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14 Tools to Run Your Business Wherever You Are

14 Tools to Run Your Business Wherever You Are

Intuit, the makers of software like Quicken, estimates that by 2020, 40% of the American workforce will be freelancers or independent contractors, and with that freedom comes the flexibility of being location independent. More and more business owners are taking advantage of that flexibility and using the internet to travel the world while still running a business. Here’s a list of tools that you can use to run your business wherever you are:

IFTTT: Automate online tools

    Stay organized & productive

    When you’re constantly changing your location, one of the hardest things you’ll deal with is keeping all of your information straight. Evernote lets you take notes and bookmark websites, organize them by notebook, and syncs across mobile and desktop apps (including an offline sync), so that your information is always at your fingertips.

    Asana and Trello are two very popular project/task management tools, both with free options, mobile apps, and easy-to-use layouts, and will grow with you as your add team members to your business (if you decide to go that route).

    IFTTT will let you hook up different apps and sites to automate your internet usage. For example, if you’re a freelance graphic designer, you can set it up to send you an email every time the RSS feed of a job board is updated with a new post. That means you spend less time refreshing job boards, more time working, and get more work done (which means – you guessed it – you make more money!).

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    Streak: A CRM that lives inside Gmail

      Keep up with leads

      If you’re going to run a profitable business, you need to keep track of potential clients & customers and follow up with them regularly.

      Streak is a wonderful free app that works inside Gmail and can be used to handle sales/CRM purposes, and it has an iOS app that’s just as easy to use. It’s a great way to keep track of people as they move through your sales funnel, from being a lead to being a client. It also can track how many times an email was viewed and lets you schedule emails to be sent later.

      Insightly and Contactually are two other CRM apps that are more full-fledged than Streak. Both have mobile apps available for iOS and Android. I personally use Streak to keep track of potential clients, and then after they become a client, put them into Contactually so that I get reminders to keep in touch after we’re done with our work together – did you know that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profitability by 75%? (Source: Bain & Co.)

      Have an office on the go

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      Offices for location independent business owners

        Running a location independent business has its many upsides, but one of the downsides is that there’s no dedicated office. It can be distracting working at coffee shops. And if you need to meet a prospective client, coffee shops can be crowded and noisy, which is not the best meeting environment. This is where coworking spaces, which are spaces entirely dedicated to business owners and freelancers who don’t need full time dedicated office space, come in.

        The Desktime directory will also let you search by location and duration (day, week, or month) to find coworking spaces wherever you’re at. ShareDesk is similar and has an option for searching for meeting rooms, too.

        The one downside of coworking is that it can be more casual than some business owners need, and the experience is going to vary from place to place. If you’re looking for a more uniform experience, Premier Business Centers offers executive suites and office centers in multiple locations.

        Share multimedia

        Sharing multimedia can be useful in a location independent business in two scenarios: when you’re trying to explain something to a team member or your assistant and an email just isn’t cutting it, or when you’re engaging with your followers. Videos, audio, and photos/images tend to do much better on social media than just text updates. And the time used to be that you needed a powerful computer and expensive software to create and send multimedia files – but that’s not the case any more with apps like these:

        Jing - screen recording software by TechSmith

          Video: Jing and Screencast-O-Matic

          If you need to record a quick video to send to a client or team member explaining something, Jing is a great way to go. It’s a free download for both Mac and Windows which lets you record a video of up to five minutes in length, upload it to screencast.com, and then gives you a link to share, all from inside the app.

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          Screencast-O-Matic is a great option if you’re recording videos for your blog or company website. You can record a video of up to fifteen minutes on the free version and the paid version is only $15/year. Both versions include easy in-app sharing to Google Drive, Vimeo, and Youtube, among other sites, and the pro version includes editing tools built in.

          Clyp.it: Free and simple audio sharing

            Audio: Clyp

            Clyp is to audio as Jing is to video – it’s a super simple setup that lets you click one button, record audio, and then automatically uploads it and gives you a link to share. Best of all, there’s mobile apps for both iOS and Android, so you can do this on the go. There’s multiple ways a business owner could use Clyp, including sending a short audio to a team member or client to explain something (easier than juggling a smartphone or tablet keyboard while, say, your hands are full at the airport and you don’t have time for a full-on conversation, but an issue needs to be addressed).

            You could also do an interactive Q&A on your Facebook page or Twitter account using audio responses – much more personal and fun than text. It’s especially suited for people who deal in a lot of audio like musicians or speakers – audio sneak peeks posted to fans are a great way to give a “backstage pass” and grow online engagement.

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            Canva - free tool to create images for sharing

              Photos/Images: Canva

              Even if you aren’t a designer, you want to have nice looking business cards, social media icons, and website graphics – and Canva can help you do just that. It’s free, easy to get the hang of, and most of the graphical elements are free, with select stock photos starting at $1/photo. There’s also several templates (include business cards, posters, social media graphic, Pinterest graphic, and so on) that make it quick to whip something up without it looking totally amateur.

              If you’re looking for more useful tools for entrepreneurs, check out these seven seriously hardcore project management apps, or these productivity tools for visual thinkers

              Featured photo credit: Bobbi Newman via flickr.com

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              5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

              5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

              Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

              A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

              So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

              1. Take breaks

              First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

              If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

              This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

              There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

              According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

              It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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              Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

              If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

              If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

              Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

              Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

              2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

              One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

              When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

              Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

              All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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              For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

              You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

              You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

              In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

              Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

              That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

              That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

              Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

              3. Put your work first

              This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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              While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

              However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

              In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

              If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

              4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

              In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

              When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

              If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

              5. Try to be happy and optimistic

              If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

              This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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              If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

              Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

              Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

              15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

              Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

              All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

              While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

              Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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