Choosing the right tools for your business can be a lengthy affair; the process of searching alone can be an overwhelming experience. With more people working remotely than ever before, online management tools have become integral to the way we work. Finding the right tools to streamline your workload can transform the ways in which you do business.
The market is currently saturated with tools to help you communicate effectively with colleagues and complete tasks efficiently from afar. At Digital Trawler, we use a number of management tools to ensure that our time is being used effectively. Throughout my many years of experience managing remote teams, I have used a number of different online tools, both free and paid. Below is a list of the tools I have found most useful for communicating, encouraging productivity, and streamlining accounting processes in my business.
Effective communication is vital for small business owners. There are a number of online platforms that facilitate communication between colleagues as well as with clients. One of the things to be aware of when choosing a platform is what tone suits your business. Maintaining a professional tone when working remotely is key. It can be easy to slip into bad habits when you don’t have to visit an office every day.
Loom is a free tool that allows you to send quick videos when speaking in person is not possible. It is an efficient and expressive way to communicate with colleagues and customers. The benefit of Loom is that you don’t have to type lots of text, and you can use visual explanations of things that would otherwise be complicated. Loom is excellent for teams that have a number of members working remotely.
Calendly is useful when trying to find a meeting time that suits everyone. It allows you to schedule meetings without emailing back and forth about dates and times. It is simple to use; you input the times you are free into the calendar, share the link with whoever you want to meet with, and they can choose a time that suits you both. This tool is free of charge and very useful for small business owners with busy schedules.
At Digital Trawler, we use Soapbox every week for our team meetings. I have found it very useful for sharing information with my team. Soapbox allows you to share agendas, take the minutes of meetings, and assign tasks easily. Sharing an agenda for your weekly team meeting through Soapbox encourages better communication between colleagues, and more efficient time management. Setting the agenda before the meeting and sharing it with your team will help you stay on schedule and allows team members to have questions prepared in advance. This is a paid tool but worth the investment.
4. G Suite
G Suite is a Google meeting and calendar integration service. It allows you to automatically add conferencing to your calls and share documents all in one place making collaboration simple. You have to pay for this service but it comes in handy if you need a custom email domain, unlimited cloud storage, or additional administrative and marketing tools. This platform won’t suit every business but it is worth it if you want a variety of cloud computing, productivity, and collaboration tools.
Slack is the ultimate tool for teams who are working remotely. It allows you to keep your employees up to date through instant messaging in a professional environment. It functions like a chatroom for your entire team. It allows you to connect in groups or one-on-one about tasks. It also allows you to create threads for specific topics which means that all of the important information on a topic can be found easily. Slack is a free tool and one that we use at Digital Trawler regularly.
At Digital Trawler we optimise our time by investing in platforms that suit the tone, pace, and size of our business so that we can get back to catering to our client’s needs. You’ll be surprised how many of the menial tasks you carry out every day, especially when it comes to communication and finance, can be replaced by capable software, so that you no longer need to worry about them.
Automate.io connects your cloud applications with ease. It allows you to automate marketing, sales, and payments, as well as any other business processes you use. You can create one-to-one integrations as well as complex workflows without having to use code through a drag-and-drop interface. Automate.io is similar to Zapier but more cost-effective. A free version is available that is easy to use. There are preexisting templates available for marketing, sales, and business processes.
7. Mail Merge
Mail Merge is an invaluable resource that saves you time sending bulk emails. It is a free service that allows you to send customised emails using templates and contact data. This service is ideal for small business owners who reach out to their clients frequently. It incorporates data from Microsoft Word and Excel which enables you to create multiple documents at once like newsletters.
The Hootsuite bulk uploader helps you to create posts for social media pages and groups. It even allows you to add images and videos to posts and customise link previews before scheduling. Investing a little extra money by purchasing bulk upload in Hootsuite will save you a lot of time on your social media management. The Bulk Composer is most useful to create posts for social media websites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
The primary benefit of using online accounting software is to keep track of invoices and receipts. By automating your accounting processes you can save time and have peace of mind that your finances are in order.
9. Receipt Bank
This platform helps you to manage your receipts, invoices, and other documents so that you can be sure that your financial records are accurate and secure. One of the most helpful elements of Receipt Bank is that it matches your receipts to your outgoings in your bank account. It works by scanning your email to see which receipts came in and matches them for you. This is a paid tool but can be very useful for business owners who struggle to keep on top of their books. You can also capture and upload your bills and receipts using the camera on your phone.
Quickbooks is an accounting software that allows you to manage your income and expenses. It is cloud-hosted but can be used both online and offline. By helping you to keep track of your finances, your business can save time on administration while ensuring that all of your documents are accessible. The software facilities invoicing customers, paying bills, and preparing the information you may need for tax purposes. It is simple to sync your bank account and credit cards which enables easy expense tracking.
It is known for its user-friendly interface and reliable security which makes it an accessible choice. It allows you to automate your banking, as well as getting real-time financial information on your bank accounts. You can also integrate it with conventional banking platforms for automatic savings. Similar to Receipt Bank, this software will facilitate any difficulties small business owners have when completing their own finances. Although it is a paid software, it is worth the investment as it is simple to use, and integrates well with preexisting platforms.
One last tip I will give is that every tool is only as good as the information you provide it with. In other words, if you invest in a tool to help you create invoices but you neglect to keep your client list updated, you could run into some trouble. Make sure you understand what is needed to use the platform correctly before making changes to your existing processes.
And there we have it, that is the full list of tools that have helped me save time over the years. If you still don’t know where to start, prioritise the areas where you feel time is being lost the most, and see if those processes can be automated using one of the platforms above. Whether it is your weekly email to your subscribers or staying on top of your receipts, there is definitely an online tool that will fit your needs and save you time.
Choosing the right online tools for your business is a tricky but vital task for small business owners. By automating all of the processes that would otherwise eat away at your time you can get back to what is important; running your business. Tools like the ones above save several hours per week which can be channeled back into productive activities. Some platforms will have an immediate effect, others will be accumulative. No matter which platform you decide to go with, you will save time and money by investing in specialised online tools that suit the needs of your business.