Here are some great productivity tools that we love and use almost everyday at MoonClerk. All of these productivity tools are either inexpensive or free and can help any startup or small business on a budget. Some of these productivity tools are great for managing communications and others for managing your administrative tasks but they’ll all make you and your team more productive.
HelloSign HelloSign is one of our favorite productivity tools because it lets you forget about ever printing, signing, scanning, uploading, and emailing a document. To get started, all you have to do is upload a document. You can then type information on the document, such as the date. You can also upload a signature or write your signature on a piece of paper and email it to them. They’ll automatically load that signature on the document and you can place and resize it. When you’re done, enter in an email address and they’ll send it. They offer a pretty robust free plan and given the headaches they remove, they’re one of the best productivity tools on the market.
Evernote Evernote is one of the better known productivity tools on that market. It lets you save your notes, photos, articles and pretty much anything else on multiple devices (like your computer, iPhone, iPad, etc.). Everything automatically syncs too. Evernote also has a great search function. Evernote automatically dates every note, so you can search by date. It can also automatically pull the location of where the note was taken. So, if you remember where you were, you can search that way. Also, Evernote uses optical character recognition to search for words within images, notes, webpages, etc. (even handwritten notes). When you search, it’ll find notes with the words you’re searching for and highlight them for you. Evernote includes 60 megabytes of uploads every month in their free plan.
Google Apps Email Google Apps is a suite of productivity tools that provides a lot of power for a very small price. One of the most powerful features is email powered by Google Apps. Did you know that Google allows your business to create email addresses using your own domain name for free? Instead of using an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org, you can have email addresses like email@example.com. You’ll need to have your own domain name (web address) and access to your domain registrar (the company you bought it from). We suggest Hover.com for domain registration.
HipChat Hipchat is one of the productivity tools we use most often at MoonClerk. HipChat offers real time group chat and instant messaging. Everybody on your team, including those offsite, can keep up-to-date on everything that’s going on in real time. You can upload files to chats and you can search chat history. You can even have separate chat rooms – a room for each individual if you want private conversations, a room to talk about marketing issues, a room to talk about an upcoming event, etc. If you use the @ symbol before someone’s name, it will notify that person that someone’s trying to get in touch with them. Or use “@all” to notify everyone. HipChat is free for teams of 5 or fewer. It’s available online, as a desktop app (both PC & Mac), iPad, iPhone, Android, and through text messaging.
IFFTTT IFTTT give you the ability to connect different online services without having to know how to program. IFTTT stands for “If This Then That” and their slogan is that they put the internet to work for you. You can create “recipes” with different internet services so that certain actions take place. For instance, you say something like “If someone says the phrase Coffeee Subscription on Twitter then send me a text message”. There are a ton of recipe combinations. Another example would be that you could have every photo that is uploaded to your Facebook page automatically emailed to you. The options are pretty wide open.
Dropbox Dropbox is software that automatically backs up and syncs your files. It’s available on the Dropbox website, as desktop software, and as an iPad, iPhone, and Android app. Any files that you put into Dropbox are automatically backed up online and are automatically synced to all of your devices. You can also have shared folders for your business and determine who has access to these folders. You can drag files into the folder and then everybody has access to them. You can also drag send public links to files and folders. In these cases, the recipient doesn’t even need a Dropbox account. Dropbox’s free account includes 2 gigabytes of storage.
Employee-monitoring services: Employees are increasingly mobile. In fact, it is estimated there will be 1.3 billion mobile workers by 2015. So how are employers supposed to keep track of what their workers are doing? The answer provides myriad business opportunities for entrepreneurs. One company, Exaktime, recently debuted a mobile time clock. There are also vehicle-tracking time clocks and time-clock apps. But employers often don't have the staff or the time to manage all this new data and distill it to what is needed for payroll and billing.
A company that could provide employee-monitoring services, as well as some additional outsourced human resources functions, would be in great demand right now.
Traveling salon: As people live longer, there's an increasing need for senior services of all sorts. And not all are related to health care. One such service, a mobile salon that travels to customers' residences to do their hair or nails, has nothing but growth potential. As aging baby boomers move into the senior citizen category, there will be a growing need for these mobile services that help keep boomers looking good without requiring them to make a trip to the salon.
Vending-machine business: Increasingly, health-conscious and time-strapped Americans are looking for quick food on the go that is healthier than the soda and chips you usually find in vending machines. This has spawned a whole new industry of health-oriented, unique and specialized vending companies that offer franchisees the chance to own and service as few as one or two machines. One such franchise has had big success putting healthy vending machines in schools, offices, public buildings, etc. Owning a vending-machine business offers franchisees the opportunity to start small and test the waters.
Smartphone repair: Smartphones have become indispensible for both business and personal use. But have you ever tried to get one fixed? It can cost as much to as it does to buy one. Smartphone-repair services are starting to crop up around the country, but for now, this market is wide open.
Contracting: If you've tried to hire a contractor lately you probably already know that something odd is going on. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many contractors went out of business during the height of the recession and those that survived got lean and mean. Now, as the economy improves and Americans are spending money to improve their homes, they are having trouble finding contractors – electricians, plumbers, roofers, painters and more. Contractors say they are facing a shortage of skilled labor and having trouble finding employees to rebuild their former skeleton crews.
This creates an opportunity for skilled workers who are ready to take the leap from being an employee to owning their own company. Starting small is probably the best way to test the waters. You can grow after you've proven your success.
Testing business: Apps, websites, e-commerce…they've become must-haves for any business. But often, they don't work. The reason is that businesses don't test their applications or software carefully enough. Testing services are in hot demand. One company, SOASTA, offers cloud testing services for clients. There's room in this market for growth. A service that specializes in niche testing would have an edge over broader testing services.
Business services: A lot of companies cut back on support staff during the recession and many are reluctant to rehire, even though they need help. This is creating a business opportunity for anyone who can provide marketing, human resources, healthcare management or any other service a business needs.
According to Stephanie Scott Harbour, owner of the New York Mom Corps franchise, there is a big demand for services in marketing, finance and human resources.
"We are seeing increased client demand for specific functional roles – particularly marketing, finance and human resources. We are hearing from our clients that these departments have been downsized over the past few years, and are now in (sometimes desperate) need of additional support," she said.
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