How To Untether Your Business And Work Anywhere

It is almost strange in these days of wide spread smart phone adoption that we are talking about this because some days, it seems to me everyone is ‘mobile’. Yet, judging from the questions and comments we receive, I am proved wrong and so I’d like to share some thoughts on how I made gradual changes to my business so now, I no longer have to be in my office and at my desk all day long if I choose.

Before going too far I must say that not all businesses or entrepreneurs require, want or can be mobile. If you own a wedding cake business, obviously you can’t work from anywhere. However there are parts of any business that could be.

In our business, I do a variety of things. Some examples are blogging, writing guest posts, appearing on web casts, creating written and video content, fixing or tweaking web sites and of course application programming.

At this point in time, I still have not found a good way to program or fix web sites on the go. The reasons are varied but it is largely because there are certain programming environments I need to have access to that just aren’t available on a mobile device or if they do it’s plain uncomfortable. Give me a power house desktop and multiple monitors any time for that kind of work.

However there are plenty of other areas where I can implement mobility. Like, content creation, communicating with customers and followers on social networks or email, brain storming, project planning, team management. You get the idea. These are things you just don’t have to do in the office or for that matter need a computer to accomplish.

With that in mind, I started looking for tools that can help me write, brain storm, communicate and manage from anywhere.

One of the first things I purchased was not a smart phone surprisingly, but a Livescribe pen. If you didn’t have to be in touch with anyone at all this pen alone would suffice. It has really been great. Here is a short list of some ways I’ve used it:

  • Record conversations with clients as we went over their web site and hashed out wants, likes, changes
  • Write articles for distribution, affiliates and blog posts at the beach
  • Brainstorm new projects, company direction and focus at the park
  • Wrote standard operating procedures including sketches etc to share with helpers so they know exactly what I want and how I want it done
  • Record and note important points listening to an MP3 while traveling

The next thing I did, was to consciously seek out and utilize tools that are not desktop bound and when I say desktop I also mean laptop. I’ve never really been a fan of laptops and would much rather not carry one if I can carry something many times lighter and smaller.

Back to the tools, when choosing them I also made it a point to ensure the tool has either a mobile app or mobile interface. While I placed a high value on this, it was not entirely necessary depending on what the system is because if the program is accessible online, most modern smart phone browsers can handle it. Here’s a rough list of what I ended up implementing:

  • Our payment system was not a problem because we already utilize a web based shopping cart and set everything up for automatic delivery. For the service portion of our business, we used Zoho Invoice which is also web based and we will soon be switching to another script also web based but installed on our servers.
  • For emails, I put our domain on Google Apps that allowed me the use of Gmail, Google Docs and other applications under our domain name. This actually took care of more than just emails but document sharing and calendars.
  • When it comes to task and project management, I specifically seek out web apps that can be tied into Google Apps. I’m still moving back and forth between a few solutions with no concrete decision which yet but as of now, it’s a close race between ManyMoon and GQueues.
  • In other areas, I chose Evernote and Dropbox.

Lastly, I upgraded my phone. While I’ve always had a smart phone, I felt it was important to switch to a different platform that offers more current and popular apps and also one that the tools chosen above supported. Because I made sure the tools I used had mobile options in the step above, this part was like riding downhill. It just ‘fell in place’. All I needed to do was to get and install the mobile apps.

Somewhere along the way I also added a tablet. It does not get as much use as the phone though. And now, I have everything I need to stay productive no matter where I am and even at very short notice. A wonderful example was when my husband asked me to accompany him on several trips to a nearby city these past 2 months. Without having to think too much about it, all I needed to do was pick up the phone, my Livescribe pen and notebook. I’m good to go.

Have you gone mobile too? What do you use most? Do you like it? Do share use the comments space to share.

Design and Print Terms Explained – A reference guide

I’m aware that as a Graphic Designer, working alongside Printers, there are a number of terms that we may use that mean completely nothing to a business owner. So I thought I’d write a series of articles that clearly explain some of these terms. You can use it as a reference guide so that next time you’re speaking to your designer or printer you know what they are talking about.

Graphic Design Software and File Types

Designers use a number of software programs with lots of different file types. Talk of Jpegs, Layered files, eps files can all get bit much. Here are some of the main programs and file types listed and explained.

The main programs used for desktop publishing in the Graphic Design Industry are Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Indesign.

TOP TIP: Inkscape, Scribus and Gimp are Open source equivalents of the software mentioned above. Open source, meaning completely free.

Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator is a Vector Graphics editor that is predominantly used for drawing Illustrations and Logo Designs. Vectors are graphics that are made up of mathematical points. Because of this, Vector graphics can be scaled up or down without loosing any of their quality. This is why software like Illustrator, is preferred by designers, to create logos. These can then be scaled to a large shop sign or to a small logo for your business card.

Main File Formats:

  • .ai – this is the original file format that Illustrator creates and can only be opened by Illustrator.
  • .eps (Encapsulated PostScript) – this file is a stand alone file that can be imported into other programmes like Photoshop or Indesign.

TOP TIP: If a Graphic Designer has created a logo for you ask him to provide it in .eps format. This means all the required information is contained in the file and you can send this to other Designers to use.

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is a graphics editing software. It allows designers to create and manipulate pixel based images in many various ways. Every image created in Photoshop is made up of pixels and the more pixels an image has the larger the file size will be. A logo that you have used on your Powerpoint presentation may only be 200 kilobytes where as an image used on a Billboard may be a few hundred Megabytes.

TOP TIP: File size is typically the reason why people try to send emails and they bounce back. The image is usually too big to get through the email or your Powerpoint file is too big because you’ve filled it with large images. Most email servers these days can handle files approx 10megabytes big. If you are sending larger images to people via email, try using a file transfer site like www.yousendit.com

Main file formats:

  • .tiff – (Tagged Image file format) – this format is typically used by designers in desktop publishing as it saves the file without loosing any of the quality. The files sizes are usually quite large.
  • .Jpeg (Joint Photographic Experts Group) – this format is used to compress files. The more a file is compressed the smaller the file size. But this also leads to an increased loss of quality. Files shouldn’t be saved as a Jpeg more than once as every time you save it, it looses more quality.
  • .gif (Graphics Interchange Format) – gif images are mainly used for websites as the compression allows for very small file sizes. gif’s can’t handle too many colours so it is best suited for simple images such as logos. It also allows for transparent backgrounds.
  • .psd – this file format is the original Photoshop format. It allows for multiple layers to be saved in the same file.

Layers, in Photoshop, are a tool that allow multiple images or effects to be placed one on top of each other. This allows for easy editing as each layer can be removed or amended quickly.

TOP TIP: Always ask for the layered files of any artwork that is created for you in Photoshop. This means that any future designers can easily manipulate the work using the .psd file.

A note about File resolution:
The following is a regular scenario in my day job. A designer requests an image file. An image is grabbed from a website and sent. The designer responds, saying that the file is not good enough quality and asks for a High Resolution file. Why is the designer asking for this?

All images have a resolution or dpi (dots per inch). The higher the resolution, the better quality the image. Designers and Printers usually work with files that have a resolution of 300dpi. This allows for the image to be printed at high quality. The resolution of your computer screen is 72dpi. When people optimise their images for the Web they reduce the resolution down to 72dpi as this dramatically reduces the file size. Any more than 72dpi is a waste as your screen won’t display any higher than that.

TOP TIP: If you have a database of images, keep one folder of your High-Res Images or your 300dpi images and a Low-Res folder with all your 72dpi images in them. This will allow you to quickly navigate to the correct file type when asked.

Adobe Indesign

This program is predominantly used for Brochure or Newsletter design. Quick and flexible page layout tools in Indesign allow for great multiple page documents.

Main file format:

  • .ind – This is the original file format for Indesign. Once the document is finished it is usually exported as a HIgh-Res PDF and then sent to the Printer.

A note about PDFs:
PDF (Portable Document File) – is an open format for document exchange. It is created in a program called Adobe Acrobat and can be opened by a free to all program called Adobe Reader. Designers use PDF documents because all the file information can be stored in one file format that can be accessed by anybody with Adobe Reader. PDFs can be saved as High Resolution files that are ready to Print. Once exported from a program PDFs can not be adjusted in any way. All the programs listed above can export PDF documents.

TOP TIP: If your designer has provided the final artwork as a PDF document, make sure that you get access to the original file format, wether ,ai, .psd or .ind, as the PDF document will no longer be able to be amended.

Ultimate Selection of 60 Tools for Business Owners

Today, to create a company is one of the easiest things you can do – simply fill all necessary papers and you are done. However, once you create your own business, you will have to start managing it, which where you will definitely need some extra help. I tried to cover all aspects of business management and provide you with a list of tools you can use, so I hope you like my list.

Human Resource Management

GreatBizTools.com

GreatBizTools offers solutions for managing the whole personnel from the managers to the new, just hired employees. They will grant you with software that may perform several tests to select new employees or to build specific test procedures for measuring the knowledge and the skills of your staff. These solutions will help you to develop a more competent workforce for your company.

ProfilesInternatinal.com

These solutions provide measurement for various types of employees. They measure how a person fits customer service jobs and how well a person fits sales jobs. They also do analysis of how individual fits in your organization. They also do rates of manager-employee compatibility, motivation intensity and behaviors.

Oracle.com

Oracle offers several solutions that will help you to enhance current workforce effectiveness and to make your process of transformation or the change from integrating new software, easy and fast. It also offers several tools for capturing organizational knowledge and managing the level of service delivered by your employees for every size business.

Hrtools.com

They offer the following solutions:

Administaff – for human resources (HR) outsourcing, more strategic business decisions, recruiting services for the best employees available by using good retirement services, which provide excellent retirement plans and are included in the package also.

PerformSmart – for statistics of your workforce that will help you to align employees’ performance with your business goals.

Orangehrm.com

Their solution OrangeHRM is open source package that includes features like easy installation and administration, personal information module, recruitment module, support and customizations available to purchase, employee self-service module and report generation for any business size at comparatively low costs.

PerfectSoftware.com

PerfectHR is their human resource management solution that allows management of employee information like employment status, contact details, complete dependent information, benefits’ details, performance reviews, training, and workers ’ compensation. You can automate HR processes like delivering documents, forms, files, notifications and reports.

iCIMS.com

iCIMS is award-winning HR software that offers benefits like: one platform for your HR needs, eliminates cost of implementations and the need of training different users on multiple systems while you can manage the Talent Lifecycle of candidates and employees with 24×5 customer support team.

HR.blr.com

This is a hosted HR solution that will provide you with HR Library, HR Time servers, HR Tools, Salary Center, HR Training Materials and many other services. Some of them are HR Challenge, where you may sing-up for a weekly HR Quiz or HR Strange But True where you may sing-up for humorous HR news.

ICeHRM.cygeek.net

ICeHRM is open source Human Resource Management system, which is web-based and it is most suitable for small and medium-sized companies. AJAX user interface includes features such as administration, leave management, attendance and time tracking, timesheet submission, punch in/out time submission, store project and customer information, store employee pictures, automated installation and support in several languages.

WaypointHR.com

WaypointHR is another open source software which will record and store all important employee information including: personal details and emergency contact information, holiday/sickness/absence history, discipline and grievance records, performance appraisal records, exit interviews and employment termination, current and historical data and much more.

Billing and Accounts Payable

SalesForce.com

Known as the most popular CRM provider that offers solutions, which are cloud-based. In them are included many other CRM business functions and tools except billing and account payable. Over 87 000 companies have chosen this way of approach which must mean that it is bringing satisfying results and all the information is well-kept.

NetSuite.com

NetSuite is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution that offers support for the entire company from accounting and billing to web capabilities and customer relationship management (CRM). With NetSuite Financials you will be able to run all of your key back-office operations like accounting, order management, inventory and supply chain and business intelligence.

SimplyAccounting.com

Sage Simply Accounting is software solution that is offered in five different package sizes – First Step, Pro, Premium, Enterprise and Accountants’ Edition for all sizes of businesses. It will help you to solve your accounting needs by customizing the account options available for your business functions, which results in maximized efficiency and profitability.

Aplicor.com

Their product Account Playable is on-demand web-based system that provides good control over internal expenses, reports of cash flow, and processes of payment, payables and more. You may use Workflow Designer to coordinate routes of cash and approval processes that may be automated.

SageAccpac.com

This solution has two versions – software and hosted. The software version Sage ERP Accpac offers Accounting and Financial Management module that will handle well your accounting and decrease its cost and time. That way you will receive more resources for other aspects of your business. The hosted version offers the same features but at different easy and fast to access way.

SAP.com

SAP have 35 years history in this sphere and they offer single application for mostly small business with different versions for the appropriate count of users that are going to use it. The whole application includes more functions than just managing the billing and accounting processes, which need to be customized for each kind of industry.

Made2Manage.com

Made2 Manage ERP is a software solution designed for medium and small size companies, which has powerful tools and functions to help the automation of all your needed back-office functions so you may keep your attention on your business goals. The system also provides real-time visibility of all the current processes.

US.Intracct.com

Intacct is award winning hosted solution that will provide better operational efficiencies to help you work smarter and not harder. You will be able to improve productivity and the whole billing and accounting processes and to do that you need real-time observation of the financial performance, which is a part of the web-based software.

Tabs3.com

They offer award-winning Tabs3 Taskbill software solution, which provides full control over your billing process – from tracking billing time to generating useful reports to see the status and the history of each individual customer statements. Except that all the security is on your hands and you may decide the level of access to customer information of each manager or employee.

Collaboration Software

JiveSoftware.com

Jive is a software, which is a collaboration solution for companies that need to produce full projects over big distances and to help them work as a whole team even if they have never seen each other face-to-face. They will be able to work as if they are next to each other because this platform offers the communication needed to do that and you may access project information 24/7/365.

Teambox.com

Teambox is an online collaboration tool that was founded by people who prefer easy and fun to handle project management for everyday use. You will be able to succeed in your teamwork by integrating social networking utilities like activity streams, threaded conversations and commenting, inbox management and alerts, RSS feeds and anything else, which will give you a good look on your needed tasks.

CentralDesktop.com

CentralDesktop is cloud-based platform, which you may access from anywhere, at any time and it will establish the connection between your colleagues, partners or customers. The solution has high security and you may use it inside and outside firewalls to manage your teams, documents, tasks and projects.

ProofHub.com

ProofHub is another software solution, which will help you organize projects easy and simple. In the program are integrated chatting tools for important discussions with your project team as well as your customers. You may schedule deadlines, post upcoming milestones that are visible for all team members on the fully customizable dashboard included within every different project.

BasecampHQ.com

The software Basecamp supports good clear communication between people who work on the same projects to insure one well-done job. You may send messages through the program and attach files, comments, milestones and assign dates for every task, which needs to be done on time. Except that the software is available in dozens of languages and you can manage your projects on your mobile phone also.

HyperOffice.com

Hyper Office is a provider of hosted collaboration service which does not require difficult software to integrate or server maintenance. You may focus on your main business goals while they deliver the technical support for the necessary communication. They offer task manager, lifetime training and support for the product, online calendar, online contact manager, business e-mail service and online document management.

ThinkProject.com

Think Project is an online collaboration platform, which offers single repository for all project data, integrating team members and project partners easily, minimum user administration, one electronic workplace for all cooperatives, automatic dashboard, traceability of all processes and tamper-proof storage of all project documents – similar to an aircraft’s black box.

IBM.com

IBM delivers several solutions about collaboration for different purposes, implementations, and associates or social groups. They offer either stand alone ready-to-use applications for integration or specified customization or hosted versions covering the following categories: Massaging & Collaboration, Unified Communication, Social Software, Portals and Mashups, Online Collaboration Services and Mobile Collaboration and Wireless.

EasyProjects.net

EasyProjects also offer the two ways of implementations – either application for server or hosted on the cloud. With this software you may create unlimited projects with auto-assignments, milestones, project-level permissions, project billing, unlimited custom fields, interactive charts and more. You will be able also to batch operations to change priorities, status and assignees on multiple projects at once.

MangoSpring.com

Mango Apps 2.0 is a package that contains several applications for your needs or requirements – MangoTalk for social networks, MangoEvent for event management, MangoDocs for document management, MangoIdeas for innovation management, MangoProgects for project collaboration, MangoTasks for task collaboration and MangoChat for online communities and chat solutions. This package is available for hosted, on-premise or mobile phone usage.

E-commerce

BigCommerce.com

BigCommerce’s software solution is a program that helps you to build entirely your internet retail store. The program is easy to use and install, even from people who are beginners, and does not require any additional training. The included features are payment gateway integration, credit card processing, shopping cart, website building, hosting, Google Website Optimizer, Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Market, fully customizable product information and more at high level of security.

Shopify.com

Shopify offers online e-commerce software, which is very easy to access – you need only a web browser and you may start building your own online store. Through that same web interface you will able to fully customize and maintain your web site. Advanced customization available through easily explained language for customization and numerous payment gateways and every personal data is well protected.

goEmerchant.com

The e-commerce solution delivered by goEmerchant is very good for beginners. The software has three user levels – for beginners and more advanced software users. The range of features is wide – different product variations, unlimited bandwidth, visitor reports, search engine optimization (SEO), safe and reliable transactions but it doesn’t have many payment methods – it only accepts credit cards.

Volusion.com

The Volusion software solution set comes with very long list of features with award-winning 24/7 live support but that doesn’t come at low cost. Their services aim to satisfy every need with features like step-by-step training videos, free live software updates, security alerts, integration with PayPal and Google Checkout, free live chat, SEO, comfortable shipping and so on…

3DCart.com

3DCart solution software is also easy to set up and is entirely online based but it requires a little time to use step-by-step wizard. A well designed interface offering a robust set of tools including many features available for all levels of users. On the way of creating your desired online cart, everything is customizable. The software has good CRM orientated information about valuable customer information.

Fortune3.com

Fortune3’s software builds your online store through with store builder or with offline wizard by the help of easy to navigate forms and menus. They offer more features more than every other competitor with solid support behind them. Secure transactions with around the clock assistance by support ticket system or e-mail.

CoreCommerce.com

Another web-based solution is CoreCommerce and it offers many pre-made design templates or wizard to design your own. Supported payment methods like e-checks, checks, COD’s not only the usual PayPal, Google Checkout, Pay Flow and Authorize.net. Also all needed features around full site as hosting, site building tools and the usual features for all the management, customization and maintenance at high protection.

Smallbusines.yahoo.com/ecommerce/

Yahoo offer solution with unlimited amount of disk space and data transfer but it has 50 000-products limit. You may build your site from 380 possible variations and templates or other methods, which require programming. Great inventory and sales reports with readable graphs, advanced tracking statistics, good support and encryption of all your valuable data.

ProStores.com

ProStores Business is eBay company cloud-based software, which offers website creator, shopping cart and hosting. The creator has 143 design templates available for up to 10 000 products. FedEx and UPS shipping, several wizards for customization, various reports, qualified support and reduce risk transactions are some of the features included.

NetworkSolutions.com/e-commerce/

Another good solution is Standard E-Commerce from Network Solutions for your online store and by the way, it will best fir your needs. Also there is a pro package but it is not suitable for beginners. The features that you will meet here are: already made templates, 8GB monthly bandwidth, 200 MB storage, standard security, online live chat, QuickBooks, 300 products, payment by PayPal and Authorize.net. However, gift cards, gift-wrap and coupons are not available for the standard version.

Corporate Portals

Traction.TractionSoftware.com

Traction TeamPage brings one secure and scalable platform, which combines blog, wiki, social tagging, social networking opportunities, profiles and discussions and it has been awarded through the years. The features include content management, legacy system integration, custom user interface, message boards, mobile access, customizable functionality, multi-language, customizable reporting, search functionality, secure login, document manager, software development kit and user access controls available for Windows, Mac, hosted, Linux and so on…

Oracle.com

Oracle Portal 11g is a complete framework for portal deploying, managing and building for portals with integration of Oracle WebLogic Server. That solution provides environment for building web interface and access to dynamic data by the help of J2EE-based application. You may use Enterprise 2.0 features by Oracle WebCenter Services 11g, integrate Oracle Fusion Middleware or Oracle Applications for better functionality and manage your content by Oracle Universal Content Management.

LifeRay.com

LifeRay is package for building business solutions that includes several capabilities to insure as soon as possible return of the investments. Capabilities like document and content management with Microsoft Office integration, shared workspaces and web publishing, enterprise collaboration, mashups and social networking, identity management and enterprise portals.

TechExcel.com

TechExcel’s has integrated CRM solution known as CustomerWise, which offers you customer management, which covers sales, support, assets and marketing in on-premise and on-demand variants. All of the supported features are not different than the other representatives and the support available may be reached in the normal business hours by e-mail or online or you may choose the option to train yourself or an employee to handle the product.

IntelligenceBank.com

IntelligenceBank is an online easy to use platform for knowledge management service, which is accomplished by media monitoring, document management, charting tools and online collaboration. You may manage, share and store corporate information and staff, resources, knowledge and external sources of information via API’s and RSS feeds. This product is designed for beginners – it doesn’t require special training and it’s available on the cloud or for Linux/Unix.

eBdesk.com

eBdesk’s package contains three applications: Portal Builder, which generates portal pages and delivers applications and channels to users according to their access rights, SDK for the creation of new applications and channels and Groupware for collaboration with robust implementation. The whole package runs on most of the popular operational systems and supports and on most of the leading database technologies.

JBoss.com

JBoss Enterprise Portal Platform delivers Web 2.0 applications, SOA services and back-end operations to users who interact between and require access to them. By JBoss you may take advantage by benefits like faster results, simple administration tools, simple management and creation of web content and robust performance.

Paratude.com

Paratude Portal is a module of on-demand customer service software, which gives you identical as your web site support portal for the needs of your customers. Despite that, you have the option to change the look and the feel of your portal to guide your customers to the right information for them. Your customers may access easy to reach knowledgebase, submit tickets, submit feedback, and support history or to check their ticket status.

DynaPortal.com

DynaPortal is a package of portal software products, which provides professional and reliable portal internet software solutions from 1996. The package contains more than fifty web applications to help you create and customize almost any kind of website or portal.

Jahia.com

Jahia provides the opportunity to use social gadgets or portlets on every one of your site’s pages and the process is similar to the process of adding a text. The integrated Mashup Center offers centralized and unified user interface to help end users categorize or manage the available numerous micro-applications. Also you will be able to take management of all your mashups like JSR168/286 portlets, Javascript-based mashups, Open social gadgets or RSS/Atom feeds.

E-mail and Instant Messaging

Gmail.com

Gmail is the solution for e-mail, social network and instant messaging from Google and it is distinguished from other competitors by simple but very smart and practical interface.

Zoho.com

Very powerful-hosted mail service for business users and mail administrators. The features available for mail administrators include multiple domains, control panel, unlimited groups, e-mail policies and easy migration while these for business users are powerful search, folders and labels, instant chat, calendar, tasks and multiple accounts.

Skype.com

Skype is one of the most popular software and it offers free Skype calls, calls to phones and mobiles at very low cost, free video calls, free instant messaging, conference chat/calls, send or receive files, good support and implementations for almost any kind of operational systems either for computer or phone and even for some TV sets.

ICQ.com

ICQ is one of the oldest representatives of this category and in the latest versions, the messenger offers new tool for messaging history, Facebook Chat connectivity and e-mail notifications from Yahoo! Mail and Gmail.

MSN.net

MSN messenger – except the instant messaging you may share multimedia files and links to other participants in chat or video calls and stay always well informed of the latest news from social networks like Facebook and Myspace. Microsoft delivers also free e-mail services called Hotmail.

AIM.com

AOL Instant Messenger one from the originators of the chat services launched in the early 1990, this product has several years of evolution and the latest version supports Google Talk and Facebook chat at almost every platform or operational system. AOL’s e-mail service has very good spam protection, simple and rich interface and is known as AIM Mail.

Messenger.Yahoo.com

Yahoo! Messenger will make possible for you to make free video and voice calls as well as sending IMs. In the latest version are included notifications from the activities of your friends on social networks like Yahoo!, Flickr, Twitter and more. The e-mail service brought by Yahoo! is also one from the most popular since 1994.

GMX.com

GMX Mail is a reliable e-mail service with good spam and virus filters and 5 GB free storage and you may use it for desktop mail program via IMAP or POP.

Gawab.com

They offer stable and very usable e-mail service with 10 GB free online space, IMAP and POP.

How To Run a Paperless Office

Twenty years ago, having an office meant being surrounded by paperwork. In the pre-Internet days, there was simply no way around it: no matter what line of work you were in, every aspect of daily operations (from invoicing to project management to document creation) left an enormous paper trail. Luckily, that is no longer necessary today.

Using the free/low-cost Internet tools below, modern businesses can, if they choose, run a completely paperless office:

Google Docs

America’s offices are flooded with hard copies of documents that rarely (or never) looked at on a daily basis. Whether in filing cabinets, stuffed in your desk drawer or piling up in the hallway, these papers clutter your workspace while adding no value in the process. With Google Docs, this can be stopped once and for all.

Google Docs not only has all the standard functionality of Microsoft Office (word processing, slideshows, spreadsheets, etc.) it also allows an entire office to share important documents with one another. Thus, while your current office policy might be printing out and storing records for later use, you can now simply keep them in Google Docs and print them when a need actually arises.

Skype

Looking for a way to do free videoconferencing over the web? Look no further than Skype. This handy tool enables your partners or employees to remote conference with anyone in the world (so long as they also use Skype.) The only requirements are a webcam and a microphone headset. For a nominal by-the-minute fee, you can also use Skype to place outgoing calls.

Best part: Skype also doubles as an instant messaging utility, meaning any text conversations you have with conferencing partners are automatically and digitally logged for later retrieval.

Mint

Most of us know that Mint.com is an excellent (and free) money management and simplification tool for individuals. Yet with a little ingenuity, it can just as easily perform those same functions for your small business. The typical startup has an operating account (checking) and a reserves account (savings), with perhaps an ancillary account for advertising or other purposes.

If your company is set up this way, Mint can paperlessly track and manage your corporate expenditures with little manual effort. Simply feed Mint your corporate bank account details instead of your personal ones, and watch as all financial activity is painlessly graphed, sorted and explained before your eyes.

Freshbooks

When it comes to office clutter, invoices are one of the biggest and oldest culprits. You know the drill: print one to send out, and another copy for record keeping. In addition to being incredibly time-consuming, it’s also wasteful and inefficient. In 2011, there is simply no excuse to burden yourself with paper invoices anymore.

Instead, join the 21st century and invest in a Freshbooks.com subscription. Freshbooks handles your invoicing electronically, on automated schedules. If you have three paying clients or less, you can use most of the service’s features for free. For companies with more customers, Freshbooks can streamline your invoicing process for the less than the cost of a few new Polo shirts.

Shoeboxed

Nothing looks uglier on a desk or filing cabinet than an unwieldy bundle of receipts. Different colors, different shapes, different paper textures: they’re inherently annoying to organize and almost no one bothers to even try. As a result, they just accumulate wherever they get thrown and clutter your entire workspace up. And who wants to sit down and sort them out at tax time? (Neither do we.)

That’s why Shoeboxed is such a godsend. For reasonable fees, Shoeboxed will automatically scan and categorize all the receipts you send them. Just bundle them up into an envelope, send them in, and a few days later, you’re organized – with no effort or organization on your part whatsoever.

Basecamp

It’s true: a shocking number of offices have no real project management system at all. Instead, initiatives move forward on the backs of unstructured Word documents, back of the napkin sketches and other stopgap measures that create more chaos than clarity. To become both efficient and paperless in one shot, switch to Basecamp.

A flagship product of 37Signals, Basecamp is a fully web-based project collaboration tool that centralizes every project management task you have. To-do lists, milestones, deadline reminders and document sharing are all standard features. From day one, everything you used to scribble down or print out becomes exponentially easier to just store in Basecamp instead. A free trial is available, as are pricing options to support virtually any budget.

Additional Resources: Visit HP to find products such as scanners or a laptop.

Accept Credit Cards On Your Phone or iPad

People have been wanting to process credit card payments on the go for years. I still remember the applications and hardware that you have to have before.

As with anything, new technology makes it lighter and easier than ever. Take Square for example. It is a small little card reader that you plug into your phone or iPad.

When you sign up for an account with Square,  you will get the card reader free in the mail. Then you can start processing payments. There are no monthly contracts or fees or merchant account involved. They do take a cut out of each payment and card swipe – that’s to be expected.

Supported phones or devices are iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and selected Android devices.

Free Cloud Apps That Small Businesses Should Be Using

If you want to save time, money, and energy while building up your small business to its ultimate potential, you should absolutely consider using cloud applications. The following are some free user-friendly and effective programs to get you started in exploring the wonderful, cost-effective world of “cloud”.

Freshbooks

Freshbooks’ tagline is “painless billing” — and with their user count currently at over 2 million (and write-ups in Tech Crunch, USA Today, and the New York Times) they must be right. Use Freshbooks to manage invoicing/expenses and time sheets for up to 3 clients, as well as send and receive an unlimited number of invoices for free. Unfortunately there isn’t really any competing service that offers more for free — and a Freshbooks upgrade starts at $19.95 for 25 clients.

Google Docs

Google Docs is an entirely free service, and an immensely popular part of Google’s growing cloud arsenal. It’s ideal for sharing, editing, and commenting on documents (and has html and chat capability, as well.) It also features revision tracking and a drawing utility — and with every subsequent improvement/upgrade, Docs is starting to rival Microsoft Word in capability.

Skype

Skype, the immensely popular online phone service, is a smart choice for small businesses that are burdened by phone fees. Skype is free when calling/contacting other Skype users (yes, even across the world), and the call quality, not to mention, is excellent. You can even conduct conference calls with three or four users for free (with video capability included). Calling to landline telephones does cost money, but the fee is minimal — much less than wallet-busting international fees for traditional cell phone service, for sure.

PicNik

Newsflash: Not everyone has the latest edition of Photoshop installed on his/her hard drive — and that’s quite an expensive proposal, at any rate. Picnik is a free tool that allows you to share, edit, crop, resize, and rotate photos entirely online (it works on Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms.) Additional features include a variety of creative fonts and effects, shapes, and frames. If you want the fancy version, though, you’ll have to upgrade to the premium version for $24.95 a year.

Windows Live Skydrive

That lone storage bin in your company copy room filling up pretty fast? Look no further than Windows Live! Skydrive, a password-protected file sharing and storage service that allows you to upload up to 25 GB of documents for free (and individual files limited to 50 GB). It can also host photos using Windows Live Photos (pictures are categorized into albums with this service).

Zoho

A Google Docs competitor, Zoho is free for a group of three users or less; additional users bump up the cost to $50 (per user, per year). The India-based company has over 3 million users currently, and does almost everything: word processing, mail merging, spreadsheets, presentations. It has small storage capability, and provides support for custom domain names and shared contacts/calendars. Most importantly, it supports a number of document formats and can create PDF files as well.

Doodle

If your employees and management have a hard time coordinating meetings and phone conferences due to heavily mismatched schedules, Doodle might just be the perfect solution. It’s a polling app: If you’re trying to schedule a meeting, then you delimit a series of possible times and dates that are then sent out to others. Recipients respond to the poll (which is colored-coded according to whether they can or cannot attend a specific meeting) and voila! instant scheduling success. You’ll never run around harassing co-workers for their schedules again.

Additional Resources: Check out Adobe.com where you can find customer management software along with many other products to help your business grow.

10 Things Your Computer Can Do For You Automatically

Did you know you can reclaim hours of your time by just short-cutting or automating even the simplest actions you repeat every day, week, month or year? A while back, I invested in a small software that helps me type, launches programs and create simple macros. I didn’t use it to its full potential, most of the time I used it to help me auto-type HTML code, PHP code snippets, WordPress code, repetitive emails, email addresses, website URLs, my bio etc.

One day, I was setting up new texts and realized the software had a little calculator. It told me I had executed over 8,300 commands with it and that added up to about 20 hours saved. Wow.

Alright, it is not an exact figure but it still amazes me how much time those little tasks take up. You may not think launching a program takes more than 10 seconds. But if you are getting forgetful like me and have a gazillion programs installed, sometimes I forget the name of the program by the time I open the launcher! Sometimes, I just can’t find the program. So something that should take 10 seconds can end up taking 5 minutes.

I also love the fact I don’t have to type out URLs in full. Including email addresses. RoboForm is installed and it completes web forms for me but that’s not always applicable sometimes you may have a special page you send people to regularly via email, social networks, articles or just anywhere. The beauty about this all is, the more of these small things you can automate, the more time you’ll save.

Ready to start shaving little chunks of time? Here’s a list of things you can automate right away.

  • Backup-of course you knew that.
  • Back up your website. Yes, you can certainly set up your computer to retrieve your backups and download while you sleep.
  • Rename a bunch of files. Sometimes you have tons of files that need changing of file names. You can set up your system to tell it what file name pattern to use and it’ll do it all for you even at hyper speed, much faster than you can do it.
  • Post to your blog. Found some reprint articles you want to be up on your site? Set your computer to copy and paste for you.
  • Type your emails. Great for customer support. Program common responses and have your computer automatically typing for you.
  • Keyword harvesting. Keyword research is essential for online marketing but it is a thankless, boring job. Program a macro to let it copy and grab the keywords for you.
  • Web design. You can program macros to remember code snippets for you like Adsense code for example.
  • Set the computer to Tweet or update your social networks at intervals for you.
  • Submit articles for you.
  • Resize images in bulk.

As you may realize, your computer may or may not be equipped to create such macros for you. Some macro software require more work and a learning curve. I began with something simple called DirectAccess. It may not be able to do some of the more complicated stuff listed here like posting to the blog but it is easy to grasp and the one thing that helped me get started shaving off minutes and later hours over time.

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