The innovations of modern technology are great news for small businesses and freelancers. If you are trying to do more with less, then take a minute to check you are taking advantage of the tools to help your small business punch above its weight.
If you do not have a modern phone system then you need to get one! Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems such as Easy Call Now allow people to follow a menu of choices that you can set. You can use an IVR system to make your business appear larger than it is; the person calling never needs to know that your Finance and Support departments are the same person. The most common criticism of automated phone systems is that they are unhelpful. Take time to set it up so that the most likely choices are the easiest to access, and set an option to skip ahead to speak to a real person.
The internet provides a bewildering variety of services to assist a small business, including many websites (like this one) providing advice. However beyond advising you, you can access software packages either online or offline can effectively do the work that used to be done by staff members, from accounting to research. Take care to make sure that you aren’t wasting time doing something the computer can do for you instead!
In many cases the software will be very cheap or even free, but be sure your antivirus and security software is up to date. Avast is one example of the many excellent free security packages available to keep your hardware and software clean and safe. Remember to regularly back up your files just in case though, as your computer is often the most business-critical tool you have.
Email is both a blessing and a curse to the modern worker. It is all too easy to waste hours in a day checking your inbox so you should try to check your mail no more than once an hour. If something is too urgent to wait an hour then you should phone instead, as it gives an instant resolution and quick feedback. You can use one of the many timer apps to help you keep to this rule, and they are also useful to keep your different projects under control if you are using something like the Pomodoro technique.
Video conferencing services such as Skype are more than sufficient for most meetings. When you are considering a face to face meeting, weigh up the opportunity cost. If you spend hours out of the office what does that cost you in terms of what you could be doing instead?
Scanned documents can be securely sent via email which has almost completely killed the fax machine. However if you do require the capability to receive faxes there are tools allowing the fax to be delivered as a PDF attached to an email, without the need for a physical machine.
About the Author
Ben Geddes is an email consultant who specialises in deliverability and data management. He enjoys reading science fiction, cooking good food and playing with his two children.