target messages and notify customers when a product is back in stock. The service offers in-depth analytics for evaluating campaign impact.
This service is a social media management and analytics platform. You can use Hootsuite to author, review, and publish posts to several of the leading social media sites simultaneously, and explore a dashboard of visual feeds. Hootsuite allows you to filter your feeds by keywords, searches, or network. It also include tools for engaging with your followers and identifying influencers. Hootsuite’s metrics will help your marketing team pin down your companys social ROI.
All of these services offer either a free version or free trial, so you can spend some quality time with them before making any decisions. If you’re a larger business, you’ll probably need to go with higher tiers to get the features you really need. Over the long run, however, using tools like these to optimize your workflows will help you continue to grow your business.