Technology has given us so many incredible things, like modern medicine, instant toast, and spaceships, for example. For me, and many other entrepreneurs, one of the greatest gifts technology has given society is the virtual office. We now enjoy the ability to instantly access just about any person, piece of information, and resource imaginable—all from the comfort of a home office. In addition to the virtual container of the Internet, cloud-based small business software have made it possible to hold online calls and meetings, erect storefronts in cyberspace, and share schedules, data, and media of all kinds. Here are my favorite, can’t-live-without software applications and other goodies for small business (in no particular order).
Harvest is an intuitive, easy-to-use, cloud-based time tracking system. Features include an on-screen stop watch/timer that can be started and stopped multiple times within a job and/or project, which allows accurate tracking even when interruptions occur. Harvest also generates time reports and has a time approval system, and can be accessed from the Internet, smart phones, and other applications.
Asana is a web and mobile application designed to enable teamwork and project management without email. My team and I use it to manage and organize tasks and client projects. Asana’s check-box task system offers a satisfying, intuitive format and questions, comments, and documents can be written and attached beneath each project, eliminating disorganized notes and emails about tasks.
WordPress, which began as a blogging system, is one of the most popular full content management systems and website building tools for small businesses and bloggers alike. With thousands of free plugins and widgets, customizable themes, and community forums, it’s an easy, professional-looking choice for entrepreneurs wanting to build their own site.
4. Earth Class Mail
This brilliant mail handling service takes the hassle out of dealing with your business mail. They receive all your paper mail, scan it, and send it via email, so you can take care of your letters at the same time as your inbox. Access it anywhere, get checks deposited automatically, sync docs to the cloud, have packages forwarded, shred classified information, and more. The perfect service for entrepreneurs without a regular admin taking care of mail-related tasks.
5. Mad Mimi
MadMimi is my go-to software for creating ezines and email campaigns. Built from the ground up, the founders created a software that allows business owners to deliver professional, elegantly designed emails and newsletters. MadMimi also has built-in features for audience management, tracking, and support.
Dropbox is a free data sharing system that allows teams to access media without sending endless back-and-forth emails. Because files are all saved within the cloud-based software, when one team member changes or moves a file, the updated format is available in real time to everyone else working on it. Dropbox also allows users to access their files from just about anywhere with a WiFi connection, eliminating the need to be at your personal computer or laptop to get work done.
1ShoppingCart is an all-in-one e-commerce software that handles purchases, memberships, subscriptions, and recurring billing—to name a few things. It is one of the best business automation systems for online stores that want to get up-and-running quickly. It does, of course, include shopping cart, checkout, and inventory features.
The days of being tied to a desk with a corded phone are over! Grasshopper is a virtual phone system that allows businesses to route calls to their cell phones, making business on the go more possible than ever. Features include the ability to keep your existing business number, multiple extensions for every team member, call forwarding to mobile numbers, and voicemail transcription.
Hootsuite is an online social media management system that allows users to post social media content (written posts, visual content, videos) to multiple social media platforms at the same time. The scheduling feature is one of my favorites because it allows me to compose a week’s worth—or two weeks, a month—of content and schedule it to be posted at specific dates and times on the sites I choose. This feature is perfect for forgetful business owners and those who know when their posts are most likely to be read by their audience. Hootsuite has the capacity to post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Myspace, and WordPress blogs.
10. Google Calendar
This is just what it sounds like—an online calendar that is compatible with all other Google accounts and applications. Google Calendar allows for calendar sharing between team members, the ability to set up reminders and invitations, and syncing with desktop applications.
vCita is a client engagement platform that allows clients to access you via online scheduling, payments, and document sharing. In my own business, clients can schedule meetings and consultations with me through vCita, and can do so from any page on my website.
Using weak or default passwords is one of the single biggest security holes for small (and large!) businesses. A password manager like LastPass will keep all your passwords in one place, and enable you to share your account access to various websites with team members, without revealing the password. This makes collaboration a breeze, and means not everything has to go through you when it comes to the final posting and scheduling. It’s a tool that I couldn’t do without, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same when you try it!
Creating online forms is a huge part of maintaining a business website, collecting information from customers, and doing online marketing. It allows you to easily design and implement all sorts of forms, then manage the information submitted to them. Their easy-to-use interface means that even without being the most tech-savvy person, you can quickly build a form, customize the design, set up integrations, and go live with it on your website. It’s very flexible, and saves both time and money.
14. The Best Business Workbook
Having a designated place to focus on your business ideas is helpful for all sorts of entrepreneurs. However, a business workbook is only as good as the content and exercises it offers. This one is a bit whimsical and not really my style, but it is a great one because it makes you write out every step of your yearly goals. I have been using it for several years and have been hitting my goals ever since. That kind of concrete, actionable goal setting is what really helps you decide how to grow your business!
I have tried a lot of web hosting services over the years, but none compare to the reliability, affordability, and ease of use I’ve experienced with SiteGround. They are simply the best, and make hosting your business website a breeze, especially if you’re using the WordPress platform! SiteGround have a focus on speed and security, but also care a lot about providing fantastic technical support. Their web hosting is what I use for my websites, but they also offer cloud-based and dedicated hosting services.
When I need to incorporate members-only content or pages into a WordPress website, I use a phenomenal plugin called MemberPress. It makes ecommerce through WordPress so simple to set up and control. MemberPress allows you to sell digital download products, accept payments directly from your website, and control access to purchased material and webpages that are only for paying members. It integrates seamlessly with pre-existing WordPress websites, which makes getting membership sites up and running extremely fast and easy.
If you’re looking for a platform to host an online course, Ruzuku comes highly recommended. I help many of my clients develop course or workshop materials specifically catering to the needs of their customers, and most of them don’t have a distribution platform in mind for the course content. I always recommend Ruzuku because I love how easy it is to set up and use, even for those running an online course, workshop, or module for the first time. Spend less time fussing with the set up, and more time engaging with your audience!
Running a modern business often means using online services to transfer funds and receive payments. Unfortunately, many of these services (including traditional banks!) come with high fees, hidden costs, or give you a poor exchange rate when dealing with international transactions. Using TransferWise helps you avoid all of those. It’s really straightforward and clear about exactly what you’re being charged, and you get an accurate exchange rate! I love using TransferWise for all my international transactions, and definitely recommend it.