There are so many great apps and programs online which can really help small business owners and entrepreneurs achieve their goals. From efficiency and productivity, internal operations, collaboration, finances and so much more. It’s quite easy to get overwhelmed with all the options out there, and it seems there is more and more every day. So what are some of the best software for small businesses?
We know it’s important that you not get too distracted researching and testing it all. And it’s not always easy to change programs once you have put the time and effort into setting them up and connecting with your internal (or external) operations. So we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular and user-friendly software and apps out there that we find most useful in running our own businesses, as well as input from other business owners we frequently chat with. This should help you sort through the clutter to help you decide which ones to invest your time into.
Project Management Software for Small Businesses
Every small business needs to have a solid project management program. Depending on your operation, you may need a more robust project management tool or just a light version. The good thing is that some programs offer cheap or even free subscriptions for you to use basic features, and you can always pay for something more robust if you need it. Below are some of the tools we recommend from our own use and from other entrepreneurs.
Trello is an easy to use project management app. It’s quite visual in how it’s laid out and is perfect for people who like a more visual way to see projects moving along. We have used Trello for years to help us manage staff projects and freelancers. You are able to create different projects and invite people outside the company to work solely on that project. This is a great tool to work with freelancers. It has some advanced connections and automation that can be set up, but we do find some of the reporting and team management stuff can be limited.
This is a great project management tool that we use on a daily basis. Asana is excellent for just about any project – whether it’s simple or complex. It is easy to collaborate with people, assign projects and due dates and even share with outside people (like clients). Another benefit is the options for viewing projects – you can have a list view or a more visual view (like Trello). We especially love how we can create so many different teams and projects and easily see them and jump around (because we have a lot going on!). We do have a paid version and the calendar view is one of the top reasons because it’s much easier to see what we have due and move things around if needed (whether within a project or between projects). There are also reporting tools and the ability to upload files as well.
Even if you have a small staff, this is a great project management tool for your small business. The free versions are quite robust and give you a lot of options.
If you are wanting to kick up your project management to another notch then Wrike may be what you are looking for. A lot of bigger companies use Wrike to help manage projects with other teams and departments. This is a great project management tool if you have several different departments in your company then need to work together, or if you are an agency and work with both freelancers and clients. Wrike’s reporting is really what sets it apart from other software, which is key if you need to provide detailed updates to people, as well as it’s the ability to restrict access to different users by project or even task. However, the downside is that Wrike can be more expensive because they have a minimum of 5 seats that you have to pay for – even if you don’t have five users.
Accounting & Payroll Software for Small Businesses
As a business, you will need to have some process for accounting. Luckily, online software has made it easier than ever to keep track of your books. The type of system you use may depend on the type of business you have, but it is important to that you something in place as soon as possible so that you have clean books for reporting, taxes, etc. Trust me…you don’t want to have to backtrack (OMG it’s a nightmare!).
Wave is made especially for small businesses, independent contractors and entrepreneurs with a small operation. This FREE tool allows you to sales and expenses, manage invoices and customer payments. You can also manage your payroll all from one place. This tool will connect to your different bank accounts and pull in data, which makes it super helpful. However, there are some features that it lacks compared to other paid software.
Quickbooks is one of the most popular accounting software out on the market, and it’s used by many businesses and accountants. The system connects to your different bank accounts to pull in data and it integrates with payment software such as Square and even PayPal. You can easily set up different rules, run reports, etc. One of the best features is that you can add your accountant or bookkeeper to the system, and there is a section where you can chat with each other to share files, ask questions, etc. In this way, Quickbooks makes it easy to collaborate and ensure your books are clean and up-to-date.
** As a side note, when we started our first business years ago, we used WAVE. But as our business got more complex and we hired an accountant and tax help, we moved to Quickbooks because of it’s more advanced features.
Gusto is a software that helps make your company’s payroll, tax, and benefits process more efficient. The system is set up to collect employer and employee information and help with the onboarding process such as collecting tax forms, etc. Setting this tool up can get a bit complicated, so it’s really great if you have an accountant or tax specialist who can assist. In the end, it allows you to process payroll, automatically pay appropriate taxes for employees, generate W-2’s at the end of the year for employees, and even process benefits such as vacation time or sick leave. It really helps to streamline everything as well as staying in legal compliance with local and federal governments.
Communication Apps and Programs for Small Businesses
A critical part of running a business is being able to communicate and collaborate among different people. Below are some of our favorite tools that we use, and some that have been recommended to us by others.
Slack is a great tool for communicating with your staff on various projects. You can set up different workspaces for departments, or even clients. It is easy to drag and drop, share images, PDFs and other files right in the chat and you can also have different chats for different topics – which helps to keep conversations more organized. We also really like Slack because it integrates with many other tools, such as Asana.
Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing platforms out there. If your business requires you to do presentations, then this is a great tool to do that. It allows you to use video chat, or just voice chat, with a number of people and you can share your screen to do presentations or ask questions with the chat. The great thing is that there’s a free version available if you only need it occasionally or for short calls. It also integrates with many other tools & allows you to record. So you can record meetings or presentations to share with others later, or just use it to record your own video that you can then download and upload to a website! We actually use zoom for all of our meetings and even for recording our courses, it’s a great tool.
Loom is another video or screen recording tool that many small businesses and entrepreneurs use a lot. It is fantastic for doing training or tutorials because you can quickly record the video and then just send the link to someone to watch. They do have a free version as well, although the paid version gives you even better onscreen tools for training videos especially.
Other Great Apps and Programs for Small Businesses
There are a lot of other great software out there that can help you run your business. Below are just a few more popular tools and software that are highly recommended by small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Expensify is a great tool to help manage expenses and reimbursement. If you have a sales team then you will definitely need this program to help keep your expenses in order. You can set up your guidelines in the tool and then your team uses this to create and submit their expense reports (including receipt images). Then you will get a notification and can review and process everything online. Expensify can even link with other financial programs you may use to manage your accounting.
MailChimp is one of the most popular email marketing software on the market. It has a pretty solid free version, which makes it great for businesses just starting out. The system is also a fairly easy tool to use. It allows you to build your email list by embedding sign up forms on your website, and even make landing pages. You can deliver freebies to your audience, and further segment or tag the list for email campaigns. They do have email automation features as well. However, once you get over a certain amount of names on your list you do have to pay, so keep that in mind depending on your budget.
One of the most popular email software for content creators, such as bloggers, is ConvertKit. We’ve been using ConvertKit for years and find it to be a solid tool that is super easy to use. You can build your email list with different types of forms that are embedded on your site, and the tagging/automation features are really intuitive and useful. It makes it easy to create different sequences and automation so you can develop custom paths for your customers and be able to track and report on these things. Personally, we find the automation in ConvertKit to be much easier to use than MailChimp – especially for those who want to create a more customized and possibly complicated path for your audience members.
The Right Software and Apps for Your Business
Finding the right tool for your business can be a bit of a challenge, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your operations. Our hope is that this list can save you some time researching around online so that you can get right into setting them up and growing your business.