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.

50 Ways to Go Paperless

Paper is so passe! Go paperless with these easy-to-implement hacks. In 2013, it’s time to go green or go home!

Paper is so passe! Go paperless at home and at the office (and especially the home office) with these easy-to-implement hacks. In 2013, it’s time to go green or go home!

1. Always ask for a digital receipt before the cashier or sales associate rings up your order. Many retailers now offer emailed receipts, and with your unique Shoeboxed email address, you’ll never have to compromise your privacy.

2. Esign your documents without printing anything out. Simply visit HelloSign to get started, and create legally-binding signatures from your desktop or smartphone.

3. Remove paper clutter by scanning your receipts with the Shoeboxed Receipt and Mileage Tracker. Simply snap a photo of each receipt with your phone’s camera and voila – it will be instantly digitized and uploaded to your Shoeboxed account.

4. Eliminate huge stacks of paper clutter with the Fujitsu ScanSnap receipt scanner, which scans up to 25 documents at a time.

5. Change your magazine and newspaper subscriptions from home delivery to online access only.

6. Sign up for monthly paperless billing for all vendors that offer it, such as your Internet provider and power company.

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7. Move beyond receipts and begin scanning everything – in your Shoeboxed account, you can digitize and organize everything from business cards to bank statements.

8. Collaborate with colleagues via Google Drive and prevent the marked up paper printout. You can see edits made in real time and always revert back to previous versions of the document.

9. Digitize your entire wallet and leave the plastic at home. Lemon Wallet stores your credit card and membership information, allowing you to keep your information safe and secure at home.

10. Pay your employees with Zen Payroll and skip the paper paycheck.

11. Send electronic faxes without ever hitting the print button with HelloFax.

12. Include your home and business addresses on as many Do Not Mail lists as possible.

13. Download the smartphone app for your airline, and skip the boarding pass print out when you travel. Most carriers now offer the option of simply scanning a barcode on your phone when checking in for your flight.

14. Instead of paper tickets, use Eventbrite’s online ticketing service to attend and create events. Imagine attending a completely paperless conference where thousands of people were able to check in and get a receipt, all without a single scrap of paper!

15. Replace the paper towels in your office with cloth towels.

16. Grab a tablet and skip the bookstore. Save trees and precious office space when you opt for the digital versions of your favorite books.

17. Double check that your paperless billing option is truly paperless – are you still getting those annoying “This is not a bill” statements each month? Contact your service provider and request that all correspondence be electronic only.

18. Replace Post-It notes with white boards.

19. Or, make notes to yourself using your smartphone’s notepad application.

20. If your Kindle just isn’t cutting it, go paperless by visiting your local library. You’ll get to enjoy the weight of a real book in your hands, while Mother Earth will enjoy a greener planet.

21. Toss receipts and paper clutter in the Shoeboxed Magic Envelope and watch as your office goes from “hot mess” to “no stress!”

22. Bring a travel scanner with you when working from the road, and prevent paper buildup right from your hotel room.

23. Skip the hard copy – you probably don’t need it. Unless we’re talking about the deed to your house or car, a digital copy of your document will almost always suffice, even when it comes to your income taxes.

24. Back up your data on an external hard drive so you always have an “extra copy” without having to print any documents or photos.

25. Go paperless by scanning old photos and paper memorabilia that are collecting dust in your closets or spare bedroom. You can keep the memories alive by using an online digital scrapbook.

26. When purchasing electronics, recycle the included paper manual and download a PDF manual from the manufacturer’s website.

27. Use Dropbox to store and share documents online.

28. Opt out of prescreened credit card offers by visiting OptOutPrescreen.com

29. Shred old documents that may contain personal information, then be sure to recycle the paper leftovers.

30. Use a service like BackBlaze to backup your online data. This helps you go paperless by allowing you to store more of your documents in the cloud as opposed to your computer’s desktop or your actual desktop.

31. Purchase recycled toilet tissue for your office bathroom.

32. Use cloth towels instead of paper towels in the office break room and bathroom.

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33. If you’re thinking of doing a direct mail marketing campaign, opt for an email blast instead. You can still create the design effect of an old-fashioned postcard without going through the hassle and expense of a paper printout.

34. Instead of printing, go paperless by creating a PDF document and storing it on your hard drive (or in the cloud!).

35. Store your medical records online with services like Microsoft HealthVault. Manage your records and those of your family without having to search for paper records or locate them within your home.

36. Convert your old journals, diaries and idea-filled notebooks into a blog or digital documents. You can scan each page and hire a freelance transcriber to type everything up. Once you’ve created this digital diary, you can add to it at sites like Live Journal or WordPress.

37. Use Wunderlist to manage your monster to-do list, and skip the legal pad. You can create themed lists and categories, and it’s really fun to check off each item and see it move to the bottom of the page within the application – you feel like you’re getting a lot done (and you are!).

38. Connect all of your cloud-based accounts with Glide for iOS. Convert files to different formats, sync all of your accounts and make sure you have access to files while you’re on the go. Glide helps you go paperless by making it incredibly easy to work within the cloud.

39. If you’re a Microsoft user, Skydrive allows you to save all of your documents within a single application, and work with Excel, Word or PowerPoint right from your smartphone.

40. Choose the print to PDF option when you find yourself wanting to print or save emails. You can also simply star the emails you’d like to save, label them, and/or archive them.

41. If you have sensitive documents that you’d like to store online, you can create an encrypted document that is password protected. Open source software like TrueCrypt allows you to do this without the need for printing or storing your documents locally.

42. Go paperless in every department – even the accounting department – with Xero. If you’re a small business owner, Xero’s easy interface makes sharing your finances with your accountant a breeze. Connect all of your bank accounts, allow your employees and clients to see real time updates, manage payments and invoices, and create gorgeous financial reports.

43. Part of going paperless is getting organized, and Manilla lets you do just that. Instead of logging in to account after account, checking balances and updating information, Manila lets you access everything in your life within a single dashboard.

44. Use Nitro to edit PDF documents and convert PDFs to other file formats. PDFs are the last frontier in the fight to go paperless – make your changes online and skip the print out!

45. Use the Shoeboxed Receipt and Mileage Tracker for iOS or Android to stay paperless on the go. When you launch the application, your phone’s camera will be poised and ready to snap a picture of your receipt. From there, your document is instantly beamed to your Shoeboxed account, where it is digitized, categorized and ready to be edited if need be.

46. Remove all pens and pencils from your workspace, and while you’re at it, remove all notebooks and pads as well! If there is no paper around, you’ll be forced to jot down notes, appointments and ideas within the online application of your choice.

47. When in doubt, take a picture – if you’re unsure about whether or not to save a receipt, photo or personal memento, snap a photo of both sides before tossing it in the recycle bin. If the item is financial in nature, you’ll have an IRS-approved digital document ready to go. If it’s personal, you’ll still be able to enjoy the memory without contributing to paper clutter.

48. Replace waiting room magazines and newspapers with eReaders and tablets.

49. Use electronic business cards, and digitize your existing paper business cards.

50. Use CardFlick to share and store contact information with colleagues and business associates. Once you’re connected to a contact within the application, you can call, email or message them directly without having to scroll through your phonebook. The incredible design features let each CardFlick user create a personalized, branded contact card that doubles as an electronic business card.

How will your office go paperless this summer?

photo credits: www.essexalliance.org, pdfscanner.org, www.apartmenttherapy.com

A Completely Paperless Office in 5 Easy Steps

Save an office. Hug a tree.

Think a completely paperless office is out of reach for your small business? Think again! Here are our 5 easy steps to greatly reducing – and even eliminating – paper from your work life. Continue reading “A Completely Paperless Office in 5 Easy Steps”