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Productivity Tools

Productivity should be your compass as you chart the choppy waters of self-employment. Being organized is sure to help you improve profits. There are several online sites for cloud-based management of data and software programs that you could download to take care of essential tasks to run your business.

You would require these tools to handle the following main tasks:

  • Document Management – Document Management tools allow you to prepare and produce documents in a presentable format. It may be a marketing proposal for a prospective client, an invoice for completed work or a simple business plan for yourself. There are several tools available out in the market. We have identified just the following few based on their popularity.

  • Microsoft Office- Microsoft Office Home and Business edition not only includes document management applications but also an Outlook 2010 email and scheduling program. It comes with several ready-to-use templates for regular documents, spreadsheets, analysis tools such Sparklines (that show a tiny chart embedded in a cell), Slicers (for filtering data) or Conditional Formatting to help you easily spot variances. With Microsoft Office's charting tools and SmartArt┬« graphics, you have the ability to graphically represent data too. It helps you organize all your data in one place plus prepare presentations with ease. Tagging helps you label documents and files for cross-referencing. The program also includes Internet research tools. You could also generate business report and share documents online with the Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office comes for $278 approx. but you could go for a trial version from their official website.
  • Open Office – Good things in life do come for free and one such thing is Open Office. OpenOffice.org 3 is open-source software that is ideal for document management as it handles everything - word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases, etc. You can choose your language, use any regular format or a new international open standard format.

  • Schedule Management – This is not just for scheduling daily tasks but also for setting up milestones through the entire process for every single project you undertake. Schedule management would also include managing your employees' roster, attendance, in-house discussions, etc.

  • Task Management – Being your own boss also means being responsible for everything yourself. The whole idea is thrilling but if you're not organized, you'll soon be one confused self-employed person running around lost. Being self-employed requires being disciplined. Managing tasks properly would mean more time for yourself, your family and the things you want to do. Isn't that why you are self-employed in the first place? Handling several projects at one time is not easy. Taking several projects based on a task-wise segmentation is way easier.

  • Mail Management – Communication is the key to any relationship including business relationships. Then, there are tax returns, bills, memos, etc. There is absolutely no replacement for an electronic mail management system that keeps all mails sorted and accessible quickly when you need them.

  • Contact Management – Building a self-employed consultancy or business means building good will in the industry. Following up contacts, making new contacts, nurturing contacts is all part of the self-employed business life. Do it in an organized manner to maintain productivity and not lose out on potential leads.

  • Collaboration Tools – If your business requires working in collaboration with a team, where several members contribute to discussions and deliverables, you may need a collaboration tool that is powerful yet affordable. A couple of cloud based tools that I have used (and been impressed with) are the Google Apps and Huddle.

What are the best tools available online to handle productivity tasks?

  • Google Apps – The Google Apps Marketplace has a huge range of products and services designed for Google users, including installable apps that integrate directly with Google Apps. Installable apps are easy to use because they include single sign-on, Google's universal navigation, and some even include features that integrate with your domain's data. You can easily download just any application to suit your needs from the Google Apps website in categories like Accounting & Finance, Admin Tools, Calendar & Scheduling, Customer Management, Document Management, Project Management, Sales & Marketing, Security & Compliance, Workflow, Archiving & Discovery Implementation and even GeoSpatial Solutions. You need a couple of hours to go through their Apps directory to find the right application for yourself. Google Apps also allows you to work in collaboration with your team where you can share and solicit input from others.

  • Microsoft Outlook - Microsoft Outlook is available for premium business use and for your Windows 7 mobile as well. It comes with advanced search, e-mail organization, communication and social networking features. You save time creating, managing and viewing emails even if the email amount is pretty large. You can set up categories, condense and ignore mails with quick clicks. With new conversation management tools and the improved Conversation View, dozens of messages can turn into just a few relevant items. MailTips instantly alerts you to potential distribution issues and Quick Steps take the multi-stepped tasks you perform most down to just a single click. The improved Ribbon, available across Office applications, makes it easy to uncover more commands so you can focus on the end product rather than how to get there. There is no problem configuring new or existing account. You could also combine multiple e-mail accounts, calendars, and address books and easily manage them from a single, centralized view. Manage your schedule using the new Schedule View. View multiple Outlook calendars, Windows Live, or other shared calendars, in a streamlined horizontal display. Outlook Social Connector is your window to all the social-networking sites.

Sales and Marketing Tracking Tools

Payroll Processing

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