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As a small business, it’s important to get the right tools to produce the most results in the least time-consuming way possible, and that’s certainly true for me too.

Managing a small business may differ from keeping a large enterprise running smoothly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a challenging endeavor. After all, both types of businesses face a lot of the same hurdles day in and day out — piles of emails, meetings, phone calls, project deadlines all vie for undivided attention. If you don’t have a clear grasp on how to stay productive, a small business’ day-to-day can get overwhelming real fast.

Productivity isn’t just about ticking off tasks on a checklist though. Sure, that’s the end goal — work hard and you’ll get there. As a business owner, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of being busy, and being busy is not necessarily being productive. Working hard doesn’t always mean you’re working smart.

This is why, as a small business, it’s important for you to get the right tools that will help you produce the most results in the least time-consuming way possible. Time is one of the most valuable resources you have, so shaving off precious seconds by breezing through mundane tasks can help you improve productivity. Thankfully, there are tons of tools out there perfect for small businesses. From project and social media management tools, to clever invoicing software, here are some of the tools I use in my own business.

Soffront

Soffront CRM is a Customer Relationship Management solution for small to mid-size companies. Soffront CRM helps businesses streamline and optimize all customer-related activity across the enterprise: marketing automation, sales force automation, customer service, help desk, field service, and more.

Soffront CRM gives businesses the tools to improve customer service while also increasing the productivity of their sales team and the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. The software includes portals for self-service, forums and live-chat. It can also manage sales orders and help desk requests.

Soffront CRM is suited to companies in just about any industry in the SMB space. The system can also be customized to your company’s unique workflow, user count and processes. Users can configure the software with easy drag-and-drop tools, with no programming or external IT knowledge required.

Asana

For those yearning for a simpler way to assign work tasks and follow up on team progress without cluttering up everyone’s emails, Asana could be just the ticket. This consolidates project tracking and simple collaboration tools into one easy-to-use task management platform. You can create tasks — as well as subtasks — and organize them into projects. It is also possible to colorcode project pipelines, so things don’t get messy once projects start to pile up.

Assigning tasks to team members is quick and painless as well, and all people following a certain task get instant email notifications when it gets completed. Asana also offers a handy mobile app, which offers a lot of the features found in the website — perfect for professionals on-the-go. Asana is free to use, but also comes with a $9.99/member/mo premium service with more features.

Xero

Xero was started to change the game for small business. Their beautiful cloud-based accounting software connects people with the right numbers anytime, anywhere, on any device. For accountants and bookkeepers, Xero helps build a trusted relationship with small business clients through online collaboration. They have over 1 million subscribers already and they are just getting started

What I like best is the unlimited user capability for no extra charge. It is also convenient to have multiple people logged in at the same time. This allows people to be using it in the field as well as the bookkeeper in the office. You get a great overview of your accounts from the dashboard. It’s easy to setup bank accounts and credits cards to sync and reconciling transactions is a breeze. I also love that you can use Word documents for Invoice and Quote templates instead of the built in template editor.

Xero allows me to view the financial position of my company at a glance (including converting invoices in foreign currencies) and plan cashflow which is vital to any new business.

Upwork

On Upwork you’ll find a range of top talent, from programmers to designers, writers, customer support reps, and more. Start by posting a job and let them know about your project and the specific skills required. The search functionality uses data science to highlight freelancers based on their skills, helping you find talent that’s a good match. You can also search the site for talent, and freelancers can view your job and submit proposals too.

Whether or not Upwork is a better choice for you than the many alternatives depends on what you’re looking for. Upwork has a free app to help you track time and ensure automatic weekly payments, 24-hour customer support and a client feedback system you can use to find great freelancers. Upwork also has a large database of talented freelancers, but there are more than 100,000+ projects posted each month. That means you’re facing competition all around for the best talent, but I still find it’s the best place for me.

How to find quality freelancers on Upwork

Start with a detailed job posting. Make sure you include all the required and recommended skills and responsibilities to discourage unqualified candidates from applying. Add a unique identifier in your post, such as a request about how to title their resume file, or to include the word “blue” in their cover letter. This will show who has paid attention to your job posting.

Avoid offering low starting pay, as talented freelancers aren’t likely to apply for low-paying jobs. Look at their experience, previous work, and how many hours they’ve worked to get an idea of their background.

Be sure to interview them on Skype before hiring them, and have them do a [paid] test project before coming on board.

There are a lot of steps to hiring quality freelancers, but getting the top talent on Upwork is worth it.

Canva

Canva is a tool loaded with enough easy-to-use features and functionality that anyone can create a variety of engaging content that gets shared. It really offers a variety of content types. From pre-sized social media image and header templates to marketing materials, documents, presentations, invitations and ads, you’ll find almost everything you need. If you don’t, you can always create a custom project. Even better, Canva’s collection of content types continues to grow. For example, they recently introduced templates for both eBooks and resumes.

Like most of these solutions, Canva offers drag-and-drop functionality. Combined with search, this feature makes it easy to discover image elements and to include the ones you like. Whether you use a free or paid photo, or even one you upload yourself, Canva provides and easy-to-use photo editor where you can change the look of your image using settings that include filters, tint, brightness, and more.

The primary way to use Canva for business is to create and publish engaging content that will attract your targeted prospects both online and off.

The Bottom Line

Although these tools can definitely help you improve your work productivity, they are just that — tools. The brunt of the work still falls on the one wielding them, so don’t expect them to magically boost your business without you having to lift a finger. Tools are only as good as the one using them, after all. Once you pick the right productivity tools for you, learn the ins and outs — adapt if you have to — and you may soon see productivity in your small business improve.