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biz ladies: Best Online Tools for Your Business


Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a life coach for those struggling with time management and the founder of Real Life E, which empowers people who feel overwhelmed, frustrated and guilty to accomplish more with peace and confidence through Schedule Makeovers. In this post, Elizabeth offers a comprehensive comparison of some of the best online tools to take your business to the next level. Thanks, Elizabeth, for this wonderful post! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

As you shed your wool coat to don a trench and enjoy the lengthening glimmer of sunshine in the evenings, your step naturally has a bit of spring in it, and your mind starts flitting to the many possibilities for your creative business.

As the founder of Real Life E time coaching, I talk to lots of people who have an abundance of wonderful ideas but need to put the structure in place to follow through on them. That’s why before you head off to pursue new and exciting ventures, you should take some time to spring clean your online business tools. With this done-for-you comparison of Project Management, Accounting Programs, Customer Relationship Management, and Meeting Scheduler online tools, you’ll soon have your business in order so you can have good soil in which to plant your next creative project seeds.

The research is done for you. All you need to do is select your favorite pick from the options below. Let’s get started!

Online Project Management Software

These tools help you keep track of project details, whether you work on your own or with a team.

Google Docs

Summary: Basic collaborative sharing and editing of documents, forms, spreadsheets, videos, etc. Create documents of your own or use a template to help you get started on a project.

Compatibility: Access available through computers and smart devices.

Sharing: Invite others to share your documents through e-mail. Check who made changes, and decide to un-publish at any time. You can even edit the same document with others in real time.

Price: Free

Solo

Summary: “All-in-one tool” for managing your projects, time sheets, invoices, and contacts. Graphs, dashboards, and diaries help with planning, invoicing, and project management. You can hold, track, and graph all your freelance business data in one place.

Compatibility: Create an online account to access Solo through a desktop or smart phone web browser, and you can import contacts from your current address book.

Sharing: Capabilities to share information with clients coming soon.

Price: $10 per month after a free 14-day trial.

Basecamp

Summary: A project collaboration tool to share files, set deadlines, and track the time each team member spends on different tasks. Template options allow you to save a framework design if you work on similarly formatted projects or create an automatic standardized checklist for every project you begin. When sharing files, Basecamp keeps both old and new versions of the file so you can see who changed what. Supports most popular file types, including Photoshop and Excel, and language translation tools are available.

Compatibility: No apps needed to visit this site on your desktop or on mobile device. Just load the web browser on your mobile and visit http://basecamphq.com to be automatically redirected to the mobile site.

Sharing: A message board area is used for group communication, and you can choose to receive an e-mail when your project is updated. You can also leave comments in any area, from the calendar schedule to report folders.

Price: From $20–$150 per month, following a 45-day free trial.

5pm

Summary: Share notes, files, and projects with your team. Generate reports, track hours, and view an interactive timeline.

Compatibility: 5pm mobile edition available for free for all 5pm users with iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry Bold, and Palm Pre/WebOS devices.

Sharing: Available in over 20 languages, and you can import files from Google Docs and Basecamp. Two-way notifications work to send e-mails to your collaborators, or create a notification in your 5pm schedule when you send a message about a project from your e-mail.

Price: Multiple plans from $18 per month for five users to $175 per month for unlimited users. Free 14-day trial available.

Accounting Software

Here’s how to make keeping on top of finances as quick and easy as possible.

Outright

Summary: Links with eBay, Etsy, PayPal, Amazon, bank accounts, and credit cards, eliminating data entry and making it easy to track your business finances. View easy-to-understand charts and complete tax reports.

Compatibility: View on your computer or using the iPhone app.

Price: Free level of service always available, and paid accounts available starting at $9.95 per month.

Freshbooks

Summary: Track your time, organize your expenses, and bill clients, including links with PayPal and other payment gateways. Use add-ons to link project management systems like Basecamp.

Compatibility: Manage from your computer or using a mobile app.

Price: You can use a free account indefinitely to manage up to three clients. Paid accounts range from $19.95 to $39.95 per month.

Quickbooks

Summary: Pay bills, manage invoices, and track expenses with this online software that has both import and export functions to other software and offers some online syncing options.

Compatibility: Online access and mobile access for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android.

Price: Free trial for the first 30 days and then monthly plans available ranging from $12.95 to $78.95.

inDinero

Summary: Online software allows you to get a quick picture of how much you’re earning and spending as well as your cash situation. Also automatically downloads account balances and transactions to eliminate data entry.

Compatibility: Online access

Price: Free plan with limited historical data. Monthly plans starting at $19.95.

Customer Relationship Management Tools

Stay on top of all your contact information for clients and professional contacts.

Zoho

Summary: Keep all of your contact information in one place, including current clients and potential opportunities. You can also plan campaigns, generate reports, make sales forecasts, and do a number of other activities to stay on top of your customer relationships.

Compatibility: Access Zoho through your computer or on your iPhone or Blackberry.

Sharing: Up to three users can use many of the Zoho features for free and share information across the organization.

Price: For the mobile edition of the CRM tool, there is a $3 per user per month fee. For more than three users and for the Professional and Enterprise editions of the software, there are monthly fees ranging from $12–$25 per month.

Salesforce

Summary: The Sales Cloud provides more than 1,000 apps and services for your business and also has tools for accounts and contacts, task and event tracking, customizable reports, and e-mail integration with Outlook and Gmail.

Compatibility: Works on desktops and with Blackberry and iPhone. If your mobile device isn’t connected to an Internet network, the local data store still allows you to access your information, and when you reconnect to the Internet, updates you have made will sync automatically.

Sharing: The Chatter feature acts as your company’s private social network where you can create a profile and send messages.

Price: For Basic Contact Manager, $2 per user per month after a 7-day free trial. Many other options are also available with the most full-featured option coming in at $250 per user per month.

Highrise

Summary: Keep track of clients with space for up to 30,000 contacts and organize proposals and projects. Contact organization includes the ability to search for contacts in various ways, make a note on contacts’ e-mails, and keep all of your meeting notes in one place. E-mail and text message notifications remind you of client calls and follow-ups.

Compatibility: Accessible on your Internet-enabled computer and through iPhone.

Sharing: Share your status with whomever you want, by group or individuals, or keep items only visible to you. Import existing contacts from other popular locations including Outlook, Mac Address Book, and ACT so they are all in one spot. You can also export from Highrise.

Price: Free 30-day trial. Basic plan for $24 per month, with up to 6 users and 5GB of storage. Plus and Premium plans for $49 and $99 per month are also available.

ClaritySoft

Summary: Manage your accounts, contacts, activities, and reports, and segment your market for targeted campaigns. Also access your calendar, price books, product tracking, and documents.

Compatibility: Works with or without Internet access on your computer.

Sharing: Assign tasks to other employees with e-mail notifications. Import from Excel and Outlook and sync with Outlook.

Price: Single plan for $39 per user per month.

Online Meeting Schedulers

Tungle.me

Summary: Tungle.me gives you a public calendar that automatically updates your availability as you book meetings but keeps your meeting details private. You control the days and times shown as available on your page and get final say on meetings being booked. People can reply to your meeting invitations, or send you invitations through your Tungle.me page without having to register for an account. Also, when people open your invitation, Tungle.me automatically adjusts your proposed times to their time zone. Connects to Outlook (with or without Exchange), Google Calendar, Apple iCal, Entourage for Mac, Lotus Notes, BlackBerry Yahoo!, Windows Live, Facebook, TripIt, and Plancast.

Compatibility: Use any mobile device for basic features, and download the BlackBerry app for full-featured mobile services.

Sharing: Invite people to meetings and they can reply to your invitation from any Internet-enabled device.

Price: Free

TimeTrade

Summary: When you invite people to schedule an appointment, TimeTrade will offer timeslots that do not conflict with other commitments in your calendar. Also, all the appointments that flow in through TimeTrade will automatically be put in your Outlook or Google calendar. TimeTrade also integrates with CRM services like Salesforce.com and LinkedIn.

Compatibility: Use TimeTrade on your computer or on your iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, or Windows-based mobile platforms.

Sharing: Your customers are offered available timeslots, but your calendar always remains protected and private to you.

Price: Free 30-day trial followed by plans starting at $49/year.

Doodle

Summary: To schedule an event, create a poll with questions about meeting details and send invites to participants. Once invitees block off available time slots, you confirm the meeting. Can sync with your Google, Outlook, iCal, Exchange, and other calendars.

Compatibility: Access with any Internet-connected computer or mobile device.

Sharing: The MeetMe page option allows you to create your own personal availability profile to share with others when setting up one-on-one meetings.

Price: Basic services are free. Additional charge for mobile services and other premium features.

Genbook

Summary: A universal BookNow! button can be embedded in a variety of places, including your website, Facebook page, or newsletter. Specify times you are available, make recurring appointments, and even schedule meetings up to 12 months in advance. Customers can write reviews after their appointments, which can then be published to your webpage. Other tools include credit card capture to reduce no-shows and booking history tools to see past customer data.

Compatibility: Internet access needed. Mobile versions available for Android, iPad, and iPhone.

Sharing: Your data is kept private and safe and backed-up in real time.

Price: Start with a 30-day free trial then continue using with a paid plan starting at $19.95 per month.

You’re now ready for a spring cleaning of your online tools for business management. Try out these tools or leave a comment sharing your favorite online project management, accounting, customer relationship management, and meeting scheduling tools.

To your brilliance!

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19 Comments

Zandi @ Radical Possibility

I’ve also found SurveyMonkey to be helpful in a number of situations, from planning agendas with a larger group to soliciting feedback after conferences and meetings.

Lindsay - ShopEllaLou

I like Wedoist a lot for coordinating tasks across team members. My business partner is in Paris and I am in San Francisco so it is a huge help to have a shared virtual to-do list.

Marcy

Forgot Teambox! that’s my personal favorite, moreso than Basecamp.

Elizabeth Derby

This is why I JUST featured Biz Ladies in my top free resources for small biz marketing: this is advice is immediately applicable for creative people like me! I can’t wait to check out Outright; thanks, Elizabeth!

EvY

I would throw in dropbox. It’s incredible invaluable cloud server that allows you to access your files on your mobile devices. It’s changed my life with my job. Very helpful.

Melissa Kojima

The Biz Lady posts are always chock full of goodness. This one is too. Thanks so much for all your advice, ideas and helpful links. You’re the best!!!!

Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach

Elizabeth & Melissa-So glad you found the article helpful. I wanted to make sure to take a lot of the time and effort out of the initial research for you.

All-Thanks for all of the added tips! It’s SO wonderful to share about the best online resources.

To your brilliance!
Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Rachel

I would say that I have found Mint.com to be pretty useful. It is a nice way to see all of our accounts in one place. I am a very visual person and it has great tools for visualizing money flows.

colleen

Thanks for this list – there are a few a definitely need to check out.

If anyone has any online tools that manage inventory for an antiques/vintage shop, I would love to hear about it. I am currently using a Google Docs spreadsheet, but it is getting out of hand. And I’ve thought about Quickbooks, but it wasn’t really built for lots and lots of unique items.

Heather Gardner

I LOVE WaveAccounting. It’s totally free and easy to use. Online accounting software that creates reports for CPAs, allows imported transactions, and actually talks with your bank. http://www.waveaccounting.com

Himali

Great list! Another project management tool I would like to add to the list, the tool is DeskAway. Simple tool packed with rich features. Do have a look at it.

Marianna Mills

Acquainted with these systems. These systems has good reviews on the Internet and will be very useful for many users. We are a non-profit organization, and every day we face a lot of urgent work issues. Now we use the Corporate Telephone System with IP PBX http://www.teamwox.com/en/groupware/articles/318/ip-pbx-voip-phone-system free, and we can easily and conveniently. Maybe it will be a useful tool for communication?

Thank you.

dmuchańce

My relatives every time say that I am killing my time here at net, but I know
I am getting knowledge every day by reading thes fastidious posts.

Nikki

I. Am. In. Love. With. Basecamp.

I’ve yet to see a project that Basecamp can’t break down into clear, manageable, small tasks. I’m a fan for life – or at least until I retire.

I’d like to suggest Billy’s Billing as a time saving resource for entrepreneurs that want to improve money management skills. BB is online small business accounting software, but its ease of use makes it an efficient & effective learning tool in addition to keeping track of expenses, recurring billing, invoices, reports & more. I couldn’t talk about the best bookkeeping software without mentioning it. :)

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