5 online tools for business

As a small business owner, you already know the importance of creative solutions. Without the seemingly unlimited funds and resources of a large corporation, you rely on frugal and flexible alternatives to keep your business running. Fortunately, you will find no shortage of online tools that make life easier for small businesses. Here are five of the most innovative tools available today.

Mobile Banking

Online banking has been gaining popularity in recent years, and it isn’t hard to see why. As a small business, you may need a brick-and-mortar bank. However, choosing the best bank for your business may mean comparing mobile and online options, as well. Many major banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, offer online banking benefits for small businesses — including ways to deposit checks remotely using a scanner, your smartphone, or even an ATM. You can also take advantage of mobile banking apps, online bill pay, and more.

Online Bookkeeping Software

Is bookkeeping the bane of your existence? You could hire an accountant to do the work for you, but the advent of mobile devices and cloud-based services has made doing it yourself a more attractive and accessible option than ever before. Sage One, the easy online bookkeeping software from Sage, allows you to send invoices and get paid online, keep a closer eye on your money, and much more. Best of all, you won’t be tied to your desk. You can log onto the website from any browser to update your books on the go.

Expense Trackers

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A lecture on the importance of expense reports won’t make logging mileage and saving receipts any easier — but there are several apps that will. Some are specialized, designed primarily to track mileage while others offer a wider range of tracking options. The best part is that many of these apps are free. Even apps that are not specifically designed with expense reports in mind, such as Evernote, can be immensely helpful thanks to syncing, storage, and organization features.

Online Payroll Software

You can also find several online tools to help with payroll. If you have hourly employees, you may benefit from a timeclock app. These can be especially useful if your employees are not office-based. Mobile apps allow them to clock in and out using their smartphone or tablet. Timesheet Mobile doesn’t even require a smartphone or data plan.

Other websites offer comprehensive online payroll services for a flat monthly rate. These services usually include automatic record-keeping, employee payment, management of sick and vacation days, tax filing and payment, and online access to pay stubs, W-2s, and 1099s.

Payment Apps

The ability to easily send and receive payments on-the-go can be crucial for small businesses. PayPal and Square are among the more recognized names in the category of pay-and-get-paid apps. With PayPal, you can set up a free account linked to your personal or business bank account so that you can receive payments online. Your customers will not need a PayPal account in order to pay you, and the only fee you will be charged is a standard processing fee (2.9 percent of the total plus 30 cents per transaction).

Square allows you to take credit card payments wherever you are. Set up a Square account, download the app to your smartphone or tablet, and purchase the necessary Square hardware. Square currently sells a magstripe reader that plugs into your smartphone or tablet, a contactless chip reader that allows you to accept Apple Pay and EMV chip cards, and a tablet stand — but you may not need all three. Square charges a transaction fee of 2.75 percent per swipe and deposits the payments into your bank account within one or two business days.

­­­Being a small business owner is hard work, and if you aren’t taking advantage of these online tools, your life is even harder than it needs to be. Many have free trials or demo versions available so you can test and compare different options risk-free. Once you find the products that work best for you and incorporate them into your daily operations, you will find the investment more than worth it thanks to the time, energy, and frustration you’ll save. When used to their full potential, many of these tools will even pay for themselves over time.