This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Women on Business’ sponsor partner 8×8.
The start of a new year is one of the best times to put together your business strategy for the next 12 months and develop plans to reach your goals. Fortunately, technology makes the process of strategizing, planning, and executing on your plans more efficient and cost-effective than ever.
Today, there are a variety of free and highly affordable tools that you can start using immediately to jumpstart 2020 and take your business to the next level. To help you with your research so you find the best tools for you and your business, following are some tools that work well for any business, particularly for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and businesses with remote workers.
You can only grow your business so far before you need help to take it to the next level. Fortunately, the gig economy is strong and there are many freelancers available to provide the support you need.
Whether you’re looking for a virtual assistant, web developer, graphic designer, or just about any other business skill, you can find professionals at varying skill levels by visiting some trusted websites.
Some of my favorite sites to find freelancers are Toptal (for top, vetted talent), FreeUp (for vetted talent at a variety of skill levels), and Fiverr (for quick inexpensive projects with freelancers at many skill levels). The key to success with hiring freelancers is to first research their background and interview them, and then start with small projects and test each freelancer’s quality of work before moving to larger projects.
Communication and Collaboration
You can streamline business communication and collaboration with clients, vendors, and remote workers using a robust communication and collaboration tool. For example, the free video conferencing tool from 8×8 makes it both easy and affordable to bring people in multiple locations together for meaningful meetings.
This tool is great not just because it’s free but because it includes many useful features that other free video conferencing tools don’t offer. 8×8 Video Meetings includes screen-sharing, meeting rooms, dial-in and toll-free numbers, up to 50 participants per meeting, an unlimited number of meetings, unlimited meeting duration, and more. You don’t have to create an account to use the tool, but if you register with your email address, you get even more features, such as calendar integrations and cloud-based recordings.
8×8 also offers cloud-based business phone services and contact center services at affordable prices, so you can bring all of your business communications and collaborations together through a single provider.
Managing projects with lots of people, parts, and pieces is challenging, but you can use a free project management tool to keep everything organized and moving forward on schedule. This type of tool provides a great way to hold everyone accountable and keep everyone in the loop so nothing is missed and projects aren’t delayed.
Both Asana and Trello can be used for free project management and give you complete control of your projects. You can set up projects, tasks, notifications, and more. In addition, you can upload documents so everyone has access to the most recent version of important materials.
How do you manage your calendar? When someone contacts you to schedule a meeting or conference call, do you need to go through a series of email messages or phone calls to nail down the date and time? How much time do you waste with scheduling each month? If you spend too much time with your calendar, then using a free scheduling tool could change your life!
Calendly is a great choice to automate many of the processes involved in scheduling meetings and conference calls. Rather than going through a series of email messages when someone wants to schedule a meeting with you, you can set up your Calendly URL with all of your available times, and give the link to that person. They follow the link and choose the meeting time that works for them from your available time slots.
You can even set up notification messages and follow-up messages in Calendly so meetings are automatically put on all participants’ calendars and they’re reminded about your meetings. It’s a great way to not just save time but also to reduce no-shows and rescheduling.
Data Organization and Tracking
Organizing and tracking data can be challenging if you don’t have the right tools, and unfortunately, many database management tools are expensive or extremely difficult to use. Airtable is a free tool that solves those problems for you by making it easy to create complicated databases that allow you to access the information you need exactly when you need it.
You can give your entire team access to your databases in Airtable or only give individuals access to specific databases (referred to as “bases” in Airtable). You can even customize what each person sees and can do in your bases. If you’re not comfortable working with databases to organize and track data, you can get started quickly by using one of the many free templates that Airtable offers.
The video conferencing, communication, collaboration, project management, scheduling, and data tools introduced in this article each offer free account options, so go ahead and give them a test drive to find the ones that help you the most. While each tool might take some time to set up, the effort will be worth it when you end up saving time and boosting productivity in the future!
What’s your favorite free tool that supports your business? Share it in the comments below and help other women take their businesses to the next level in 2020!