This post is in partnership with Entrepreneur. The article below was originally published at Entrepreneur.com.
By Matt Keener, President of Keener Marketing Solutions
Productivity is the name of the game for entrepreneurs. The good news is that there are thousands of amazing software applications out there, designed to make your life easier. The bad news is that you don’t have time to try thousands of software applications. Which ones are worth your time?
In this post, we’ll take a look at 16 software applications that I use almost every day — and discuss why you should too.
You’re a busy person. At times, it all can feel overwhelming. Asana is a cloud-based project management software that helps you keep it together. (Trust me, I’ve tried them all.) Flexibility is built into Asana’s architecture. Each “task”, or “subtask”, can be associated with a larger “project” and “department.” In addition, you can even assign recurring tasks to yourself or team, which makes life so much easier. Stop trying to remember all the things you’re supposed to do and let Asana structure your life.
2. Google Docs
Many entrepreneurs already have a Gmail address, but not every ‘trep knows about the power of Google Docs. By utilizing Google Docs, you can instantly create shareable documents, spreadsheets and presentations that can be updated by any team member with an Internet connection. Take that “track changes”!
3. oDesk & Elance
oDesk and Elance (now in the process of merging) are freelance marketplaces, which allow you to quickly identify, engage and hire freelancers from all over the globe. Need a website developer or content writer? Don’t hire an employee; instead, work with a freelancer. At last count, there were more than 1 million freelance contractors available via these marketplaces.
4. Outsourcing placement services.
If you do much hiring of freelancers, you’ve probably considered outsourcing the outsourcing. There are several great services that can help, each with varying business models. For example, Bolton Remotewill build your team with vetted, offshore contractors. Another provider,Hubstaff, starts with your project in mind and then matches you with project specialists. Using an outsourcing placement service will save time instead of trying to do the recruiting yourself. These firms typically offer free recruiting and placement services but take a cut of the hourly rate.
Sales & Marketing
5. Google Webmaster Tools.
Everyone knows about Google Analytics, but are you using Google Webmaster Tools? As a marketer, I view Webmaster Tools as one of the most important free tools at my disposal. You want to get found on Google, right? Why not listen to what Google is telling you via Webmaster Tools?
6. Google Adwords Keyword Planner
How are your competitors getting found online? Google Adwords Keyword Planner helps you answer this question. The word “Adwords” may give some ‘treps pause, as it sounds like you will have to purchase advertising. Not true. Google has made its Keyword Planner tool available to anyone with a Google account (you must first click through the Adwords entry portal). Use the Adwords Keyword Planner to see what keywords are generating the most search volume in your niche and identify opportunities to capture traffic.
7. WordPress CMS
Sure, all of the hosting companies offer a basic CMS (content management system). But do they offer the flexibility that you need to get found online? Probably not. WordPress is an open-source CMS that you can install, customize and continuously optimize. You will likely need someone with development experience to help with set up, but once the template is installed, you’re probably smart enough to publish content without any assistance.
8. Amazon’s Self-Publishing Tools (Kindle Direct Publishing, Createspace, ACX)
Always wanted to be an author but not sure where to start? Have you considered self-publishing? Thanks to Amazon, you can. Kindle Direct Publishing allows you to get the word out via e-books, CreateSpacehelps you develop a print edition and ACX is the audio publishing division. I’ve used all three to develop my book.
Deciding what to blog about can become time consuming. HitTailanalyzes the data in your Google Webmaster Tools account and makes recommendations for long-tail words to write about. In addition, HitTail has a network of skilled writers who can create the content for you.
If you outsource any or all of your content writing, you need to make sure your content is original. Paste content into Copyscape’s analyzer tool, and you’ll instantly know whether the content is original.
Effective email marketing involves more than occasionally blasting out a newsletter. To build an effective email marketing strategy, you need a tool packed with functionality. MailChimp seems to be the best system out there, offering elegant, intuitive newsletter templates, advanced list segmentation features and marketing automation capabilities.
12. Zoho CRM
If you’re looking for a free CRM system, Zoho is probably the one for you. Why? It comes down to the integration possibilities. For example, Zoho integrates with JotForm and Unbounce simply by adding your API key. This means that within seconds, web leads will automatically be sent to your CRM. Pretty powerful for being free.
13. iPhone Reminders
I formerly had an Android device (even though I have had a MacBook since 2009 – weird, I know). After switching this summer, I quickly realized the power of iPhone “Reminders.” Each time a reminder is due, your iPhone buzzes and displays a pop-up. You can snooze it or mark as completed. In addition, you can set up recurring reminders, which are perfect for remembering to mail estimated quarterly tax payments, renewing subscriptions, running payroll and other things you tend to forget.
14. Google Calendar
You may already use Google Calendar, but are you using it wisely? Here’s a secret: only put stuff on your Google Calendar that will actually happen at that date and time. Use iPhone Reminders to remember things that are not time-sensitive (down to the hour or minute). Following this strategy will help you stay more sane.
Need to send gigantic files (up to 2gb) quickly? Try WeTransfer.com. You don’t even have to create an account. I use it almost every day.
The average entrepreneur uses dozens of cloud-based software and apps. Zapier connects your online life and helps you build new functionality. The best part about Zapier is that you don’t have to be an API wizard to use it.
With the right tools in place, you’ll find yourself more productive and efficient.