From Evernote to Upwork: How technology can help manage your micro business
This article originally appeared on Business Advice.
By definition, being at the helm of a micro business means you are extremely busy with day-to-day operations. There is always a challenge therefore, in striking a balance between these operations and finding the time needed to think strategically in terms of product development and business development. All business functions, from hiring employees to managing teams and dealing with finance, must also be addressed. These numerous responsibilities can prove overwhelming and be the source of a great deal of stress.
There is a real risk that you may become so immersed in daily operations that you lose focus of the bigger, longer-term strategic picture, which is key to growing your business.
Thanks to technological developments however, there are now plenty of tools which could help you to streamline your operations and become more productive.
(1) Project management tools
Having a project management tool in place is vital in order to maintain an overview of what your team does and allow its members to communicate efficiently, even if it is a virtual team. A project management tool has the ability to document new projects, break them down into manageable tasks and delegate effectively. You could use Asana, or if you are looking for something lighter you can try Trello.
(2) Storing and sharing files
Google Docs is considered by many to be the ultimate solution in cloud-based file sharing. All files can be easily and securely stored in the cloud and be accessed by most devices in any location which offers internet access. Google Docs can also be used to collaborate with other team members, clients and employees to share, edit and view revisions to documents.
(3) Email marketing
Email marketing should be an essential element of marketing for micro businesses. One of the most popular and easy to use tools on the market is MailChimp. The software is perfect for businesses with small subscriber lists as MailChimp offers a free plan which allows up to 12,000 emails to be sent to 2,000 subscribers.
(4) Customer support
Every company, regardless of its size, should attempt to do its best to respond to the problems of customers in the fastest and most convenient way. A cloud-based support system, Zendeskcan be set up in minutes, allowing small businesses to offer great customer service — saving you time and resources.
(5) Virtual notebooks
Great ideas are often dreamed up at the most unexpected times, so it’s handy to have a tool which helps you to keep track of them efficiently. Evernote was especially designed for this purpose, offering the functionality for jotting down and organising thoughts and storing useful web articles. Evernote comes with a free version with most basic features,
(6) Freelance resources
Most micro businesses don’t have the luxury of having specialist in-house teams. Many now choose to recruit expert freelancers for specific projects, which helps to free up cashflow.Upwork is handy for custom projects such as website building. Alternatively, for smaller or more detailed projects, Fiverr or DigiServed,where you can buy prepackaged services, could prove more useful.
(7) Team collaboration
Even in a small team, effective collaboration is a must, to achieve uninterrupted workflow. It can result in a total mess when some of the team members communicate via email, some use Skype and others come to your desk when they have to tell you something. Slack is a great small business tool and makes team collaboration much easier, offering file sharing, upload to cloud and channel or topic segregation.
(8) Social media management
Social media marketing should play a key role in a business’ marketing strategy. Helping to raise awareness, engage stakeholders, encourage feedback and strengthen branding, it is usually free in terms of money, but can prove costly in terms of time resource. Tools such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Buffer can save time by scheduling social media updates and providing useful social media analytics.
Cashflow can prove a serious issue with startups and micro businesses, which means that it is vital to remain on top of invoices and billing. There are a whole host of accountancy apps and software out there, but I would recommend a free tool web-based tool called Slimvoice, which allows businesses to send invoices directly to clients from the platform.
(10) Manage your customers
Effective management and business development is supported by a system which allows you to identify the most profitable customers, track orders through the sales funnel and highlight relevant business opportunities and challenges. A CRM system such as Zoho makes this entire process easy. Its effortless automation helps to capture leads, follow up with inactive leads, forecast sales targets, store detailed information on contacts and interactions, and even provide mobile functionality.