Of all the attributes that make up a successful business owner, being organized is undoubtedly amongst the most important. This can be far easier said than done however, especially for small business owners or freelancers. In today's ever-changing, fast paced world, staying on top of the details takes a village, in more ways than one. While in-person support is always beneficial, the digital marketer in me inherently turns toward online tools that will help me work smarter -- not necessarily harder -- when it comes to business operations. Below is a list of the top resources I couldn't live without. All are easy on the wallet and have increased my overall level of productivity for my clients and business as a whole.
Being accurate with your expenses is important to your financial health in general, but it is especially true for small business owners and independent contractors. Inuit Quickbooks Self-Employed is an easy-to-use tool that allows you to track all of your expense and categorize them accordingly. Although there are many finance programs out there, this one is my personal favorite thanks to their user-friendly mobile app which allows one to take a picture of the receipt and upload it automatically to the entry on the cloud. Depending on what specific plan you choose, other customization features are available as well. (Don't worry, though. The basic plan is a fantastic starter tool!)
Business owners are always on the go with little time to spare, making MileIQ a must-have for busy entrepreneurs. This platform also has a robust desktop and mobile interface, tracking your business miles automatically from your mobile device. Users have the ability to classify drives as "business" or "personal" ensuring they deduct every last mile come tax time. Again, the MileIQ pricing varies -- I suggest paying annually to make the overall payment lower, especially because you know you're going to want to deduct your miles.
One way to save extra cash (and the planet at the same time) is by corresponding and conducting business electronically whenever possible. Document agreement websites, such as HelloSign, are particularly helpful for busy entrepreneurs whose signature is often required. HelloSign has been my go-to over the years because the free option is particularly feature-packed and usually enough to satisfy my needs at any given time. I highly recommend this tool, especially to freelancers and independent contractors who are on tighter budgets with fewer contracts to sign.
Creative business owners, rejoice! Envato Elements is your easy, affordable, one-stop shop when it comes to everything design. The pricing structure is set up so users pay a one-time flat fee for unlimited downloads of design collateral -- and trust me, their arsenal is of templates is huge. Best of all: because the site is run by independent designers, new fonts, graphics, stock images and templates are constantly being added to the database. A huge value add Envato Elements brings to the table is the ability to download your items again, even after you've cancelled your account. One drawback is that most of the templates require at least a working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite programs such as Photoshop or InDesign, to customize and implement.
Those with little to no design skills will feel like a pro in no time with Canva. As their tagline suggests, this website offers amazingly simple graphic design software with easy to customize templates that make crafting brand collateral fun. (It's on the cheaper side, too! You can see pricing here.) In addition to offering templates for media kits, proposals and presentations, Canva also has ones fit for major social media networks as well. This is ideal when running advertising campaigns and fostering a community on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and more.
If you close your eyes and imagine what AOL Instant Messenger would look like all grown up in 2017 but with a bit of tech-nerd edge, you'd have Slack. Companies ranging from Fortune 500s to freelancers have found this online messaging tool to be incredibly effective in helping professionals stay connected to the various teams and projects that matter most. Since I have iMessages hooked up to every device, I don't really have a direct need for Slack (especially since most of my clients in the hospitality industry aren't on it). Yet the benefits it offers in terms of productivity cannot be matched, and I still find myself using the platform on occasion. Convenient enough for once-in-a-while users such as myself, Slack is free to use and easy to download complete with a user-friendly mobile app and easy integrations. It's an absolute no brainer.
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