Ahh, Christmas! That time of year when people with jobs get some time off and people with their own businesses get to focus on some of the important stuff. Usually because there are less demands from customers, staff and random callers trying to sell you a new mobile phone tariff that will save you a gazillion pounds a year.
It genuinely is a great time to reflect on what you’ve done this year and what you can do better next year. One of the areas that’s often neglected during busy times is the administrative and procedural side of things – there’s always something more pressing to do than get a system in place that lets you invoice quickly and gives you an insight into the numbers that sit behind your business.
A few years ago you’d have been forgiven for using the excuse that all of the software available to you is too clunky, confusing and designed for accountants instead of business owners. It was the excuse I used for a long time before I decided to do something about it and write my own accounting application. That grew into KashFlow which is now an award winning and very popular accounting system used by thousands of small businesses all over the UK.
Besides ease of use and free support, one of the other things that set KashFlow apart from the likes of Sage and Quickbooks is the fact that it’s web-based. This means you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection. You never need to worry about backups or installing upgrades and your colleagues (or accountant) can access it at the same time as you and see the same data.
Web-based software, (or “Software as a service” or “Cloud Computing” or “[insert latest buzz word]) has become hugely popular over the last couple of years and there is now a wide range of tools you can use to improve the efficiency of your business in 2011.
Perhaps over the Christmas period you can find some time to check out some of these great applications, many of which are free.
MailChimp – Email marketing
MailChimp is a great email marketing system that even a monkey can use. You can load it up with email addresses from a spreadsheet and/or put a sign-up form on your website. It also integrates with Facebook and Twitter. Even if yo’ve got no immediate plan to start sending out an email newsletter or similar, it’s worth getting something like this set up sooner rather than later so you can start building a list of email addresses for when you are ready.
For more information, see www.mailchimp.com
DropBox – File backup and remote access
When did you last back up your data? Ever needed to access a file but it couldn’t as it’s on a different computer? DropBox neatly solves all of these problems for free. It synchronises folders on your computer to the cloud and to other computers. There’s even an iPAd and iPhone app so you can access your files on the move.
To Do Lists
I used to keep my To Do lists on scraps of paper. That quickly got unwieldy. I now use ToodleDo, a free tool for managing To Do lists – and yet again, it has iPad and iPhone apps. There are a number of similar tools, many free. So have a look and see what one suits your needs best.
Paymo – Time Tracking
Don’t guess how much time you’ve spent on a project – know the exact answer to the second. Paymo is a popular free tool for tracking your time
For more info, visit www.paymo.biz
KashFlow – Accounting and Invoicing
I can’t write a list like this and not include KashFlow. You’ll be amazed at how easy this accounting software is to use and you don’t have to pay a penny to try it out. There’s a full two month trial available which includes full email support. Support will be available all over the Christmas period, including Christmas day itself (I’m doing it that day!). So go to www.kashflow.co.uk now and register for a trial.
Duane Jackson is MD and Founder of KashFlow Software Limited, a company he started after struggling to find accounting software designed for mere mortals.
The London-based company is chaired by Lord Young of Graffham, has 20 staff and close to 10,000 customers.
On the rare occasions that he’s not working, Duane is at home in Brighton with his wife and two young daughters.