When you run your own business, whether as a brand new entrepreneur or an established family company, you’re going to need some help to maintain momentum and stay ahead of your competitors. There are so many apps out there these days that can improve productivity, send the right news direct to your inbox, and help collaborative or remote working, that it’s hard to know where to start.
We’ve tracked down the best business apps for entrepreneurs in 2017, so you don’t have to.
Research And News
If you want to be an authority in your industry, you’re going to need to read regularly. However, with so many possible news avenues and sector-specific magazines out there, it’s hard to remember which to follow. Worse is the time drain on finding and reading articles – when you really should be doing something else! These apps help you to file and stow away the best news feeds to read at a time that suits you (and won’t impact on your productivity).
Feedly is an RSS feed aggregator, which means you can collect all of your RSS feeds in one place. This makes it really easy to keep on top of the latest news, and create collections of your favourite websites or subjects. You no longer need to visit individual websites for the latest updates – it’ll all happen in your Feedly news feed, in real time.
Pocket is designed for the busy reader who always finds articles they love but forget to go back to, to finish reading. This app integrates with over 1500 other programs and apps, including essentials such as Twitter, Flipboard, and Chrome. Save any article you like to read later – with no need for an internet connection, either.
A similar premise to Pocket, Flipboard allows you to save articles for later. The big difference between the two is the user experience: Flipboard looks like your very own swish magazine, with turn action pages. You can even connect your Pocket account to your Flipboard, if you feel so inclined. A cross between Feedly, Stumbleupon, and Pocket, Flipboard lets you create your own magazines of relevant articles, making them easy to read offline later on, and share with your colleagues too.
A list of business apps wouldn’t be complete without this giant. Evernote lets you collate all of your web finds, handwritten notes, to do lists, photos, and videos, into one place. The cloud system means you can sync the app across your devices, making your folders and files immediately accessible from anywhere, without any additional setup required when you’re using a new device.
Time drains are the bane of any entrepreneur’s life. It’s so easy to get sucked into doing menial administrative tasks, or rummage around for lost passwords. These apps are all designed to improve your productivity, usually by automating tasks, so that you have more time in the day to focus on the important business development work you need to do.
Short for ‘If this, then that’, this is what’s known as a recipe app. You can set up any number of feeds, processes, and workflows with this software, which connects with a plethora of other apps.
For example, if you’re a frequent traveller, you can set up health alerts at your favourite destinations from the World Health Organisation to be emailed to a particular folder in your inbox. You could sync your Instagram to your Pinterest, or add tomorrow’s weather report to your calendar every evening.
You can set up a complex chain of events, too: You might want to make sure your heating comes on at a certain time before you arrive home, and can set up a GPS geofence to alert your smart heating controls to kick into action.
This is a handy app for anybody who is easily drawn into the black hole of Wikipedia, YouTube excursions, or Reddit adventures. Using this app, you can set a daily time limit for websites that you choose to control. Once your time’s up, the website is blocked. There’s nothing more motivating than not having access to your productivity-stealers!
If having ANY access at all to possible productivity time drains means your self-control goes out of the window, try blocking websites altogether with an app like Freedom. Set the times during which you’re not allowed to access your chosen websites, and there’s simply no way you can get onto them in that time slot. You can schedule these sessions in advance, too, so you’ll not be able to check your Facebook ‘just before I shut it off’ – it does that for you.
Perfect for logging in to the multiple apps you’ve got on the go, as well as other information such as sensitive HR files, 1password saves all of your login and form data behind one master password. It also can save your bookmarks, which means you can log in to any device and, using 1password, access everything as if you were in the office. This app is a significant time-saver, as you’re no longer going to spend hours trying to remember your login details and going through extensive security checks for forgotten passwords!
Collaborative Working Apps
Whether you’re an entrepreneur working with a new co-founding business partner, or a small organisation with several remote workers on the team, collaborative working tools are a must-have. They help prevent confusion with version control on documents (as everyone can access the most up-to-date document), and enable teams to see the progress of projects.
With Trello, you can create your own boards and To Do lists, and share them with specific people or entire groups. It’s a really handy – and free – tool for collaborative working, as you only need to share the information other people need to see, and can easily keep an eye on the progress of multiple projects in a simple at-a-glance format.
A clock in/clock out app is ideal for anyone managing a remote workforce. Not only will your remote workers feel accountability for ‘turning up’ on time every day, but it’s also much easier to keep track of times for employee and freelancer payroll requirements. With Time Clock Wizard, you can create individual employee schedules, track employee time, and easily sort your payroll at the end of each pay period.
Make sending and receiving contracts incredibly easy with HelloSign. There’s no more need to find a printer, print off a contract, sign it, scan it, and email it back. This app lets you automatically sign documents with an eSignature – which is just as legally binding as the old-fashioned pen-and-paper route.
It’s easy to adapt and customise documents, which is great for tweaks to your standard contracts for clients or unusual one-off projects. HelloSign improves productivity and helps to create a traceable paper trail, too – the digital copy can’t get lost in the same way as paper (especially if you back in in the Cloud- more on that in a bit).
Whether you’re in a team of one or one hundred, keeping track of expenses is essential to ensure continuous cash flow and avoid any nasty surprises come tax report time. Expensify allows users to upload copies of every receipt, meaning they’re never lost and can easily be processed with a paper trail for expenses. This is especially important if you’re responsible for reimbursing staff for their expenses, as it’ll help you keep track of what is being spent, where, and who the worst repeat offender is for expensing their recent haircut/bar tab/stamps.
File Creation And Sharing Apps
Gone are the days when Microsoft Office was the only software you needed. In no way is it defunct, but there are many more applications and programs out there to help with specific tasks for entrepreneurs and business owners.
A free desktop or app-based design program, Canva allows even the most design-challenged to create logos, graphics, Pinterest pins, Facebook headers, infographics – you name it. The simple drag-and-drop style, the ability to upload your own images, and the easy-to-use interface make Canva a go-to for any business owner looking for an easy – and free – design app. There are paid options, on a premium rate or pay-as-you-go, too – so if you use it a lot, there’s plenty of opportunity to expand.
Whether you want to do some customer research, or simplify the elimination process during your first hires into the business, SurveyMonkey is an incredibly useful tool. You can easily and quickly create smart surveys, from one-pagers through to complex, multiple-logic questionnaires. For the bigger features, you’ll need to pay – but the free version is a great starting point. Get feedback or ideas from your employees, or ask your customers to provide their input in return for a discount or competition to win a prize: surveys are multiple-use tools ideal for businesses of every size.
When you’re working remotely, are always on-the-go, have several collaborators, or use a range of devices, you want somewhere to easily access your documents. That’s where Google Docs comes in! A free app, you can use software for spreadsheets, word documents, and even presentations – and it’s easy to collaborate, too. Invite people to see your document, and set their permissions to read-only or edit, and keep track of changes and edits with the review and chat options.
Google Docs is set in the cloud, so you’re able to access it from anywhere – all you need is your Gmail address to log in.
Another classic cloud app, Dropbox lets you store and share large files with others. A cloud service means these files can be accessed from any device, and you can easily share a document by emailing the link to the recipient. Dropbox is great for people who need to store lots of large files at once – such as photographers – and it works across all major devices and operating systems.
When you need to send a pitch to a client, or an image to your graphic designer for editing, an email sometimes just doesn’t cut it. If the file is too big, the incoming email server could reject the file – or at the very least you’ll irritate the recipient by slowing down their inbox load time. WeTransfer allows you to host your files on a server, and send a download link to the recipient. On the free version, this link expires after a set time, so be sure that your recipient knows to download it as soon as the file is received.
Any business owner knows that networking is the core of any organisation. Without getting to know people in your industry, including potential clients, you’re going to miss out on brand positioning, sales opportunities, and business growth possibilities.
The ‘Facebook for business’ is one of the largest growing social networks across the globe. Get involved! You’ll be able to extend your network of contacts, demonstrate your knowledge in forums, and share your latest blog articles to attract potential customers. LinkedIn is less about selling to people, however, than it is about building reliable and valuable business relationships. Remember that your contacts might not be the person you would sell to – but they ARE likely to be able to recommend you to people, so always provide value with your conversations on LinkedIn.
The leading free social app, Hootsuite allows you to schedule your social media engagement well ahead of time. Instead of spending hours every day checking Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, you can follow up on all of these accounts in one place. Schedule posts well in advance, keep an eye on your favourite hashtags, and see your inbound messages that require a response with ease.
Pinterest is a huge social network that shouldn’t be overlooked by businesses who think it’s not relevant to their audience. Yes, 80% of Pinterest users are women, so if you have a male-orientated product it may not seem relevant – but these women are the people who buy for their spouses, boyfriends, fathers, and sons. The word-of-mouth referral opportunity of Pinterest is worth considering – but it can be time-consuming to generate a valuable following. Tailwind lets you schedule pins in advance, to different boards, and lets you join ‘Tribes’ to further spread your content.
Networking has become mostly online these days – so we’ve included a few key things here. Remember, though, that it’s just as important to have some attractive and memorable business cards, and to attend trade events and business meetings in-person. It’ll create much stronger and more meaningful business partnerships than if you solely operate online.
That’s where our final suggestion comes in: keep the business networking alive with…
Camcard is a simple-but-effective way to store your new contacts’ details when you’re at an event. Simple take a picture of their business card and boom! It updates in your files. This is particularly great for serial networkers, as you’ll be able to know exactly how and when you met the contact, which’ll help when you first follow up with them after the event.