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Guest post by Parag Patel Doing business in the digital age comes with many benefits, including technological advances that simplify complex or tedious tasks. One of the best examples of this is automated financial technology. This includes AI-driven automation advancements in bookkeeping, accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll administration, financial planning and analysis, and more. Intelligent financial platforms like these have risen in availability and popularity over the last several years, but many companies are still behind in implementing financial automation as it can be difficult to make big changes to core operations. However, it doesn’t have to be. The following paragraphs will outline five key ways in which financial automation can improve your business, making it a worthwhile investment to consider. Benefits of financial automation technology 1. Improve productivity The number one benefit of implementing financial automation is an immediate improvement in productivity. Automating high volume, repetitive business tasks that involve processing data, like bookkeeping, accounts receivable, payroll administration and more will save your business both time and money. Simply put, with the implementation of automated software and services your finance department will be able to process more work, but in less time and with less overhead. 2. Refocus skilled staff on strategic work With the time freed up by the productivity improvements mentioned above, businesses can refocus their skilled staff on work that adds more value to the company, rather than tedious, repetitive tasks. For example, instead of having your talented finance team spending time chasing down late bill payments or processing payroll, you can automate these tasks and shift their focus to responsibilities that require more critical and creative thinking and will propel your company forward. 3. Reduce human error Another key benefit of financial automation is the reduction of human error. It’s a simple fact that the more manual a process is, the more prone it is to mistakes. In the case of a business’ finances, a human error can result in delayed cash flow, time wasted, and distortions to the financial health of the company. Leveraging financial automation technology is guaranteed to improve accuracy throughout your finance department. 4. Improve cash flow In short, financial automation helps businesses get paid and pay their own bills faster, which means having a more accurate understanding of cash flow each month. Technological advances in the accounts receivable and accounts payable fields are primary drivers for this benefit. Utilizing automated accounts receivable platforms results in a streamlined invoicing process that reduces compliance and administrative issues that commonly delay payments. On the flip side, accounts payable automation allows companies to process and pay their own invoices seamlessly and in a timely manner. 5. Build better customer relationships Financial automation inevitably means moving processes online. That translates into customers having access to important information, such as invoices and transaction histories, and the ability to execute important actions, like bill payment, at the touch of a button. This results in a convenient and straightforward user experience which can lead to higher customer satisfaction and, ultimately, better customer retention. Additionally, as outlined above, automation improves productivity and efficiency. The time and overhead savings you find in your finance department can mean more resources going towards nurturing current customer relationships and taking a proactive approach to new client acquisition. Taking the first step towards financial automation If your curiosity into financial automation is piqued but you’re unsure of the next steps, my best piece of advice is to select one area of focus and conduct a cost analysis to uphold your status quo. Having a smaller target for improvement will be less overwhelming than trying to overhaul an entire finance department and the cost analysis will be crucial as you price out different automation solutions. Oftentimes, businesses start their automation journey with more repetitive processes such as invoice processing and bill payment, rather than more complicated tasks like financial planning and analysis, because they result in a quick return on investment. In fact, an Invoiced study found automated accounts receivable and automated accounts payable technology have the highest adoption rates among financial automation at 49 percent and 47 percent respectively, and also earned the highest satisfaction levels among those using them. Overall, investing in financial automation technology will save your business time and money, give you a competitive edge and help you create a better customer experience. So the question is not whether you should implement it, but rather when will you take the leap? Parag Patel is Co-Founder & COO of Invoiced, a leading Accounts Receivable Automation platform. Parag teamed with co-founder Jared King in 2014 to help the popular platform make the transition from breakthrough product to category-leading company. With thousands of clients around the world now relying on Invoiced for billing, collections, and payment acceptance, Parag leads Invoiced’s customer care organization including professional services, customer success, and support.
Guest Post by Lori Wade If you are in a place where you can start to think about taking your business global, you should congratulate yourself and your team. You must have worked very hard to grow your business to become strong enough to reach this point. That said, when it comes to actually following through and taking your business global, you don’t want to congratulate yourselves too early. Getting your product or business trademarked in the United States can be a complex process on its own, but successfully extending and registering that trademark internationally is bound to be a whole new challenge. However, it doesn’t have to be an impossible one. By following these guidelines, you can take your trademark and business global in a big way. 1. Register sooner rather than later One of the most important things to recognize when it comes to registering a trademark internationally is that it is better to get started on the process sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more chance your application could run into problems. For one thing, the more time passes, the greater the chance of someone else trying to copy your idea. Until you have trademark protection, your brand can be a “sitting duck” internationally. While this won’t really matter if you are mostly a localized brand operating entirely within your country, or intend to remain a small business, the sooner and faster you grow, the more pressing the need to trademark your company internationally becomes. Then, there is the prospect of brand squatting. This refers to the process where third parties register a trademark you might want or need first with the sole intention of forcing you to settle with them for the rights to the name or trademarked material in their country. Consider the curious case of Starbucks brand squatting in Russia over a decade ago. When the coffee giant tried to expand their brand into Russia, they found that someone else had already trademarked the name there, with the sole intent of forcing Starbucks to pay them for the rights to the name. These are obviously devious business practices, and, even worse, they’re utterly dishonest bad faith attempts to wring money out of companies while providing nothing in return. That said, going international often means working in countries where trademark and business law isn’t always on the up and up. Just think of all the off-brand trademark forgeries in China. On the other hand, Russia and China represent huge markets, so for big brands going international, they’re worth the risk. If you’re going to play ball there, you’ll have to play by their rules. The sooner you become savvy to those rules, and the faster you act on them, the better chance you have at saving yourself a massive headache. 2. Register in your home market first Before you do any of that, however, you’ll want to register your trademark in your own market. If you operate in the United States, that means going through the USPTO system. If you operate in the EU, that means going through their EU Intellectual Property Office. 3. Register with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) The closest thing to an international body overseeing international trademarks is the World Intellectual Property Organization. They operate according to what is referred to as the Madrid System. One hundred and eighteen countries are signatories to WIPO, which covers international copyright law between its signatory parties. You can choose to have your trademark protected in specific countries or all 118 states. As with any trademark process, you will need to fill out an application and pay fees to obtain and maintain your copyright. When doing so, you will need to make sure that you are filing as a citizen, or as someone legally recognized as being able to do business in the state from which you are filing. This can be a complex process, and if you are not a native or naturalized citizen of the country in which you are filing, you may need to designate another party in that country to act on your behalf. 4. Consider these important factors Here are some of the most common international trademark factors to consider when filing: Cost-benefit analysis — Filing for a trademark can be a costly process both time and money-wise, so ask yourself: Is it worth registering a trademark in all countries you’re targeting? If you are not going to get a sizable return on your investment, the answer may be no. However, if it’s a big market or one in which your company is looking to establish itself, the answer is likely yes. Overseas operations —For WIPO purposes, you’ll want to note any overseas distributors, manufacturers, partnerships, or other business associations. If you need help filing in a foreign country, these other parties, such as content writing companies like Icopify, can sometimes be helpful. Future plans — Make sure you know where and when you plan to expand before seeking international trademark protection. Defensive filings. —To guard against things such as the Russia/Starbucks case or Chinese forgeries, consider preemptive defensive filings in large markets where you plan to expand. 5. Hire an international trademarking legal expert Last, but not least, you’ll want to hire an international trademark legal expert to handle the process. International trademark law is notoriously tricky and marked by overlapping standards, treaties, exceptions, and laws. Trying to navigate the process yourself will be difficult, and practically impossible while you devote most of your time to running a business. Turn to a full-time international trademarking expert instead, and make sure they are qualified to work on trademark law in the countries in which you plan to expand. By following these protocols, you can take your trademarked brand global in a big way. Lori Wade is a journalist from Louisville. A content writer who has experience in small editions, Lori is now engaged in news and conceptual articles on business topics. You can find her on LinkedIn.
Guest Post by Kali Geldis There are more small business financing options available today than ever before, but small business owners need to be a little more savvy than they were a few years ago, when the bank around the corner was the one-stop choice for a small business loan or line of credit. Although a traditional bank loan, a line of credit, or an SBA-guaranteed loan might be the first thing that comes to mind when a business owner is looking for financing, they aren’t the only choices. Depending on your situation, there are other options worth considering. Let’s talk about three little-known financing options for business that are worth considering. If not “little known,” it's safe to say these options are often overlooked and underappreciated by business owners as a reliable source of borrowed capital. Trade credit Payment terms from a vendor and supplier might not be a $100,000 small business loan; however, they are powerful ways to leverage credit and start building a strong business credit profile, particularly for a new business Early-stage businesses struggle more to access borrowed capital than just about any of their more mature counterparts. Lenders want to see a track record of good credit practices that aren’t there yet, revenues that haven’t had a chance to flourish, and cash flow that simply isn’t consistent enough to support periodic payments. Fortunately, trade credit (or vendor credit) is often available to most businesses that request it and helps demonstrate how they can responsibly leverage credit to build a healthy and thriving business. Before you apply for trade credit, make sure you do the following: Confirm that the vendor or supplier will report your credit history to the appropriate business credit bureaus. If they don’t, you might be successful at building a strong credit history with that particular vendor, but it won’t help you build a strong profile. Whether or not they report to the credit bureaus might not be the most important criteria when choosing a vendor, but it’s certainly up there. Make every invoice payment on time. The business credit bureaus look at the credit relationships you have with your suppliers in the same way they look at your history with any other type of small business financing. Making timely payments is the single most important thing you can do to build a strong business profile, so you have access to other types of credit in the future. Take advantage of any early payment discount terms that might be offered. I know of more than one small business that is able to augment their payroll expense every month by taking the 10% discount offered if they pay in 10 days as opposed to paying in 30 days. Business credit cards Although business credit cards are very popular among small business owners, don’t overlook their value as an easy and convenient way to access borrowed capital simply because they are so familiar. Most businesses that offer products and services to other small businesses accept credit cards, and many utility companies will allow you to make payments with plastic too. Business credit cards also offer another easy entry into business credit for early-stage businesses. The qualification criteria is much less strict than a traditional loan application, you only pay interest on the amount of credit you use, charges are itemized in your monthly statements making it easy to monitor and control spending. And spending limits will likely be increased over time as you demonstrate that your business will meet its credit obligations.. Depending on the business card you choose, many offer cash back on purchases, points for office supplies, or mileage and other travel benefits for business owners who need to travel as part of their business. Friends and family According to the Gardiazio Business School at Pepperdine University, 19 percent of the businesses they surveyed in 2019 for their 2019 Private Capital Markets Report looked to financing from friends and family for borrowed capital. This has been a pretty consistent number over the years, making loans from friends and family one of the most popular ways for both new and more mature businesses to borrow. Borrowing from a relative might not be the first choice for most entrepreneurs and certainly has risks — an awkward Thanksgiving dinner or family reunion to name a couple of them — but if treated right, it is an option worth considering. Here are a few tips for making a loan from a family member or old college roomate work: Don’t treat things casually. Formalize things with a contract that spells out your payment obligation including payment amount, payment frequency, and what happens if you miss a payment. Keep track of every payment and regularly report on the balance and status of the loan. Even though they might be a friend or a family member who loves you, make sure you are regularly communicating with them so they know you are serious and intend to repay the entire loan amount. Be prepared for some occasional unsolicited advice. It’s safe to assume they will be more invested and interested in your business now that they have some of their own money on the line. The takeaway For many business owners, borrowed capital is how they fuel business growth and fund other initiatives to build a healthy business. When looking for financing, don’t overlook options that might not equate to a lot of cash, but certainly offer a lot of value. If you can creatively utilize smaller amounts of money to create bigger results, your business will be in a better position to respond to changes in the marketplace and have greater flexibility to meet your customer demands, all while maintaining a solid bottom line. Afterall, it’s creative problem solving that is the skill that sets the most successful small business owners apart and allows them to create wildly successful products and unrivaled services to meet their customers' needs. Kali Geldis has a decade of experience guiding individuals through the confusing world of credit and finance. She serves as the Editorial and Marketing Director for technology company Nav.
Guest Post by Matt Shealy Most of us find ourselves complaining about our long commute to work, but what happens when you get a brief relief from it because you're going to be traveling instead? Then, we find ourselves complaining about how difficult it is to sleep in an unfamiliar bed. The good thing about this is that unlike a long commute, there is something you can do about sleeping in an unfamiliar bed. Technology has made it easier than ever to find solutions for common problems. There are several apps available that can help you get better sleep when traveling for work. Here our four of our favorites: Sleep Genius The Sleep Genius app is the consummate sleeping companion. Plus, it has better manners than most sleeping companions. After all, you won't have to worry about snoring or cover stealing with this. Just a well deserved, excellent night of sleep. Music can be an incredible way to drift off. It filters out background noise and provides comfort while you head to dreamland. This app features gentle acoustic music that you can set to fade out, or that you can choose to have accompany you throughout the entire evening. When it's time to wake up, you'll have a pre-programmed alarm clock that is once again gentle. It's timed sound cycles can wake you up in an affable manner that won't jolt you shaken into your day. It's available for $7.99 on both iOS and Android. Calm If you're one of those people who have a difficult time quieting your mind once your head hits the pillow, then the Calm app is for you. It allows you the chance to incorporate more of a meditation style into your nightly routine. With soothing sounds, it aims to quiet your mind so that you can fall asleep quickly. If you're a person who needs more than soothing sounds in order to fall asleep, then you can even listen to stories being narrated as you slip peacefully into your slumber. You can choose from stories by Stephen Fry, fairytales from Brothers Grimm, and more. It's available on both iOS and Android for free, with the option to upgrade. Sleep Cycle Power Nap Imagine you've just arrived at your destination. You're feeling a bit jet lagged from the trip and have a couple of hours to kill before you have to begin work. You think about taking a nap, but you're concerned you might sleep too heavy and wake up feeling even groggier than you do now. Well, there's an app for that. Sleep Cycle Power Nap can structure your brief snooze, so that you don't drift off into a heavy REM sleep. It uses advanced technology to analyze your movements. When it senses you're getting a little too relaxed, it will gently bring you out of it. This app is available for $2.99 on iOS only. Rain Rain Sleep Sounds The Rain Rain Sleep Sounds app is perfect for the kind of people who run a fan in their bedroom. Not because of the cool air, but because they enjoy the white noise it provides. You can choose from over 100 white noise sounds until you find the one that best suits you. There are storm sounds, forest sounds, summer rain, a flowing stream, and a cackling fire, just to name a few. It's available on both iOS and Android for free, with the option to upgrade. So, what are you waiting for? It's time to download the app you think is right for you. You'll be glad you did. Matt Shealy is the President of ChamberofCommerce.com. Shealy specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
Guest Post by Matt Shealy For most entrepreneurs, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Survival often means compartmentalizing, so you don’t get bogged down in the day-to-day struggles. Here are five productivity hacks that the busiest entrepreneurs can use to improve efficiency. Launch a bullet journal It’s not all about high tech, however. If you’re like most of the 5 billion people who have a smartphone, you’re probably using it as your central command center to keep track of appointments, to-do lists, and meetings. It can be a great tool, but it has downsides as well. Studies are showing increased anxiety and even signs of addiction for professionals. Here’s an alternative: put down the phone for a bit and try creating a bullet journal. It’s like a to-do list on steroids using a pen and a notebook. You’ll be less stressed, remember things more, and get that positive feeling when you manually cross things off the list. Use a free voice assistant Whether it’s Siri or Alexa, Google or Cortana, voice assistants can help automate tasks and save you time. It’s so much easier to dictate a text or email or schedule a meeting using voice rather than firing up your computer and typing it out. Schedule everything Stop making lists and put things on the calendar instead. Start with recurring meetings. If possible, line them up for the same time and same day each week. Block off the time for the meetings and schedule the prep time you need separately. In fact, start scheduling everything. If there’s a deadline, get it on the calendar and break out the action steps and calendar them, too. For example, schedule the due date for that presentation, but also schedule the time to research, prep, and edit the presentation. Make time to plan Busy entrepreneurs tend to move from one thing to the next quickly. We can easily forget to block out time to think. According to the results of a study in the Harvard Business Review, 96 percent of business leaders reported they were to busy putting out fires to focus on strategic thinking. Yet, that is one of the single most important aspects of their jobs. It’s especially tough for entrepreneurs who may be wearing a lot of hats, especially in startups. Put it on your calendar and schedule it. Are you seeing a theme here? Hit the email snooze button The average professional has some 200 emails sitting in their inbox. When you consider that another 120 new ones show up every day, things can get backed up quickly. The backlog just keeps growing. Schedule time to go through your emails and stop responding all day long. If you use Gmail, you may not have noticed the menu options under the Inbox and Starred sections of your primary account. It’s labeled “Snoozed.” When an email arrives, you can send it away until a later time when you want to deal with it. For Outlook users, Boomerang for Outlook can park emails until you want them to arrive. You can also pause email delivery so you only get emails at certain times. Wrap up Successful entrepreneurs are some of the busiest people in business. Their schedules can often start very early in the morning and not end until late evening for weeks on end. These productivity hacks can ensure those entrepreneurs aren’t bogged down in tasks that don’t move a business forward. Matt Shealy is the President of ChamberofCommerce.com. Shealy specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
Guest Post by Lauren Wiseman You may realize that your internal team cannot handle the entire workload or you just need a team for occasional hire — in any case, a group of freelancers might just be the perfect answer. These individuals are usually experienced because they have the freedom to work with multiple companies during their careers and that experience and knowledge is something you can leverage. Many entrepreneurs are interested in hiring freelancers but have questions about how to supervise the work and manage the payments for an external team. Here are a few tips on how to successfully work with freelancers: Establish good communication All business relations are maintained through good communication. From interviews to weekly reports and feedback sessions, the freelance team needs to feel like a part of your company in order to perform to the best of their abilities. However, this doesn’t mean that you should have daily video calls if there is no need because you would be wasting your time and theirs. Regular purposeful communication does more than just help freelancers feel like they belong; it also facilitates the exchange of ideas with your internal teams and helps the freelancers know they are on the right track. Without regular communication, freelancers may miss important details and inadvertantly stray from their tasks. By ensuring that everyone’s doing exactly what they are supposed to, you will also make sure that no funds are wasted and that everyone gets paid for the work they've done. Let the software do its trick It is said that trust is the basis of a good relationship; however, in business, trusting people is often characterized as naivety. Wanting to know that your employees are actually working during business hours doesn’t make you an overly strict employer but a prudent entrepreneur. Most remote employees will fill in their time logs honestly, but some might try to bend the truth a bit and put in some extra hours. If that happens each month, you would be giving away funds you can put to better use and grow your business. To keep the business relationship with your external team fair and square, you should find a software solution that will help you monitor their work and track time spent on projects. Available software includes features that help the freelance crew keep track of their to-dos, deadlines, and the hours they’ve planned on setting aside for each project segment. Use the benefits of the payroll card One of the biggest perks of hiring freelancers is that you are not limiting yourself to your local pool of talents. The last thing you want is to hire people who are not cut out for that position simply because you have run out of options. It's not enough just to hope that with enough training and patience, they would be able to perform well. Hiring freelancers gives a shot to individuals with the enthusiasm and efficiency your business desperately needs, even if they're from different cities or even countries. Many business owners are reluctant to hire remote workers because they believe that the process of payment would be too complicated and not worth the hassle. However, if you give each freelance employee a personalized payroll card this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Many entrepreneurs opt for this solution because it allows for the automation of the entire payroll process while the freelancers don’t have to be a member of any particular bank and they can use the card internationally. Prepare a detailed contract Regardless of whether you are hiring a particular external team for a one-time project or if they will be your go-to people for all similar tasks, signing a contract with them is crucial. This contract will protect both parties. If they don’t wish to sign it, then you should rethink your decision about hiring that particular person or team because there might be other reasons they don’t wish to make a legal commitment. The contact should contain basic information on the two parties such as legal names, physical addresses, detailed description of what they are hired to do, deadlines, as well as the payment terms. The contract should include what would happen if either party doesn't live up to their side of the bargain. Having these terms on paper can eliminate misunderstandings or any intentional fraud attempts. Don't let fear stop you from hiring freelancers and advancing your business. Lauren Wiseman is a marketing specialist and contributor to bizzmarkblog.com. She helps clients grow their personal and professional brands in the fast-changing and demanding market, strongly believing in a holistic approach to a business.
Guest Post by Jane Hurst Hiring remote workers is all the rage, and it’s no wonder why. Remote workers are reportedly happier than in-house workers. FlexJobs also found that 66 percent of professionals say they would be more productive if they worked remotely as opposed to a traditional office — not to mention, productivity rates can increase up to 13 percent, according to an article in The New York Times. While it’s no secret that remote working comes with a wide range of benefits, success doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re looking to hire remote workers, you need the right tools to help everyone stay on track. This includes productivity apps, communication tools, and, of course, employee time-tracking apps. This article will review the 10 best employee time-tracking apps to help you find the perfect app for you and your remote workers. By the end of the article, you’ll have more information to help you make an informed decision about time tracking. 1. Time Doctor If you’re looking for an excellent time-tracking app to monitor your team members, Time Doctor is the perfect place to start. Companies like Home Depot, Apple, Verizon, Surveymonkey, and FirehouseSubs all use Time Doctor, and have experienced excellent results. What does Time Doctor do best? Time Doctor helps you track exactly how your remote employees are spending their time and their productivity rates. With the help of a smart dashboard and detailed reporting, you can see the total time your team members are working as well as individual pieces of information like how much time they spend on certain projects, tasks, and clients. Special features Time tracking — One of the most valuable features of Time Doctor is the time-tracking element of the app. Remote employees can start a timer when they start working and name the task they are working on. Managers can quickly see how employees are spending their time and make adjustments to projects as necessary. With Time Doctor, you can rest assured you get access to efficient, error-free time management. Website monitoring — Interested in learning what applications and websites your team members access during work? Time Doctor is the perfect tool to provide that exact insight. Of course, Time Doctor works hard to ensure the privacy of employees when they are not working, so website tracking is only available when employees are working. Screen monitoring — Managers have access to screenshots of the employee’s current work activity that were taken at random intervals through screen monitoring. Again, Time Doctor provides extra privacy protection by allowing employees to delete these screenshots if they were taken on accident. Managing distractions — One of the most difficult challenges of hiring remote workers is not being able to see how they are spending time. Time Doctor gives you insight into when employees access any social media or entertainment website during work hours. How does it work? TimeDoctor generates a popup, asking you if you are still working. Then, weekly time usage reports are also generated for your reference. Detailed reporting — Don’t have time to sit and monitor screen shots all day? No one does. That’s why Time Doctor creates automated and easy-to-read reports of employee’s time usage. With a click of a button, you can access reports like Timesheet reports, Time Use reports, Attendance reports, project-based breakdowns, Web and App Usage Reports, and more. That way, you can quickly get insight into how members are spending their time without it taking up too much time. Pricing — Time Doctor costs $9.99 per month per user. You can even sign up for a 14-day free trial without using a credit card. 2. Toggl Toggl is another time-tracking app that you may want to look into. This is an affordable app, so it may be a better option for small teams or even freelancers that need to report their time to clients. Special features One-click timers — Toggl isn’t complicated. All you have to do is click the button and you’re ready to roll. Tracking reminders — Did you forget to start the timer? The Toggl Button and Toggl Desktop apps remind you when you're not tracking. Toggle will also detect idle time and you can edit that time slot later. Over 100 app integrations — Toggl has over 100 integrations that put Toggl Button inside your favorite online apps, allowing you to start tracking immediately. Profits vs. labor costs — Get quick access to important data visualization, so you'll know which projects and clients are the best. Team dashboard — The team dashboard shows you how much time each member is tracking and if they're taking on too much or too little work. Pricing — Prices start at $9 per month and go up from there. If you’re an enterprise, the best option is to contact a representative for a custom quote. 3. Harvest Harvest is another employee time-tracking app that is worth looking into. Not only do they make it easy to track time, but they also make it easy to track expenses. This helps you identify productivity and gives you a look into how to better spend your time and budget. Special features Time tracking — Harvest has start and stop times and the ability to enter your hours into a timesheet. Works on devices — Harvest works on your desktop as well as devices. This way, remote employees can track time on the go. Integrations — Like any excellent time-tracking app, Harvest provides a robust list of integrations. This makes it easy to track time without having to switch back and forth between several different applications. Expense tracking — Not only can you track time, but you can access critical data about your expenses. This goes a long way when you’re trying to save money and spend wisely. Invoicing — Need to turn those time cards into invoices? No problem. Harvest stores all information in one convenient location, making this easy. Pricing — Harvest has a free option if you’re a one-person show. Prices go up from there. You can also try Harvest free for 30-days with no credit card. 4. Hubstaff Interested in spending less time tracking time and more time growing? Hubstaff might be the employee time-tracking app for you. Hubstaff comes with everything you need to help your team work smarter, not harder. Special features Time tracking — Like all of the other apps listed above, Hubstaff offers a time-tracking element to their software. It works on the desktop, web, or via mobile device. GPS tracking — Do you work in an industry that requires a lot of travel? Hubstaff provides GPS tracking to help you see when your team is on the road. Online timesheets — Instead of having to keep track of time on a spreadsheet, everything is done online. This way, everyone can track time effectively. Detailed reporting — Need a high-level and deep dive into data? Look no further than Hubstaff. Hubstaff helps you capture data that helps you find ways to become more productive. Productivity monitoring — Time tracking is more than just seeing when employees are working. Hubstaff lets you track apps, URL, activity percentages, and more, so you can see how employees are spending time. Team scheduling — Not only can you see when people are working, but you can actually schedule when your team should work through the app. Pricing — Pricing for Hubstaff is anywhere for free to $20 per user per month. For more information, check out their pricing page. 5. Tick Tick is another time-tracking app that helps you run straightforward projects, and make sure you are making the most of your time and getting the highest productivity rates out of your employees. Special features Timecard — Tick’s time card works in three steps: Select your project, select the task, and enter your time. You can also enter notes, use timesheet reporting to get budget feedback, and/or dig deeper into projects as needed. Running timers — You can start a single timer or toggle between multiple timers as you move between tasks. Budget feedback — After a team member enters time to a task, you can see the project and task budgets. This lets you know how much time they have left to complete the work to help you budget your time more wisely. Enter time from anywhere — Tick prides itself on being the easiest time management software. Tick works on your phone, watch, tablet, desktop or browser. Pricing — Prices range from free to $149 per month. Learn more on their website. 6. Hours Hours is one of the easiest time-tracking apps to use. It works on any device and will help you improve productivity rates. Special features Real time tracking — Do you need to track your time on the go or in real time? Hours makes this easy by keeping running a list of times you can switch between with one tap. Reports — Hours uses powerful data visualizations to help you understand data easily. Use this information to improve processes and efficiencies. Timeline — If you like the timeline feature, Hours is a great option. The timeline feature makes it easy to account for every hour. Plus, you can make adjustments by dragging and dropping the start or end of a time block. Hours for teams — While Hours started out as a personal time-tracking app, it now has full capability to work for teams. Teams can use it to time track, analyze, and capture data. Pricing — The best way to determine pricing is to visit the Hours website and sign up. 7. Timely Timely is another time-tracking app that helps you track time without wasting a second. No one wants to spend extra time on figuring out how much time employees spend on tasks. Timely is fully automated and easy to use. Special features Time tracking — Timely records everything you work on using its Memory Tracker. All your tracked data is kept in a secure, private timeline and only you can see this information. Suggestions — Suggestions is a particularly cool feature of Timely. AI is hard at work to group together your recorded work and suggest time entries. This process is automated. Train — To help Timely get it right, you can rename suggested titles, group activities, and more. Improvements — Timely will learn from your edits and become more accurate as you use the software. Project time management — This app helps you see everything you have going on and you can see it in one, convenient location. Team time management — Timely shows you a live overview of all your employee’s activity. Pricing — Timely offers prices for individuals and groups. Individual prices start at $7 per month and group pricing starts at $99 per month. To get a better idea, visit their website. 8. Clockify Are you looking for a truly free time-tracking app? Then, Clockify might be the time-tracking app for you and your team. You get access to unlimited users, forever. Special features Timesheet — This features helps you report on a week’s worth of time in less than a minute. Dashboard — The dashboard shows you what your team is working on and where everyone is spending their time. Reports — Breakdown information to get a better idea of how to improve productivity. Pricing — Free 9. TSheets TSheets makes time tracking easy. Don’t believe it? Then, ask friends and family how well it works. They have over 20,000 five-star reviews. Special features Time tracking — Employees can clock in or out with just one click. They can also take a break, change job codes, or add timesheet details instantly. Mobile app — TSheets works across mobile devices. This way, you can track your work on the go. Scheduling — Need to schedule time in a place where everyone can see it? TSheets is the perfect place to do it. Integrations — Like many other time-tracking apps, TSheets provides integrations with other productivity software. Pricing — Pricing is free to $4 per month per active user plus a base fee. Find out more information on the pricing page from TSheets. 10. Everhour Everhour is a time-tracking software for teams. You can easily track time, bill your clients, and learn how to improve future quotes and estimates. Special features Time tracking — Time tracking is as easy as clicking once. You can also always log your hours manually if needed. Weekly timesheets — This feature helps you see what you have recorded for the entire week. You can also make edits quickly with this feature. Copy recent — To save time, you can also copy timesheet structure from previous days. Integrations — Like many other time-tracking apps, Everhour integrates with top productivity tools. Pricing — Pricing for solo users is $8 per month. Pricing for teams is $7 per user per month. Learn more here. Wrap up As you can see, there are several top-notch options for employee time-tracking apps. What you end up selecting will depend on the type of work you do, the size of your company, and your needs. Hopefully this review provides an excellent starting point to help you find the time-tracking app that works for you. Jane Hurst is a writer, editor, and avid traveler from San Francisco. Contact her at About.me.
Guest Post by Megan Mosley Customers are the life of any business. Therefore, achieving a healthy customer base is key. Along with retaining current customers, many businesses find that generating new business is one of their biggest concerns.Before we talk about tips for increasing your customer base, let’s quickly expand on what we’re talking about. We’re simply talking about lead generation.In its simplest form, lead generation quite literally means the process for obtaining new leads (or a person/business you want to convert to a customer). Inbound and outbound marketing are typically used to create interest in the business or product. Recently, it seems that lead generation depends more on inbound marketing practices that help convert leads into customers in their own time than outbound methods which can seem more gimmicky. So, how can you expand your customer base to ensure a steady stream of customers? 1. Keep your business profiles and website current This sounds like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many businesses fail to update their business profiles online. It may not seem like a big deal, but this can hinder your business, significantly. When people look up your business or use keywords to locate a product like the one you offer, they expect to find current information. If your business hours, location, phone number, etc. have changed, this should be updated immediately. If potential leads can’t contact you or have to do more than just a quick search, they will move on without hesitation. Up to date and accurate profile information makes it easy for leads to do business with you. 2. Be available Along with accurate information, people expect you to be available. This doesn’t mean you have to be present 24 hours a day, but rather give people options for reaching out to you. Fortunately, chatbots, social media, email, phone all make it possible for people to contact you even when you’re off duty. Making yourself accessible leaves communication channels open so people can contact you on their time and via their preferred method. 3. Provide exceptional customer service This is the root of all good. You may be thinking, customer service is great for keeping existing customers satisfied, but how can that get leads through the door? Your customer service is what will land you reviews, referrals, and good word of mouth, all of which help gain the attention of prospects. It’s up to you to find the right team to deliver. You have to be nice, attentive, and provide a good overall experience. Even in niche markets, you will have competitors; it’s not just your product that is going to get people to choose you. According to Gartner, 64 percent of people find customer experience more important than price. Numerous customer service statistics prove its importance. So if you want to expand your customer base, you may want to set a good customer service strategy in place. 4. Use email marketing Sharing insightful information can increase your customer base. You can share your knowledge with others via email marketing. In fact, there are a ton of ways to use email to get leads. You may offer a newsletter of all your latest content, or even an ecourse.By getting people to sign up for your email campaigns, even if they have never purchased your product, you have the ability to convert them down the line. Why? Because you’re establishing yourself within your niche, and building your relationship with them. 5. Ask for customer feedback and reviews One of the important things you should do is get customer feedback. This is often neglected or overlooked, but it is really one of the best ways to get more customers. A review can be the deciding factor in whether a customer chooses you or not. People rely on review sites, and if your business has reviews and your competitor doesn’t, you’ll likely find that more people will trust you and therefore choose you. A Zendesk survey found the influence of positive reviews to be quite significant for business. Of the respondents, 90 percent mentioned that positive reviews had an influence in their buying decision. interestingly, 86 percent of the respondents said the same for negative reviews.If you’re not getting reviews, take some time to reflect on why. 6. Market your content No matter what kind of business you have, content can draw people in. Whether you’re a lawn service giving tips and tricks for caring for a lawn, or an eCommerce clothing store providing style ideas. People may find you by first getting a hold of your content. Blogs, whitepages, webinars, infographics, etc make you shareable too. Why? You’re able to share real advice which can be great for stepping up your social media profiles. Plus, a customer might be more willing to share content of yours when referring you to others. Content marketing can help you increase your brand awareness. You will have the potential to bring in new leads and ultimately increase your customer base. 7. Automate your marketing Most businesses are turning to automation to eliminate tedious tasks and to streamline their processes. Plus, they have seen an increase in lead quantity quality, so it’s a win all around. In fact, as mentioned by Hubspot, those who use marketing automation tools have experienced a 451 percent increase in nurturing qualified leads. With that increase, it’s pretty clear to see why automation has been an essential tool in building a customer base. Besides making life easier on the business, it also improves efficiency, whether that means outreach, data management, or even product delivery. 8. Consider using referral marketing A referral is a huge compliment, and a great way for you to increase your customer base. Many businesses use referral marketing because it helps them produce quality leads, meaning ones that are likely to convert. But why is that? Well, it’s simple. Referral programs work because they rely on a level of trust. Information, businesses, and products shared by a friend are trusted more than any ad you can put out yourself, which is why you need a referral program. Nielsen has found that around 92 percent of people from various markets are more inclined to believe people from their own social circles. This is because people do not want to mislead friends, as that can affect their reputation. Referral marketing taps into the world of word of mouth marketing. As a business you are using your customers to reach new circles of people that you may not have been able to reach otherwise. The bottom line As you can see, there are a variety of ways you can increase your customer base. You may want to test out a few, or maybe even all of them. We will say that having updated business profiles, making yourself available, and providing good customer service are a few that you should implement no matter where you are in your business journey. Those are just good practices to have that will naturally result in increased customers.Megan Mosley is a Marketing Specialist at Referral Rock, a referral marketing software, who believes every business has the potential to increase its word of mouth. When she’s not working, she enjoys sipping on coffee and hanging out with her dog, Mollie.
Guest Post by Jane HurstChoosing a website builder for your business can be a daunting task. There are many available to choose from, but you want to be sure you invest wisely. Here are eight tips for picking the best website builder for your business. Priority When choosing a website builder for your business, you need to figure out exactly why you want a website builder. Your experience level and whether you will have an online store are factors in determining which website builder is right for your business. Some website builders are for beginners and others require language and other computer knowledge. If you know what your website builder will be used for, you will be more likely to choose the perfect website builder for your business. Budget Once you know what you will be doing with your website builder, you have to figure out how much you are willing and able to spend. You want a good website builder that is within your budget. This is something you do not want to skimp on. Be sure you have enough budgeted to get the best website builder for your business. Established companies You want to look for established companies when searching for a website builder. There are older and newer reputable companies out there. You want to be sure to end up with one that has traffic and a good reputation. A company might look good, but you want to do your research and make sure it has great credentials before handing them your money. A business that has been searched for and has good ratings is one to consider. You might want to ask other businesses which ones they use. Word of mouth can sometimes help you choose which website building company to invest in. Ease You want a website builder that is relatively easy to use. If the person using the website builder has knowledge about computer languages and programming you can choose a more intricate website builder. You want as many employees as possible to be able to use the website builder without experiencing any confusion or frustration. Once the website builder is established, you need to be able to use it to its fullest extent. Be sure to get a website builder that will be easy for your employees to operate. Support When researching website building companies, be sure to check their support staff. You want to have a reliable support staff in case anything happens while you are using the website builder. More business website builders are catering to the needs of their customers. You want a website builder that has good support in case of emergency or just minor frustrations. A company that does not have a good support staff will not be able to help you in a timely fashion and you will end up losing money waiting for your support to arrive. SEO You want a website builder with a good search engine optimizer built in. SEOs are important for web traffic and promotion. If a website builder does not have SEO features installed, you should look at another website builder for your business. Website builders should include SEO features in their design to help you gain the most from the web. Customer service You want a website building company with great customer service. You can find out about their customer service reputation by researching the company. A reputable company will have honest and informative customer reviews that actually go into detail about situations. A five-star review that just says they love the company is not helpful when researching customer service. A review that says they had a specific problem and this is how the company solved it is a better review. Take the time to make sure the company you choose has good customer service. Refunds If you take your time and do the research on website builders you should not need to worry about refunds. However, even the best companies have problems sometimes and you want to be sure to cover your back. Research the refund policy of the website builder you are interested in. Be sure you can get your money back or equitable product. You do not want to be stuck with a company that makes you unhappy. See if you can test the product before fully committing to buying it. Choosing a website builder for your company can be a daunting task, but if you take the time and do some research it should not be as difficult as it once seemed. Look up customer reviews and be sure the company is established before investing any money into it. Make sure it is a reputable company with good products that will help build your business and establish your web presence. Jane Hurst is a writer, editor and avid traveler from San Francisco. Contact her at About.me.