GUEST BLOG – by Cathy Habas
Traditional office spaces are furnished with filing cabinets, water coolers, time punches, huge copiers, fax machines and other office staples. But if you run an online business, it only makes sense to digitize some of these quintessential tools. You can streamline your work if certain tools are at your fingertips.
Let’s take a look at some great new tools, programs or apps that will make running an online business a little bit easier:
eFax – Online Faxing
“Online faxing” sounds like an oxymoron, but it actually is a fantastic bridge between two methods of communication.
As an online business owner, you probably live and breathe email. There’s no better way for sending documents, as far as you’re concerned. But to someone else, a fax machine makes a lot of sense. Doctors, lawyers and myriad government agencies are just a few niches where fax machines certainly get a workout.
Use a tool like eFax to send a fax exactly like you send an email. It will be delivered on the recipient’s fax machine, and you can receive faxes via email as well.
eFax is a wonderfully affordable alternative to a fax machine, which not only has the upfront cost associated with the machine itself, but also the ongoing cost of paper and ink. Save office space, save money and save time with a single tool.
Zintel – Get Voicemails in Your Inbox
Having faxes delivered to your inbox is definitely a game-changer, but did you know you can also receive voicemails via email?
By handling your communications via a single channel—in this case, email—you can stay focused on your work. The voice-to-text software used by Zintel and other phone routing tools is surprisingly accurate. Not only do you receive a transcription of the voicemail, but the audio file as well. You can easily delegate tasks by forwarding these voicemail-emails to your colleagues with a few easy clicks of the mouse.
When it comes to streamlining your business workflow, little things add up. Voice messages are no exception! While this tool might seem deceptively simple, it can really save you time in the long run. And with Zintel, the perks don’t end with voicemails in your inbox. You can also set up sophisticated call routing systems, special phone menus and greetings.
Toggl – Track Time
Punch cards seem so old-fashioned these days, and they aren’t practical for businesses that rely on remote collaboration.
Use a tool like Toggl to keep track of time. Toggl integrates with many other programs for a built-in time-keeping button, but there is also a desktop version and a phone app. You can also simply log into your account online to track time.
You can provide clients with detailed time sheets with Toggl. All you have to do is type a quick note describing the task you’re working on, and then start the timer. You can come back later and work on the same task again, and your total time will be presented to you via charts and graphs when you log on to your online account.
Time tracking tools are exceptional productivity boosters as well, and in the end you’ll spend more time focusing on the task at hand rather than goofing off on social media.
Realtime Board – Online Whiteboard
One downside to remote collaboration is the inability to scribble on a whiteboard and hash out ideas. Visuals make it so much easier to explain a concept or to simply bring out the team’s creativity.
Up until now, you might have been able to share screens via Skype and doodle in Paint to get your point across to your business partner, but this has limitations. Introducing Realtime Board! Now you can save all of your brainstorming sessions online, rather than having to erase them from the board. And, you’ll never run out of room.
But the real benefit of Realtime Board is that it offers synchronous collaboration for a fast, interactive team planning experience. Don’t waste time sending documents and waiting for feedback. Get it all hashed out at once with a virtual whiteboard.
Trello – Dynamic Project Management
Some project management tools are a nightmare to use and to manage (looking at you, Sharepoint!). It shouldn’t take you forever and a day to set up workflows for your team. And thankfully, Trello makes it super easy to create any workflow for any project in a blink of an eye.
Based on a simply hierarchy system of boards, lists and cards, Trello keeps tasks organized. It can be a little daunting to use at first, if you aren’t sure how to organize yourself in the first place. A great place to start is with three lists: To-Do, Doing, Done. You can tweak it from there, such as by creating lists for each person on your team. Cards can then travel from person to person (list to list) as the task goes through stages of development or completion.
All you have to do is drag and drop cards from one list to another. You can use the @ symbol to tag team members or assign tasks to them, create checklists within cards, attach files, and more. Once you realize the possibilities, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to run your business without it!
Trello helps prevent things from being lost in your email by keeping everything related to a project in the same place. Numerous other tools and apps can be integrated into Trello as well, including the aforementioned Toggl. And best of all? It’s very affordable!
Give a Professional Edge to Your Business
Corporate culture may be easing up a little bit these days, but the need to look and be professional in business is as important as ever. Sending and receiving faxes, creating phone menus and extensions, sending detailed timesheets and keeping track of the tasks at hand are all essential elements that give your online business the appearance of a professional company. The tools mentioned above, some of which are free and all of which are very affordable, can help get you started on the right track.
A native of Louisville, Cathy Habas is a freelance writer, editor and translator. She collaborates with teams from around the world. Cathy is also a contributing writer for SEO Service Crew.