Today’s Top 10 New Tools for Startups, Small Businesses, and Mobile Professionals
Running a small business is hard. Many are operated by one-person armies trying to juggle an immense number of responsibilities. Those that do employ other people still require team members to double up on duties and wear a plethora of hats in order to get everything done. Some days, the work can seem quite daunting.
The key to long-term viability for a small business is finding ways to offload work and improve efficiency in order to avoid burnout. Much of this can be achieved by utilizing the right tools and services to maximize your reach, minimize your workload, and reduce costs.
To assist you in finding what you need to help your business succeed, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten tools for startups and small businesses. With these tools and services, you’ll be able to focus on the functions and activities that will keep your business thriving.
Your Business Image
In the early days of the business, you probably operate out of your home. It makes sense; permanent office spaces are expensive, and as you do most of your work from home, you can’t justify the expense just to have a business address. Even as you begin to hire additional help, much of the business can still be run from a home office, so leasing an office outside the home doesn’t seem reasonable.
But doing your business from home has some serious drawbacks. First and foremost, a residential address makes your business seem less professional. Second, you may need a real business address for licensing and certification purposes. Third, receiving your business mail at a residential address can be problematic.
All-in-all, using a residential address for your business is not ideal.
If you want to avoid using a residential address, you have two choices. You can either lease an expensive office (that you will be using only part-time), or you can use a virtual office address. Virtual offices—like those you can find at Davinci Virtual—give you a professional address with mail receipt services, without having to leave home or pay thousands a month.
If your business is trying to minimize overhead (and what business isn’t?), then this is a service you won’t want to miss out on.
Digital Business Identity and Market Presence
Customers these days primarily find the products and services they want by searching online. While that opens up the potential for reaching a wider market, it also means that just posting an ad in the paper or in the phone book isn’t going to cut it anymore. If you don’t have a digital footprint, no one will find you, which means no new customers.
Your business would be difficult to find at a convention if you didn’t set up a booth. In a similar way, if you want to be found online you need to have a foothold on the digital landscape. This means, first and foremost, having a website of your own. Don’t panic; this is easier than you think.
There are website hosts—like web.com—that help you build a website. By providing you with a framework and some pre-built options, they simplify the process, allowing even novices and non-coders to assemble a beautiful domain. And they offer add-ons like e-commerce payment portals and SSL security for prices decidedly more agreeable than custom development costs.
From there, you can expand your online presence by building pages on sites like Google My Business and Yelp, so that the right information is pulled up when users search for you specifically. Your digital marketing likely won’t end here, but between this and a beautiful website, it’s a solid place to start.
The Perfect Workspace—Every Time—On-Demand
Without a permanent office, you’re lacking the office and meeting space you occasionally need. When you want to meet with potential clients and partners, you need someplace more professional than a coffee shop to do it.
Ideally, you’re looking for a place that has all of the amenities and features of a real business office—preferably without rental costs that will keep you up at night (hotel conference rooms, for example). Otherwise, you’re stuck either meeting business contacts in your home, paying prices you can’t afford, or struggling to hold a conversation over the backdrop of baristas and coffee enthusiasts.
The good news is affordable on-demand office and meeting space does exist, and it’s easier to find than you think. Davinci Meeting Rooms offers day offices, coworking spaces, and conference rooms, available for rent for periods as short as one hour at a time. Each Davinci location is equipped with business-ready features like high-speed internet, office supplies, available catering, and presentation equipment.
Whether you need it once or on a recurring basis, on-demand office space can offer you the benefits of a permanent office, without breaking your budget.
Legal Compliance for Your Business
Hiring a lawyer, even for simple tasks, can be incredibly expensive. It’s common for legal professionals to charge several hundred dollars per hour just for consultation, not to mention drafting legal documents or representing your business in an official capacity. In very short order, you can find yourself down thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
Not every small business can make room in its budget for an expense like this. In some situations, though, you need legal services, whether your company can afford to pay for them or not.
Just as there’s an alternative to expensive web development services and permanent office space, there is also a more affordable option when it comes to legal services. That alternative is LegalZoom. LegalZoom specializes in helping make common legal tasks simple and affordable for businesses and individuals. They can assist you with a number of tasks, including:
- Business formation and incorporation services
- Registered agent services
- Compliance and reporting
- Legal support
LegalZoom can even connect you to someone if you need legal counsel. It’s all the legal arrangements you need, at a fraction of the cost.
Business Communication Systems
Keeping in contact with customers can be difficult for small businesses, who—depending on their size—can’t always hire office staff to answer phones, emails, and online chats. Likewise, as your business grows, you’ll want to provide as many ways for customers to contact you as possible. Often, there’s a sizable gap between when the increasing number of phone calls starts becoming a problem, and the point at which you can hire someone full-time to address that problem.
When you’re caught in that gap, you’re either bringing revenue-generating activities to a halt regularly to answer or respond to customers, or you’re ignoring potential new customers in order to get work done. It’s a catch-22 that’s difficult to remedy.
At this point, you may have noticed a pattern. In most cases, the solution is not to go without or pay full price for something you can’t afford. It’s finding a service or tool that’s tailored to your circumstances and needs. That’s also true in this case. Between live virtual receptionist services and live web chat services, you’ll have everything you need.
A live virtual receptionist is to phone answering services what on-demand day offices are to office space. You pay for services by the hour and they work remotely, but beyond that they function as a normal receptionist. They answer and forward calls, take messages, schedule appointments for you, and more—all without having to hire even a part-time employee.
Live web chat services are very similar. Live chat representatives communicate with your customers via chats hosted on your website. They can answer questions, take down their information, and serve as excellent lead generation. Like on-demand offices and live receptionist services, you only pay for the time you need.
Financial Tools for your Business
Handling finances is yet another function that many businesses struggle to pay for. Small businesses don’t usually have the resources for a finance department, or even a dedicated accountant. Even the cost of a part-time accountant may be difficult to justify.
Despite this, finances still have to be managed and taxes still have to be paid. These are tasks best left to a professional, because doing them incorrectly can create a number of critical issues which can jeopardize the success of the business venture. It’s a serious dilemma that leaves startups desperate for help, but with no way to pay for it.
There’s a way around this problem that offers professional accounting help at an affordable price. What’s more, it’s easy to use. Just as there is on-demand legal services, you can have the assistance and insight of a professional accountant without having to pay for them to be present in the office all day.
Bookly.co is a web-based bookkeeping service that can handle your accounts payable and receivable, your payroll, and your taxes. Signing up means having a team of professionals handle your finances, completely removing the burden from your to-do list. This can free you and your team up to do what you do best, leaving the difficult work of tracking expenses and finances to the experts.
Human Resources and Benefits
Similar to the problem above, small businesses often can’t afford a dedicated HR professional to help with hiring, terminating, payroll processing, benefits, and so forth. Additionally, as small businesses grow, they will inevitably encounter situations where conflicts need to be resolved, issues need to be addressed, and employees need to be managed.
Like handling the finances, this is something best left to the professionals, but professionals are difficult to afford on a small business budget.
By this point, you should know that there is a solution uniquely suited to the needs of your business, that’s much more affordable than hiring someone outright. From HR and payroll processing to insurance and benefits, ADP can handle everything. Signing up is easy, and using their services is straightforward. It’s a simple matter of having the experts handle the difficult tasks, so you can focus on the work you’re best at instead.
Email and Social Marketing
As mentioned above, without a digital presence, it’s hard for customers to find you. What’s more, even if they find you, odds are they won’t make a purchase on their first pass. Keeping them connected to your business requires email marketing, retargeting, and a good social media presence. Without it, your business will be quickly forgotten.
The problem is, managing an email retargeting campaign by hand is both tedious and ineffective. Similarly, posting to social media manually can result in needing to stay up till midnight the night before to ensure a post is released on time. So what can be done?
Each of these problems has an answer. For your email marketing, there’s Constant Contact, a service that helps you maintain an email list and provides tools for building and implementing an email marketing campaign. This includes allowing you to schedule email blasts in advance, so that you don’t have to personally hit the send button and send each one out yourself.
For social media marketing, the solution is Buffer, a tool that allows you to schedule social media posts in advance and automate their release. Without it, you’re posting each update by hand. With it, you can schedule posts for every social media channel ahead of time and then allow Buffer to release them when the appointed moment arrives. It’s a massive time-saver and a serious life-saver.
Traditional marketing isn’t quite dead yet and, even if it was, you’d still need graphic design help for digital marketing campaigns. But like accountants and HR professionals, graphic designers can be hard to fit into a small business budget. It’s a specialized skill set that you’d be hard-pressed to replace yourself, which is in part why hiring a graphic designer costs as much as it does.
Moreover, you may not have the workload to justify a full- or even part-time designer on your staff. What you need is another on-demand solution that can give you expertise on an as-needed basis.
There is, in fact, a service that can do this for you. From business cards to mailers and flyers to branded giveaways, Proforma can do just about everything. They’re not limited to graphic design, as they offer services such as apparel, printing, and awards and recognition.
Proforma provides a whole host of services available at your fingertips, allowing you to benefit from the expertise of professionals in multiple fields without having to hire staff you can’t justify, and can’t afford.
Office Supplies & Shipping
There are basics to running a business that have been necessities for as long as businesses have been around. There’s no getting around the need to ship product or the need to have pens and paper to write everything down. Acquiring these products and services from the wrong source can be costly, both because of the quality of the job they do and the price of their services or product.
You need these things either way. You might as well reduce your expenses while you’re at it.
Shipping product is a non-trivial cost to your business, especially if you’re offering free shipping to your customers. That’s why FedEx is such an excellent choice. They provide standard shipping, overnight, and even international shipping, all at prices that your small business can afford.
As for office supplies, your best available option is Staples, both for their selection and for their prices. Whether buying in-store or buying online and having it delivered, you’ll find yourself saving money by purchasing through them.
Starting, running, and maintaining stability with a small business isn’t easy. With the right tools, however, you can keep your fledgling company in the black, without overworking yourself or your team. Our list should give you a solid place to begin, providing you with some of the basics and helping you cut some sizable costs. From there, it’s up to your hard work and determination to see you through.