How to Run a Small Business With Nothing But a Smartphone
Lately, I’ve noticed something about the successful small businesses in my town. The majority of them are either ahead of the technology curve, or neck-and-neck with the big box stores I sometimes frequent. That’s because they know how to compete.
Here’s an example: right now, every business that accepts credit card payments is required to convert to EMV (Europay Mastercard Visa) for security reasons. Plenty of the successful small businesses around town have already implemented EMV, while the big guys are lagging. The small guys are taking advantage of their flexibility to make changes. It’s built into their model.
Running a successful business is about being resourceful and flexible. That can mean problem-solving situations on the go—which is where your cellphone comes in. But have you ever thought about ditching the laptop, the PC, even the tablet, and conducting all your business via smartphone? Talk about ultimate flexibility.
It’s possible. In a survey for Google by Forbes Insights, nine out of ten executives said they used smartphones for business even while they’re in the office. 10 percent said they used nothing but their smartphone.
The plus side is this means a lot of freedom. There’s WiFi pretty much everywhere. It also means less overhead. It’s the ultimate BYOD.
The downside is you may find yourself literally attached at the hip to your business. But doesn’t email on your smartphone attach you to work anyhow? This question gets at the heart of what it is to be an entrepreneur, a business owner, or a freelancer. How do you manage your business and technological resources in such a way as to be successful while maintaining your sanity?
Manage your time and organize your priorities
You can take advantage of any number of time management apps. If you’re operating on iOS, My Minutes enables you to track how much time you’re spending on specific tasks and set a limit. This could help kill the constant email-checking. In a similar fashion, Rescue Time runs in the background and generates reports on how you’re using your time. Then, you can tell it to block sites and apps that are wasting your time (you know which ones those are).
Freshbooks combines time tracking and finances. With it, you’re able to track how much time you and your team are spending on projects. Then, you can use it to do billing and accounting. This is especially good for those of us who bill by the hour, not the project.
Organization is tough when you’re running a business. Picture a desk brimming with documents and doo-dads. If you’re running things with a smartphone, that picture disappears.
Mailbox for iOS and Android takes all your email accounts, combines them, and lets you swipe to organize. You can also hide emails that aren’t as important, rescheduling them for later (or not at all).
Meanwhile, Remember the Milk works with Google, Gmail, Outlook, Evernote, and Twitter to generate to-do lists and help you manage tasks. This is the end-all-be-all of list-making, with options to customize and organize by priority, due date, and time required.
Do it yourself
It doesn’t hurt to know how to repair your own phone. Water damage is common. If you have an iPhone, the water damage repair guide recommends not using rice to soak up the water. Rice leaves behind particles that are just as disruptive to the phone as water. Instead of rice, use a lint-free cloth to whisk away water, remove the SIM card and battery, and leave the opened phone upside-down on a towel for at least 24 hours.
Build your site
Another thing you can do yourself, from your phone, is build a website. Joosee and DudaMobile both have easy-to-use platforms for building a mobile site. Chances are you’ve heard of responsive design. It makes your site look good on any size screen. Platforms such as Joosee build with HTML5, rendering your site responsive from the get-go. Since you’ll be doing this on a smartphone, you’ll be adhering to one of the primary tenets of responsive design, which is to focus on mobile first. Doing so ensures it will look great on small screens. Scaling up to larger tablet and PC screens is easy for responsive design to do. Scaling from large to small is harder.
Want to build a more complex, customized, and professional site? Here are some videos on how to do just that, without knowing any programming.
Manage your documents
I’ll be honest, doing documents on a smartphone is weird if you’re used to a bigger screen and a keyboard. But you can do it. Being able means you spend less on devices and get more work done than the competition because you can do it anywhere.
Start with cloud storage. Options here include Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox Business, and Microsoft OneDrive, among many. With any one of these, you can store and share documents and files. But you’ll want to be able to create and edit docs, too.
Thankfully, there are word processing apps for this. What you choose will, of course, depend on what type of smartphone you have. Apple’s Pages is part of the iWork suite—if you have an iPhone you already have it. You can get the Microsoft Office suite free now for iOS and Android. Writer Pro for iOS will help you do some serious creation, but it will cost you.
Further, you’ll want to be able to sign, scan, and fax documents. If you’re a Google adherent, HelloSign may be all you need for signing. Cudasign has the advantage of allowing you to create a URL of the document and post it to your website. For scanning, Evernote’s Scannable is easy to use and well-designed. You’ll need Evernote, which integrates with Scannable, and is another great tool for everything document.
As far as faxing goes, if you’re using Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box, RingCentral Fax lets you fax directly from the cloud.
Brand and market your business
In a discussion on the evolving meaning of brands, branding strategist Rod Parkes says, “The brand owner can no longer dictate the meaning of the brand—the customer defines this, and today’s customers cannot be so easily told what to think.” The nice thing about running your business with a smartphone is you can be ultra-flexible and agile. You can adapt your brand to what the consumer is looking for in your niche.
One of the most important aspects of branding is your image. The images you use in your website content and on social media say a great deal about your brand’s identity. With Photoshop Touch for smartphones, you can get artistic with your brand by enhancing, editing, and combining images. You can also add effects and text, as well as sync images to Adobe Creative Cloud.
To get your brand out there, take advantage of the plethora of marketing apps. Buffer and Nutshell Mail are all about optimizing your social media presence through automated posting and staying up to date. With Movable Ink, you can send newsletter emails with dynamic, personalized content, which includes streaming feeds. With Final Cut Pro, edit videos you shoot on your smartphone to take your video marketing to the professional level. And Social Engage is an analytics tool for discovering valuable information on your customer demographic.
Of course, you can’t do everything on your own. If you’re entirely mobile, with no office, you’ll probably need to hire freelancers—it’s nearly inevitable. Make sure to avoid common mistakes when hiring freelancers. Don’t hire at the wrong time, don’t hire the cheapest people, don’t have unclear expectations, don’t delay payment, and don’t accept fees at face value.
Sell your products
Here’s the final step: if you’re selling online, setup your ecommerce payment gateway; if you’re selling in person, turn your smartphone into a credit card reader.
As far as payment gateways go, you’ll want to choose the one that has a plugin for your eCommerce platform. You’ll want to keep people coming back—Google Wallet has a loyalty program, and Square helps you stay on top of customer information. Amazon Payments lets millions of Amazon customers buy directly from your site. Bitcoin lets you accept payment from anywhere in the world and is highly secure.
In terms of credit card readers, Square’s reader is free, and the app dashboard is customizable. Paypal allows you to accept checks by taking a picture—you can do the same with a credit card if you don’t have the reader handy. And, if you’ve got a team of people selling for you in the field, Intuit GoPayment supports up to fifty users.
That’s it! You’re ready for a mobile business. Just imagine what you’ll be able to do. You’re at the forefront of an increasingly mobile world. Equipped with a smartphone and all the tools you need for running a business, that world is your oyster.
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