With a million apps at your fingertips, tons of expensive software options, databases, CRM, SEO and a million other acronyms that I’ll never really get the hang of, my simple, pretty tech-challenged self has resorted to using just a few tools to help me stay organized in my business life.
My issues: tracking my time (both for time management purposes and for billable hours), remembering who is who and where I stand with them, logging phone calls and keeping track of expenses.
This app is amazing because it allows you to clock in and out, set your billable rate per project, manually enter work time (in case you forget to clock in), categorize projects/type of work (this helps you figure out where you’re spending your time) and then will export it all to an email or CSV file. That way, if you’re submitting hours for billing, the client (or your boss) can see what specifically they are paying for.
For example, my husband is a web designer. He creates a new job for each client. Every time he sits down to work on that client’s project, he clocks in, does his work and then clocks out. Upon clocking out, he’ll add a note describing specifically what he worked on (logo design, copy writing, etc.). When it’s time to invoice, he can see exactly how much billable time he has spent on the project and can invoice with confidence (and proof).
If you don’t need to bill for time but you’d like to monitor where in the world your time goes, this is a great help. You can set categories like Administration, Selling, Logistics, etc. and then as you go about your day, clock in and out of those activities. This can be very enlightening …especially when you realize that the majority of your work day is answering emails…
Everyone knows that good business is about relationships. My problem is that I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in business, but I’m painfully forgetful. A super fabulous tool that I’ve come across is Highrise. It’s a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) interface with an app made by 37 Signals (they have lots of other excellent programs too).
Basically, you can build a simple profile for every person that you’d like to keep track of (leads, current clients, past clients that you want to make sure to remember, etc.). In that profile you can keep contact info, how you met them, details they’d appreciate you remembering, etc. You can categorize them according to your needs and then can search for them according to the category (They call it Tags). Most importantly for me though – I can set reminders to follow up with them at a certain time.
Another really cool feature is being able to attach important files and all email correspondence to their profile.
I don’t love the idea of my cell phone number being my work number. However, I don’t have a landline and I work from home. So, I found Google Voice. It’s free, rings to your cell phone, has text capabilities (not the greatest but it gets the job done) and you can screen! If the caller leaves a message, Google transcribes it and emails you the text along with the voice recording. That way, I can keep track of phone calls in my email (and with Highrise, I can attach that email to the person’s profile).
I use Mint.com for both personal budgeting and for tracking work expenses. For work, I have a separate checking account and a credit card that is paid directly from that account. I only use that card for reimbursable or deductible expenses. Both the income account and my credit card are linked to Mint.com. So, anytime I use my card, I can see the transaction and can categorize it. I can set budgets for how much I’m allotting myself to spend on certain things and it’s easy to be able to look at what I need to be reimbursed for.
For any of you who, like me, are forgetful and struggle to stay organized, I hope these few tools are helpful in your quest to be more productive with your time!
-Michal Whitlock, The NotWedding National Director