Whether you have a brand new idea for a business or you want to put your own spin on an existing product, becoming an entrepreneur is a stressful proposition. You have to balance your desire to nurture your idea with the demands of managing employees, balancing the books and staying ahead of the competition. It’s never going to be easy, but at least you have a variety of technological tools to streamline your day-to-day operations and keep your whole team on task. The best part? Many of these apps, devices and services are relatively inexpensive — or even free. Here are just four of the most cost-efficient gadgets for the budding entrepreneur:
Starting a business used to mean having an entire fleet of computers and servers to keep your office connected and productive. It was expensive. Not only did you have the upfront cost of the hardware, you also needed a lot more space to store it and someone (or a whole department) to keep it running smoothly. But now, the cloud has made it possible to run a whole business from a few laptops. Not only can you store all of your company’s data online, but you also can communicate with customers and collaborate with coworkers more easily.Google Drive remains the standard for cloud-based services, but many other affordable business solutions have some cloud-based functionality as well.
As your business starts to grow, you should have an open line of contact with your employees. This means you need to guarantee that they’re never without a cloud-connected device. If you’re shuddering at the projected cost of new smartphones, don’t worry. Manufacturers like Samsung have complete lines of affordable smartphones and cellphone carriers like T-Mobile offer small business plans and $0 down promotions. The Galaxy Core Prime has a big 4.5-inch screen, a 5-megapixel camera and an Ultra Power Saving Mode so you always have enough power for one last call at the end of a long day. It’s the perfect setup for impromptu video conferences or accessing Google Drive.
Now that your team is equipped with smartphones, you need to find the right applications for staying ahead of the curve. Business apps can save you money, but one of the best parts that they all share is that they work to make your office almost completely paperless. Take Shake, for example. The app enables you to create, share and sign legally-binding documents from your smartphone. It even assists you in the creation of contract agreements and nondisclosure forms.
If you need a way to track your employee’s time, you can’t go wrong with Timely, which lets each individual track his or her time and forward it along to you at the end of each workday. You can even sort the resulting data into task-specific categories to get a sense of your new business’ overall productivity.
Credit Card Readers
If you are in the business of selling goods or services to the general public, you should get familiar with one of the most cost-effective enterprise solutions for entrepreneurs: Square. For the uninitiated, Square is a credit card reader that plugs directly into the headphone jack of your computer, phone or tablet so you can accept purchases anywhere. While the device is completely free (and compatible with the Samsung Core Prime), Square does take a small cut of every purchase you make. Still, as consumers continue to migrate toward digital transactions, Square guarantees that you never miss out on a sale.