Bottom line, a good business app does two things well: It streamlines your operations and conserves your precious time. But more than 5 million apps are available, and you have a finite amount of time to research.
The quickest way to narrow down the field is to get recommendations from owners of similar businesses. When doing your own research, check out user reviews: Capterra.com is a good source, as are AndroidCentral.com and the Apple Store. The GetApp.com website offers an App Finder that creates a customized search. Zapier, an online automation tool that helps businesses integrate various apps, also offers reviews on its site.
Lack of options will not be a problem. That said, here are some of the most useful small business apps on the market, based on sales, reviews and app site rankings.
Slack instant messaging platform has a free service that includes the ability to share files, two-person voice and video calls, and more; additional features are available for under $10 per user per month. HipChat (currently undergoing a company upgrade/name change to Stride) gets high marks for user interface and offers a free option. Glip also offers a generous free option that includes 500 minutes of shared video chat. All three offer limited storage, file sharing and integration with apps you’re already using, like calendar and email.
With nearly half of small businesses outsourcing functions and 43% of American workers working from home at least part of the time, collaboration and project management software is more important than ever. The popular Basecamp is praised for its simple, intuitive interface and offers chat, message boards, file storage and to-do reminders. It costs $99 a month. Asana has many similar features (minus chat) but has a different visual presentation of projects, as well as a free option for up to 15 users. For the rapidly growing business, the award-winning Wrike offers an abundant suite of features, including dynamic timelines, advanced integrations (Excel, RSS) and much more, starting at under $10 per user per month. A free Wrike plan is also available for up to 5 users.
Two products consistently rise to the top of “best” lists. One is QuickBooks Online, with a Simple Start Plan ($7 a month) that allows the user to create invoices, run reports, track sales and sales tax, and more. Plan prices scale up along with availability of features like time and inventory tracking. The other is FreshBooks, which offers customized invoices, the ability to accept credit card payments online, automatic expense importing, time tracking and more. Plans start at $15, and the platform is best for service-based businesses, the self-employed and very small businesses. Not to be overlooked, especially for startups and highly cost-conscious small businesses, is Wave, the well-reviewed and free (with advertisements) financial software that offers accounting, invoicing, payment and payroll services.
Arguably the most important category of all, time management apps help a business owner efficiently deploy his or her personal resources and also create a work-life balance. RescueTime’s free software is installed on your computer and mobile devices, where it quietly logs the time you spend on applications and websites, and provides daily and weekly reports. The premium version ($9/month) blocks distracting sites and prompts you to account for time spent not plugged in. The free Todoist app tracks tasks, projects and goals in one spare and simple design, is accessible across just about every kind of device, and allows you to collaborate with colleagues and family. A paid premium version is available. Any.do is another free, cleanly designed app that syncs with numerous devices and offers integrations with popular calendar and email apps. Any.do allows you to capture tasks by voice and is in the process of unveiling an AI-powered “Assistant” to help with grocery lists and more.
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