Top 5 tips for small businesses to take advantage of online services

It seems that every day there is a new site or app designed to help you run your business. Some are great and quickly become indispensible “how did I ever live without this” additions to your daily technology dose. Others are…well…not so great. Smart businesses take advantage of all the best online tools to help them collaborate, market, hire and much more but if you’re a busy small business owner it can be tricky finding time to test out which ones are right for you.

Fear not – to save you the time and headaches and cash here are some of the essential basics every business owner should take a look at:

#1 Get your head in the clouds

Now it’s easier than ever to support genuine and effective remote working. Google Documents and other cloud based office suites give companies the ability to push paperless collaborative within their organisation. Not only is this an environmental option but it also lets employees across the globe work together. A lawyer in Hong Kong could be providing real-time guidance to their colleague drafting a contract in San Francisco.

Using a cloud based storage solution such as Dropbox, or Google Drive allows you to share these documents with everyone from colleagues to customers, clients and leads. These services allow instant global access to documents on almost all devices whether it be mobile, desktop or tablet. And don’t forget You Send It for all those “too big to email” presentations.

#2 Get your voice heard

We all know the mantras: “Every Small Business Needs Social Media” and “it’s a dialogue/conversation”. We also know that increasingly Facebook and Twitter are cited by small businesses as being among their main sources of sales and leads. However simply knowing this doesn’t actually help you do it. For small businesses a few social media tools can go a long way. For example, Constant Contact has tools that can help not only with social media campaigns but also event and email marketing.

On the PR side of things, online press office services such as MyNewsDesk give companies a social media newsroom and PR platform to host news announcements.

#3 Go global for the best talent

A range of online employment platforms including Elance give businesses the ability to access talented temporary workers specialising in a range of skills from Copywriting to Computer Aided Design. Hiring freelancers who work remotely, allows companies to reduce overheads on office space and other expenses. It also allows start-ups to remain nimble by quickly increase their workforce in times of high demand. On our platform at Elance we have 2.5m freelancers and 500,000 businesses using their services. That’s an enormous global talent pool that any small business can jump into.

#4 Look after the pennies

Small businesses and startups can have a tendency to bury their head in the sand when it comes to managing their money. Let’s face it, it’s not as much fun to work on your accounts as it is to work on your product or your logo. This is a real no-no – bad cashflow management is still the No 1 business killer. Use a stress-free accounting software like FreeAgent and get on top of your books from the start. And if you need help why not get a bookkeeper on Elance for a few hours a week so that you can focus your time on the stuff you’re best at?

#5 Stay in touch

Services like Viber and of course Skype offer options for making free calls to anywhere in the world. Dubbed Voice over IP (VoIP) networks, these applications deliver voice communication over the internet and are a great way to keep phone bills low. I rarely make a “normal” phone call anymore. These services also offer video conferencing capabilities, adding a visual element to a conference call, linking teams together irrespective of location. Great for managing your virtual team of freelancers!