“What’s the number one small business management software that you can’t live without?”
When I posed this question to my network, 115 small business owners replied with their favorite tools and the incredible ROI they’ve gotten from using them.
I’ve shortened the list — because let’s face it, no one has the time to go through all 66 tools. In no particular order of popularity, here are the ten small business management software tools mentioned the most.
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Whether you’re looking for a robust inventory management system or you’re aiming to improve your project workflow and impress your clients, these ten business software tools will help you do the trick.
For easier reference, I’ve grouped them into four categories:
- Project management
- Invoicing and bookkeeping
- All-in-one suites
- Marketing and sales
Let’s dig in.
Top small business management tools for project management
Let’s face the facts: Managing your projects on spreadsheets only works when you run a small team.
If you work in a bigger team, it’s time to invest in a proper project management software tool for effective team collaboration. How else will you get everyone on the same page and prevent those pesky emails?
Use it to: Manage your freelance business or side project.
Pricing: Upbeat offers both a free and premium version of their product. The premium is $6/month, paid annually. You can also purchase Upbeat as a lifetime deal on AppSumo for $49.
Most project management tools are built to help teams stay more productive together. But what about solopreneurs, freelancers, and self-managers? If you want a powerful and personal productivity tool, then you may want to consider Upbase.
Upbase is designed for solos and small teams. It offers all the features most of us look for in project management software, including kanban boards, calendar view, to-do lists, and docs. Plus, while it’s designed for small and one-person operations, Upbeat makes it easy to onboard clients or other team members for the occasional collaboration.
Upbase boasts a simple user interface to speed up your workflow. As one AppSumo customer put it:
“I’m using Upbase to track my side projects, and I love how I can keep all of the stuff in one place. I plan my tasks & schedule them in Upbase, and also keep my documentation/thoughts in Upbase’s documents. Upbase is off to a great start, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.” — AppSumo reviewer
Use it to: Streamline multiple complex projects that involve different team members.
Pricing: Free plan available. Paid plans start at $10.99 per month per user, billed annually.
If you want to manage tasks across different projects without dropping a Slack message here and there, look no further than Asana.
This project management tool allows you to communicate with collaborators, set tasks and deadlines for individual members, and share files and updates all in one place. It also boasts an impressive template library.
With Asana, you can create separate threads for specific projects. This means that members outside of these projects won’t ever receive irrelevant notifications in their dashboard.
Another cool feature of Asana? You can view project status in various ways: Lists, boards, Gantt charts, your pick.
Chris Post, President of 2M Locating, is a fan of this feature and credits it as one of the reasons behind his smooth collaboration with co-workers:
“I’m a ‘list person’. My operations manager is a ‘board person’. We don’t have to force one way on anyone, as Asana allows our team to view the same information in the visual manner that best suits them.” — Chris Post, President of 2M Locating
Simply put, Asana is collaborative task management at its best.
Use it to: Manage simple projects with small teams.
Pricing: Free plan available. Paid plans start at $9.99 per user per month, billed annually.
Trello works similarly to Asana — that is, in terms of scheduling and organizing tasks, tracking progress, and assigning them to relevant team members.
One of the significant differences between these two project management rivals? Asana is more suited for managing multiple complex projects. Trello, on the other hand, works better for more straightforward one-off projects.
With its accessible UX and customizable templates, it’s easy to get started on Trello right away.
Just take it from Trond Nyland. Immediately after using the workflow management tool, the founder and CEO of Mattress Review noticed a big improvement in his productivity.
Back then, it would take him five working days to create long-form content. With Trello, it takes only two to three days.
“We realized fewer tasks fall through the cracks after using Trello. In the past, 10-15% of work inevitably got lost somewhere along the way. This doesn’t happen anymore.” — Trond Nyland, Founder and CEO of Mattress Review
We wrote a detailed comparison guide on Asana and Trello. If you want to learn more about their specific features, check it out.
Use it to: Manage workflows and speed up the project approval process for big teams.
Pricing: 14-day free trial available. Paid plans start at $45 for unlimited users per month, billed annually.
Proofhub may not be a household name like Asana and Trello, but this underdog’s worth a look as it gets the job done efficiently.
One of Proofhub’s best features is its user-friendly online proofing tool. Annotating files takes a few clicks. You’ll never have to experience endless rounds of revision as Proofhub’s markup and file versioning tools simplify the project review process.
Note: Asana also offers online proofing, but it’s only available for Business and Enterprise plans (they charge per user). Proofhub allows you to add as many users as you want without paying extra.
Other stand-out features of Proofhub include built-in time tracking, Gantt charts, and customizable project templates.
Use it to: Store, organize, and modify information in spreadsheets format.
Pricing: Free plan available. Paid plans start $10 per user per month, paid annually.
If you’re a “spreadsheets person” and you’re outgrown Excel or Google Sheets, take a look at Airtable.
This part spreadsheet, part database tool allows you to store different data types in a cell. Want to attach a document or image? It takes only a few clicks.
You can use Airtable in numerous ways.
Plan your editorial calendar, log interactions with customers, track your physical assets, you get the picture. You don’t even need to create these spreadsheets from scratch, as Airtable provides them in its template library.
Deya Aliaga, the Digital Business Manager and Founder at DBM Bootcamp, uses Airtable to keep track of her entire business:
“My team no longer comes to me to ask questions about finding X or Y. They know it all lives in Airtable. As a business owner, that has saved me SO much time and mental energy.” — Deya Aliaga, Digital Business Manager and Founder at DBM Bootcamp
Are you looking for a spreadsheet-based collaboration tool for your team and clients? Airtable is your ticket to get there.
Top small business management tools for invoicing and bookkeeping
Hair pulling. Nail-biting. These are the side effects of doing your books when you have little patience in bookkeeping. Fortunately, these popular accounting software tools are here to save the day.
Use it to: Maintain your bookkeeping records with your in-house or freelance bookkeeper.
Pricing: 30-day free trial. Paid plans start $25 per month (50% off for three months).
Quickbooks lets you do everything from sending invoices to managing cash flow and analyzing your financial statements.
Julia Spahiu, founder and CFO of Edi and Sienna Group, picks Quickbooks as her favorite accounting solution as it comes with extensive features.
“Quickbooks has a fuller package. You can also run payroll and get workers compensation insurance, which makes it easier when you’re reconciling your accounts at the end of the month.”Julia Spahiu, Founder and CFO of Edi and Sienna Group
A word of caution: Quickbooks comes with a steep learning curve. Unless you work with a professional bookkeeper or accountant, it’s best to skip it and opt for a simpler option (I’ll get to this in a minute).
Joel Miller, founder of The Sky Floor, gives the nod to Quickbooks, because it helps him free up more time for sales:
“I can’t live without Quickbooks. Legit. Without it, we couldn’t have grown our business on average 30% year-over-year for the last five years.” — Joel Miller, Founder of The Sky Floor
Complicated or not, we can’t deny the fact that Quickbooks’ a powerful bookkeeping tool.
Use it to: Send invoices and maintain bookkeeping records on your own.
Pricing: 30-day free trial. Paid plans start $6 per month, billed annually. Currently offers a limited time 50% offer for three months.
Freshbooks makes financial management easy as pie.
Like all bookkeeping tools, Freshbooks helps make sure you’re financially on track.
This beginner-friendly tool allows you to send invoices in seconds and offers various essential features such as expense tracking, time tracking, and reporting.
It’s extremely easy to understand Freshbooks’ profitability dashboard. Right away, you can tell if your business is making progress.
Steve Toth, Founder of SEO Notebook, prefers Freshbooks over other bookkeeping tools as it’s built with business owners in mind, and not accountants:
“Invoicing is so easy — it just works.” — Steve Toth, Founder of SEO Notebook
That said, give Freshbooks a shot if you’re new to bookkeeping.
Top small business management tools for all-in-one suites
For the time-conscious business owner, managing everything in a single platform has a massive impact on productivity. Here are two all-in-one tools that will improve your business processes for good.
8. Zoho One
Use it to: Streamline different departments (e.g. sales, marketing, support, human resources, etc.) in one platform.
Pricing: 30-day free trial available. Paid plans start at $30 per employee per month, billed annually.
Zoho One is an all-in-one management system that enables you to track every aspect of your business.
Boasting 40+ integrated applications, you can easily manage and automate multiple processes across your entire organization.
SalesIQ allows you to see how customers behave on your website. Books enables you to track and prepare your finances. And Social helps you to grow your presence on social media. And these are just a few of its standout features.
Shane Dutka, a digital entrepreneur, recommends Zoho One to small business owners, especially those looking to streamline their eCommerce stores:
“The best aspect of Zoho One is its operations feature. It allows us to select the warehouse that is physically closest to the customer when they purchase an item. This has saved us tens of thousands of dollars in shipping costs and allowed us to get our products to our customers faster. Before using Zoho One, we had no way of automating this process.” — Shane Dutka, Digital Entrepreneur
Overwhelmed by your messy business workflows? Zoho One could be the one-stop management solution you need.
9. G Suite
Source: G Suite
Use it to: Oversee essential tasks from emailing to running meetings and creating documents and spreadsheets in one complete business management solution.
Pricing: 14-day free trial available. Paid plans start at $6 per user per month.
G Suite provides the essentials to get your business up and running, and at an affordable price to boot.
You get your professional email address, run meetings with your teams and clients, and collaborate on files in real-time.
Michael Dean, Co-Founder at Pool Research, points out best:
“What I love about G Suite is that all the tools are packaged as one. I don’t like having to use different tools and platforms for different purposes, because for each new tool, you have to learn the ins and outs, the features, and how to use it effectively. With G Suite, everything we need is right there, and it’s easy for my team and me to understand.” — Michael Dean, Co-Founder at Pool Research
Use it to: Consolidating your accounting, invoicing, payroll, CRM, and more in one place.
Pricing: Startup plans start at $29 per month per power user.
Running a business is complex. You have to:
- Get new leads & convert them to paid customers
- Process and fulfill orders on time
- Send invoices and get paid on time
- Keep bills and expenses in check
- Ensure proper staffing
- Pay your staff and contractors on time
- Comply with local, federal and tax laws
- Track and anticipate customer interactions
How many apps do you need for all of the above? Just one!
Deskera simplifies & automates day to day running of your business. From your laptop, tablet or phone. And it comes with multiple features like custom fields, custom pipelines and template designer should you want to tweak the system and make it your own.
“Saves tremendous human efforts and book-keeping is also easy. Has allowed me to do the accounting, take care of the team, manage employee leaves, keep track of deals, resource management and whatnot, that too all so very efficiently. Plus the dashboard also allows me to switch between tabs and work on different things all at once, this is really time saving.” – Sharon Pinto, Trust Pilot
Top small business management tools for marketing and sales
It takes a lot of work to capture attention from prospects with great content and follow up with leads who are giving us the cold shoulder. Lucky for you, these two software tools got your back.
Use it to: Create SEO-driven content and analyze and build backlinks, especially if content marketing is part of your inbound strategy.
Pricing: 7-day trial costs $7. Paid plans start at $82 a month + two months free, billed annually.
Ahrefs is a must-have tool if you want to grow your small business organically.
This SEO powerhouse software solution allows you to monitor your competitors and identify the type of content you need to create to blow them out of the water.
James Canzanella, owner of Isolated Marketing Nights, does this by finding low-competition keywords on Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and Keyword Explorer.
“Ahrefs shows the changes I need to make on my website. It ensures that my site is working as smoothly as possible from the technical side of things. I’m surprised that I went for so long without the software because it gives you such an unfair advantage.” — James Canzanella, Owner of Isolated Marketing Nights
Here’s a blog post he wrote that landed on the first page of Google:
12. Hubspot CRM
Use it to: Manage sales pipeline, respond to customer support issues, and track emails from clients using shared inbox.
Pricing: Starts free. Paid plans start at $40 per two users per month, billed annually.
Hubspot is a giant in the world of B2B marketing and sales, and client management is where it shines.
With Hubspot CRM software, you can do all things marketing and sales like scheduling sales emails, and monitoring how contacts behave on your website.
Hubspot might be overkill for solo freelancers, but for small businesses that want to create a VIP experience for each customer? It shouldn’t be overlooked.
Hubspot CRM’s free plan includes a variety of attractive features: Contact management, prospect tracking, pipeline management, and email marketing. Upgrade to its premium plan, and you’ll unlock additional features like live chat and AI bots.
When Autobead launched its B2B trade offerings, co-founder James Ford and his team sent a bunch of cold emails to car detailing professionals. Citing HubSpot CRM as the “core component” of its sales campaign, the company’s sales skyrocketed:
“We used Hubspot CRM and integrated Zapier. The Zapier integration allows us to nurture the list of interested parties by driving them to an Eventbrite sign up form. Hubspot then records their profile, which we used to trigger follow-up emails and offers. We’ve had a 10X ROI on our investment every month.” — James Ford, Co-founder at Autobead
Stay at the top of your entrepreneurial game
Phew! That was a lot, wasn’t it?
We’ve covered the 12 business apps that help you grow your small business in areas spanning across project management, invoicing and bookkeeping, all-in-one suites, and marketing and sales.
Let’s quickly recap on their best use cases:
- Upbase: Manage your tasks, calendar, docs, files, chat—all in one place. Grab lifetime access to Upbase at AppSumo for $49.
- Deskera: SMB business owners, multiple entities or feel as though they have too many apps and integrations.
- Asana: Streamline multiple complex projects that involve different team members.
- Trello: Manage simple projects with small teams.
- Proofhub: Manage workflows and speed up the approval process for big teams.
- Airtable: Store, organize, and modify information in spreadsheets format.
- Quickbooks: Maintain your bookkeeping records with your in-house or freelance bookkeeper.
- Freshbooks: Send invoices and maintain bookkeeping records on your own.
- Zoho One: Streamline different departments (e.g. sales, marketing, support, human resources, etc.) in one platform.
- G Suite: Oversee essential tasks from emailing to running meetings and creating documents and spreadsheets in one complete business management solution.
- Ahrefs: Create SEO-driven content and analyze and build backlinks, especially if content marketing is part of your inbound strategy.
- Hubspot CRM: Manage sales pipeline, respond to customer support issues, and track emails from clients.
Ready to move beyond the startup phase to grow a successful business?
You know what to do.