– This list of small business apps will help you get rid of those long, unproductive Excel spreadsheets
– Not all small businesses apps work in every case. But this selection will help you make a choice on web tools by functionality, usability and pricing
– This is the first post of a two-part series on small businesses apps and solutions. Next post will be published soon
As a business owner and an early software adopter, I’m always on the lookout for the next small business app that’s going to make my professional life dramatically easier.
Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried and tested just about every well-known business application that’s out there. I thought I would share the fruits of my research, and narrow it down to what I think are currently the best small business apps on the market in each of the major categories.
I considered the following criteria: Functionality, ease of use, and price point. In other words, these are the business applications that your employees can learn to use effortlessly, bring you to the front of the pack technologically, and not break the bank.
Does your project actually need all of these business apps?
Not every small business app on this list is for everyone. Maybe social media isn’t an important marketing channel for you. Maybe you don’t need to accept online payments. And maybe your sales process is so simple that you can track it just fine in Excel.
However, if your aim is to grow, streamlining your key processes with software can allow you to do so much, much faster and put you a step ahead of your competition.
Here are our picks for the best small business apps on the market:
Apps for Sales: Insightly
When we previously talked about our selection for the best apps for sales, we decided not to mention Customer Relationship Management tools. But the fact is that there are a lot of great CRM apps for business on the market, and Insightly rises above the rest in terms of simplicity. It’s the CRM of choice for small to medium sized businesses, who don’t need a lot of customization or automation.
Functionality: It does what most CRMs do: it’s a business app that allows you to manage contacts, track lead opportunities, as well as coordinate and assign projects. You can share all of this information with the rest of your team in real-time.
Usability: Insightly is probably the easiest to learn CRM on the market. After basic setup, you can hit the ground running, and start importing your contacts, leads and projects. The great thing is that it doesn’t get bogged down with too many bells and whistles. It does what the vast majority of businesses need it to do, and does it well.
Pricing: Free for two users, incremental pricing the more users you have.
Conclusion: Insightly is likely the best option out there if you have a traditional business without any crazy sales processes. However, if you need advance customization options, Sugar CRM is a good alternative. It does practically that enterprise CRM leader Salesforce does at a much cheaper price. It also offers a much nicer user experience than Zoho CRM, which is a popular option because it is feature-rich and low-cost.
Apps for Payments: Stripe
If you do business online, or are thinking about starting to accept online payments, you’ll need a way to process them. There are several good applications on the market, but Stripe stands out as being one of the most robust, while still being easy to use and implement.
Functionality: Stripe is an all-inclusive solution for accepting online and mobile payments. Just create a Stripe account, link it to your business bank account, embed their payment tool on your web site or app, and you’re ready to start accepting online payments.
Usability: In terms of usability, Stripe is the clear winner in this market. It’s one of the easiest payment systems to set up, and it’s one that can scale to power payments of a multinational business.
Pricing: They charge 2.9% percent, plus $0.30 on each transaction. On multi-currency transactions they charge an additional 2% conversion fee. They charge a super low .5% fee on Bitcoin transactions.
Conclusion: My only complaint about Stripe is their slow settlement period (it can take up to a week for a payment to show up in your bank account). However, this is certainly something they will look to improve on, and so far the competition doesn’t do much better. If Stripe is not available in a currency that you need, you should consider Braintree (owned by PayPal), which is their top competitor and offers pretty much the same service at a very similar price point, but is a bit less user friendly.
Apps for Accounting and Invoicing: FreeAgent
This is one tool that is fundamental for any business: A great accounting app. I searched far and wide, until I found the one that was right for me, and upon implementing it, it was a game changer. No more clunky Excels and digging through my files to find invoices. Freeagent is an app where you can record all your financial transactions in the cloud, easily produce invoices, track all your income and expenses, and easily share that information with your accountant. All that for one low monthly price.
Functionality: FreeAgent allows users to import bank statements, link payment accounts, create invoices, upload expenses, and access everything online or through their mobile app. Like many others, you can upload photos of your receipts to their mobile apps, making it easy to record expenses. The app is especially interesting for those in the UK, because it will basically prepare your UK tax paperwork for you based on the information you input throughout the year.
Usability: You can probably tell by now that usability is a super important factor for me. After testing countless accounting apps for small business, I chose this one because it was easy to “get it” right from the beginning.
Pricing: The pricing is probably what most sets FreeAgent apart from its top competitors. They charge a flat rate of $20 per month for access to all of their features. There’s no incremental pricing for more robust features, you get it all for one flat price.
Conclusion: This is another area where there are a lot of great options, but for me FreeAgent had the right mix of full out accounting features, an excellent mobile app, an easy to use interface and all at a low, fixed monthly price. If it weren’t for the pricing issue, I also really liked the user experience on Freshbooks. For Freelancers with simple finances and looking for an even more affordable solution for invoicing and expense tracking, I’d also recommend checking out Nutcache.
Everything else: Google Drive
I almost feel like this goes without saying, because it is so ubiquitous these days. But this is one tool that truly revolutionized the way I communicate and do business. I just wanted to throw it out there for anyone who isn’t already using it.
Functionality: It’s basically like Microsoft Office, except for all of your documents, spreadsheets and presentations are sharable and collaborative. You and your colleagues can work on a document simultaneously, without emailing a bunch of different versions back and forth. It can also work as a project management tool, because you can create folders for different purposes and share them with the appropriate people. And of course, everything is easy to find via search.
Usability: It’s Google, it doesn’t really get better than this!
Pricing: Google Drive is tied to your Google account. It’s totally free if you use it with an individual account. You can also use it with Google Apps for Work, which costs $50 per user, per year.
Note about Google Apps for Work: The advantage of using Google Drive within Google Apps for Work is that all of your documents are owned by the organization and can’t be shared outside the organization without permission from an admin. You also won’t lose documents if a member of your team leaves the organization, you can just change ownership of those documents to a different user.
Conclusion: The only real competitor to Google Drive is Microsoft, who jumped on the bandwagon quite late with its 365 product. Many large companies have adopted Microsoft 365 for document collaboration. However, it ends up being much pricier and more difficult to implement than Google Drive because everyone needs to have a paid 365 account in order to use it. In contrast, most of the external people you might need to collaborate on documents likely already have a Gmail/Google account, and can collaborate with you in Google Drive even if they are not a member of your organization (as long as you give them permission). In short, everyone should be using Google Drive. Try it if you haven’t already, it will change your life forever!