Running a business is hard. You have expenses to manage, team members to keep in the loop, and all the while you must keep your own work organized. Really, the only way to keep everything straight is to come up with some processes that will help you and your team do all the things you need to do, and the more you can automate, the better. Since we've been in business, we've evaluated numerous different tools to help us be more efficient and here are 5 of our favorites:
1. Manage contractors, expenses and invoices with FreshBooks
If you're business is based on freelancing, sub-contracting, or you just have some expenses to track, FreshBooks can be an extremely useful. When I first started my business, I did a lot of freelancing, and hence, a lot of invoicing. I wasn't tracking my time precisely and I started finding that it took me a lot of time to re-trace my steps every time I would have to invoice my clients. It was very time-consuming and tedious. But this all changed when I started using FreshBooks! I started tracking my time to the minute using their built-in timer, I'd just annotate each time entry with a sentence describing the work I just finished. Then when it came time to invoice, Freshbooks would automatically generate the invoice. It actually saved my life. Now I use FreshBooks to track both expenses and contractors!
Update 11/17/2014 … Now FreshBooks actually has a free invoicing service called Free Invoice Creator. So if you're unsure about the insanely amazing benefits you can get from using FreshBooks, you can start off by using this free, ultra-simple but powerful invoice creation service.
2. Track Your Business Finances with GoDaddy Bookkeeping
Yeah, I know… trusting your finances to GoDaddy sounds a bit janky. Well, this tool was originally developed independent from GoDaddy under the name Outright and was only purchased by GoDaddy about a year ago. The team that manages it seems to be the same and I've found their support to be great (I worked with them pretty closely to help them roll out their Stripe integration).
This tool is one of the simplest cash-flow accounting applications I've seen (and I've evaluated several of them). It will take all of your business bank accounts, credit card processors (integrates seamlessly with PayPal and Stripe), credit cards and put them all in the same place for you to track. Once GoDaddy Bookkeeping has imported your data, it will automatically generate balance sheets, breakdowns of your spending, and basic profit & loss statements. It will auto-categorize all of your transactions, and if it happens to get the categorization wrong, it learns from your modifications.
GoDaddy Bookkeeping now has some overlapping features with Freshbooks such as Invoicing and Expense tracking but I generally prefer to keep my accrual and cash-flow accounting systems separate. As such, I haven't really explored these newer features in GoDaddy Bookkeeping, especially since Freshbooks does the accrual accounting so well already.
3. Manage Projects and Versions within GitHub
You've probably heard of GitHub if you're a developer or worked with any developers. I know that for non-developers it can be a bit mystifying, but did you know that GitHub can be used for more than just code? It's actually jam-packed with countless, useful features. I know graphic designers that use GitHub to manage versions of their designs and authors who use it to track versions of their manuscripts. Really, it can be used to manage any digital asset. We use it not only to track our code, but also to track our projects (using GitHub issues) and to maintain a knowledge base (with GitHub Wikis).
4. Communicate Seamlessly with Flowdock
Out of the hundreds of tools that we have evaluated over the years, there are very few that have instantly become an integral part of our process. Well, Flowdock is one such tool. We started using it in January of this year and it immediately became a critical part of our process. It has drastically increased the effectiveness of our team, and our ability to communicate and respond to new information is much greater now.
Flowdock is both a team chat tool and a shared inbox. It allows us to setup separate group chat-rooms (with different team access to each), individual chats, and an awesome ability to create threaded chats within the group chats. It can take a bit of time to wrap your brain around these threads but they will soon become an invaluable tool to organize your chat conversations. Flowdock can be configured to receive email messages from other tools such as GitHub, WordPress, and support software into a group inbox. These messages will create their own chat threads which team members can communicate within.
Flowdock is available as a web app but there's also a free iOS and Android app that will connect to it. These apps are especially great because they'll send you push notifications when you receive a message.
5. Have Online Meetings Like a Champ with ScreenHero
Our entire team works remotely and so we've tried numerous screen sharing services to collaborate. Most of these solutions are adequate but there's usually an issue: either their too expensive or not very feature rich. Our last solution was close but didn't allow us to see each others' cursors, didn't handle any audio, and using the scroll wheel on a remote machine didn't work well. But we used it because there wasn't anything better at the time. But about a month ago we started using ScreenHero, which is pretty much the perfect solution. Here's why: first of all ScreenHero handles the audio for each call (not all solutions work well in this department) perfectly; second, ScreenHero allows you to have a cursor for each user and even puts the user's name next to the cursor so you can see who's using it and third, if you act now, it's free because it's still in beta! You should try it out… it's pretty great.
We use all of these tools daily to provide great products like MemberPress, Affiliate Royale, and Pretty Link Pro to our customers. We hope they'll be useful to you too.