Digital Tools to Take the Stress Out of Your Business

By June 30, 2018News
Digital Tools to Take the Stress Out of Your Business

We all know someone who still does everything on paper. Maybe it’s your boss. Maybe it’s a coworker. Maybe it’s you!

A conversation with that person might go something like this:

Why don’t you make that form into a PDF, so people can sign it without printing it?”

That’s a lot of work. Besides, this way works just fine.”

But you could change the process now and save time later.”

I wouldn’t know where to start.”

The truth is, digitalizing any process requires some upfront work. But how much time does it save in the long-term? Better yet, how much time does it save your clients?

You might worry that you won’t understand your new tools. There will always be a learning curve (whether you’re tech-savvy or not). However, once you’ve passed a few hurdles, you’ll be using your tools and systems without even thinking about them. Or maybe you won’t even have to touch those systems at all, because they’ll be automating your processes entirely!

It’s fine not to use digital tools. But the catch is – you’re only hurting yourself. There are processes in almost every business and industry that can (and, arguably, should) be automated.

We’ve talked about accounting programs to help you manage your books, taxes, and accounting more easily. We’ve also covered some incredibly useful mileage tracking apps. Now, let’s delve into tools that can help organize other aspects of your business.

Solve it All with the Right Tech!

Easy-Pay Options

Symptoms: You don’t have easy-pay options attached to your invoices. Your clients have to write a cheque or come to your location to pay you.

Diagnosis: You are your own collections agency.

Half the time, it’s not that people don’t want to pay you; it’s that they forget to pay you. Everyone is busy. Everyone is balancing their priorities. If you don’t make it simple (as simple as a few clicks), you’re less likely to get paid on time. That means more time spent on chasing payments.

Cure: Add a “Pay Now” feature to your invoices.

A few providers for easy digital payments include:

Options: The best online payment provider will depend on how you invoice. QuickBooks has their own partnership with a provider; you can sign up with them directly through your QuickBooks account. If you haven’t brought your invoicing system online, you can still add an easy-pay option by signing up for a PayPal account and providing the link on your invoice. (Of course, if that’s the case, we highly recommend signing up with QuickBooks. We can even help you get started! Ask us how.)

Most providers charge fees for every payment taken. Typically, you’ll be charged around 3% of what you’re billing. If that sounds steep, calculate it against the time spent chasing people for money, sending reminders, adding late payment fees to your invoices, or even giving up entirely and letting go of revenue. For most businesses, paying the small fee for easy-pay options comes out on top.

Data Organization

Symptoms: You have client information, project information, billing information, and all kinds of other data on file – you just have it in 12 different places and you don’t always know where to find it. You have to scour multiple spreadsheets to find what you need.

Diagnosis: You’re suffering from informational overload and inefficiency (and your clients can tell!) You shouldn’t have to spend so long looking for the information you need.

Ask yourself: What’s going to slip through the cracks? How will those customers that do slip through the cracks feel about your business? Not to mention, how unprofessional will it look when you have to admit to a customer that you have no system in place for tracking information?

Cure: Protect and manage your project and client data with an information management system. Most importantly: Get rid of your spreadsheets!

There are virtually limitless options for information management systems, but a few places you can start your search include:

Evernote – a system that tracks and stores all your notes. You can also index notes and make them easier to search and share with others.

Dubsado – a CMS (client management system) designed to digitize lead and client processes for creative businesses like photographers, designers, and business coaches.

Trello – allows you to make lists within lists within lists! Keep all your information organized on boards, and create lists for your to-do’s and in-progress work.

Options: Every business is unique; there is no one-size-fits-all for an information management system. Some systems are designed for certain industries or businesses, while others are more general purpose. In some cases, you’ll need a blend of two or more systems to cover all your bases. It takes some experimentation. Luckily, most systems allow you a free trial period to test it out for yourself. Some are even completely free in their basic forms (like Trello).

How do you know if a system works? A good rule of thumb is that if you sold your business on the spot, someone else should be able to come in and pick up from where you left off. They should have access to your clients, projects, and other details. There might be a few gaps, but the person should have access to a least 80% of your information.

If you’re having trouble figuring out which systems you need, it’s a great idea to seek direction from a consultant or business coach in your industry. They’ll know what your industry-specific options are, and which ones apply to you.

Marketing Design & Scheduling

Symptoms: Every month, you set a goal to post once a week on social media, or publish one blog, or send out a newsletter. It just never happens.

Diagnosis: Marketing your business costs money or time, and you don’t want to spend either on it. You need to create a more efficient process.

Cure: Use scheduling and design tools so you spend less time on marketing, and keep yourself on schedule.

Some business-friendly marketing tools include:

HootSuite: A scheduling app that lets you plan, organize, and see all your posts on your social platforms in one place. Sit down and write/schedule all your posts at once instead of trying to get to it every day. You can also look at Buffer, Hubspot, or Airtable (among many other options!)

Facebook Scheduling: Facebook also offers built-in scheduling options. Simply create a post and click the arrow beside the “Publish” button, where you’ll be able to set a schedule for the post. This system can be a little glitchy at times, but for the most part, it’s easy to manage.

MailChimp: Email marketing such as newsletters and sales announcements can be designed, scheduled, and released through MailChimp. You can also create templates, so your next newsletter only requires updated content before you send it out.

Font Candy: An easy way to create shareable social photos with your branding built right in. The premium version only costs a few dollars – well worth the investment.

Options:

Your options for marketing tools depend on what you need to focus on. For the best results, start with a blog, or social media posts, or a newsletter; trying to do all three will only lead to frustration. If you feel you need to market across multiple channels, choose realistic goals. Determine which processes will cost you the most time and design your tools to minimize it.

What Do You Use to Streamline Your Business?

We’ve barely skimmed the surface of the programs, software, and apps that help streamline your business. There are all kinds of scheduling, communication, and planning tools you can use.

As a cloud-based accounting firm, we’re all about saving the most time possible for our clients with tools that work harder for them. We want to know which digital tools have been most helpful in your business. What saves you the most time in a day? Feel free to share them with us, or comment on our Facebook page.

Jeff Schwan

About Jeff Schwan

Jeff established Schwan & Associates CPA to bring unique “cloud-based” accounting services to small and medium-sized Edmonton businesses. Inspired by the quality time spent with his family, Jeff’s goal is to put more time back in the hands of the busy entrepreneurs who strengthen Edmonton’s business community. With 10+ years of experience in diverse management roles, Jeff has acquired a strong set of leadership and mentoring skills. He is, and always has been, an educator at heart. He knows the value of spreading knowledge, investing in people, and continually learning.

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