6 (Truly Amazing) Tools to Help Grow Your Small Business

Business owners are constantly bombarded with online tools and services that claim to boost productivity and help manage the growth of their business, many of which fail to deliver their promises. This is a list of tools that do deliver, and truly help small businesses get to that next level.

Business owners are constantly bombarded with online tools and services that claim to boost productivity and help manage the growth of their business. In fact, a simple Google search for “online business tools” gives you close to 700 million results – quite the marketplace to choose from. 

But how often do those tools actually help a business grow? And how often do business owners find themselves signing up for those tools, only to never use them? Probably more often than not. Which is why Shoeboxed did some investigating and curated an eclectic list of helpful, wide-ranging tools for growing small businesses.

 

Grasshopper

Phone System Automation

1Grasshopper is perfect for businesses looking for a full-service virtual phone system. Their services include customizable toll free 1-800 or local phone numbers, main greeting messages (with the option to include information like hours and address, among other customizations), departmental and employee extension numbers, voicemail to email transcriptions, and more. If you have a sales or support team, or just simply want to automate your business’ main line to make it easier to communicate with your customers, Grasshopper has you covered. Pricing starts at $12/month.

Plus: Grasshopper has a free app that turns your smartphone into a business line, allowing business owners and entrepreneurs stay professional even when they’re not in the office.

 

Bookly

Online Bookkeeping

Bookly.co logoIf you’re looking for a cheaper way to outsource a  bookkeeper, Bookly is the way to go. Their software automates dreaded bookkeeping chores by reconciling transactions with your connected bank and credit card accounts. Users can also create customized reports and compare balance and transactions trends in real-time. Additional features include invoice delivery and multiple user account collaboration. Pricing starts at $99/month.

Plus: In addition to the software, Bookly provides users with a dedicated bookkeeper who can look over your data and make sure that finances stay up to date.

 

Upwork

Project Outsourcing

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Need someone to rebuild your website but have zero-to-little design or programming experience? Want to increase traffic to your blog or social media, but don’t have enough time to write the content? Or do you simply need professional marketing advice and have no idea who to reach out to? Whatever your business needs, Upwork helps you find freelance talent to get the job done. Quality work resonates with existing and potential customers, so the next time you’re contemplating whether or not to outsource the job – consider Upwork. There is no plan to sign up – all you pay for is the work done by the freelancer.

Plus: Upwork allows you to customize the talent you are looking for, including filters like location, specific skill-set, experience level, and more.

 

Insureon

Online Insurance Agency

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If you think it’s easy to hunt down cheap, reliable, and quality insurance for your business, then you’ve obviously never run a business before. But that hunt is exactly what Insureon does. Insureon is an online agency dedicated to helping small businesses find the best insurance protection. All you have to do is fill out a quick online application, and Insureon does the rest – they calculate your risk, leverage relationships with top-tier insurance companies, then email you the best quote on the market, including coverage and cost options. Quotes are free.

Plus: Insureon matches you with a specialized agent experienced in your specific industry, and work with you to identify the unique challenges and insurance types of your business.

 

OutboundEngine

Marketing Automation

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If you are a small business owner who absolutely dreads the marketing side of things, OutboundEngine will be your hero. They’ll help you run fully-automated marketing campaigns, highly-targeted to your specific audience. Services include professional email marketing campaigns, automated social media updates, lead-generating referral programs and custom-tailored content writing. It’s like having an entire marketing department but at the fraction of the cost. Pricing starts at $179/month.

Plus: Everything is personalized, so the pros working on your campaign dive deep into your market and industry before testing anything.

 

Shoeboxed

Receipt and Expense Management

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Keeping track of receipts for bookkeeping and tax purposes is an exhaustive, daunting task. But for business and financial reasons it’s a highly scrutinized part of running a business — all business owners have to do it. The problem is, business owners absolutely hate doing it! Cue Shoeboxed. Shoeboxed scans, organizes and categorizes receipts and other business documents so that all of your important paperwork is fully searchable and accessible in the cloud. There is a free DIY plan and premium plans start at $9.99/month.

Plus: All receipt images are IRS-accepted, with vendor name, total amount, date of purchase and payment type automatically extracted once its submitted to Shoeboxed.

This list is not exhaustive, but we hope it provides a holistic approach to the types of useful services and tools that every small business owner needs as their business grows.

Introducing a Better Way to Manage Categories

We know how important it is to correctly categorize your receipts for monthly accounting and tax purposes. So when you asked for a better method of handling categorization inside Shoeboxed, we got to work. Today, we’re thrilled to share with you a new and improved way to manage your categories!

We know how important it is to correctly categorize your receipts for monthly accounting and tax purposes. So when you asked for a better way to handle categorization inside Shoeboxed, we got to work. Today, we’re thrilled to share with you a new and improved way to manage your categories!

On the new Manage Categories page, you can set rules for certain vendors and/or payment types to always go into a specific category. Once a receipt is processed in your account, it will be automatically categorized according to your rules.

category management

Each category has three sections for rules associated with it: Included Vendors, Excluded Vendors and Payment Types. These three sections make it easy to ensure that a certain vendor is always or never added to a particular category, and our new Payment Types section allows you to tag all purchases on a certain credit card to always be added to a particular category. A good example would be to make sure that all receipts for your small business credit card are always tagged as “Business” expenses.

You can add or remove vendors or payment types rules anytime, and, as always, the Manage Categories page allows you to create, edit and delete custom categories.

Go check out the new way to manage your categories and let us know what you think!

If you have any questions about category management, send our support team an email at help@team.shoeboxed.com or give us a shout on Twitter at @ShoeboxedHelp.

Top 7 Reasons to Keep a Separate Bank Account for Business Funds

You’ve probably heard that it’s important to keep your personal and business finances separate. Here are seven reasons why, courtesy of our friends at GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping.

This post is brought to you by GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping, the simplest way to manage your small business finances online. Sign up today for a less taxing tax time!

When you first started your business, especially if it began as a side gig, you probably just used your personal bank account to manage your income and expenses. Somewhere down the line, though, you have to make the choice to open a business account or stick with your personal account. We’re going to go out on a limb and say you should definitely keep your business and personal finances separate.

Why? Let’s take a look at 7 reasons why you want to consider it.

1. Deductions

Are taxes coming up and you want to reduce your tax obligations by claiming deductions? You can do that even if you use your personal bank account, sure, but it’s much easier to track your business expenses when they all come out of the same funding source. This prevents you from confusing the time you bought printer paper at your local big box store from all the other times you bought groceries there!

2. Taxes in General

Speaking of taxes, tax time is already a mess if you keep everything separate. When your personal and business finances are mixed, it’s going to be that much worse. Going through simple transactions becomes that much tougher, especially when the amount of income you deposited doesn’t add up to the amount of income on the 1099’s your clients sent you.

3. Professionalism

You’re trying to establish yourself as a real, professional business. The difference between a client or customer writing a check out to “Penny Smith” versus “Iowa’s Best Coffee” is huge. It sets a precedent for both the public and for you. Having a business account lets you maintain the level of professionalism you want.

4. “Hobby Business”

While the IRS generally doesn’t care if you consider your business a hobby or not (as long as you’re paying taxes on your income), they do care if you’re making deductions on something they don’t see as a “real” business. You must show a profit in three years out of five so you’re not considered a “hobby business.” It’s much easier to prove this 3 of 5 rule if you have a business account.

5. Mental Health

If you’re taking your business seriously, you want it to run as smoothly as possible. This includes your finances and maintaining a healthy growth pattern. When mixing your personal and business finances, you run the risk of getting an inaccurate view of your company. This can cause strain on not only the business but your mental health.

6. Reports

Growing your business also involves running reports to see where you truly stand. GoDadddy Online Bookkeeping automatically pulls in your business’s income and spending and creates reports like your “Profit & Loss or “Top Vendors.” Mixing business and personal income will confuse these reports and keep you from seeing a clear snapshot of your business’s financial health.

7. Incorporation

Thinking of incorporating your business? Then you’re going to have to keep personal and business finances separate. No matter if it’s a corporation, a partnership or incorporated sole proprietorship, the IRS will require you to separate the two worlds. If this is ever going to be something you do in the future, you might as well start it now. It will help ease the process going forward and prevent any big issues that might pop up during the transition.

Do you keep your business and personal finances separate? What are your tips to maintaining the separation?