When you hang your shingle and open for business, you immediately take on at least 10 different roles. Often these roles demand your time all at once. Technology to the rescue! These 10 apps can help make you a lot more productive. Many of them are free, some charge a small fee or offer a paid version, but all are worth the investment.
1. Evernote. This easy-to-use, free app helps you stay organized across all your devices. It lets you take notes, sync files, save web pages, capture photos, create to-do lists and record voice reminders. And it makes all these tasks completely searchable, whether you’re at home, at work, or on the go. The small-business owners I surveyed said it's the best productivity app out there!
2. Dropbox. This free, cloud-based, file-storing service lets you bring your photos, docs and videos anywhere and share them easily with your laptop or mobile device. No more danger from the blue screen of death with this app. Move all your files to the cloud so you can access them from any device, anywhere. You can also interface with your team to share files, which provides great version control and cuts down on e-mail.
3. Nozbe. This task-management system provides a simple user interface and is extremely intuitive. Nozbe lets small-business owners keep track of what they’ve delegated and what they’ve assigned to themselves. It’s available on both Android and iOS devices, and you can e-mail it tasks to add. The app also integrates with Evernote and Dropbox.
4. Ifttt. A shorthand for “If this, then that,” Ifttt is a simple Web app that automates actions when certain conditions are met. For example, if it checks the forecast and it looks like rain, you can set it to send you a text message to grab your umbrella. Ifttt can also automatically bookmark blog posts for you in Delicious, Digg, etc. and call with appointment reminders. And that’s just a start. It can be a bit intimidating at first, but you'll get the hang of it quickly.
5. LastPass. This free password manager and form filler relieves the stress of trying to remember a slew of passwords. If you regularly move between multiple computers, devices and operating systems, LastPass securely stores and gives you access to any of your account credentials.
6. Square. This on-the-go mobile-payment device plugs right into your smartphone to accept credit card payments. And you don’t need to set up a merchant account at your bank. Just order the card reader for free and set up an account. Square charges 2.75 percent per transaction, and funds deposit in your account the next day—with no transaction or amount limits.
7. Mint. If you need to know if a business check cleared the bank, you need this app. Mint compiles all of your financial information in one place. You can see what's happening with your checking, savings, investment and retirement accounts anytime and track spending as you go. One caveat: You can’t transfer funds through this read-only app. Even so, it makes the list for being such an efficient financial tracker.
8. FlightTrack Pro. An essential app for tracking flight information, FlightTrack Pro has proven more accurate than any other source and gives information in real time—often before that same info is provided by the flight crew. This $10 app makes just about every conceivable flight detail available. Add a flight and you’ll get departure and arrival times, airport code, terminals, gates, aircraft and status. And there’s no need to keep checking the app on the way to the airport; it’ll alert you as departure time nears. Its only drawback is that it’s currently available only on Apple devices.
9. Expensify. If you travel for business, you want to keep your receipts. You can do it the old-fashioned way, but why give yourself extra work? Your smart phone can keep track for you. Using your phone's camera, you can snap pictures of your receipts to retain a digital record in chronological order. The app also allows you to log mileage, meal expenses and other business-related travel costs.
10. Recruiterbox. Use this recruitment software to screen resumes, recruit management and track applicants. It helps you minimize the time spent on the administrative tasks of "managing" the hiring process and more time actually hiring. It’s an easy online app that lets you receive all your resumes in one place and track candidates’ progress throughout the application stages.
Honorable Mention: Coffee Break. If you’re one of those entrepreneurs, like me, who sometimes gets into “the zone” and barely remembers to eat lunch, now there’s an app to remind you. Studies show your brain becomes less effective if you don't break every 90 minutes, so schedule your day with the Coffee Break app. Imagine your Mac shutting down to tell you that you’ve been sitting in front of the screen too long and need a break. This app features a mechanism that refuses to do anything else for you until you rest your eyes, grab some lunch or get some fresh air.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small-business experts. Forbes Magazine named her the No. 1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern time for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog and is the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FedEx.
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