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My 3 Favorite Online Tools For Small Businesses

As a mostly virtual team working in multiple time zones, we have experienced more than one breakdown in the communications process. Missed deadlines? Check. Wrong version of a file sent out? Been there, done that. But with the help of these 3 tools below, we’ve improved our project management process and productivity.

Thanks to cloud-based computing, these powerful tools are now available to small businesses at little or no cost.  So, without further ado, here are my top 3 must-have small business tools:

Google Docs: do you find yourself sending multiple versions of the same Word document or spreadsheet back and forth? The days of “version control” – i.e. keeping track of changes and edits – are over! Google Docs is automatically linked to your Google username (which is what you use to log in to Gmail, YouTube, or any other Google services). 

To get started, upload a document to Google Docs, then choose your permission levels, and share with the people who need it. In my Google docs, today have a spreadsheet with over 700 editorial items for a client project, a draft contract for a new client, and even a schedule of volunteer duties for my son’s kindergarten class!

I find the Google docs works best for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents.

Bonus feature for your inner geek: if you and another user are editing a document at the same time, you can see their cursor move and watch the changes in real-time!

Basecamp: how do you manage dozens of tasks with different deadlines and deliverables? How do you know when your developer fixed an important bug? How does your web designer know which project is the top priority? After testing various email label/tagging solutions, I discovered Basecamp and have never looked back since! You can setup all your team members (and even clients!), projects and notes and never lose track of a task again. The basic plan is free, there is a free 45 day trial, and full-feature plans start at $20/month.

Bonus feature for your inner geek: Basecamp is a great way to keep your own to do list. Who doesn’t love crossing things off and seeing that long list of “completed” tasks?

Bonus business geek feature: the founder of Basecamp, Jason Fried, jasonfried, writes one of my favorite columns for Inc Magazine (yes, I read that magazine obsessively cover to cover every month!)

Dropbox: is your email inbox flooded with huge attachments? Are you sending images or large documents back and forth? Here is the version control problem again – which version of the logo was approved by the client? Which list of social media posts is the current one? Dropbox to the rescue! Just sign up (basic version is free) and install Dropbox (takes about a minute), then choose your sharing options. Does a client need access to all their images? Does your lawyer need access to your contract template? Setting up custom permissions is a piece of cake.

Dropbox is currently offering up to 2 GB of storage space for free. Additional space is available for a fee, or if you refer new users. By the way, feel free to use my referral link if you choose to sign up! 

Bonus feature for your inner geek: back up all your important files and pictures to Dropbox! Use it as your virtual hard drive.

I hope you find these tools as helpful for your small business as I have.

Now, what fun things are you going to do with your free time now that you are sending fewer emails, losing fewer attachments, and missing fewer deadlines? 

And, feel free to share favorite small business productivity tools via comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

Google Places Reviews: Where Did They Go?

If your business has a physical address, coming up as a dot on the Google map is HUGE!

And if you have a Google Places listing, as of this week, some of the reviews associated with that listing may be gone.

What happened? Google ate them!
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