We’ve all had those exasperating moments at the office when we stomp and fume, “There’s got to be a better way of doing this!”
That’s definitely the case when you’re self-employed. You become the chief of IT, HR, accounting, sales and marketing—all rolled into one. Efficiency and productivity take on new meaning when it’s just you and your computer, and you have no support staff.
Luckily, there are a lot of slick web and mobile applications out there, many of them free, that can make your life easier. A couple of weeks ago, Marcus O’Malley of Immerge Technologies gave the Independent Public Relations Alliance an excellent overview of some time-saving, life-simplifying e-tools that professionals can put to use right away.
In addition, there are quite a few publications and blogs that provide good advice to entrepreneurs and small business owners, and they often provide lists of apps worth checking out. One source of small business advice that I like is The New York Times’ “You’re the Boss—The Art of Running a Small Business.” This blog has lots of great stories and ideas.
So if you haven’t already discovered these, here are a few apps worth exploring (even if you’re not self-employed):
Google’s suite of office tools. Most people are aware of Gmail and Google Docs, but Google offers many other products that can increase your productivity and improve your professional image. For example, you can create aliases for your Gmail accounts to give them the appearance of coming from your business address. You can aggregate and manage various Gmail accounts and link them to Google’s calendar. You can also create “hangouts” for collaboration and group chatting.
Screenr. This free, screen-capturing tool allows you to create screencasts of websites, including recording your own voice-over. It’s extremely helpful for explaining to customers or clients how to login to an account or manage content. Check out this Screenr video by Marcus that explains how to use some of Google’s free tools.
FreeConferenceCall.com. I’ve used this service myself, which allows you to set up conference calls (and record them) at no cost to you. The only catch is that participants must make a long-distance call to dial in, but now days most people are able to make free long-distance calls anyway.
CamCard. How many times have you been to a networking event, collected a bunch of business cards and then failed to follow up because you’ve tossed them into a drawer, never to be seen again? CamCard scans the information from business cards using your smartphone’s camera and then allows you to save and organize the information for later use.
MailChimp. This free, easy-to-use program allows you to create your own marketing emails and e-newsletters. You can create lists, monitor opens and click-throughs and customize the look of your emails with your own artwork.
DropBox. Tired of losing flash drives or leaving them at home? DropBox is one of the original cloud storage applications. Once you’ve set it up on your computer, tablet or smartphone, you just drag and drop documents and files to share across platforms. You can also allow others to access your DropBox files.
Evernote. Another cloud-based app, Evernote helps you organize and share all of the snippets and scraps of information you collect, from to-do lists and notes to photos, scans and documents. Regardless of what it is, you can use Evernote to capture it, share it and make it searchable.