Thanks to the internet—and several types of small business tools available online—you can now launch a new startup in a couple of hours. Gone are the days when you needed significant financial investment to open a brick-and-mortar store.
Initially, while your customers are still friends and family, you could manage to handle everything on your own. As your business grows, however, you’ll have to think bigger.
You could either employ more staff to complete all the tasks, or you could utilize technology. The latter usually does the job for a fraction of the cost — and involves fewer sick days. If you’re looking to lighten your small business load, consider these four types of small business tools.
1. Contract Software to Make a Great First Impression
When you’re a wedding photographer, baker, or florist, your business can look fabulous on social media. However, a client’s first impression of actually working with you is when you send them a contract.
Some businesses use simple one-page retainers, while others have lengthier contracts outlining the scope of work.
As you start working with multiple customers, deadlines, and details, it’s impossible to remember all the steps. Documentation can sometimes get tedious and time-consuming.
However, it is so important to make sure everything is done the right way. You have to include all your terms and conditions. And you need to protect yourself in case something goes wrong.
This is where efficient contract management software can save you time and money — and your sanity. Newer software solutions are not just limited to electronic signatures and other basic tasks. They can be customized for your industry.
A good system will allow you to handle hundreds of customers, influencers, or vendors in a seamless manner.
2. Graphic Design Software to Catch the Customer’s Eye
The No. 1 way people learn about your business today is online.
Even if they hear about you through word of mouth, they’ll find you by searching for your website or social media handles. When they do, you want to wow them with fantastic graphic design.
Not only should your brand’s marketing be attractive and catchy, it should also be cohesive. The brand color palette, choice of fonts, and messaging should be consistent.
Eventually, the branding should become easy to associate with your company. Customers would know it’s your packaging by the colors and logo silhouette, even if the brand name is not shown.
To begin developing your branding, you can use one of several online user-friendly graphic design tools. You might design your own logo from scratch or simply modify an existing one. Pre-made templates allow you to choose a style you like and drag and drop your custom information into the design.
Once you’re happy with the result, you can replicate it into business cards, posters, Instagram posts, and so on.
3. Email Services to Cultivate Prospects and Retain Loyal Customers
People assume social media is the best way to get the word out for your business.
While that is definitely one good approach, you don’t own the social media platforms. The Facebook or Pinterest algorithm decides how many people actually see your posts. At times, you can boost your reach only by spending on advertised posts.
In contrast, you own your email list. Even if people don’t buy from you at markets and conventions, encourage them to sign up for your mailing list.
Email marketing may seem old hat, but with an ROI of 36 bucks for every dollar you spend, it delivers.
To send newsletters and promotional emails, you can use one of several free email list services. Some start charging only if your list grows exponentially, at which point the cost is worth it.
With email marketing, you know your email has landed in your customer’s inbox. Your subject line and content will determine whether they open it, but at least it’s there. With social media, sometimes not even 10% of your followers get to see your post.
4. Accounting Software to Keep Track of Your Finances
You could love what you are doing in your small business, but if it is not profitable, it’s merely a hobby.
To potentially get a small business loan that would enable you to scale, your books have to be in order. Scribbled notes and receipts in a shoebox are not going to get you far. The right accounting software will let you closely track revenue and expenses to keep your business on a sustainable footing.
With some accounting software, you can upload a photo of a receipt, and it will automatically enter it into the correct expense category. This is such a time saver when you’re at a business lunch with a potential client or stop to buy more printer ink. You won’t forget to make the entries in your ledger, which means you’re less likely to make an error.
Accounting software also helps dramatically when it’s time to file taxes or create a budget for the next year.
You could download the accounting software on your computer or use a cloud-based solution. The latter option lets you access your expenses and income figures even if you don’t have your laptop with you.
Tech to Lighten Your Load
As a small business owner, you know the joy of pursuing your passion. But as your business grows, you’ll likely find that you need assistance with some tasks.
Easy-to-use tools for contracts, graphics, accounting, and marketing are just the beginning.
True, there may be a slight learning curve with various types of small business tools at the start. However, you don’t have to use all the features right away. Even basic capabilities can relieve you of having to do many mundane tasks yourself. That’s when you can focus on what you enjoy most about your business.