Ah, small business. The backbone of the economy. Hundreds of hats to wear spread out among mere dozens of employees to wear them. We salute you magnificent go-getters.
Your days are full enough without having to wrestle with technology. Here are a handful of great free apps that can help you work smarter.
Try Slack (Android, iOS, Web). Instead of relying on a mish-mash of email, instant messaging, text messaging, and phone calls, Slack does a good job of streamlining things down into a real-time communications tool that can hook into a heaping helping of popular third-party services. You and your team discuss topics in different virtual channels full of updates, images, files, tweets, and links that are open for all to see, which can help keep everyone on the same page. The free offering lets you set up an unlimited number of users, archives 10,000 past messages, and can integrate with up to five services (here’s the full services list).
Load up Zoho Invoice and Time Tracker (Android, iOS, Web, Windows Phone). Easy-to-create invoices get top billing here, but Zoho adds some nice extras like time- and expense-tracking, recurring bills, and connections with online payment processors. The mobile app handles just about everything that the web-based version does, with a straightforward layout and similarly robust feature set. You can bill up to five clients using the free version.
Go with Weebly (Android, iOS, Web). The freebie account sports a slick drag-and-drop interface with plenty of starter templates, free hosting, and the ability to sell up to five e-commerce products (Weebly takes a 3% cut of each sale). The mobile apps make updating your site with new content and sharing it on social networks a breeze as well. You can even build your site entirely from your phone if you’re feeling adventurous. Weebly’s a good option for people who know they need some sort of web presence but don’t want to put too much time and effort into dealing with one.
Take a look at UberConference (Android, iOS, Web). You can host an unlimited number of conference calls with up to 10 callers at a time, and there’s built-in call recording so you can play the calls back later. Guests can call in the old fashioned way or connect to the conference via the web or mobile apps, which sport some additional features such as higher-quality audio. And the conference organizer has access to a nice web-based dashboard, with the ability to mute individual guests or text with each one privately. Not too shabby for zero dollars.
Look no further than LastPass (Web). The service acts as a secure repository for all your passwords, credit card numbers, important documents, and anything else you need to protect. You create a single, (hopefully) strong master password and LastPass can create super-strong gibberish passwords for your online accounts on the fly. Set your team members up with free LastPass accounts and you can share login credentials for various sites with them without actually revealing the passwords, later revoking their access if they leave the company. The basic service is a free and feature-filled no-brainer, while Android and iPhone versions integrate with mobile browsers and third-party apps for $12 a year.