Running a business is hard. You have expenses to manage, team members to keep in the loop, and all the while you have to keep your own work organized.
Really, the only way to keep everything straight is to come up with 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. Here are five of our favorites among the best business tools out there.
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 therefore, 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 frustrating 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!
FreshBooks also 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 Business Finances with QuickBooks
If you've been in business for any amount of time, you've probably heard of QuickBooks. But what you might not know is that it's more than just accounting software. It allows you to create invoices, track your cash flow, accept payments, see what’s selling, plan for the future, and a whole lot more.
Tracking financials accurately is essential for any business. QuickBooks saves you time and money by connecting your business tools and making it easy to track everything you need to make important business decisions.
And QuickBooks Online makes any place your place of business. Working online with cloud accounting software means your business data is always safe, accessible, and synced across all your devices.
Also, with QuickBooks, you don’t need to pay big money for robust online budgeting and financial planning tools to help you plan for rainy days. Consider checking out one of their free online budgeting tools that can get you started saving money right now.
3. Manage Projects and Versions within GitHub
You've probably also heard of GitHub — that is, if you're a developer or you've worked with any developers. I know that GitHub can be a bit mystifying for non-developers, but did you know that it can be used for more than just code?
GitHub is actually jam-packed with countless, useful features. I know graphic designers who 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 just about 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 Slack
Out of the hundreds of tools that we've evaluated over the years, there are very few that have instantly become an integral part of our process. Slack is one such tool. It has drastically increased the effectiveness and efficiency of our 100% remote team.
Slack is both a team chat tool and a shared channel inbox. It allows us to set up separate group channels (with different team access to each) and individual chats. And it also has the ability to create threaded chats within the group chats.
One of the coolest things about Slack is that it integrates with pretty much all the leading software out there, even DocuSign eSignature (which is unexpected and kind of awesome).
5. Have Online Meetings Like a Champ with Zoom
As I mentioned, our entire team works remotely, so we've tried all kinds of screen sharing services and virtual meeting apps. Most of these solutions have been adequate, but there's usually an issue: either they're 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 now we use Zoom, which is pretty much our hero when it comes to virtual meeting apps. Here's why: first of all Zoom handles the audio for each call perfectly (not all solutions work well in this department); second, Zoom is free for meetings with up to 100 participants. The only catch is that these free meetings are limited to 40 minutes, but still!
We use all of these tools daily to provide great products like MemberPress, Easy Affiliate, ThirstyAffiliates, and Pretty Links to our customers. We hope they'll be useful to you too. Give them a shot!