Between handling customer complaints, keeping track of employee work schedules and monitoring expenses, running a small business is hard work. If you’re looking to increase productivity and organization — or just make your life as an entrepreneur a little easier — a good app might be just what you need.
To help you navigate the seemingly endless sea of apps out there, we’ve compiled a list of our favorites. These 20 apps can help you stay organized and on top of your small-business to-do list.
Addappt: This app lets your business associates (and friends and family, of course) update their contact information in your address book. The app’s developers say their product allows your social network to “maintain itself.” If, for example, your supplier also uses Addappt and just got a new cellphone number, he or she could make that update in your address book. You can also organize contacts into different groups and send messages via Addappt, which is free for both iOS and Android users.
Fuze: If you’re looking for a new videoconferencing app, consider Fuze. It hosts online meetings for all devices and operating systems, including new versions for iPads and tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy. The app offers high-definition video and crisp audio and is easy to set up. Fuze offers free, unlimited meetings for up to 25 participants; if you have more employees, there’s a Pro plan that costs less than $15 per month and can host up to 125 participants. A 30-day free trial is available before purchasing the Fuze Pro plan.
Pushover: This is a game-changing app for those with more than one phone or device. Pushover organizes messages and notifications from your devices in one common space. The system sends push messages to any smartphone and places messages in one unified inbox. The app lets you send 7,500 messages each month and receive an unlimited amount of notifications, making it a good option for the well-connected small-business owner. It comes with a free seven-day trial, then requires a one-time $4.99 purchase with no monthly fees. The app works for Android, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and all desktops.
Slack: Slack lets you organize your team conversations into separate private or public channels, or send a direct message to another employee. The app also makes it easy to drag, drop and share an image, file, PDF or document, and any message, notification or file is automatically indexed and archived in the app.
Slack users saw 48.6% fewer internal emails and held 25.1% fewer meetings after installing and using the app, leading to a 32% overall increase in productivity, according to a company survey.
There’s no limit to how many users can be added to the app. You can try Slack for free; upgrading to the paid plans offers more features and controls. The standard plan costs $8 per month for each user and comes with added benefits, including a full archive of your team’s message history, unlimited app integration, guest access and group calls.
Skype: Although several competitors have made valiant efforts to knock Skype off its videoconferencing throne, this app remains notably effective, not to mention popular (with more than 8 million reviews on Google Play). Whether you’re speaking with telecommuting colleagues or overseas business partners, Skype is a great tool to help everyone feel connected to your company. You can also share photos and files of any size, share your computer screen with the person you’re speaking with or an entire group, call a group of up to 25 people and send text messages to friends.
The basic version of Skype is free, and group video calls also are free. If you want to upgrade, Skype for Business starts at $2 per user per month. It integrates with Microsoft Office and allows you to hold online video meetings, messaging and calls with up to 250 people. International calls might also carry a fee depending on where you live, so check out the prices for those. This app works on all devices and operating systems.
Clear: This slick, gesture-based, task-management app is for iOS and Mac devices. Clear helps you create and manage separate lists to organize daily tasks, and you can set reminders for yourself. Clear prides itself on ease of use — and justifiably so: Items can be adjusted easily by pulling down a task, pinching a task and, finally, swiping it off the screen once it’s completed. You can create multiple lists and schedules with Clear, which can be synced among your Mac desktop, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and iPod Touch. Clear costs $4.99 for iPhones and $9.99 for desktops.
RescueTime: This app automatically tracks time you’ve spent on applications and websites to give you an accurate picture of how you spent your day. RescueTime then sends you detailed reports based on your activity, showing how you might have been more productive. The app works for Mac, PC, Android and Linux. RescueTime Lite is free; the premium version comes with added features (alerts, the ability to block distracting websites, more detailed reports and filters) and costs $72 per year, with the first four months free.
My Minutes: This is a personal time management app for iPhones and Android. If you find you can’t stay focused on the most important tasks throughout the day — or you’re wasting too much time on Facebook or browsing the web — My Minutes can help you stay grounded. With this app, you set a goal (for example, “Spend only one hour checking email” or “Work out for 30 minutes”), and the app will let you know when you’re finished. The app costs $2.99 for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
OmniFocus: Here’s another excellent task management and scheduling app for iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watch. OmniFocus shows users what’s due and when, reviews completed tasks and syncs between your phone and desktop. It’s on the pricey side, though, so make sure to test it out before purchasing it. The standard iPhone version costs $39.99 and $59.98 for Pro, while the Mac desktop application costs $39.99 for standard and $79.99 for Pro.
TripIt: The TripIt app consolidates your travel plans into a single itinerary, making it easy for any jet-setting entrepreneur to stay atop of his or her travel plans. The application manages all your travel information, regardless of what website you use to purchase your ticket. You just need to forward all of your travel emails to TripIt, which then forms a master itinerary that can be accessed at any time and on any device.
Through TripIt, you can check departure times, directions to the airport and even weather reports. The app will notify you about any delays. TripIt’s most basic app is free, but there is also a TripIt Pro version for $49 a year and TripIt for Teams for $29 a month (for up to 10 users). Both plans come with a 30-day free trial. The app works on iPhones, iPads, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7, as well as Macs and PCs.
Expensify: Keeping track of your expenses while on a business trip can be a big headache. Expensify makes the entire process a lot less painful. You can link your credit or debit card to your Expensify account so charges are directly placed on an expense report. If you’d rather not do this, you can take pictures of your receipts using your phone and Expensify will automatically extract the relevant information from the receipts. You can then make an expense report yourself, which only takes a few minutes. Expensify costs $5 to $9 a month per active account for team and corporate users, and companies with over 1,000 employees can get custom pricing. The app works on all phones, including iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone and on all desktops.
PayPal: This is a convenient platform with which to pay people and get paid, something you’ll have to do a lot of as a small-business owner. PayPal lets you link your credit and debit accounts and other bank accounts to your PayPal account, thereby making transactions quick and painless. PayPal reacted to the emergence of Square (more on that app below) by creating an app that lets businesses use an iPad and PayPal’s card reader as a portable register.
PayPal’s standard merchant service plan is free and allows you to accept credit cards and PayPal on your site and in store. The Pro plan costs $30 per month and comes with added features, including the ability to host and customize online checkout (both options charge 2.7% per swipe for mobile and in-store payments and 3.5% plus 15 cents for manually entered sales, and 2.9% plus 30 cents for online payments and invoicing).
PayPal also offers small-business loans to companies that have processed payments with PayPal for at least three months and have at least $20,000 in PayPal sales within a year.
Square: This payment app uses a small, portable credit card and debit card reader to help make transactions fast and convenient. Square is great for businesses such as food trucks, beauty salons and retail shops. Your business will be charged 2.75% of every swipe, which will be docked from the purchase automatically and reflected in your bank account on the following day. So if you sell a burrito for $10, you’ll see a net gain of $9.725 in your bank account.
Square also offers a contactless and chip reader for mobile payments such as Apple Pay, which costs $49 upfront and 2.75% per transaction. Larger businesses with annual revenue over $250,000 can contact Square for custom pricing. This app works on all devices and operating systems.
Gusto: The entire payroll, taxes and benefits process is streamlined online for employers with Gusto, formerly known as ZenPayroll. The company currently serves over 25,000 clients. Besides online employee onboarding, Gusto automatically reports new hires to the government, handles all local, state and federal tax filings, automates deductions for benefits and workers’ comp payments, and emails digital pay stubs to employees.
Gusto charges a base price of $29 per month and $6 a month per person, so a business with 10 employees would pay $89 per month.
Boxmeup: A free Android app, Boxmeup organizes and tracks your packages and/or containers. It allows you to print the proper QR labels, which you can scan, allowing you to pull up a list of items in the container on your phone at any time. Using Boxmeup, you’ll also be able to search all of your containers to find a specific item. Unfortunately, there isn’t an iPhone app out there, although you can access Boxmeup’s mobile website using an iPhone.
Evernote: This is the app for syncing notes across mobile and desktop devices. If you’re just starting out with your small business, you’re probably going to be bombarded with advice from every angle. Evernote serves as a great space in which to organize these nuggets of wisdom.
Evernote’s free version lets users upload up to 60 megabytes of data per month. The Plus version costs $24.99 per year but features monthly uploads of 1 gigabyte and allows you to access notes when you’re offline and save emails into Evernote. The Premium version costs $49.99 per year and offers 10 GB of data per month and many other features. Evernote for business costs $12 per user per month (free 30-day trial). It includes all of the premium features but comes with added team and administrative features such as document sharing and notebooks to share important information with employees.
KanbanFlow: On KanbanFlow, a web-based app, managers can assign tasks to their colleagues, upload documents and schedule due dates. KanbanFlow visualizes your workflow and simplifies communication among team members. What’s more, KanbanFlow’s basic version is free and works on most smartphones and PCs and Macs. The premium version costs $5 per user per month and comes with features such as file attachments, revision history and a cumulative flow diagram that lets you analyze your work history. To get the premium version, first sign up for a free account, then click on the “get premium” button at the bottom right corner of the board.
In a league of their own
Dropbox: Boasting about 400 million users, Dropbox is the most popular platform on which to store and share files on the cloud. Though Dropbox could probably benefit any small business, its services are especially useful for companies that have telecommuters and need a reliable way to share information. For individuals, Dropbox offers a basic plan for free and a pro plan for $9.99 per month, and for teams, the business plan is $15 per user monthly. Dropbox offers free trials and works on all devices and operating systems.
Mailchimp: If you’re looking to send better email, Mailchimp is a must. This email marketing tool helps you manage your mailing lists and easily create newsletters to send to your subscribers. With this tool, you can build and customize email templates, build a list of subscribers, send out campaigns and view reports of how your emails perform. With this information, you can learn more about your customers and send them more relevant emails in the future. Mailchimp pricing depends on the number of subscribers you have, and it’s free to send up to 12,000 emails per month if you have up to 2,000 subscribers.
Polaris Office: With Polaris Office, you can manage Microsoft Office files from the road; it serves as a reliable alternative to Apple’s iWork. You’ll be able to edit, create and sync Microsoft Office files on your phone or device. The basic version is free, while the business version costs $6.99 per month.
For free, personalized answers to questions about financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.
NerdWallet staff writer Tony Armstrong contributed to this article.