Low-cost tools every small business can use
There are multiple factors that contribute to the overall success of a business, and while some of them are directly tied to your effectiveness as a business owner– motivational level and overall attitude and acumen, for example – many others depend on how you leverage resources to maximize efforts and increase productivity and organization. In today’s diverse workplace, that often means incorporating tools and apps that make working easier and smarter.
Fortunately, there are a variety of easy-to-access and affordable tools available to those who seek them out, but to help you get started, here are six tools that will set your business up for success in 2020.
6 Tools for Success in 2020
Project Management: Asana
Price: Asana is free for up to 15 people, with premium tier and advanced features starting at $9.99.
There are a lot of project management tools out there, and to be honest, the “best” one often depends on your own unique preferences, but year after year, Asana seems to maintain a steady following among businesses of all sizes – Google, Spotify, and The New York Times, are among them.
Asana is accessible via web, iOS, and Android, and is primarily lauded for its task management features. These features allow users to create simple to-do lists and individual reminders as well as complex collaborative task structures to be shared across multiple team members.
Users can share images, documents, and information from external apps, like Google Docs, making it easy to connect and idea and actions. It’s also a great tool to oversee teams and individuals to monitor progress and keep tabs on each phase of a project.
Network Security & Remote Work: NordVPN
Price: Current plans start at $2.99 month for three years of service, with a single month plan coming in at $11.95.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have always been useful for business, but in recent years, thanks to an increase in both cybersecurity threats and remote work needs, VPNs have grown in popularity.
NordVPN is a Panama-based VPN that has become a favorite among small businesses and touts recommendations from CNet and PC Magazine. This VPN allows you to access over 5,000 servers worldwide and connect up to six devices at a time.
One reason for NordVPN’s popularity is ease of use, which is sometimes lacking in this otherwise complex cybersecurity realm, particularly for novice users.
As a security measure, NordVPN offers IP address protection, military-grade encryption, an automatic kill switch, and DNS leak protection. Additionally, because it’s Panama-based, there are no strict log policies, meaning none of your data is being collected.
NordVPN also provides business owners and their employees with private access to the internet, allowing them to work securely whether they’re logging in at home, working the road, or meeting clients in a public space like a coffee shop.
The tools your growing business needs
Running a business is tough, but there are plenty of services that make it easier. From bookkeeping to payroll to credit help — get the services you need to thrive.
Expense Tracking: Expensify
Price: Individual and sole proprietors can access basic tracking tools for as little as $4.99 a month, while advanced features are available for $9.00 a month.
Tracking your expenses is an important activity. It can help you gain a better grasp on financial health, highlight cost-saving opportunities,, and secure much-needed deductions come tax time. That said, it’s not always easy.
Expensify aims to change that, and thus far, they’ve succeeded. The company, which boasts over five million users and dozens of awards, offers an intuitive and easy-to-use interface that offers one-click receipt scanning and automation options that make reimbursement quick and efficient.
In addition to being mobile-friendly and scalable, Expensify integrates with popular accounting software, like Bill.com, Oracle, QuickBooks, and Xero, making it easy for users to maintain consistency across their financial accounts..
Additionally, Expensify offers a variety of customer expense report options that are designed to meet the unique needs of specific industries, including Food and Beverage, Professional Services, Retail, and Start-up/Tech Companies.
Price: Accounting, invoicing, and receipt services are free. Users can process credit card payments for 2.9% +$0.30 and payroll services for as little as $20 a month, plus $4 per active employee.
For a long time, business owners have relied on QuickBooks to make “quick” work of accounting, and while the service is still a popular staple, competition has risen over the last few years, and budget-friendly Wave has proven to be a top contender.
Wave is a cloud-based accounting tool that was designed to meet the needs of small businesses, sole proprietors, and freelancers, without breaking the bank. To do this, the company offers robust accounting and invoicing services for free and payment and payroll features that are available for a small fee.
Users can connect to a variety of external apps, like PayPal and Etsy, receive instant updates to their payment, invoicing, and payroll data, and check cash flow, sales, profit/loss, etc. through easy-to-access dashboards and exportable reports.
As mentioned, basic Wave features are free, and for many small business owners, those features are enough, but one aspect that seems to keep customers pleased is the ability to scale up and pay for some services as needed, something that’s not always true of other free accounting tools.
Marketing & Design: Canva
Price: Canva offers free, basic functionality to individual users. If you want to unlock more features or use it across your organization, you can expect to pay $9.95 a month
Despite the fact that visual aesthetics can significantly drive conversion, many small business owners, not truly versed in applications like Photoshop, let design fall to the wayside. And while securing the skills of a designer can be a great boon, budgets don’t always allow for the additional salary, and working with a freelancer, though a great option, may not always lend itself to immediate demands.
If any of those scenarios ring true to you, Canva may be an answer. The intuitive program makes it easy for users, even the most novice, to make appealing website graphics, social media wallpapers, presentations, posters, and more.
Canva offers a wealth of free and paid layouts and photos, as well as the ability to upload and edit photos and customize colors and text. In the end, users can make professional-quality designs that are on-brand in minutes.
Communication Tools: G Suite
Price: Basic G Suite access is available for as little as $5 per month, per user, with enhanced business options, which include unlimited storage and archiving, starting at just $10 per month, per user.
Effective and timely communication is essential to building strong internal and external relationships, and without it, a business can and will suffer. There are numerous ways to fill the gaps in your communication efforts, but many small business owners find an answer in Google’s G Suite.
G Suite brings together Gmail, Google Docs/Sheets, Google Drive, and Google Hangouts (chat and video). With one simple branded login/email account, each employee can gain access to an extensive range of tools, including document storage, which can be used to collaborate across teams, regardless of where team members are. Similarly, companies can also use G Suite to connect with clients while maintaining branded lines of communication.
Additionally, business owners looking for master control of documents, employee privileges, etc. will appreciate administrative features, which allow for easy management of users, devises, and data to ensure controlled access and security.
For most small business owners, success isn’t defined by a single factor or achieved through a single activity. Instead, true success often hinges on numerous parts that work together to build strong teams, easy collaboration, solid branding, and well-defined processes. With the right tools, those parts will come together seamlessly, allowing you, your employees, and ultimately your business to success in 2020.