40+ small business tools to increase your productivitySmall Business Advice 14 March 2018
Whether you’re a dentist, a designer or a dog walker, there are loads of clever tools available to help you run your business better. So, we’ve put together this comprehensive list to help you and your staff work more efficiently, and market your products or services more effectively.
Accounting and Finance
This smart accounting tool lets you spend less time on paperwork, and more time doing the important stuff. Automate tasks like invoicing, organizing expenses, time tracking and client follow-ups with just a few clicks. In fact, FreshBooks users save so much time, their customers get paid an average of 5 days faster. Since FreshBooks lives in the cloud, you can access it securely from your laptop, desktop or mobile, wherever you may be. And the best bit? You can try it free for 30 days.
This online accounting software provides everything you need to take control of your business’s finances, including a real time dashboard and features that take the hassle out of invoicing and tracking expenses. You’ll also get unlimited access to advice from expert accountants and your very own client manager from just £29.50 per month.
Save time and simplify your bookkeeping with this intuitive online accounting software for small businesses. You can manage invoicing, banking, VAT and submit returns directly to HMRC. Plus, free UK based phone and email support means there’s always help on hand. Try it out for free, plans start from just £5 a month.
This intuitive HR software does more than you might think. Take care of everything from applicant tracking, benefits administration and employee onboarding, to HR reporting, time-off tracking and performance management with this well organised and beautifully designed tool. With all of your employee data stored in a secure location, you’ll be able to access it from anywhere in seconds. So while Bamboo HR is priced a little higher than some of the competition, it’s worth every penny. You can try it for free or request a personalised quote here.
It’s time to say goodbye to your filing cabinet. This handy tool brings old paper contracts into today’s fast paced and technology driven world. Having all your documents stored digitally means you can find any contract or clause in an instant. Plus, you’ll automatically be alerted to any contract renewals, so you never miss a valuable opportunity again. The software is available from £52.50 per month.
Freshdesk is cloud-based customer support software that allows you to combine tickets from traditional help desk channels, such as email, phone or web chat, with social channels like Facebook and Twitter. It’s easy to use and has all the tools you need to deliver incredible customer service, including fun new ways to maximise agent productivity, smart automations and lots more. There are a few different pricing plans, but Sprout is ideal for small businesses, and it’s completely free.
Zendesk is a simple online tool for tracking, prioritising and solving customer service tickets. It puts all your customer support interactions in one place, so communication is seamless, personal, and efficient. That means your staff will be more productive, leading to happier customers. This intuitive software is also easy to customise and personalise, so it’s flexible enough for every kind of business. Plans start from £5 per user, per month.
Customer Relationship Management
Customer relationship management can do big things for your business. This free software is simple to use and gives you incredible insight into every one of your contacts, leads and customers, so you can build deeper relationships at scale. Plus, HubSpot offers loads of useful training resources, including learning guides, invoice templates and marketing plan generators. If you don’t currently have a CRM program, HubSpot is a great place to start.
Trello is a visually led tool that helps you organise projects and meet deadlines. It utilises a simple system of boards, cards and lists so that it’s easy to see exactly what’s been done, what’s in progress and what still needs to be actioned. Trello can help you collaborate more successfully. You can invite as many people to your projects as you need, and everyone can add their feedback and ideas to the same board. There’s even a free version that lets you create unlimited boards, lists and cards, with as many different members and attachments you need.
Spend less time talking about work with this online workflow and task management software. Your team will be able to stay in sync as Asana keeps all project communications in one place, that everyone can access. While Asana doesn’t have some of the more advanced features offered by the competition, such as time tracking, it’s a flexible tool that will help you get things done. Plans start at just £7.99 per member, per month.
File and Document Management
G Suite is a series of file and document management tools from Google. The basic edition costs just £3.30, per user, per month. One of the G Suite products, Google Drive, lets you store files safely on the cloud, share them with your team, and access them securely from any device. G Suite’s Basic edition includes 30GB of online storage per user. For unlimited storage, you can upgrade to the Business edition. Google Docs, Sheets and Slides let you create and edit collaborative documents, spreadsheets and presentations online. By having one master copy that everyone can access, you can easily keep track of amends, and say goodbye to conflicting feedback.
Dropbox is a free web based application that lets you store all your files together in the cloud. Files are synced across all of your devices, so you can access them from home, the train or a castle in Spain. Dropbox is great for creative collaboration too, as everyone can add feedback and share ideas in the same place.
Evernote is designed to help you and your team work better, together. Whether you’re managing projects, brainstorming, or coordinating with staff who work remotely, Evernote Business keeps everyone on the same page – literally. With Evernote, everyone can access project notes and work on them together. You can even add links, checklists, tables, attachments, handwritten notes and audio recordings. It acts as a great project hub that enables everyone to come together and get things done. The Evernote Business plan is £10.99 per user, per month.
Welcome to the future, where you can send and receive signatures virtually, on any device. Don’t worry though, Adobe Sign is very secure and legally binding. By getting rid of the need for postage and printing, this handy little tool can save time, money and the environment. What’s not to like? The Adobe Sign Team Plan is available from £26.10 per user, per month.
This app enables your iPhone to double as a powerful scanner. Smart technology means you’ll always get a perfect copy of your documents, regardless of whether you took a perfect photo. You can save in black and white/greyscale, rotate pages and create multipage documents with ease. And it will only cost you £3.
This handy tool gives your staff a shared workspace, where conversations are well organised and available to everyone, encouraging collaboration and transparent communication. Even if you can’t make it to every meeting, you can stay informed. Slack builds a searchable archive of your team’s conversations, decisions and documents, so everyone can access the information they need with ease. The free version of Slack even offers secure file sharing and one-to-one video calling.
You may be familiar with this one already, but Skype for Business is still the best free video conferencing software around. Skype for Business offers high definition video conferencing and screen sharing for meetings of up to 250 people. It works seamlessly with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. And there’s no need to take minutes, as you can record meetings from start to finish. Skype for Business is now included in the world’s most popular software package, Office 365, so you may already have it. Otherwise it’ll cost you £3.40 per user, per month, charged annually.
This great tool lets you have high definition video and audio meetings with anyone, anywhere, on any device – reducing travel costs and giving you more time to get on with business. Gotomeeting has handy features like screen sharing and the ability to create a dial in conference lines. It also has business grade security, so all your conversations are private and protected. Get the Gotomeeting starter pack from £12 per month.
join.me is great because only the person holding the meeting needs to have an account. You can simply share the personalised meeting link with anyone you want to invite, whether they’re on the other side of the room, or the world. Plus, the audio is crystal clear and you scan share your screen with just just a few clicks. join.me offer a free plan with limited features, and the Lite plan is just £7 a month.
If you or your staff work outside of the office, CyberGhost VPN is a great security tool to keep your business safe and sound online. It automatically protects you every time you connect to a new WiFi or internet connection, so you can work securely in a hotel, airport, restaurant or any other public space, without the risk of falling victim to cyber crime. CyberGhost VPN also remains connected when you’re away from your computer or mobile, so your company’s valuable information is always protected. Plus, you can even try it before you buy it, as Cyberghost offer a free 7 day trial.
99Designs gives you access to a global network of professional designers. You can go the traditional route and choose from a huge range of designers with different skills and levels of experience. Or you can do things differently by creating a design competition and opening up your brief to the whole team. Just remember, the bigger the prize, the more entries you’ll get. Pricing is flexible depending on your needs. But to give you an idea, the most popular product from 99Designs is a logo and brand identity pack, which is available from just £459.
If your business has a social presence, check out this powerful free image editing and design tool. You can edit, retouch, add filters or stickers and design your own typography or graphics, right from your web browser or mobile phone. Creating fun and shareable images for blogs and social media has never been so simple.
Canva is a free tool to help you design presentations, social media graphics and more. Get access to thousands of pre-designed layouts and millions of stock photos, vectors and illustrations. Plus, there’s lots of photo filters, fonts and design features to help you make your work look fantastic, ensuring the world always sees your brand looking its best.
Data is a really valuable asset for any business. The knowledge it provides can help you make better business decisions. Survey Monkey makes gathering data easy, whether it’s for market research, a quick poll, competitive analysis or customer and employee feedback. This simple platform lets you tailor your surveys to get you the right information, from the right people. SurveyMonkey gives you access to millions of respondents, and the robust data analysis and reporting features will help you make the most of this valuable data. There’s a range of different pricing options available, including a free basic plan and a standard plan for just £5 per month.
Email marketing is a great way to keep your customers up to date and engaged with your business, which helps boost sales. MailChimp lets you create and execute campaigns, as well as analysing the results. You can choose from a selection of pre-designed templates, or create your own. The platform also lets you manage subscribers, create custom reports, view click-through success rates and track your emails.
MailChimp offer a free plan that lets you send up to 12,000 emails a month to as many as 2000 subscribers. They also have a handy mobile app, so you can keep up to date with how your communications are performing from anywhere.
Social media is a great way to connect with your customers, so it’s an important part of just about any marketing strategy. This free social media management tool lets you manage content across multiple platforms from one place, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, WordPress, Instagram and many more. A simple dashboard also lets you monitor keywords, schedule messages, and measure the success of your communications.
Buffer also lets you manage all your social media accounts from one place. The smart scheduling system will save you time too. Plus, Buffer lets you see how how all your posts are performing across all your social channels, so you know which types of content perform best for each audience. There are a range of plans available, and the entry level Starter plan is free.
If you want to be the first to see the latest content, you’ll love Google Alerts. It’s a free app that monitors anything and everything on the web, including social media platforms, news providers, blogs and video sharing sites, in order to notify you when new content is posted about topics of your choice. So if you need to be in the know, you need know about Google Alerts.
This powerful tool can help you create more effective content strategies. BuzzSumo identifies what content is working best, and helps you find relevant social media influencers to increase your audience. You can even track competitors and analyse their content. Plans start at $79USD (approx £57) per month.
UK shoppers spent over £77 billion online in 2017, so you might be missing a trick if you aren’t selling your goods and services on the internet. With Shopify, you can choose a personalised domain name and create a beautiful website with pre-designed templates that can be customised to reflect the personality of your business. You can even sell via multiple online platforms, including Amazon and Facebook, while managing everything from one place. Shopify also handles everything from marketing and payments, to secure checkout and shipping, so you can focus on the important stuff. Set up your online shop and try Shopify for free for 14 days, you can pick a plan later if you like it.
Whether it’s your first time creating a website or you’re a seasoned professional, be sure to check out Wix. This is incredibly clever and flexible tool has a robust set of features, including a sophisticated website builder, customisation options, hundreds of free templates and personalised domains. Plans start from just £2.55 per month.
The thing that makes Squarespace stand out from the competition is their stunning selection of fully responsive pre-designed templates. It doesn’t matter if you want to create an online shop, company website, blog or portfolio, because with Squarespace it’s simple and the results will be slick. Plans start at £10 per month.
Website User Behaviour, Analytics & A/B Testing
These days, simply having an online presence isn’t enough. Your website needs to be user friendly, clear and easy to navigate. Crazy Egg lets you see how visitors interact with your website by using clever heat map software. It’s kind of like having x-ray vision – you can see exactly what people are doing on your website, what’s working, and what’s not. That means you can try out ideas before you implement them, and make changes to improve your website based on customer behaviour. Try out Crazy Egg for free simply by entering your website address here.
If you have an online shop, this tool can help you turn website visitors into customers. It has smart features that help you gain valuable insights about your customers, like heatmaps and A/B testing, so you can optimise your website and make more sales. Try Freshmarketer for thirty days without paying a penny or entering your credit card details. Plans start at $44USD (approximately £32) per month.
This free tool is a must have for any small business with an online presence. It gathers and analyses data about how your customers interact your website and other digital communications, so you can give your customers a better experience with your brand.
You’ll find a range of top talent on UpWork, from programmers, designers and writers, to customer service reps, accountants and more. All you need to do is post a job description, and the folk at UpWork will use data science to find you the best freelancers for the job. Posting a job description on UpWork won’t cost you a thing, you’ll just need to pay a 2.75% processing fee when you make payments to freelancers.
These guys deliver competitive pricing by using a bidding system. It’s free for buyers too – simply post a job and freelancers will come back with quotes. Freelancer gives you access to thousands of professionals, including web designers, mobile app developers, virtual assistants, product manufacturers, graphic designs and a whole lot more. Plus, you can check out their reviews to ensure you’re getting the right person for the job.
If you need something done yesterday, check out PeoplePerHour. You’ll find a whole community of flexible professionals available to work for you remotely. Hire someone for an hour or a month, it’s your choice. All freelancers have ratings and reviews, so you don’t need to worry about a thing. Plus, PeoplePerHour take their cut from the freelancers, so you can use the service for free.
Fiverr give you access to freelance talent that can help you build your brand and grow your business. Experts in graphic design, digital marketing, writing, translation, video, animation, audio, music, programming and tech can bring just about any idea to life. Plus, it’s free to find talent, so you can stop dreaming and start doing.