Finding the right online business solutions and software for your small business is never easy, even if you’re the most tech-minded founder!
Whether you have a small team of 4 or 5, or a larger team of 20, 30, or more, you need to realise that you’ll all have to work together if you want your business to run smoothly.
We understand that each team member has their own way of working and communicating, especially when collaborating with a diverse group of people, whether remotely or in-house.
Some are introverts, some extroverts. Others are visual learners, while others are listeners and prefer verbal instructions.
We all have to communicate and work together well if we want our businesses to grow. There’s got to be some kind of help online to make our processes more effective and get our businesses running at top speed, right?
Replicable System and Business Solutions
Here’s the thing:
Email is the conventional type of communication at work; it’s common that email service providers like Gmail offer special options to filter incoming emails and help us organise our inbox.
But should your team members really be using email to share links, documents, and forward newsletters?
There are better online business solutions and software out there, that will help lessen the email load, organise everything and streamline your tasks.
It can be overwhelming.
We don’t want to spend all of our time filtering emails, or trying to get our inbox organised. There has to be a better way!
There just seems to be a lot of information headed our way, and as business owners, we need to find solutions that are going to save us time, not add on another time-consuming task.
We want our team to be able to share information with us. We want to be able to keep up with the trends in our industries.
While email filtering systems can help us sort out the spam from the good, it’s not always a perfect system.
An excited colleague at work who has stumbled upon an insightful case study, forwards you a link via email.
That’s great, but before you know it, an abundance of other team members have also done the same. This leaves you with an inbox swamped with hundreds of emails that you’ll forget to open and read.
By neglecting your email (due to it being swamped), you might miss out on a great opportunity.
While we want to encourage getting rid of spammy emails, we don’t want to miss out on the next big idea that could grow our business.
Brian Shephard, General Manager of Turnstone, wrote in his Fortune thought-piece that too much information stalls productivity.
“Responding immediately to a text or email only increases stress and frustration while decreasing effectiveness. Instead, schedule specific times throughout the day to check email. Additionally, find ways to display key information for easy reference. Posting data on nearby whiteboards or magnetic privacy screens means you won’t find yourself sifting through documents unnecessarily, a venture that always consumes more time than you anticipate.”
That’s where project management and business productivity solutions come in handy!
Building a productive team and replicable systems is crucial in today’s time sensitive business world. And that’s where great project tools can make your job easier.
As PwC put it:
“An astounding 97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.”
The importance of great online business solutions and software has never been greater. So without further ado, here are…
The Top 10 Online Business Solutions and Software
In our list, we’ve included free versions, freemium and premium options, all aimed to help improve your team’s performance. There are mobile apps and web apps alike.
Let’s get into the list:
1. Manage personal and team projects with Trello
Trello is a project management tool perfect for handling personal and team tasks, whether you’re a one-man or large team. It’s easy to use, and visual learners will quickly adapt to its features; you can create a board for each project, add a card, and assign it to a team member.
You can implement the Kanban methodology using this tool, which was also used by Toyota in the 1960s to improve the process and get things done while increasing your productivity and efficiency.
Takeaway Features: free version, supports other online solutions and storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and more, easy to use, Calendar power-ups, easy tagging of members in a task, available on multiple devices, and it has it’s own dedicated app.
2. Organize pinned articles and virtual notebooks with Evernote
Got an idea to share? Stumbled upon this insightful article that might be useful for content development?
Evernote is for you.
Evernote is a lifesaver for collecting, nurturing, and sharing ideas with the team. Although it has overwhelming features – for not-so-digitally-savvy folks – once you adapt to the overall UI/IX, you’ll find it useful, aside from having a ton of virtual notebooks in the cloud.
You can download the browser plugin or extension and start pinning articles in each notebook, add a tag (e.g. a topic or keyword about that article), and file it under a specific notebook.
This is just one of the many online business solutions, and it’s also available on multiple devices.
The premium version allows you to access your notebooks offline.
Takeaway Features: free version up to 60MB monthly upload limit, premium version comes with more storage capacity for uploads and advanced business solutions, work chat for team collaboration, tags for organizing notebooks and pinned articles.
3. Design graphics like a pro with Canva
Canva, the cloud-based freemium graphic design tool, comes with a drag-and-drop interface that allows you to create graphics like a pro.
It can be your digital marketer’s best friend because there are several design types available in different dimensions to optimize your social media graphics.
The free version gives access to hundreds of graphics, illustrations, photos, fonts and more that you can design a decent Facebook motivational quote in just 5 minutes.
Whether you’re creating an online ad or a print media design, this tool can save you a lot of time.
If you don’t have the budget to work with a creative design agency, then Canva is worth exploring. However, if you can afford a professional designer, we always recommend you do that instead.
Takeaway Features: access to hundreds of photos, graphics, and illustrations for free, a host of design types and templates, use of custom dimensions, team collaboration, upload a brand kit – logo, palettes, and fonts – for the paid version
4. Stay focused on one task at a time with the Be Focused Pomodoro app
Having a hard time focusing on your task? For Mac and iOS users, Be Focused is a useful tool to manage tasks, track your progress, and customize breaks to maximize your productivity.
It uses the Pomodoro method, a technique that Francesco Cirillo developed in the 1980s, that uses a timer to break down the tasks into intervals, usually a 25-minute break.
Be Focused app allows you set these breaks – long or short duration – and the target number of work intervals in a day.
A list of tasks can be renamed for each project, then just press the play button to start.
There’s an alarm sound even if it’s working in the background, reminding you to take a break or start again.
The free version comes with ad banners and limited features.
Takeaway Features: track your progress and label the tasks, switching from one task to another, customize your work intervals and breaks, export logged hours in CSV file (available on the paid version).
5. Your one-stop Microsoft Office alternative on the cloud with Google Drive
If you’re not a fan of Microsoft Office monthly subscription, you can always use Google Drive for creating documents and presentations, plus you can enjoy 30GB of free storage.
The cloud-based office tool saves you a lot of disk space on your computer as you work online, rather than installing a standalone licensed software, which comes with a hefty price tag.
Start working with your team in real-time and share the documents as you write, edit, and revise texts or while creating a pitch deck or analyzing financial statements on the Google spreadsheet.
Here’s a convenient way to work and save files on the cloud.
Google Drive offers an extensive range of office tools – from creating a PDF file to a survey form – and you can track revisions.
I find this is a useful tool for smaller projects or one-off clients where collaboration is important, but you don’t need to create an entire Dropbox folder or system.
In my business, there are many tools that I use to keep the content flowing and help clients get their own content online and this is definitely one of them.
One of the added features that I love is the autosave feature, which allows you to recover various versions of a document. You can also determine the level of editing a user is allowed to have, with permissions.
Takeaway Features: works like MS Office, no need to install software, saves you more space on your local drive, easy sharing and collaborating with team members, revisions tracker, file storage, back-up and more.
6. Engage your target audience with Hootsuite
Instead of manually posting social media updates, you can use Hootsuite, a social media management tool, to schedule updates, monitor and analyse your online campaigns.
You can time optimize your posts to increase your exposure and engagement rates across your social media accounts.
The free version only supports three accounts; however, the Pro version can accommodate up to 50 social media profiles, 1 enhanced analytics report, bulk scheduling and access to premium apps.
Hootsuite also offers free courses to improve your online marketing skills; some are free while others are paid with certifications.
Takeaway Features: monitor or listen to conversations using the engagement tools, assign a team member, supports browser plugins and extensions, available in multiple devices, generate short links, auto schedule posting for optimal exposure.
I put Hootsuite on this list because it’s a popular, easy-to-use solution and I know that I can safely recommend it.
Hootsuite is used by many businesses that just need to schedule and manage their social media posts, but personally, I prefer Buffer.
Buffer is similar to Hootsuite, but I find the interface easier to use.
The free version allows you to schedule social media posts for 2 accounts, but the pro version is only 10 U.S. a month. It also gives you clear analytics on your post performance and easily allows you to “rebuffer” content so you can share it again and again.
7. Conference calls with Skype
Who can forget Skype?
Online business operations wouldn’t be complete without conference calls via Skype.
Get connected with the team members, whether using online text message, voice calls, or video chats. You can send documents and attachments or share your screen while working in real-time.
Call your colleagues anytime and for free.
A group chat allows you to add people in the teleconference and it’s available across devices. I happen to love Skype, even with some of the inherent kinks in the interface (why does my microphone suddenly stop working?).
I use it to keep in touch with many of my clients, and my staff.
As someone who has an almost entirely remote staff team, Skype is an essential online business tool. I even have the app downloaded on my phone so I can chat and check in with my team on the go.
You can also share screens, send documents from anywhere, anytime. I use it so much when a new client or write starts working with me and doesn’t have Skype, I am left bewildered!
Takeaway Features: free calls, group video chat conferencing, screen sharing, file sharing, Wi-Fi calls, and the ability to call telephones directly from your computer.
8. Offline viewing and reading with Pocket
No time to read the entire article? Let Pocket collect all your articles, videos, and attachments so you can view them later.
If you’re always in transit while working, you can save the articles and read them while on board, layover, or when you’re just killing time.
Whatever stories that interest you, you can read them while on the go.
Offline is the keyword here, and as mentioned in the previous tool, Evernote only supports this in the premium version. This makes Pocket a good alternative if you’re looking for free apps.
Takeaway features: offline viewing of articles, pages, videos, etc.; supports browser plugins and extensions for easy clipping; available and syncs in multiple devices.
9. Boomerang for Gmail
If your business email is hosted on Google Services, you might find Boomerang very useful to keep track your emails.
Installing it in your web browser allows you to schedule an email, remind you if the email has been opened or viewed, and much more.
The free version allows you to send up to 10 email credits using the Boomerang features per month.
Reminders also help you to follow up emails.
Takeaway features: View receipts, schedule email suitable for global teams and target audience, a reminder to follow-up with a time-optimized feature.
10. Proofread, edit, and check your grammar with Grammarly
Grammarly is an indispensable online business tool, a constant friend to your content writers and digital marketers.
You can proofread and correct the grammar with the free version, but with limited features. It supports browser plugins and extensions where it can also proofread your emails and social media posts.
The premium version comes with a host of features with advanced grammar tips and also auto-suggest words and phrases to make your paragraphs succinct and readable.
Although it’s a useful tool, I don’t believe Grammarly can replace a good line editor for all of your content.
I do so much editing online and have to format thousands of articles a month, it would be tough for me to do my job without Grammarly.
While I don’t agree with every suggested change, I do think it’s great at finding typos or misused words.
Another added feature, if you use the Google Chrome extension, you can check any online writing you have – including Facebook posts. So don’t send out a Facebook campaign with errors!
Takeaway Features: grammar tips, plagiarism checker, supports American and British English, supports personal dictionary, vocabulary enhancement, for the premium version.
Monday.com is a fantastic online business solution where your employees and clients can easily keep track of different projects.
Using a range of different ‘boards’, they can easily update the progress of pieces of work so that everyone is on the same page. There are various ‘tabs’ which allow users to change the status of different projects depending on where it sits in the completion cycle.
For example, you could update a task to say ‘working on it’ then change to ‘done’ so that all parties are informed.
You can also use this to plan your working week, instead of using pen and paper. It’s much more efficient as everything lives in one place, instead of having to sift through a bunch of different lists!
You can upload documents and links to the boards so that everyone can see the same pieces of work and comment with feedback.
Monday.com is a great way to streamline tasks within your business so that projects can be completed on time. It’s something we use on a daily basis at Canny, and it helps the whole team to stay on top of their growing to-do list!
Time tracking can be a right headache!
Your team get so buried in different tasks that it can be easy to forget what they’ve worked on, or where they’ve spent the hours.
That’s what makes Toggl such a great tool for businesses.
Through an easy-to-use online portal, your employees can simply log in and time track their day. For a business founder, this gives you a complete overview of how/ where the hours are being spent, to ensure your business remains profitable.
It’s important to understand which projects are consuming the most time, to ensure your business is generating value. This brings many benefits such as helping you assign areas of the budget, planning work, and knowing which resources you need.
Furthermore, Toggl provides you with important insights and opportunities about how to optimise your workflow. It lets you see which areas are consuming more time than necessary, so that you can identify areas of improvement.
The best thing about this software is it’s simplicity. It requires very little training meaning your employees can start using Toggl straight away.
This enhances your current workflow, instead of disrupting it which is what Toggl is all about.
Top 10 Online Business Solutions and Software for Small Businesses
While this is not an extensive list of online business solutions to help you get more organised, it is a great start.
There are thousands of online business solutions and software that claim to save you time, money, keep you organized — it can be hard to find those that will work for you. Get to know your business needs first before you subscribe to anything.
If you can test out a product or service for free first, do it!
Trust me, software platform costs can quickly add up and take a big chunk out of your profits. If you are a small business, you might not want to invest in Hubspot right away – although it is a great solution.
I know people that are always testing out new software solutions, instead of just sticking to one that works, or better yet, getting on with their business.
Online business solutions should help you get back to what you do best – growing your business.
Whether that is selling the best, darn cupcakes the world has ever known, or repairing bikes, or creating awesome IT solutions – you need to focus on that.
We are all about helping out the small business owners here at Canny.
Currently, we are working on some amazing blogs and resources for you, including a Small Business Guide to Branding that Tony has been working on for several weeks.
Also, I’ve got a lot more insightful blogs to help you build your business online, including some recommendations from my fellow Content Strategist on tools to help you build your content online and drive traffic to your site.
So, keep coming back to the Canny blog to find out more!