Posted: Fri 5th Jan 2024
Looking to introduce some technology into your business so you can be more organised and efficient?
Here are some apps, services and software packages you might consider for your small business in 2024.
Accounting, invoices and finance
Managing your finances becomes simpler with accounting and invoicing software. By automating the processes involved, these apps and packages allow you to quickly:
run reports on your cash flow, turnover and more
work out what tax you owe and file your tax returns
prepare end-of-year accounts
With many of these packages hosted in the cloud, it means you can access data on your finances using your smartphone, tablet or computer, wherever you may be. And as the providers generally offer free trials to potential new customers, you can try before you buy.
Small business accounting software – top picks
FreeAgent is aimed at freelancers and small businesses. It focuses on daily tasks like invoicing and handling expenses.
Crunch is built for freelance business owners. It can record invoices and expenses, provide real-time snapshots of tax liabilities, and detail monthly financial performance.
E-commerce and sales
When you want to set up an online store, e-commerce software is what you use to do it. These packages are designed to do all the technical heavy lifting behind the scenes, letting you focus on tasks such as:
adding or removing products you’re selling
Essentially, e-commerce software provides everything you need to run and manage a retail website.
E-commerce and sales software – top picks
There are a number of powerful web platforms that allow you to develop amazing ecommerce experiences with little technical knowledge.
Shopify is a cloud-based platform designed for small businesses. Really simple to use, it lets you design, set up and manage your online store.
WooCommerce is a plugin for popular website builder WordPress. It has an easy-to-install interface and an entry-level free option.
Wix is better known for general website-building rather than selling online, but it does provide a simple solution for e-commerce. Its user-friendliness means it’s easy to create and build an online store.
Customer relationship management (CRM)
Customer relationship management – CRM for short – is the process of:
building relationships with new and existing customers
streamlining your processes to make more sales, improve your customer service, and increase your profits
CRM software is a tool you use to do all this. Often hosted in the cloud, these packages allow you to record, report and analyse all interactions you have with people outside the company, whether they buy from you already or are considering doing so.
Small business CRM software – top picks
Salesforce Essentials is a condensed version of the full Salesforce platform, designed purposely as CRM software for small businesses. It lets you manage contact information, capture data from customer emails, manage customer feedback, and more.
HubSpot CRM is aimed specifically at small businesses. With free basic access and optional paid add-ons, the system enables you to log and track deals, set tasks for people, and integrate with other platforms such as Microsoft Outlook.
Capsule CRM is very user-friendly, with a lot of functionality. With this system, you can manage contacts, track sales, generate reports and integrate with accounting software such as Sage, QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Xero.
If you’ve started your small business from home, chances are you’re not often in the same room as the people you need to speak to regularly. This is where communication apps come in.
These apps are essential if you want to maintain regular contact with a co-founder, supplier, freelancer or other small business owners in your area. Best of all, they’re fully compatible with smartphones, so you can keep in touch when you’re out of the office.
All communication apps should let you do the basics – speak to people one-on-one or in groups – but additional features vary. Some lean more towards project management and collaboration, while others are built around file sharing.
Communication apps – top picks
Slack is arguably the most popular communication app for teams, but solo business owners will still find it useful. It’s a good all-round tool for chatting, video conferencing and screen-sharing.
Most apps have free versions or offer free trials, so you can test out a few before you make a decision about what works best for you.
Social media management
Customers will have contact with your brand a number of times before they buy from you. They may read reviews, look at your social media following and check out competitors. Having a cohesive online brand will help convert that interest into sales.
Social media’s reach and affordability makes it essential for small businesses. But while it’s easy to create a profile on platforms like Meta (Facebook), X (Twitter) and Instagram, keeping track of them can become a full-time job in itself.
So it’s definitely worth using a scheduling tool that lets you write social posts in advance and then publish them at your chosen time. Keeping social channels in one place saves time creating and scheduling content, and encourages you to get value out of the channels you have.
Social media management apps – top picks
Hootsuite has a free tool for managing up to three different social accounts and scheduling up to 30 posts.
Buffer allows you to manage three social accounts and schedule 10 posts for free.
Connecting your email, calendar and contacts is probably the single best improvement you could make. At just a few pounds per month, a service like Microsoft 365 offers cloud-based Exchange, which will manage all your Outlook data and sync it to all your devices.
Using Out of Office, sharing a calendar with an associate or delegating your inbox to your assistant will make you as professional as any bigger business with expensive email servers.
Organisation and collaboration
Trello is a great visual way to keep track of lists and to-dos. Create boards, cards and checklists to manage your tasks. Use the whiteboard to easily move things around as work progresses. You can also share boards with colleagues to easily collaborate on projects. The app also syncs nicely with smartphones to show you alerts and notes on the go.
From spreadsheet reports to written documents and presentation slides, Google Drive helps you keep a live, central version of your work, with easy collaboration and sharing tools. It’s a great solution when you need to manage lots of versions of different documents and paperwork.
Tracking your time
Toggl is a simple time-tracking app. Whether you use it on your laptop, tablet or smartphone, it really is very easy to keep track of what you’re working on. Its straightforward reports and exporting tools help you maintain an accurate record of your time, so you can bill your clients accurately.
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