For any business, time is money — but for small businesses and startups, this is even more so. When you’re out trying to get the next funding milestone or develop a customer base, all while trying to meet your own internal release schedule, there’s not a lot of time or money to waste. Fortunately, a world of apps and cloud services are available to help any business owner take control over time and resources. Here are eight business essentials (in alphabetical order) that any business can use to organize, simplify, streamline, and just make life easier.
For many businesses big and small, Basecamp has been the go-to online resource for project management. Powerful yet simple, Basecamp provides its many features (project assignments, calendars, updates, status and messaging, etc.) through an intuitive interface with permissions-based access. Whether it’s for a solo entrepreneur organizing projects or a business tracking tasks across an entire team, Basecamp just works and is available as a web service and iOS/Android app.
We’ve all tried to schedule a meeting with large groups before and it ultimately becomes a mess. Either invites get ignored or email threads start about time conflicts or people simply can’t go. With Doodle, the process becomes democratic. Doodle polls allow you to select meeting time options, then base the final meeting time as a voted result. It’s the faster way to drill down meeting options, and premium Doodle features include additional organizational features and calendar syncing.
Accounting software doesn’t have to be difficult. FreshBooks makes dealing with company billing easy and painless. At its core, FreshBooks is all about invoices and expenses, but with a range of features — itemized pricing, time tracking, quotes and estimates — it handles the finer details with an elegant and intuitive interface. FreshBooks sends invoices and expenses via snail mail or email, and even allows for PayPal integration for faster, easier payments.
Upon its release, Gmail quickly became the leading webmail provider over Yahoo and Hotmail/Microsoft. Simple yet powerful, Gmail's combination of speed and organization makes it ideal for business — and not just getting a public Gmail account for your business. With a little bit of POP and SMTP configuration, you can use Gmail to view and send your business email, opening the door to Gmail's capabilities and benefits while still maintaining your current business email addresses.
You may have seen several iterations of this by now, but the bottom line is that Google Drive is the foundation for Google's suite of cloud office apps. It used to be called Google Docs, but following the name change, Google Docs became the actual word processor that worked with Drive. Similarly, Google Sheets is the spreadsheet tool that works with Drive. Drive itself is a combination of file manager, document viewer, cloud storage, and file sharing tool. It's also free to anyone with a Google account and can be upgraded for a premium business account. All Drive files are also available with the Drive app, and while editing through Docs and Sheets requires a separate app on mobile devices, it's all one-touch access via the web.
Even in the age of constant reminders on our smartphones, forgetting things is still a very real — and very human — experience. If you’ve worked hours on a huge presentation with graphics and graphs only to forget your thumbdrive at home, then MightyMeeting is the ideal app for you. Designed for both smartphones and tablets, MightyMeeting offers cloud-based storage and display of presentations. It’s not just for saving presentations either, MightyMeeting makes presentations paperless by allowing users to sync up on their own devices — and if they’re falling asleep in your meeting, MightyMeeting provides real-time editing capabilities so you can skip ahead to the juicy parts.
Social media is a vital part of marketing these days, particularly when startups and small businesses are trying to get noticed among the din of big-business competition. But with so many social media accounts, the time and effort to manage all different postings can be a major timesuck. Sprout Social streamlines social media management by allowing you to publish across multiple platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more, all simultaneously with additional analytics and brand management tools. Sprout Social is available as both a web tool and an app.
For both internal usage and customer invoicing, Toggl is one of the easiest tools for tracking accumulated project time. A straightforward interface keeps things simple while being available online or offline, so it’s possible to log time even when an internet connection isn’t available. Other features include generate in-depth reports, set billable rates for both invoicing and project quoting, and assign groups and sub-projects, all available on Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac platforms for maximum flexibility.
This guest post is courtesy of Phil Domenico, Co-founder and CEO of Assemble.