Between accounting, invoicing, marketing, and managing yourself and (if you have them) employees, it’s easy for your small business to take over your life. Luckily, there’s an app for that. Here are a few useful online tools to help you stay organized and save time.
Finance and accounting tools.
QuickBooks : QuickBooks accounting software lets you track income and expenses, download transactions, and create and send invoices. If you’re willing to pay for a more expensive plan, it can also help you manage and pay bills, track employee hours, send purchase orders, track inventory, prepare 1099s, manage budgets, and more.
Pricing: $10 to $60 per month depending on the plan
Expensify : Expensify automates the entire receipt and expense management process for you. All you have to do is link your credit card to the app to place charges directly on an expense report, or take a picture of a receipt and Expensify will automatically fill out and submit an expense report for you. It also integrates with most accounting software and allows you to customize expense policy rules for your employees.
Pricing: Free for individuals or $5 per team member (corporate accounts are $9 per active user)
InDinero : InDinero is a combination of accounting software, bookkeeping and tax services specifically designed for small businesses. The accounting software allows you to manage your day-to-day finances and understand your company’s financial health, while a full team of accounting, tax, and business experts work directly with you to provide advice.
Pricing: $310, $525, or $1300 per month
FreshBooks : FreshBooks is an invoicing and accounting system created specifically for small businesses. You can create professional looking invoices, track business expenses, collaborate with employees, accept credit card payments and get financial reports whenever you need them.
Pricing: $15, $25, or $50 per month, depending on the plan
Project management platforms.
Asana : This organizational tool is an easy way for teams to track projects and tasks, share info, give updates, send files and more. It’s one central place where you can see where you can stay on top of what’s important.
Pricing : Free for the basic version; $9.99 per member per month for the premium version
Easy to use marketing tools.
MailChimp : MailChimp is a marketing automation platform, which is fancy speak for “tool that makes it easy to create professional email campaigns.” You can target customers based on behavior, preference, and previous sales and get in-depth reporting on how emails are performing. Best of all, the email templates are pretty easy to use and have flexible designs to suit your needs.
Pricing: Free for new businesses; $10 per month for growing businesses; $199 per month for “pro marketers”
HootSuite : Social media is a great tool for marketing, but with so many different sites to post on, it can be a pain to manage. HootSuite allows you to manage everything in one place, schedule your posts so you don’t have to be hanging over your twitter 24/7, get reports that show your campaign’s results, follow key conversations and collaborate with other people on your social team.
Pricing: $29 per month for one user and 10 social profiles; $129 per month for three users and 20 social profiles
What are your favorite business apps? Share in the comments!
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Silken Kelly is a professionally-trained dancer and ballet instructor in New York City. Here’s why she’s passionate about the work she does, in her own words.
It’s a beautiful thing to pass on what you’ve trained your whole life to do. All I ask for in a student is to be open, be willing, feel that drive and that hunger to actually learn. It’s not about becoming a professional dancer — it’s about improving yourself. There’s no such thing as perfection in ballet. You can always learn and improve. Ballet teaches you discipline in dance and in life. When things get tough, you have to go inside and rekindle that fire.
Feel like you have your own story worth sharing? Tell it in the Forum.
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Matt Kass is a musician and teacher based in Nashville, Tennessee. Here’s how he rebuilt his business after moving across the country, as told to Thumbtack.
I’ve been teaching music for around 13 years and I come from a long line of music educators. My grandmother was a concert pianist in New York City, as well as a music professor, and my great grandfather also taught music. In my twenties I was travelling with my band, and when we weren’t on tour I would teach. As a musician, you never know where your next paycheck is coming from and nothing is guaranteed. When I settled down in New York, I started teaching regularly (between studio sessions) and found a level of stability that I’d never really had before.
In 2015, I moved to Nashville and back to square one — not to mention that the music teacher market in Nashville is flooded. There are so many musicians here and so many people who think they can teach because they play, but being able to facilitate and being an educator is not necessarily the same thing. Teaching is as much about the information as it is the way you present that information. It’s about knowing how to read each student, understanding what they’re capable of and working at a pace that’s comfortable for them.
Today I’m busier than ever. And because I control my schedule, I still have time to produce and play. It’s the perfect arrangement.
Tell your self-made story or share your thoughts in the comments below.
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This month Thumbtack did something really exciting — and totally new. To celebrate the roll-out of our new Thumbtack brand, we hosted alomst 300 pros from across to the U.S. in San Francisco for a day of training, networking and celebration. We’re calling it our Self Made event — and these days, we’re all about the Self Made. Who are they? They’re hard-working professionals like you. Folks who turned a lawnmower into an enterprise, who have a nine-to-five and run a five-to-nine on the side.
The event focused on all aspects of being Self Made. The glamorous: building your company’s vision. And the stressful: securing funding and growing your team. It was a productive day, and we’re excited to share the major takeaways from the event.
CEO Marco Zappacosta spoke about the new Thumbtack, and how we’re working with small business owners to strengthen your local economies and help you get more done:
“By bringing you more of the work you want, by getting you hired and putting money into your pockets, we hope to help you make a local economic impact that — when replicated over and over again, across the country — can have a real, measurable influence on the American economy at large: more jobs, more work getting done, more money being put into your communities. That’s a lot of people power.”
You’ve probably noticed that there’ve been a lot of changes on Thumbtack recently (including our new Self Made brand ). Head of Product, Noam Lovinsky spent some time explaining why:
“The main motivation behind all of these changes is to build an experience customers love. More than that, we need to build the experience customers have come to expect from their phones because that’s the best thing we can do to deliver more paying jobs to all of you.
First and foremost, customers want to see options instantly. We also know that customers prefer to see more options rather than fewer. Together, this increases the likelihood that a customer will choose a pro to reach out to, but of course it’s then on us to spread the customers around and make sure that all of you — and not just some of you — are getting jobs you’re excited about.”
Head of Marketing Nikki Pechet moderated a panel with four Self Made pros discussing the highpoints and hurdles of owning their own business. That included Pastor Darrell Ross, a school principal who moonlights as a wedding officiant, teen lawn care magnate Reid Somloi, military veteran and handyman Brian Cotter, and Geraldine Oribhabor who came to the U.S. from Nigeria for medical school and (when the economy went under) stayed to start a successful photography business on Thumbtack.
Their stories are a reminder of the diversity of talents that exist on Thumbtack, and that so often, the people behind those talents are just as interesting as the work they do.
The Self Made event was all about building community among you, our pros. We realize how important opportunities like these are, and we want to keep the conversations going. So we found a way to take that community home with you.
Thumbtack’s Pro Community is a brand new resource that harnesses our biggest strength as a company: you. As a pro, the Community is your place to share your expertise and ask questions of your fellow pros — whether that’s, “Where should I post for open positions?” or “How do I set my travel preferences on Thumbtack?” Because you know way more about the ins and outs of running a small business than we ever will. When the community launches in June, you’ll have a place to share it.
Stay tuned for more from the Self Made event, including guides, checklists and webinars.
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Sarah Smith is runs a roofing company in Omaha, Nebraska. Here’s how she went from her nine-to-five corporate job to running a small business that gives back, as told to Thumbtack.
Some professionals in our industry don’t want to take the smaller jobs that come through, but we take requests for a really wide range of things on Thumbtack — we have the mindset that no job is too small. For us, that includes repairs and maintenance. Sometimes requests come in for small repair jobs and when we aren’t really busy because of the cold weather, I say, “Let’s take this.”
One of those jobs was a repair on a historic 100-year-old home. The owners had a small leak and said they had called all over trying to have it checked out, but no one would follow up. We figured out where the leak was and fixed the problem on the spot. A couple of weeks later, we had a huge hail storm in Omaha, and lots of homes were damaged. That same couple had companies knocking on their door every five minutes, but we were the ones that they thought to call in the end. It’s crazy that a $38,000 roof replacement came from a small repair job that no one wanted to do.
We started a program called Raise the Roof last year. A percentage of all of our sales goes toward building roofs for families in need. When we first started doing it, we were like, “Hey we’re giving away free roofs. Do you know anyone or want to nominate someone who is going through a hard time?” and people were like, “What? Free roofs? No way!” No one believed us so we had a really hard time finding people.
That’s when we hooked up with a local nonprofit, Rebuilding Together Omaha , and they helped connect us with people who needed our service. It was an awesome experience for us. This year, the person we chose was the wife of a military veteran whose husband had just entered a retirement home. She wasn’t looking for a handout, but her roof was leaking. She had just retired from 30 years of teaching and was a really deserving person. It was awesome.
Loved @Sarah-Rooforia's story? Share what makes you self-made in the Forum.
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There are a lot of perks to working from home: freedom, flexible hours, and the time and money you save on the commute. But it also comes with challenges, like getting distracted and staying motivated, or on the other side of the spectrum, overworking yourself and burning out. The good news is that a little planning and structure go a long way.
Create a designated office space. Even if you don’t have a separate room for a home office, it’s important to create a space that tells your brain “this is a place for work.” If you have a guest room that rarely gets used, consider setting up your office there. Otherwise, find a corner where you’ll be happy to sit for hours at a time (natural light is a bonus) and where you can put up a portable screen for privacy if necessary. You’ll be sitting here a lot so consider investing in a nice, ergonomic office chair.
Establish daily office hours and stick to your schedule. You work from home, which means you can pick a work time when you’re naturally at your most productive. Of course, part of the allure of working from home is the flexibility, but you should still stick to a daily schedule and plan out the day’s activities, so you’re able to accomplish a full day of work. Likewise, set a hard stop for when work is over. When you’re finished for the day, truly leave work behind, so you have time to enjoy yourself.
Take plenty of breaks. If you were working in an office, you’d probably spend more time than you realize chatting with colleagues, grabbing a coffee or just standing up to stretch. A break can be restorative for your productivity and motivation, so remember to take time to go for a walk, read the paper, check social media or even just stare out the window for a while.
Set boundaries with the people who share your space. The flexibility that comes with working from home is one of the best perks, but the lines between your work life and your personal life can quickly become blurred. While you should take advantage of your flexibility when you need (or want) it’s also important that the people in your life understand that just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you’re available at all times.
Plan daily and weekly tasks and goals. Create a list of goals at the beginning of the week and a daily to-do list each day that includes specific tasks that will help you achieve your weekly goals. Some people find that creating the next day’s to-do list at the end of the workday helps jumpstart their productivity in the morning.
Make sure you get outside. It can be easy to turn into a hermit when you’re working from home. But fresh air, exercise and human interaction are crucial to your productivity, and even more importantly, your happiness.
Avoid chores and personal projects — no matter how tempting. When you work from your home, it’s tempting to do laundry, vacuum, or pay bills in the middle of the workday because, well, you can. But doing even one load of laundry can be a distraction and eat up valuable work time, so remind yourself that even though chores are a productive thing to do, they’re not what you’re being paid for — you should do them in your personal time.
Do you work from home? How do you keep yourself on track? Let us know in the forum.
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Mac Reed runs Mac Reed and Associates in Houston, Texas. Here’s how he built his business, as told to Thumbtack.
I owned a couple of restaurants when I decided to get my Masters in accounting. While I was still in school, my friends started asking me for help with small things. Questions about their bookkeeping. Complicated tax rules. By the time I finished my degree, I had worked with enough people to build a business. I called my company Mac Reed and Associates, even though it was just me in a one-room office with my brand new degree hanging on the wall.
From 2011 to 2015, all my growth was from word of mouth. We decided to update our marketing efforts, and my wife found Thumbtack. We used it to hire a web designer and the person we hired was great. I started using Thumbtack to find accounting clients and now it’s between 20 and 30 percent of my business and I have more than five employees and offices in two states.
Most of the clients that come through Thumbtack are either bookkeeping clients or tax clients, and they come from a really wide range of industries. I’ve had plumbers, electricians, renovation companies and construction companies. One client was from a huge company that was doing $20 million dollars a year. I also worked with an NFL coach who found us on Thumbtack — I was pretty shocked about that one.
How did you get started on Thumbtack? Tell your self-made story in the Forum.
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Taking out a business loan can be a game changer for a small business that’s ready to grow. But before they agree to finance your small business, most lenders want to know that they’ll be paid back in full. Here are five things to consider before meeting with the bank.
There’s more than one type of business loan.
There are several kinds of small business loans, including traditional bank loans, online business loans, line-of-credit loans and loans from Small Business Administration-backed lenders. Most people think of traditional bank loans first because they tend to be the most affordable option, but keep in mind that they’re are often the most difficult and time consuming to apply for.
The best way to figure out the loan and lender that’s right for you is to meet with your accountant and do your research. (Don’t have an accountant? We can help you find one .)
Your credit score matters.
The credit score from both your personal and business accounts play a large part in determining if you’re a candidate for a business loan — and it’s generally a good idea to keep the two separate. Separating your accounts helps build credit and prevents confusion when it’s time to file your taxes or apply for a loan. But that doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to your personal credit score altogether. Lenders generally look at your personal accounts too when considering your application.
Getting your paperwork together in advance will save you time.
Once you’ve decided the kind of small business loan you want to apply for, you’ll need to prepare an income statement and balance sheet. A few other things to have in-hand when you’re getting ready to apply: bank statements, two or more years of tax returns and a full breakdown of what money your business owes/is owed.
You’ll need an airtight business plan.
If you want a lender to give you a business loan, you need to show them that your business has a future. A strong, well-researched business plan is a great place to start. Your business plan should tell your company’s story in a way that’s both detailed and compelling — that generally includes:
Market analysis, including a description of your industry, target audience/client base and competition.
A description of the product or service you’re selling, including how it will meet your customer’s needs and what sets you apart from your competitors.
A marketing plan and sales strategy.
A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
Current expenses, cash-flow projections and plan for repaying the loan.
You should know how much you want and exactly what it’s for.
In general, new businesses need funding that will support a year and a half of growth, but talking to your accountant is the best way to determine a realistic number. (Note: Most small business loans are for $250,000 or less.) Once you know your number and exactly what it covers, prepare a statement that outlines your planned expenditures in detail for the lender.
Have you applied for a small business loan? Share in the comments.
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Geraldine Oribhabor is a photographer based in Chicago. Here’s how she started over and built her photography career.
It’s never too early to take charge of your life, to make bold moves. I came here from Nigeria to finish medical school because I was really looking for that American dream. When my home country went through a recession, I had to figure out how to make ends meet. Someone discovered my photography on Instagram and asked me to take their photo. I thought, lightbulb — I could do this. I booked my first wedding photography job on Thumbtack and this year I made Top Pro. It’s all coming together.
Share you self made story here in the Forum.
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