If there’s one arena technology affects more than any other, it’s business. We want to focus on some of the good effects though. The way technology has been applied to make life better for business. With a mind towards the Zimbabwean situation and the challenges startups and small business deal with, we’ve found apps that are FREE and offer great value. We’ve also split it into mini sections just to make it easier to digest.
Accounting and Administration
Freshbooks is a great accounting app for small businesses. It provides a complete accounting solution that helps record expenses and income. It helps you generate professional invoices and provides automatic follow up to those invoices. It sends out email reminders for payment. You can easily manage payments and payroll. It also allows you to generate a host of reports. I’ve written before about small businesses need to take record keeping seriously.
Wave has a few different apps for different needs. Is a FREE initiative to support small businesses with 9 or less employees. It offers bookkeeping, accounting, invoicing and administration solutions. It’s really suited to freelancers and small businesses. Taking a lot of the leg work out of good record keeping. These apps help eliminate the need to have a bookkeeper regularly do records and focus can be shifted to regular analysis and advice based on reports.
Research and teamwork
Evernote provides a great solution for taking notes and organizing information. It’s still the market leader in the arena and operates cross platform so it’s available for and syncs between windows, iOS and Android devices. Evernote conveniently stores all notes to the cloud so loss of your device is not the end of the world.
OneNote offers the same functionality but is a bit more focused on collaboration and team work. They both offer taking notes in text, images, audio and video. So if you catch a bit of inspiration while on the move you can just record a voice message to the notes on your phone and it will pop up in your laptop when you open it up. Pretty useful. OneNote automatically saves, syncs to the cloud and works in similar fashion to Microsoft Office products, if you are familiar with them that’s a bonus .
Trello offers a great resource for team working. It allows you to track progress of tasks in a project split between people. This is useful if you have team members or collaborators working remotely or have to outsource some parts of work to freelancers. It keeps the whole team in the loop while allowing members to work on their individual tasks. It uses combinations of boards, lists and cards to organise your projects. Trello also integrates with other applications you use such as Evernote and Dropbox to track progress beyond lists but in actual workflow.
Still the leader in cloud storage though there are a host of alternatives out there. Dropbox is especially useful for record keeping. Yes we spoke about using the accounting apps, but what about the source documents? Snap a picture of receipt and just sync it to DropBox; it’s there forever. DropBox is also useful sharing work with others who are remote, diaspora investors anyone? I keep a host of vital work files and templates in my cloud storage account for both safety and remote access. There are other alternatives which provide functionality just as good such as Google Drive and Microsoft’s One Drive.
Communication and Social media
Mail Chimp helps you sort out mailing lists and automated newsletters. Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing and still very effective. Want to send your customers regular updates on new products or upcoming events? Mail Chimp allows you to create your own email templates and customize what you send out to match your customers desires. Best of all it provides a report on the performance of your emails.
Is your business using social media? The only answer is yes. If you want to use it to your benefit you need Hootsuite. It offers multi-platform social media management from a single place. You can share content to multiple social media platforms (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn among others) in one place. In one go. The free account still lets you post to 3 social networks (down from 5). It allows customization of the same content for the different networks. Hootsuite also provides insightful analytics reports so you can see what’s working. Get Hootsuite for Android and Hootsuite for iOS.
You should all have this one so I won’t talk about it too much. Does Whatsapp for business offer anything special? It does offer business profiles allowing you to have additional information like a business or email address. It also gives you the ability to set auto response messages, for example an auto response to say we are currently away and will get back to you. The app is currently available for Android devices only. The guys at Whatsapp do like to innovate and in time we are likely to see developments that will make the app useful. Most likely the ability to pay via Whatsapp. For now the idea is to get your customer base on to that business profile. Of course in our environment where Whatsapp is so popular, being available on Whatsapp as a business is necessary. With bundles that is sometimes the only access people have to the internet. Be available.
This one is new to me but I think it’s a really important one. If you’re in time consuming freelance work or you work on a project or job basis (like graphic design, accounting services, copywriting) and want to keep track of how much time you put into projects RescueTime is the one for you. It logs the time you spend on your device and categorizes it. It collects information like how much time you spent on each website or app and hence lets you know exactly how much time went into a particular job or project. It also lets you know how much time was spent in the wrong places. You can find the Android and iOS versions here. You can use the same account on multiple devices so reports will show the combined time spent on your android phone, iPad and windows laptop.
Do you use any of these apps? Let us know in the comments. Also if you think there are any other apps people should know about do share.