The best tech tools for running a business



An article brought to you with Direct Line for business, the UK's leading supplier of landlord insurance and public liability insurance for businesses.

These days, you can find just about everything you need to run your business online. From cooking the books to holding meetings, there are plenty of apps available that cost no more than you're already paying for internet access.

Take a look through our top five best tools for running a business from your laptop.

1. Wave accounting

This easy-to-use and intuitive website offers accounting tools for which software firms charge hundreds of pounds. With the ability to generate a range of reports, send invoices, manage your suppliers and consumers and balance the books, this invaluable piece of kit has all you need to get on top of your finances.

One of the neat things about this website is its ability to connect to your bank account and directly download all of your transactions for categorisation into expenses or income. You can input your bills, uploading scans of paper copies to keep everything neatly and securely in one place.

2. Hootsuite

In today's social climate, any organisation worth its salt will be using social networking. With Twitter and Facebook offering a way to get into consumers' lives and minds like never before, any business that isn't using them is missing out.

Hootsuite is a web application that allows you to bring together all of your social networking accounts in one place. A free account allows you to add up to three social networking accounts and manage them through the portal. With a paid account, you can add more social networks and invite a team of people to manage your social interactions with customers online.

One of the really nice features of Hootsuite is its ability to schedule posts into the future. Setting up a week's worth of tweets to be posted have regular intervals allows you to maintain a social media presence even when you're not physically present.

With a paid account, you can also request reports on interactions with your social networking outlets. Demographic in information on your followers, people who "like" your Facebook page and the most clicked and links tweeted and shared can be very helpful when determining your influence and even targeting marketing activities.

3. MailChimp

With an easy to use interface that lets you design attractive newsletters from its range of templates, MailChimp is free to use for anyone who has fewer than 2,000 subscribers. Manage your mailing lists, send out e-mail marketing or newsletters and track the results either online or using their handy iPhone app. You can see who was clicked on your links, how many opened your emails and a whole host of other useful metrics.

4. SurveyMonkey

A great way to canvass opinions from your customers or carry out market research, SurveyMonkey gives you the opportunity to create customised questionnaires that can be sent out to your mailing list subscribers or embedded in your website. Quick, easy to set up and simple to use, this is another powerful free tool for businesses looking to engage with their customer base.

5. Skype

Probably the most versatile and easy to use free tool available to any small business, Skype lets you meet with your clients across the world without leaving the comfort of your office chair. Once you've downloaded the free application, you can connect with other Skype users or purchase credits to call phones anywhere in the world. Integrated video calling and the ability to share documents in the chat window make Skype the perfect way to hold your meetings without the expense of travel.

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