From becoming your new best friend to making your team more productive – online tools and apps promise us everything. But are they any good?

If you’re new to running your own business, the choice and complexity of apps on offer can be overwhelming – and how are you supposed to catch the time in the day to find out what they do? 

David Grimes from My Parcel Delivery  shares his views and saves you some time.

 

Trello

What is it? Trello is an online project management tool available with lots of additional plug in features. Available on all platforms: mobile, tablet, desktop.

How does it work? The minimal (see top tip below) dashboard offers you the option to create ‘boards’ which operate like projects that you add ‘cards’ (information) and invite people into.

Pricing: Despite claims to be ‘free, now and forever’ the new business version does have a monthly charge of $8.33*. Basic is free and premium is $20.83.

Finest feature: The business version allows you to integrate other applications that you might use daily, e.g. MailChimp, Salesforce, Evernote, Help Scout and Google Drive, through the ‘Power Up’ function.

Top tip: Strangely, when you sign up you go straight to an empty dashboard without much instruction. Best to check out the tour so that you’ll know what you’re doing. 

 

Evernote

What is it? Evernote is a way of organising your content (notes, images, presentation) in real time. Available on all platforms: mobile, tablet, desktop.

How does it work? You can create notes and notebooks from within the application or drag files from other sources. As you tag content, Evernote automatically creates an index and filing system for content which you can access from anywhere.  As it’s live you can also work simultaneously on documents with colleagues and generate short links to content.

Pricing: Basic is free, Plus is £19.99, Premium is £34.99.

Finest feature: What I like about Evernote is that you can store and view all different file types, i.e. PDFs, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, images within one application without having to open multiple programs.

Top tip: Again, not so much direction from signing in – but the help section is great.

 

FreeAgent

What is it? FreeAgent is online accounting software which you can use to invoice clients, manage your expenses and complete your VAT, payroll and self assessment tax returns. Available on all platforms: mobile, tablet, desktop.

How does it work? FreeAgent takes you through the process, from inputting some basic details to entering all your account details. You can also send invoices (and reminders), take photos of expense receipts on the go and connect FreeAgent up to your business account. Accountants and FreeAgent are also compatible – the app is a way of organising your information.

Pricing: Ltd company: £29 + VAT/month. Partnership/LLP: £24 + VAT /month. Sole Trader: £19 +VAT /month

Finest Feature: FreeAgent will project figures such as corporation tax and self assessment returntotals based on information you put in, so that you can avoid any surprises.

Top tip: The yearly plan gives you 12 months for the price of 10 so you save by paying upfront.

 

LinkedIn

What is it? LinkedIn is an online networking app for business and career development. Available on all platforms: mobile, tablet, desktop.

How does it work? You add information much like a CV. It’s important to pay attention to the ‘summary’ section and ‘headline’ as the keywords will determine where you appear when people search. You ‘link’ to people in your sector and raise your profile by posting articles and contributing to ‘groups’.

Pricing: Linkedin is free for most individual users but you can pay for a Premium account £19.99 +VAT/month which allows you to send messages to people that you are not yet connected to. There are also Business Plus options at £39.99 +VAT /month and Executive at £64.99 +VAT if you are a recruiter or want to do a lot of ‘cold contacting’.

Finest Feature: The ‘6 degrees of separation’ concept is central here. You can use LinkedIn to connect to other peoples’ connections – very useful if you want an ‘in’ somewhere.

Top tip: It can take a bit of time to refine your profile. Turn off the ‘notify your network’ button   (middle right on profile page) so that your connections don’t get an update every time you add bit of information while you are getting set up.

 

Zendesk

What is it? Zendesk is a customer service app which brings all your customer conversations into one place.   

How does it work? The dashboard brings interactions with customers, e.g. email, live chat, social media, web enquiry, into one place. You also have the option to redirect customer enquiries to one place, connect with colleagues to solve problems and connect with order systems such as Magento and Salesforce.

Pricing: They are many options available depending on the level of reporting needed and the scale of your business/brand: Starter: £1 per agent/month, Regular £22 per agent /month, Plus: £44 per agent /month, Enterprise: £89 per agent /month. Enterprise Plus £139 per agent /month.

Finest Feature: Zendesk continually collects data on your performance and interaction. You could gain valuable insight from feedback as part of your regular customer service.

Top tip: There is also a specific Zendesk for retail which could help you to provide better service for your customers by integrating mobile app and FAQ services.

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