5 (well more than 5 but who's counting) web based Aps you should take the time to check out. Why? because they are web based (cloud computing) which will allow you to run your office anywhere you have a computer/laptop/netbook and often, are easier to use than whatever you bought a few years ago.
Freshbooks is still an excellent invoicing service, but check out some new invoicing apps such as:
You can also track expenses with:
And add functionality to your online invoicing:
Also, check out Outright, a bookkeeping and tax prep tool
2. Contract Templates and Wizards
The hardest part in getting contracts in place is the drafting of the agreement itself. Unless you already have a lawyer who has created your documents for you, finding the best template can take a lot of time and effort. No matter how good a contract template is, it’s rare to find one that perfectly suits your situation. The good news is that there are some useful resources that can do this for you at the fraction of a cost of hiring a lawyer. Do-it-yourself solutions such as FastDue and RocketLawyer are good places to start, and we’ve covered both of these in the past.
RocketLawyer has a collection of business legal forms ranging from consulting agreements to articles of incorporation. You fill out a simple questionnaire and a document is customized based on your answers. Other features include e-signature and the ability to collaborate on documents.
FastDue also provides templates for contracts and agreements, although not as many as RocketLawyer. One advantage, though, is the variety of forms on offer, including past due notices, invoices, expense reports, and receipts. The forms also include interactive messaging, allowing your clients and colleagues to make comments directly on the document itself. The free service offered is enough for a freelance contractor, but you can sign up for the premium service if you want something more robust.
3. Sending and Signing
Once you have your contract ready, it’s just a matter of sending it and having it signed. Some contract creation wizards offer free e-signature functionality as part of the service, but there are plenty of other e-signature apps. Here are some of them:
- EchoSign. There are two ways to sign a document via EchoSign. Users can simply type in their initials or, if they prefer an “old school” analog approach, they can print the document, sign it and fax it in. EchoSign can also integrate with Google Docs and Zoho Writer.
- DocuSign. Just like EchoSign, DocuSign is a web based e-signature service. Additional features include CRM integration the ability to embed your signable documents within your web site. It also offers mobile signing if you want to use your cell phone or BlackBerry.
- E-lock. E-lock has signature solutions for both the web and your desktop. The desktop application integrates with MS Excel, MS Word, and Adobe Acrobat.
For colleagues and clients who prefer a written signature rather than a digital one, you could send your contracts via online faxing solutions such as MyFax and eFax. To make the process easier, I just pull up one of my scanned signatures on file and paste it into the document. Then, I export the entire contract as a PDF and send it off as an e-fax, avoiding any printing on my end.
There are a couple of disadvantages to e-signing, however. Some people might not read their contracts thoroughly. To prevent this you should attach a note emphasizing the importance of reading the entire document or even discuss it on the phone paragraph by paragraph, if needed. Also, you need to make sure that e-signatures are legally valid in the states and countries where each signatory resides.4. Calls, Conferencing and Instant Messaging
Here are a few phone conferencing and webinar-style conferencing systems that are worth checking out:
And if you need a virtual PBX system that can accommodate multiple offices, try eVoice.5. Time tracking
Need to get a handle on how much time you’ve spent on a particular project or task? There are apps for that — some standalone, some that integrate with your invoicing systems, and some like Where is My Time that help you to analyze how the time flew by and how productive you were during that time. Here are some others:
- Paymo (tracking with invoicing)
- Intervals (plus task and project management)
- RescueTime (with time management and project tracking
And in the time-, cash- and distance-tracking category, take a peek at 1DayLater.