In app-land, there’s a never-ending quest to serve up the next thing that makes life easier. But we think you’d be better served with our collection of battle-tested apps. They’ll help you run your business more efficiently and let you do so from your iOS or Android smartphone.
Take a photo of any receipt with your smartphone. From there, the simple and intuitive Expensify lets you assign it to a trip, category or client and save it. When your event is over, sign in to the app’s connected website and download a clean expense report or sync it with one of many business accounting software programs, including QuickBooks. Bonus: Each account allows for multiple users, enabling business owners to get a one-stop snapshot of where the money goes. Pricing starts at $5 per user per month.
Ideal for small-business owners who do it all, the FreshBooks mobile app lets you create and send estimates, log billable hours and project expenses, then turn them into invoices that can be sent straight from your smartphone. It’ll even let you accept credit cards with that invoice to speed up payment, then mark the invoice as paid. All this, and it seamlessly integrates with its browser-based platform. Subscription required; pricing starts at $9.95 per month.
It’s been around for a while, but GoToMeeting keeps getting better. Users can schedule, lead or join conference calls or video chats from a smartphone, and share or view files from a mobile browser or Dropbox. Subscription required; pricing starts at $19 per month, which allows for unlimited sessions involving up to five participants at a time.
Think of Slack as an instant-messenger system on steroids. Join a project group discussion or even companywide chat from any device, as well as upload files and links and open them to edit. The app’s ability to jump seamlessly between smartphone and desktop and search through conversation threads quickly makes it an invaluable collaboration tool, enabling users to save email communication for more important conversations. Slack Lite is free; enhanced versions start at $6.67 per user per month.
Going international? Google Translate can help you say or write the right thing. Speak English into the mic, and the translation plays in real time. The person you’re talking to can respond in their native tongue, and you’ll hear the English translation.
The app works for 90 languages, including translating Chinese and Japanese written characters into English and vice versa. With Word Lens, a recent app update, you can point your phone’s camera at a street sign, menu and other text written in Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French or German and immediately view the English translation. Free.
With up to 1 TB available to Dropbox Pro subscribers, giant PowerPoint presentations or a suite of training videos can be stored in the cloud and grabbed when you need them, instead of letting them eat up storage space on your smartphone or tablet. Dropbox Pro can also be used to store hours of video, photos or audio recorded with a smartphone. The interface is clean and syncs easily between phone, desktop and web browser. Subscriptions are $99 per year.
With Office 365, Microsoft’s subscription-based Office suite, users get access to an iOS or Android app that allows for editing capabilities with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more—the workhorse programs still used by millions of businesses. Bonus: Microsoft throws in access to 1 TB of storage on its cloud-based OneDrive platform for up to five users. Subscriptions to Office 365 Small Business Premium (which can be used on up to five computers) are $150 per year.
Scanbot allows you to turn a smartphone photo of a contract into a PDF, then sign it with your finger or stylus and email it or stash it away in your Dropbox or OneDrive account. This simple app lets you combine multiple snaps of multiple pages into one PDF and features optical character recognition (OCR), the ability to read a document and convert it into editable text. The app costs $2; the OCR feature is an additional $5.
More than just a journal, Evernote collects and stores audio and video snips, photos, files and notes in the cloud. Users can seamlessly edit or search for anything across all devices and computers. Another plus: Share a “notebook” with your team members and use it as a repository for everyone’s input and research. The basic app is free; subscriptions to Evernote Premium are $5 per month.
If you need to manage multiple social media feeds at once and see them all in one place, it’s hard to beat Hootsuite. It’s still the top choice for marketing pros who want to manage clients’ feeds across major social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The mobile app also provides analytics and scheduling capabilities. The app is free; small-business plans start at $9.99 per month.
Like Hootsuite, Buffer allows users to manage what’s going out via social media but also makes it possible for multiple people to schedule posts through the same feed—so your marketing department won’t duplicate your sales department’s tweets. Its specialty is the ability to instantly share any page you’re on with your followers. The app is free; small-business plans start at $9.99 per month.
It may be easier to friend a customer, vendor or someone in your business network via Facebook than to get their email address or get them to respond to a LinkedIn request. Once you’re connected, you can make judicious use of Facebook Messenger to bypass their inbox or voicemail. Free.
Link TripIt to your email account, and it’ll automatically find your flight, hotel and car-rental confirmation emails and convert them into a master itinerary stored on your phone. The Pro version tracks flight delays, gate changes and even the traffic en route to the airport or your meeting location. It’s still the gold standard of travel-organising apps. The basic version is free; TripIt Pro costs $49 per year.
Download Waze, and the next time you get in your car, you’ll join millions of users who are reporting real-time traffic information. Punch in a destination, and you’ll see alternate-route information and a realistic arrival time that you can share with anyone. Free.
With TripLog, all you need to do is plug your phone into your car or sync it through Bluetooth, and it’ll automatically start tracking your mileage once you go faster than 5 mph. Turning your car off or unplugging the unit stops it from tracking. Easy. From there, the app turns your trips into IRS-friendly reports. A premium account integrates with QuickBooks accounting software and allows you to track and manage a fleet of vehicles. The app is free; small-business plans start at $25 per year.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How to Calculate the True Monetary Value of Your Time
As an entrepreneur, your time is precious. To protect it, you must know exactly what it’s worth.
Do you know the value of your time? Ken Segall, creator of Apple’s famous ‘Think Different’ ad campaign for agency Chiat/Day, said he got thrown out of a meeting once by the founder of his agency, Jay Chiat.
“Why are you here?” he asked Segall and the art director, who’d shown up with everybody else. “We’re just responding to the invitation,” said Segall. Chiat told them to get lost. “Go create something,” he said.
Jay Chiat knew the value of his creative people’s time. He knew it wasn’t worth it for them to go into that meeting when they could be putting together the next big ad campaign. They were more valuable to the company doing the creative work that made it run than attending a meeting.
That’s what knowing the value of your time can do for you; it tells you what’s most important. Time is the one resource all of us have, but it’s also painfully finite in nature. You can’t bank it — all you can do is invest it wisely.
As an entrepreneur, if you don’t know the true monetary value of your time, how are you going to prioritise your business and your life? What does it take to find the monetary value of your time?
Invest your time
Be aware that your time is likely to appreciate in value. If you’re a founder or running a successful business, your time’s value will increase as your business does. Sooner or later, the monetary value of your time is going to surpass the importance of money. It’ll be more important for you to invest your time in moving the business forward because your time is going to be worth more. So, invest your time on process early, lest you spend it later putting out fires.
Crunch the numbers
Entrepreneur James Clear decided to approach this problem systematically — he talked to everyone from poker players to executive coaches to figure out what the optimal method of measuring his time’s value was.
Then, he sat down and tracked every hour for three months. The upshot of that time investment was a very clear process that you can use to lay out what your time is worth.
First, figure out the amount of time you spend to earn money. That’s not just time spent working. Are you commuting? That’s time you’re using towards work that’s not going elsewhere. School? That counts. Drop the kids off at school? Add it on.
If it’s related to the time you spend earning money, add it on. Clear’s estimate guesses that most full-time employees and entrepreneurs spend around 2 500 hours a year on this (his exact estimate for himself came out to 2 742).
Then, figure out how much you earn in take-home pay per year. That calculation should be pretty simple, though if you’re a business owner, it’ll be a little more complex as you figure out taxes and withholding.
Divide your total earnings by the hours you spend to earn it. That’s your time’s value.
Surprised? It’s probably lower than you expected, especially if you calculated the extra hours devoted to things like dropping of kids at school or commuting accurately. We don’t often think of our work value in terms of total hours spent.
Create a system of checks and balances
You don’t want to just rely on that, though. Maybe you’re being underpaid (or underpaying yourself, if you’re an entrepreneur — don’t laugh, it’s more common than you think). Maybe another factor is throwing it off, or your math has an error.
Consider a few other factors:
- What do other people make to do your job?
- What would you pay someone else to do your job?
- What could you make on the open market if you were to go find another job?
Run those numbers against each other to determine an average. For entrepreneurs, this changes everything. Once you understand this number, it’ll change the way you approach everything in your business and your life.
Know what your own time is worth. Remind yourself of it constantly. If you do, you’ll find yourself more productive, more efficient, more satisfied, and more successful.
So, what are you waiting for? Invest wisely.
(Infographic) 9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making In The First 10 Minutes Of Your Day
From setting goals to drinking coffee, these bad morning habits might surprise you.
There are a number of things you’re probably doing every morning that are actually hindering your productivity.
If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you might be surprised to find out that drinking coffee between 8 and 10 a.m can make you more stressed throughout the day. That’s because caffeine early in the morning interferes with the time that the stress hormone, cortisol, is peaking in your body. It’s best to get your fix between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
When you get into the office and try to jump right into the top of your to-do list, you might find yourself confused and not very productive. When you don’t let your brain empty and refresh before starting a project or task, it loses a sense of control, becomes overwhelmed and ultimately, makes you less productive. Something else to avoid is checking email or social media right when you wake up. Typically, after checking your inbox, it takes a person at least 25 minutes to get back into a productive state. If you start your day off reading and responding to email after email, it will take you a long time to get back on track.
Another surprising mistake is setting self-imposed goals. Setting goals and deadlines for yourself might seem like an obvious productivity hack, but it turns out, that’s not the case. Instead, share your deadlines with others and you’ll feel more pressure and responsibility to get things done.
Check out resume.io’s infographic below for more productivity mistakes you’re likely making in the first 10 minutes of your day.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Workflow And Business Efficiency – 5 Strategies You Ignore At Your Peril
Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. You’re not still depending on email, are you?
An inefficient business can cost you a lot more than just growth – it can affect your revenue, too. According to a report by IDC, your business runs the risk of losing 20 to 30 percent of your revenue due to inefficient systems.
Unfortunately, many companies still struggle to implement the right systems to improve their workflow. Others have it worse, because they have no systems. In those situations, projects take ages to be completed, more time is spent on menial tasks and teams never seem to get enough done during work hours.
If that describes your company, your company’s profits may start to plummet, too.
Every successful business, then, has clearly defined systems to help the business run like clockwork. Improved workflow, better management and business efficiency save time, increase the bottom line and ensure a higher profit margin.
In fact, in an article on ContractZen, Tim Cummins, president of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management, wrote that, “The average corporation could boost its bottom line by almost 10 percent if it invested in improving the quality of contracting.
For many companies – especially those in more complex, project-based industries – the prize could be much higher – perhaps as much as 15 percent.”
Related: Become A Life-Hacker
Unfortunately, some companies fail to provide systems that put users first, taking a negative toll on those companies’ workflow and efficiency. The good news is that they’re only five strategies away from turning this around:
1. Automate all you can
From email lists, bookkeeping, invoicing and contract management, to social media posts and payrolls, almost everything can be automated. For a business that aims to be more efficient, automation is a must.
Automation doesn’t just save you time, it can be the one strategy that can guarantee explosive growth and higher conversion rates. According to this Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness study, 63 percent of companies polled that were outgrowing their competitors said they had automated their marketing.
Automating monotonous tasks that have to be repeated several times during the day helps you be more productive in tasks that require your personal attention.
2. Invest in customer-relationship management software
It’s not uncommon to find businesses that are barely able to keep up with their leads. Some waste hours hunting the low-quality leads instead of focusing their energy on those ready to buy. Here, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution linked to these businesspeople’s network phone system is a great way to enhance customer communications.
Customers value businesses that provide excellent customer service. A CRM solution increases the ability to keep track of customer information, monitor leads and provide efficient delivery. Businesses can provide for their customers’ needs faster and make effective business decisions. With CRM, businesses can also keep their focus on quality leads that will drastically improve conversion rates.
3. Set up a task-management system
Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. Email makes it difficult to carry everyone along. However, setting up task-management software like Slack, Trello or Asana makes it much easier to have everyone’s tasks in one place and ensure that everyone is carried along in the project.
Task-management software helps members of a team track their progress and ensure that everyone is working on their tasks.
4. Sync your calendar with that of everyone else on your team
How many times have you had to reschedule appointments because you didn’t know you had other meetings lined up for the day?
Aside from leaving negative impression in clients’ mind, this error makes you less productive. Having to go back and forth until you have settled on an appropriate date can be cumbersome especially when different time zones are involved. So, do this instead: Sync your personal calendar with your work calendar, and make sure that everyone in your team is synced to the latter, too.
This will ensure sure that everybody is “on the same page” in terms of appointments and deadlines. Google Calendar can help you do just that. Once everyone is synced up, any change in the calendar will be seen by everyone so they can manage their own appointments.
5. Block out chunks of time
Constant interruptions hamper your workflow. Imagine having to deal with turning over a project on a deadline while you’re stuck in a series of meetings throughout the day. It can get very difficult to focus on completing your most urgent tasks.
Block out chunks of time on your calendar for uninterrupted work. It’s better to schedule a series of meetings in one day than to spread them throughout the week.
If you’re creating content, block out one day to create all the content you’ll use for the week. That way your business will run more efficiently.
Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change
Wrapping it up
With the right strategies, you can turn your business around to make it efficient and lucrative. Automating your processes, setting up the right software and remaining focused on the tasks at hand will go a long way to help you do this. But just as with every good strategy, you need to remain consistent and give it time to do its magic.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.