Time is money, and it’s the one thing that you can never buy more of. Fortunately, however, you can purchase affordable business tools that can help you save time, giving you hours back in the day that would have been wasted otherwise.
Many small and medium-sized businesses may sometimes be under the belief that business tools are too expensive, created for enterprise-level companies (and priced accordingly). In reality, there are so many affordable business tools created for all kinds of structures, from solopreneurs and freelancers to medium-sized businesses trying to keep up with gradual scaling. In this post, we’ll take a look at 6 different types of affordable business tools that save you time and improve productivity.
1. Invoicing & Expense Tracking Software
There are some incredible and very affordable accounting software options available, and this should be one of the first things business owners look at. Many of these options include invoicing, expense tracking, and financial reporting features that will make your life much easier. Instead of tracking down receipts at the end of the year, take a picture and upload every business expense as you make purchases, and send out automatic or manual invoices so you can collect payment in different ways that are automatically tracked.
As a freelancer, I always used Quickbooks Self-Employed, which helps solopreneurs find massive tax savings each year, but only costs $5-$24 per month. Freshbooks, Harvest, and Wave are some other popular options. Most invoicing software will cost between $15-50 per month, depending on what you need.
2. Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM)
There are certain tools available that can help you track all leads and customers during each stage of the sales process. Some may even help you find leads, and then label them based on whether they’re “cold,” “warm,” or “hot.” They can help you remember to send out follow-ups, and make it so easy to keep track of every client and what they need without requiring each team member to go digging back through old emails to try to look up key information.
There are so many different tools available in this category at a wide variety of price ranges. For more affordable tools that are small-business friendly, check out Salesforce’s start packages that come in at around $24 per month, along with Keap (previously known as Infusion Soft and costing the same price) and the slightly-more-expensive-at-$65-a-month MaximizerCRM.
3. Chat-Based Communication Software
Streamlining your internal communications can speed things up significantly, whether your entire team is on-site or not. There are some incredible chat-based communication tools that allow people to engage in conversation threads with those who need to be included, allowing for faster response times than email and making instant communication a possibility. Many of these tools come with great mobile apps, too.
4. Reliable Call Answering Services
Reliable call answering services — like PATLive — can be a game-changer for your business. Consider that phone calls are immediately distracting, requiring people to stop what they’re doing, pick up the phone, and handle whatever is coming in on the other line. Even if it’s a quick “what time are you open,” it’s pulled them out of their frame of thought and requires multi-tasking in a way that can curb productivity.
Call answering services resolve this problem, taking on the bulk of your calls and handling your customers as an extension of your team, so that your internal team can focus on the tasks that need their attention most. If your team’s attention is needed for a particular type of call, then that can be handled through call menus or unique call flow procedures, so that those customers can quickly and easily be routed to the right contact.
PATLive plans start at just $149/month. You can learn more about what we do and what makes us different here.
5. Project Management Software
Keeping up with a project that involves even a single person can be difficult; it becomes even more challenging once you’re involving multiple team members. Project management software is key here, especially with our increasingly-digital focus.
Tools like Asana and Trello (the former is affordable, the latter is free) allow you to create different project “cards,” adding team members, to-do lists, links, descriptions, comments, and files to each one as needed. You can track each stage of every project, see who is responsible for each task, and monitor its progress. Everyone is on the same page, making it easier for things to get done efficiently.
6. Appointment Scheduling Software
Do customers, clients, leads, or vendors ever need to make appointments with any members of your team? If so, appointment scheduling software is a major asset that you should consider adding to your digital toolkit.
Instead of manually maintaining your schedule, appointment scheduling software can sync with your calendar so that it’s always up to date. You can even provide your answering service with access to your appointment scheduling portal and let them manage your calendar. Or have a link to your scheduler on your website so your clients can self-serve 24/7.
Free, simple versions of appointment tracking can be used through options like Google calendar, but more sophisticated while still affordable options like Acuity Scheduling (starting at $15 a month for one location) can give you more robust scheduling abilities.
Whether you’re running a company or managing a team, finding the right tools to save time is an essential part of business.
All of the tools on this list can speed up your team’s workflow and make everyone’s job a little easier, allowing them to focus on critical, money-making tasks without interruptions. And even better, they’re affordable, so you’re going to be able to maximize productivity (leading to increased profit) without cutting into that bottom line.
Most tools on this list offer a free trial, so consider which would benefit your team most and start there. Add on the tools as you see a need for them, as they’re all affordable and are designed to scale well alongside your business.