One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when running your own business is finding the time to do all the stuff that it takes to run your business. The day-to-day work can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are a lot of companies that create business tools to make it easier for us small business owners to do what we love.
Here are three of the business tools I use every day.
Keeping track of how much time I spend on any given project has always been an issue for me. I’d vaguely observe what time it was when I started and vaguely estimate how much time I’d spent when I was done. Not terribly efficient.
I looked at, and tried, a few different time tracking apps before I settled on Timely as one of my regular business tools. I like it because it is sleek, easy to use and gives me exactly what I need to keep track of time spent on each project, but doesn’t pile on a bunch of extra stuff I’ll never use, or that I already have through other apps and programs.
Timely lets me track my working hours by project and client. I can bill different projects at different rates, if I need to. I can also set a certain amount of money or a specific amount of time for a project, and Timely will tell me when I’ve gone over that amount, and by how much.
Because I typically bill by the project, this helps me determine how much I ‘really’ made per hour when I go over my allotted time or budget. It’s good for helping me estimate future projects and noting if the number of hours for the project need to change.
I can also look at reports on what I’ve done. This helps me keep track of the project and what I need to do next. I can also export the report in Excel or as a PDF, to send to clients.
Timely integrates with several apps, including Google Calendar, Trello, GitHub, Asana and Office 365. Timely will automatically enter the time I spent on work appointments. This is great if I forget to start the timer once I’m on a call, or at a meeting.
Timely also has great customer support. Any time I have an issue or I’m confused by something, they’re always quick to respond with useful information or to help me fix the problem.
Timely offers a free plan, but it limits the number of projects you can have running at a given time. It also allows for multiple users, depending on the plan you choose.
Timely is keeping me on track, by tracking the amount of time I spend on each project. It’s fantastic. Learn more about Timely here.
Setting appointments is one of my least favorite time-wasters. I hate sending emails back and forth with, “Can you meet at 2:30 on Thursday?” Only to hear back that Thursday won’t work, but how about next Monday.
To avoid all of this, I use Calendly. It’s a fantastic scheduling app that integrates with my Google Calendar. I just send someone a Calendly link for the appropriate type of appointment, they go to the app, choose a time we’re both available, and book the appointment.
We’re both sent a calendar invite, which goes right into my calendar, so I don’t forget. I can schedule reminder emails to go to the person who booked the appointment, so they don’t forget either. They can cancel the appointment from the reminder emails if something comes up, and Calendly prompts them to reschedule immediately.
On my end, I can send different appointment types of varying lengths, with buffer times on either end to make sure I don’t overlap appointments. I can control the times clients can schedule appointments, and I can block off certain days if I know I’ll be unavailable.
It’s a pretty slick system.
Calendly integrates with several apps and programs, including Drip, Salesforce and Zapier. They also have an API key and webhooks available for those who are more proficient at programming than I am.
Calendly does offer a free account, but your appointments will have Calendly branding on them. It’s not terribly intrusive. If you only have one event type (one type and length of appointment you need scheduled) it’s a great free scheduling solution.
If you have multiple event types, like I do, want to send appointment reminders and integrate with other apps, you’ll have to go with a paid account. The Premium account is $10 a month or $96 a year, per user.
Calendly has made my life a lot easier when it comes to scheduling appointments with clients and I recommend it highly. Learn more about Calendly here.
I’ve used Quickbooks to handle my billing for years. Before that, (back in the dark ages) I used Excel spreadsheets. Not a fun game, I don’t recommend it unless you’re really good at Excel spreadsheets. I’m not.
Life in general has moved online. So has Quickbooks. It’s a fairly simple system to use, especially if you’ve used Quickbooks in the past.
I can create and email invoices to clients from the desktop interface. I enter a client’s contact information and Quickbooks sets up the email for me, then sends it when I’m ready. I can create recurring invoices and send them monthly to my retainer clients. They go out automatically, so I don’t have to think about them.
I have control over how the invoices look, including adding my logo, changing colors and specifying which columns and fields appear on the invoice. It’s very similar to designing an invoice in the desktop version of Quickbooks.
I can also accept payment via Quickbooks. I had to sign up for this service, and there are fees. It’s 50 cents per direct deposit and 3.5% of a credit card payment. But it’s worth it to have clients pay directly from their invoices.
All of my business bank account transactions are downloaded into Quickbooks, so I can manage everything in one place. The download interface is easy to use, though it took me a few times to get used to using it. Quickbooks automatically enters any payments made through its system into my checking register, as well as the fees it takes for letting me use that system.
Quickbooks offers a free 30-day trial. I pay about $16 a month for the version I use. There are several different versions, depending on the size of your business, number of users, etc.
Using Quickbooks online has made my billing and accounting much easier. Learn more about Quickbooks here.
What Productivity Business Tools Do You Recommend?
I hope this round-up of business tools to increase your productivity helps. I’ll keep doing these posts as I have more tools to pass along. Meanwhile, what business tools do you use? I’d love to hear about them. Perhaps I’ll end up adopting them myself, and mentioning them in one of my future posts.