As I write this, the holiday season is in full swing. Anyone with a product or service to sell is marketing like crazy. Just take a look at your postal mailbox and your email for proof. It takes extra effort just to sort through all that for what you need. Along with the day-to-day activity of running your business there are the year-end things to think about; estimated tax payments, retirement account contributions, health insurance, getting your books up to date, etc. Add to that holiday preparations; travel, decorating, shopping, baking, etc. Overwhelmed? The more overwhelmed we are, the less productive we are because we lose focus. The less productive we are, the more stressed we become.
Software subscriptions out of control?
Tame them with these simple steps
Online software subscriptions are all the rage. They’re pretty much how I run my business, and there are some great tools out there. But the phrase “buyer beware” applies as much here as it does elsewhere, and I have to say I’ve learned some hard lessons over the years. Here are a few things I do to save money and make sure I’m in control of my subscriptions, not the other way around.
Set calendar reminders
We all get busy, and whether you have just one subscription or several that automatically renew, it can be hard to keep track of renewal dates. Creating calendar reminders that alert you a few days ahead of a renewal date gives you a chance to review the subscription before your credit card is charged to see if you need to:
Cancel because you no longer use it. Sometimes subscription use falls by the wayside, so periodic review is always a good idea. Only a few companies offer a partial refund when you cancel a subscription in the middle of a billing cycle, and there’s nothing worse than paying for something you don’t use or need.
Review your subscription level. If you still need the software but aren’t using all the bells and whistles, you can often downgrade to a less expensive option.
Beware the annual subscription
Many software companies offer discounts when you pay for a year in advance, even throwing in a couple of months for free. Don’t be in a hurry to do this. Many companies are reluctant to issue mid-year refunds, so if you have to cancel mid-year, you can lose a lot of money. And sometimes, you have no choice but to cancel. Companies can make changes to their software during the course of a subscription, and what began as a useful tool for your business can suddenly become a handicap. This happened to me with my project management software recently, and I was forced to stop what I was doing midstream and find different software because it had such a negative impact on my productivity.
Watch the webinar
Before subscribing to online software services, take the time to sign up for a free trial and the free introductory webinars. Webinars are usually 30-60 minutes long and go a long way toward helping you decide if a product is right for you. In addition, if you decide to subscribe, you’ll already be a step ahead of the game since you’ll already know how to put the software to work for you.
Time taken to research and review your software subscription plans is time wisely spent. Just like the old saying goes, “Short-term pain, long-term gain.”
Tame your software subscriptions with these simple steps.
I’ve been asked to share how I automate some of my business processes. However, I will start by saying that what works for me, may not work for you. But I do hope you can apply my example to your own business situation. Remember, it’s all about choosing the right tools to best serve your ideal client.
The contact request form on my website adds a contact record to my CRM (contact relationship manager) software as well as QuoteRoller, the software I use to prepare proposals for prospective clients. The proposal is emailed to the client and another application, RightSignature, is used for electronic signature acceptance of the proposal.
Did you notice no printing of paper was involved in this process? Even better than that, only a minimal amount of typing was involved.
By narrowly defining the services I provide, I was able to set up a catalog of services in QuoteRoller so that preparing a client proposal is done with a few mouse clicks and minimal editing.
By choosing software tools that integrate AND understanding how that data is shared, I set up a reliable and accurate business system that supports my business process. If client information changes, I update ONE system and the rest automatically get updated.
Where should you start building your business system? Start with documenting your business processes and then think about what tools you need in order to support and automate those processes. Please do not over think this. Keep it simple! Focus on the tools and processes you need in order to best serve your ideal client. I wrote about software integration here.
By the way, most of the links in this post are affiliate links which means I may earn a few coins if you sign up via my link. It is no way effects the price YOU pay for the subscription. I only support software that I firmly believe are solid products. This is also not an all inclusive list of the tools I use for my business. If you peruse my blog, you can read about some of the other tools I use.
If you’d like help with this process, get in touch. I’d be happy to assist.
I confess. I used to use Microsoft Word to prepare client proposals. I dreaded preparing them even though it meant bringing in new business. I copied the last proposal I did and carefully changed all client name references, dates, fees, etc. And then I read, re-read, and re-read the proposal to make sure I didn’t overlook anything. It took forever. When I finally overcame the fear there was something I forgot to change, I emailed the proposal to the prospective client. And then I had to wait for the client to open the file, read it, print it, sign it, scan it, and finally (hopefully) email it back to me.
From Inefficiency to Efficiency
And then I found QuoteRoller. I could add my client’s contact information to QuoteRoller. It was easy to create templates to reuse. I could track when the proposal was viewed by the client and, of course, when they accepted it. I could even use the RightSignature integration to get a real live signature instead of an electronic acceptance. I could create and email a proposal to a client using one of the templates I setup in QuoteRoller while we were speaking on the phone and close the deal in short order. Generating proposals for prospective clients became something I no longer dreaded.
QuoteRoller has myriad features to benefit any business. A dashboard allows you to see how many proposals you’ve sent, which ones have been viewed, and what your acceptance rate it. In addition to the text content, you can add pictures and videos to your proposals. And clients can ask questions or make comments on your proposal. In other words, you can wow your clients and win the job.
What’s Your Time Worth?
We business owners try to accomplish too much each and every day. Using QuoteRoller to prepare proposals will save you time and allow you to use your valuable time more efficiently. The basic subscription to QuoteRoller starts at $14.99 for a monthly plan, $8.99 per month for an annual plan. Even if you currently only prepare a couple proposals a month, as CEO of a business, your time is certainly worth $14.99. Isn’t it?
*This post contains an affiliate link.
The main point Simon made was that people don’t buy what your business does; they buy why you do it. That got me to thinking about why I do what I do.
I accidentally started my business in early 2010 after losing my full time job two weeks before Christmas. As that was in the midst of the recession and I live in a small town, there were no jobs to apply for. So I started responding to ads on Craig’s List posted by small businesses needing occasional help with their bookkeeping. I also stumbled on an opportunity to serve as a mentor at Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET) that brought in clients as well. Work also came along in the way of part-time jobs, mostly temporary. Somehow I made ends meet. And suddenly I had a business. I made mistakes along the way of course, and learned many things along the way. Continuing education is something I engage in every week in the form of podcasts, webinars, and lots of reading. My business slowly evolved from just wanting to earn a living to looking for the best ways to serve my clients.
My goal is to take the confusion and frustration out of small business accounting by providing training and ongoing accounting services. Small business accounting isn’t just about QuickBooks any more. Cloud based software offers many tools for running a business. I believe in choosing just the right tools, balancing necessity and cost, to streamline all of the administrative tasks (including accounting) of a business.
As I continue on the journey of being a business owner it is my hope that I find more and better ways to serve the small business community.
Why do YOU do it?