If you’ve got enough paperwork to fill a small barn, are still mailing out invoices to your clients in the post, or wasting weeks of your life preparing your accounts and receipts then perhaps it’s time to look to technology for the answer.
You’re probably already used to using your mobile phone for more than making calls and sending texts.
Most of us now use our mobile devices in more creative ways.
Catching up with friends on social media, taking photos, doing some internet shopping or searching for a local restaurant reviews to name but a few.
What you might not know is that the popularity of smart phones and tablets has spawned a whole world of technology at your fingertips that you can use to make managing your time and running your business much simpler.
In fact it’s now possible to run most of your daily business activities right from the palm of your hand.
Here’s a list of some great apps that you can use to manage your time and your business more effectively.
A fantastic tool for organising your notes, writing lists and clipping articles.
Yes you can still carry a notebook with you but with Evernote you can store all your ideas in one place and access it from anywhere without the risk of losing it.
It syncs with all mobile devices as well as your pc or laptop.
It’s also a collaborative tool that you can use to hold conversations on a particular project.
One of my favourite features (on the premium edition) is the ability to scan and save business cards which is great for networking events.
Once you’ve scanned a business card, Evernote automatically pulls all the contact information and stores it on your device.
If you are logged in to LinkedIn it will pull through their information from there as well so you can connect immediately.
No more drawers full of business cards after an event.
The basic version is free but if you want additional features you will need to pay a yearly fee.
Chances are you have your business set up on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest, and if you haven’t, you should.
Buffer makes sharing across your social media accounts a breeze.
It allows you to write one update and post it on all your social media accounts simultaneously.
Or you can chose an individual schedule for each platform and it will share your posts at the times you set automatically.
This means you can schedule all your social media activity at once without having to be at a computer at the right time.
The free account allows you to set up one profile for each social media account you have and you can schedule up to 10 posts at any one time.
With the premium service you can schedule up to 100 posts and manage multiple accounts.
MailChimp is a free email service app that allows you complete control over your email lists.
It works with your mobile devices or from your pc and you can design and send beautifully crafted emails to all your subscribers.
There are a large number of free email templates to choose from that are fully customisable and easy to set up.
Once you’ve got your email ready to go it’s possible to send it straight out or schedule it to go out at a later date.
The really nifty part is the reports you get back after you’ve sent the email out.
From the dashboard you can immediately see who has opened the email, how many times they’ve clicked and what they’ve clicked on.
Any unsubscribes are automatically removed by MailChimp so you don’t email them next time and it also rates a quality score to each person on your list so you can see your most engaged subscribers at a glance.
It integrates with lots of other services including Facebook, WordPress and many CRM systems so that you can keep your email list synced with your customer database.
MailChimp is free to use up to 2,000 subscribers which for many will be enough for some time.
Hopefully you’ll be growing your list and once you go over the limit you’ll go on to a very reasonable sliding price scale depending on the number of subscribers you have.
The G Suite (formerly called Google Apps) service is the direct competitor to Office 365.
We’re all very familiar with the office suite as it’s been the standard package used all over the world for years.
G Suite, however, offers an alternative approach and at a very affordable price.
Unless you’re dealing with some pretty complicated functions, the features on Office are usually overkill for most people.
The G Suite offers three of the most popular programs but without all the bells and whistles of Microsoft Office.
It consists of Google Docs (word processing), Google Sheets (spreadsheets), Google Slides (presentations) and Google Forms.
You’ll need a Google account to sign up (but you can keep your business email address) and as well as the apps above it also gives you access to Gmail, Hangouts (live presentations), Google Calendar and Google+ all under one roof.
The pricing starts at £3.30 per month, per user and includes up to 30GB of cloud storage as standard.
PayPal Here (iOS & Android)
Specifically designed for small businesses, if you need to take payments from customers remotely then PayPal Here may be an ideal solution.
It allows you to take remote payments that go straight into your PayPal account without any monthly fees.
The app is free to use and the remote card reader is a one-off cost of £35.
The reader allows you to take payments for your business using chip & pin, contactless, or even using a smartphone or smartwatch.
PayPal takes a small fee of between 1.5% and 2.75% per transaction depending on your monthly sales volume.
You can also send receipts to customers via text or email.
The only real weakness especially if you regularly take payments in rural areas is that is does require an internet connection to work.
Once you’ve started using a number of different apps, the difficulty can be to manage them all effectively.
IFTTT (which stands for ‘If this then that’) basically acts as an automation service between all your different apps and it can be incredibly useful.
It works using what they call ‘Applets’ to trigger specific actions on other apps, web services and devices automatically every time certain conditions are met.
For example it can automatically backup your contacts to Google Drive or make sure that your Facebook and Twitter profile pictures are in sync.
It can even save you time by scheduling in social media posts.
It integrates with a huge number of apps and functions on your phone. Some of the Applets are specific for iPhone or Android users but most will work with either.
Once you spend some time finding out what it can do and how much time it can save, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.
These are just a few apps that you can use but there’s many others you can try with more being developed every day to make your life easier.
The best part is a lot of these apps integrate and can share information with each other so that you don’t have to keep inputting the same information to multiple apps.
It also gives you the flexibility to keep checks on your business from wherever you are so you don’t need to be tied to the office.
Let us know whether you’ve tried any of these apps and how you’ve found them, or any others that you’ve used.