“Aww, you crochet the best beanies. You should really think about selling them.”
“Your brownies are better than any bakery in town. I’d pay good money for those.”
This is the way many small businesses start. Friends and family appreciate your work and encourage you to start selling items and making money from them. Initially, your network supports you, and in most cases it becomes a worthwhile hobby.
However, to be considered a real business, you have to be able to sell to strangers. Whether that is in person or online, you need people who don’t know you to purchase from you. Then once your business takes off, you will require some help. Chances are, you won’t be able to handle everything on your own.
Most small businesses can’t afford to employ specialized staff for all the functions. However, they can still operate and grow by employing tools that do the work for them. Here are four to consider.
1. Contract Software for a Professional Experience
Whether you’re a wedding photographer, a small law firm, or a financial planner, you know having everything in writing is crucial. Both the client and the vendor should be on the same page as to what was agreed upon, whatever the service provided. A few phone calls or emails cannot — and should not — replace a formal contract.
Not only is a contract binding by law, it can also set a professional first impression. Make sure you list all the terms of the agreement. Include any disclaimers and waivers, too. While you could check out sample contracts in your industry and tailor them to your needs, technology has made this task more efficient.
Using a contract management platform will save you time and money. Instead of emailing documents back and forth, you can streamline the process. Before you choose the software for your business, opt for a trial run, and have any relevant stakeholders chime in. The first few contracts may take a little extra time, but once you have great templates, subsequent ones will be a breeze.
2. Digital Calendar Scheduling to Never Miss Meetings
Once contracts are out of the way, you’ll need to schedule meetings to get the work started. Smart business people do not keep clients waiting. Whether it’s a Zoom call, lunch meeting, or presentation, you should arrive on — or before — time.
It’s easy to mix up dates and times if you have to scroll through emails and texts. Paper calendars and day planners are not easy to share with other meeting participants. In contrast, digital scheduling applications can sync multiple calendars and seamlessly send all parties reminders. Some apps even allow attendees to vote on times before a meeting is scheduled. If an attendee needs to change or cancel a meeting, the software makes it a snap.
When embedding a digital calendar on your website, you can screen people who would like a free consultation. You can set up preliminary vetting questions to limit such consultations to serious inquirers only. Gathering customer information beforehand can also save time during your meeting.
3. Social Media Management App to Save Time and Effort
Apart from a meeting calendar, businesses today need a social media calendar as well. To stay relevant with your customers, you should post on social media regularly. That can be a lot of work, especially if you are a solopreneur.
One way to avoid burnout is to create content in batches. Whether it’s Instagram reels, tweets, or Pinterest posts, create a content set in one go. Then plan your content calendar and use an app to schedule the posts. These apps also suggest the best time to post for your audience or industry. You can plan your content to hit multiple platforms well in advance. That way, your business will have fresh content at noon everyday without you having to think of what to post each morning.
In addition, such apps can help evaluate content so you don’t have to manually check post engagement. They can provide visual reports of which campaigns fared better than others, so you can double down on successful content. You can also use them to identify trending hashtags and see how many times you were mentioned online.
4. Cloud-Based Accounting Software for Easy Access to Financials
Once your hobby turns into a business, you’ll need to keep the bottom line in mind. And you’re not only maintaining your books for the benefit of tax preparers or loan officers. Having up-to-the-minute financials offers a lot of benefits. You can evaluate how your business is truly doing and budget and forecast for the coming year. You can also run reports to see how much money you need to make each month to break even.
Cloud-based accounting software makes it easy for you to access your books from anywhere. Many people choose to run their own business because of the flexibility it can provide. When your data is stored online, you could even work on it from another device — or country. Plus, you can have a business partner or employee weigh in remotely when needed.
With cloud-based subscription software, you receive the latest updates without having to purchase and install new software. You’re also assured that these solutions fully comply with new tax laws and can keep your data secure.
With so many choices available, it may seem daunting to pick the right small business tools. However, it does not have to be. Start small, choose one app at a time, and see how a free trial works for you. You can always cancel a subscription or transfer data to another service.
Your small business should not consume your every waking moment. It should bring you joy and pay the bills. By leveraging the right technology, you should be able to achieve both.