The last two years have seen record numbers of new businesses. In 2020, the Census Bureau says more than 4.4 million new businesses were created. That was a record at the time, but in 2021, that number jumped by more than a million to 5.4 million. And, these numbers only count the number of those filing new business applications. Many solo proprietors, people working from home, or those working side gigs don’t file.
Starting a business is an exciting time and an opportunity to be your own boss, but it’s not without challenges. Turning your idea into reality, finding customers, hiring employees or contractors, getting funding, and managing cash flow has proved difficult for some entrepreneurs. It turned out to be more expensive than they thought or forced them to work more days and longer hours to get things running smoothly.
Finding and using the right technology can make a significant difference. The right tools can make your business more efficient and help you get the job done better.
Here are seven easy-to-use tools that can help.
Every business needs a strong business plan which helps create the framework for managing and growing your business.
LivePlan helps you easily create a business plan. Fill in the blanks to outline the important parts of your business and you can put together a business plan that fits on a single page. You can use this to explain your business strategy and purpose to anyone. You can also use any of 500 templates to find one that matches your business.
By answering a few questions about how you plan to make money, LivePlan will automatically calculate your potential cash flow, create a budget projection, and provide you with the information you need if you are seeking funding. If you’re applying for a business loan, they’ll want to see a professional business plan as part of your loan application.
The standard professional business plan package is $15 a month when you pay annually, or $20 a month for the premium business plan, which also provides industry benchmark data, milestone planners, and sync with QuickBooks and Xero.
2. Tailor Brands
When starting your business, you will need to determine the right business structure. One of the most popular choices is a limited liability company (LLC). An LLC is a legal entity that provides a significant benefit. It separates your business and personal assets. In case of bankruptcy, judgment, default, or lawsuit, an LLC protects your personal assets from being seized.
While providing some of the protection of corporations, an LLC also requires less paperwork and filing requirements and a more simplified tax structure.
Tailor Brands lets you set up an LLC in just a few minutes. Tailor Brands will check the federal trademark records related to your business name, create an operating agreement, act as a registered agent in the state you file, and produce all the documentation you need to formalize your LLC.
The annual plan is $199 per year.
Bookkeeping is also an essential part of running your business. With the right business accounting software, you can make the job much easier. According to the Association of Chartered Certified System Accountants (ACCSA), 50% of your accounting tasks can be automated using software.
QuickBooks is the industry leader in easy-to-use accounting software for businesses of all sizes. Basic bookkeeping plans cost $12.50 a month with other packages costing $25 a month, $40 a month, or $90 a month, depending on which options you need.
With QuickBooks, you can auto-track your income and expenses, accept credit cards and ACH payments, and keep track of everything you need to file your taxes. If you have employees, you can also add automated payroll on an integrated platform. Payroll plans range from $35 a month and 4$ per employee a month to $152.50 a month +$10 per employee per month for expert support and more automated workflows.
4. Adobe Sign
Businesses create a lot of paperwork and filing. The more you can do electronically, the easier it is to manage. E-signatures make it easy and quick to send documents back and forth and collect the legally-binding signatures you need. It also makes for easy filing and retrieval by keeping all of your records in a digital form.
Formerly known as EchoSign, Adobe Sign is a simple solution for legal electronic signatures. Whether you need someone to sign a document or require multiple signatures, you can eliminate the need for hard copies and create and track digital signatures. All parties will be able to access the documents from any device online and automatically get copies of the fully signed documents.
With EchoSign, there’s no need to scan documents or make photocopies and it works with Word documents, PDFs, and more.
The standard version is included in Adobe Acrobat at $12.99 per month when paid annually. Acrobat Pro DC, including Adobe Sign, is $14.99 per month on an annual plan and adds capabilities for Macs and advanced tools such as redacting information.
5. Site Ground
Your website is the online front door to your business. Besides creating your website, you will need a place to store the files and make them accessible to visitors. A web hosting company is the most affordable option for most businesses and handles the maintenance and upkeep of all of the hardware required to keep your website operating efficiently.
For registering a domain and hosting your website, SiteGround is the choice of more than 2.8 million customers and is recommended by WordPress.org. The DYI plan starts at $3.99 a month on an annual plan and includes the tools you need for building and managing websites with built-in web security. The basic plan allows for up to 10,000 visits monthly and 10 GB of storage. Other plans offer larger storage and accommodate a larger volume of traffic, offered at $6.69 per month or $10.69 per month on an annual plan.
The basic plans use a shared architecture. SiteGround also offers dedicated cloud business plans that need more powerful resources and is optimized for speed and efficiency. Scalable cloud hosting with managed services for business plans range from $100 a month to $400 a month with automatic scaling and priority support.
More than half a billion websites currently use WordPress to power their websites. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that makes it easy to build, change, and manage your website. There are tens of thousands of templates (themes) to use, which can get your site up and running and looking great quickly. Every one of these themes can be customized or you can build a site from scratch.
There are also nearly 60,000 plugins that let you add additional functionality without having to write any code. Many of them are free.
WordPress website and hosting plans for business start at $25 per month (billed annually) and include a free domain for the first year. If you are selling a lot of items on your website, you may want the eCommerce plan which has premium design options, accepts payments from 60+ countries, and integrates with shipping carriers.
Keeping your business organized and juggling all of the things you and your employees need to do can also be a challenge. Fortunately, there are easy-to-use task management tools to keep you on track. When you use an online platform to track your to-do list, you can access it from anywhere and also share it with others.
Trello is both a project management and team collaboration tool. It’s kind of like the digital equivalent of a board covered with sticky notes. Projects and tasks can be organized in columns and moved easily to manage workflow, status, and project ownership. It’s a great way to stay organized and make sure everyone knows what needs to be done and stays up-to-date on the status of tasks and projects.
There’s a free version of Trello, a standard plan at $5 a month per user, a premium plan at $10 a month per user, and an enterprise plan at $17.50 per month. With the enterprise plan, adding additional users can lower the per-user rate. Prices quotes are based on annual billing.
Get Your Business Started the Right Way
We’ve come a long way from paper contracts, manual ledgers, and physical cash registers. Today, there are digital tools that make things so much easier for setting up and running a business. These tools help you get started, stay organized, and free up your time.
These tools also reduce your manual workload, so you can focus your time and effort on taking care of your customers and growing your business.
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