10 Ways to Promote Innovation in a Team Environment

10 Ways to Promote Innovation in a Team Environment

“Talent is never static. It’s always growing or dying” – Stephen King

No truer words have ever been uttered.

Regardless if you work in a creative profession like writing, painting or architecture; or as an entrepreneur trying to find creative new tactics to bring new customers in, innovation’s important in all aspects of running a business.

And why take on the entire creative load yourself when you have an entire team you’re paying to bring results to the table?

Here are 10 ways to encourage more innovation from your team, starting tomorrow:

Promote Innovation in a Team Environment

1. Give Them a Reason

Namely, by making them an active part of the company. Encouraging innovation requires that every employee feels like they’re an active member of the company’s agendas and future plans.

Invite them to participate, give them permission to say when something isn’t right – ask for better ideas. Obviously, let them know how much you depend on them, how their ideas will lead to bigger paychecks down the line. And keep your word.

2. Continually Stress the Importance of Innovation to the Company

Politely let them know that it’s their job and company 401k on the line if innovation flat-lines in the company. This doesn’t have to be a negative, but rather a positive reason for them to stretch their creative wings and grow into whatever role will await them as your team continues to grow.

3. Have Scheduled Brainstorming Sessions

“If you talk about it, it’s a dream, if you envision it, it’s possible, but if you schedule it, it’s real” – Tony Robbins

Don’t just talk about the need to get creative. Put everyone in a room together at a set time and day – or time of day, every day – and let the innovation juices start to flow. Meetings put lots of different heads together in the same place, encouraging a higher level of suggestions.

Don’t rely on suggestion boxes. They don’t encourage much in the way of smart, creative ideas. People feel more accountable for what they’re saying when it’s in a face to face atmosphere.

4. Train Them to be Innovative

I’m not talking about training them in the same way that you’d train your dog not to go poop-poop in the house here! Teach your team some of these proven innovation techniques and watch your business flourish.

Sometimes bouncing ideas around just isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to bring the hard science into play.

5. Encourage ‘Spying’

Encourage your employees to spend some of their work and after work time checking out the competition. To find out everything they can about how other companies in your industry do things: marketing, service, logistics, etc.

It’s likely that at some point during one of their investigations a light bulb will go off and they and/or your team will come up with better ways for your company to do business.

6. Make Work Habits Part of Their Creative Scrutiny

Sometimes the way you and your employees carry out the day needs to be improved upon just as much as any other aspect of the business. Examine everything, whether it be the order in which tasks are completed or the work schedule itself.

For instance, perhaps Flextime or Telecommuting, at least for a portion of the day or week will help motivate your employees to be more insightful about how to improve the company?

7. Always Support All Ideas, Regardless of Personal Opinions

Plain and simple: Always respond with kindness to all ideas. There are no dumb ideas when it comes to the quest for positive changes.

8. Tolerate Mistakes

Especially when it comes to those which cost money, lawsuits, market-share, etc. If you decide to pull the trigger on an idea that doesn’t work out, you’re equally responsible for the outcome, good or bad.

Suck it up. It takes money to make money and sometimes you lose.

9. Reward Creativity

This can be individual rewards and also rewards for the entire team. Give something back when employees come up with a stellar idea. A free movie night for two (so they can take a friend or spouse), a pizza party or trip to a theme park for the team…

There are limitless ways to reward good ideas.

10. Act on Ideas

“Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time” – Old Chinese proverb

Your team won’t keep feeding you ideas if you don’t have your head and heart in the game. When an idea comes out of the company think tank, take immediate action toward making it happen. Otherwise, they’ll soon learn that their creativity is wasted on you and the flow will soon stop.

Gears Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Ways to Promote Innovation in a Team Environment” was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Ways to Promote Innovation in a Team Environment

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48 Completely Free Invoicing Software Solutions, Not Just Trials

 

invoice solutions

Many business owners have difficulty finding the time to send out their estimates and invoices: Switching to web-based technology can make preparing and sending out invoices a much less tedious task. Web-based technology allows business owners to prepare their invoices online, send them to clients via email or print them to send via the USPS.

Here are 48 completely free online invoicing software applications that are ideal for small businesses. We identified 99 invoicing solutions in total, so if you need something more powerful, also see 51 Premium Invoicing Solutions That Offer Free Trials.

These software applications are designed to assist users in creating, managing and delivering their customer invoices via the Internet.  The majority of these applications also offer printable templates for businesses that prefer to mail their invoices.


Save time, paper and postage by switching to Online Invoicing using any of these 48 Totally Free…
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By switching to online billing, business owners may be able to reduce their overhead costs since their monthly usage of paper, ink, envelopes and stamps should decrease substantially.

Some of the app fees listed below required conversion to U.S. currency rates; therefore, the original prices (that required conversion to U.S. currency) are placed within curly brackets – {}.

Completely Free Invoicing Software Solutions

These are not free trials, but limited invoicing solutions that are free indefinitely. Many of these have very limited free versions, but also offer premium versions. Note that some companies start out offering free accounts and later eliminate them, so keep that in mind when choosing.

Apptivo is a collection of small business management apps, including: CRM, project management, invoicing, and more. The free Starter plan includes up to three users and 50 apps, with contact sharing. The Premium plan is $10/month/user. This plan includes everything in the Starter plan plus Google integration, unlimited customization, all mobile apps, email and payment integration. The Ultimate plan is $25/month/user. It includes everything in the Premium plan plus phone support 24/5 and additional document storage. There is a 30-day free trial for both paid accounts.

Billable is a beta product. When visitors arrive at Billable’s homepage, they receive access to a blank, customizable invoice. Once the visitor finishes customizing the invoice, it can be saved as a PDF and/or printed out. Billable is not yet offering monthly plans or packages.

Brightbook is a free online accounting system designed for the novice. Simplicity at its best. Brightbook allows users to manage their business’ finances online, securely. This accounting system is perfect for small businesses, freelancers and contractors. With Brightbook, businesses can create invoices, upload bills and receipts that have been scanned, track unpaid invoices, get paid online via PayPal; furthermore, the system allows multiple users and has multi-currency capabilities.

CheddarGetter gets points for a catchy, different name. They are aimed at the micro-payments and subscription type businesses. It would work well with other types, but is ideal for individuals who need recurring payments. The Developer plan is free and offers unlimited testing, and integration. The PayPal only plan is $9/month (+$0.25 per transaction). The Blowout plan costs $79/month (+$0.20 per transaction). All plans are initially free, users do not have to pay until they actually begin billing clients. Discounts are available for users who pay their service fee annually (10 percent on the subscription price and 5 percent off of transaction fees).

CloudBooks is an online invoicing tool designed for billing, time tracking and project management. The Free Forever plan allows for a single client. The Team plan is $10/month (unlimited clients and up to five users). The Agency plan is $20/month (unlimited clients and users). The Agency plan is recommended for agencies. CloudBooks offers a 30-day free trial on both of its paid plans. No credit card is required to try the service.

ContraAccounts is a free, advertising supported online business management tool offering invoice management and online accounting software. One of the main benefits of ContraAccounts is that users can input previous payments and expenses; therefore, even if it is halfway through the year, users can start working with this tool immediately.

Due.com is a completely free time tracking and invoicing tool. It runs in the cloud and even integrates with Basecamp project management software, QuickBooks and PayPal. It also includes a calendar and reporting tools to keep users organized and on task. Users can upload their company’s logo to use on their invoices and then embed the invoices into the user’s site; thus, allowing clients to pay online. There is no setup fee and Due.com is available in more than 100 countries. It also supports the majority of their tax systems.

FreshBooks is considered by many to be the market leader in Web-based online invoicing. As cloud-accounting software, it offers the typical standard features, plus time tracking and the ability to manage subcontractors who are also working on a given project. FreshBooks can integrate with other accounting and project management systems, including QuickBooks and Basecamp. They offer a Free plan (some limitations) then plans start at $19.95/month. TJ McCue (who wrote the original version of this post) personally used FreshBooks and found their service to be elegant and easy to use. They have successfully addressed the needs of their customers. (Note: As of 2011, McCue was still using FreshBooks). FreshBooks is very popular with freelancers because they offer Business Payments – an arrangement with PayPal that allows recipients to pay only $0.50 per transaction, as opposed to the usual 2.9+ percent of the amount received plus $0.30 USD when a client pays using PayPal or a checking account (but not a credit card). FreshBooks offers apps for iOS and Android devices: With these mobile apps, users can take pictures of receipts and bill clients from anywhere. There is a 30-day free trial available.

Handdy offers invoicing and accounting tools for small businesses. The Free trial includes the ability to add a logo, send an unlimited number of invoices and access nine months of history. The Premium plan is $5/month: With Handdy’s Premium plan, users can resend unread invoices, enjoy unlimited history viewing. Furthermore, there are no advertisements on the invoices. Users with the Premium plans also receive priority support.

Harvest aka Harvest Solo is a combination project management, time tracking and invoicing tool. There is a Free plan that allows one user, four clients and two projects each month. The Solo plan is for one user and costs $12/month; however, additional users can be added to the Solo plan for $10/month/user. The Basic plan is $49/month (five users – can add four more users to this plan for the additional user charge – unlimited projects, clients and invoicing, plus timesheet approval). The Business plan is $99/month (everything in the Basic plan plus another five users and the ability to add an unlimited number of users for the additional user charge). Harvest integrates with Google Apps and provides users with more than 70 business apps. Users can download Harvest’s free iPhone or Android app: Once downloaded, instead of gathering paper receipts, users can just snap a picture of receipts and store them in their Harvest account. New customers can start with a 30-day free trial on paid accounts. If customers choose to pay annually, they receive a 10 percent discount. Harvest also offers volume discounts for large companies and a 15 percent discount for non-profit, and educational institutions.

Hiveage is a free, brandable, online invoicing tool. Hiveage is supported in 140 countries. The Free Forever plan includes unlimited clients and invoicing, the ability to accept PayPal payments, and multi-currency support. There are four paid plans available. The Starter plan is $19/month (two users), the Basic plan costs $39/month (five users), a Studio plan is $69/month (10 users) and the Company plan is $99/month (20 users). All of the paid plans include additional features and you can try all the features free for 30-days; additionally, customized plans are available starting at $6.95/month.

Hubstaff is a time tracking and invoicing tool for small businesses. By taking screenshots automatically (at random intervals while an employee is on the clock) this app ensures the team members are working. With this app, users can also track payments. Hubstaff creates detailed reports and offers users mobility with its iOS app. Furthermore, Hubstaff integrates with many project management systems to make business management easier. The Free Forever plan allows for a single user with time tracking and limited screenshot storage. The Basic plan is $5/month/user; whereas, the Premium plan costs $9/month/user. Some of the Premium package benefits include weekly budgets, automatic payroll and idle time control.

Inv24.com is a free online invoicing software that allows users to automatically organize and invoice clients, archive invoices, organize inventory, and more. Users can send invoices by email or download PDF versions.

Inveezy.com is a free, quick and easy online invoicing tool. Users can customize invoices with their logos, PayPal or credit card payment options, invoice items/services, choose to send an invoice repeatedly. Users also have the option to send an invoice as a quote, rather than as a bill.

Invoiceable, now Invoicely or InvoiceTo.me is a free online invoicing tool that allows users to create invoices quickly and easily. Users can manage their clients from one place, automate their invoices and receive payments online; in addition, Invoiceable allows users to send invoices using mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones and Androids. There are no limits on any of the features. Users who want to remove Invoiceable’s links from their invoices just pay a one-time fee of $71.57 {£49}.

Invoiceberry offers a Free Forever plan for a single user with three clients: Users can choose from two invoice template designs. The Solo plan is $15/month (two users, up to 35 clients and 15 invoice templates). The Pro plan costs $30/month (unlimited clients and users, as well as 15 invoice templates). Both paid plans offer a 30-day free trial.

Invoiced.com offers a cloud-based invoicing and monthly subscription billing tool. The Startup plan is $29/month. It includes 50 customers and five users. The Growth plan is $99/month. This plan includes 500 customers, unlimited users and phone support. The Business plan is $249/month. It includes 2,000 customers, unlimited users and phone support. The Enterprise plan is designed for businesses that have more than 2,000 customers. Individuals must contact [each of Invoiced.com’s plans offer users the ability for additional customers for $0.50/month/each] Users who pay annually receive two-months free. Accept payments via credit card, ACH, Bitcoin, and PayPal. Invoiced.com does offer a Lite plan that is free and unlimited. It allows users to create an unlimited number of invoices to send and receive payments online; furthermore, individuals can download and print the invoice to mail via the USPS, there is no signup necessary to use the Lite service.

InvoiceDude is unique among web-based apps in that they offer a self-hosted option for those who want to use the app on their own servers. The on-demand option is complimentary. With InvoiceDude, users can incorporate their own logos and branding, customize email notifications, create recurring invoices and easily import/export data. Users who choose one of the three self-hosted options, pay a one-time fee. The Lite plan is $75, the Standard plan costs $125 and the Enterprise plan is $695. The offerings of these three plans are very similar; however, the Lite plan does not include brand emails, site footer or 99% source code. The Standard plan does not include the 99 percent source code; however, the Enterprise plan includes everything.

Invoice Home is an online invoicing tool. InvoiceHome offers more than 100 customizable email invoicing templates. Users can receive payments via credit card or PayPal. There is a Free plan that allows users to invoice up to $1,000 every 30 days. The Paid plan is $5/month and offers users unlimited customers, email and documents. With InvoiceHome, there are no contracts to sign and users can cancel the service at any time.

Invoice Journal has a Free Forever plan (one user, unlimited customers and up to 30 invoices a month). There are three paid plans. The Professional plan is $20/month or $200/year (two users, unlimited customers and up to 100 invoices a month), Premium plan is $45/month or $450/year (five users, unlimited customers and up to 5000 invoices a month) and the Enterprise plan (unlimited everything). Individuals must contact Invoice Journal to request pricing for their Enterprise plan.

The Invoice Machine is an elegant application. Users can do all the standard online invoicing functions; however, Invoice Machine offers more flexibility than most. Users can add line items to invoices manually or from the project time tracking tool with just a few clicks, create an HTML email invoice or attach one as a PDF. They offer a Forever Free plan and three paid plans. The Medium plan is $12/month (two users, 30 estimates and 30 invoices), Large is $24/month (10 users, 300 estimates and 300 invoices) and the Extra Large plan is $48/month (unlimited everything).

InvoiceMore is an online billing and invoicing solution for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and businesses. It offers multiple features so that users can create, download, store, backup, print, track overdue balances and email PDF invoices to clients. With InvoiceMore, users can receive payments via credit cards or PayPal. They offer a Free plan or an Unlimited plan for $15/month.

InvoicePlace is an easy-to-use, online service that allows users to create invoices, estimates, quotes and receipts. InvoicePlace provides a completed sample invoice to view; furthermore, there are four free invoice templates available for visitors to download. The Lite plan is free and allows users to create up to five invoices, quotes and receipts each month. The 60 second demonstration shows how easy it is to create and then email invoices. To find out if paid plans are available, individuals must contact the company.

Invoicera offers invoices, estimates and client reporting that can be used to track a specific product or service. Invoicera has a Free Forever plan that allows users three clients, one recurring profile, project/timesheets as well as unlimited invoices and estimates. The Free plan can be upgraded at any time. There are three paid plans available. The Classic plan is $19.95/month (five users, 100 clients, 100 recurring profiles and 15 automatic recurring bills). The Business plan is $39.95/month (10 users, unlimited clients, unlimited recurring profiles and 100 automatic recurring bills). The Infinite plan is $99.95/month (unlimited everything).

InvoiceOcean offers a Forever Free plan for one user who only needs to send three invoices or estimates a month. Even with the Forever Free plan, users can add their logo to the invoice templates. Additionally, the Forever Free plan allows users an unlimited number of products, services and clients. InvoiceOcean offers three paid plans. The Basic plan is $9/month (one user, invoices via email, unlimited invoices, estimates and clients). The Professional plan is $18/month (everything in the Basic plan plus five users, unlimited invoices, estimates and clients). The Enterprise plan is $32/month (benefits of the Professional plan, unlimited everything plus a customized invoice template). All plans are capable of accepting international currencies. There is a 30-day free trial available for all three paid plans.

Mr. Biller is an easy to use, cloud-based invoicing tool that provides users ad-free invoices. Plan One is a free plan that offers brand-free invoices and estimates. Mr. Biller offers one paid plan. Plan Two costs $9.95/year and includes data backup.

Nutcache is a project management software solution that integrates time tracking, invoicing and expense management. The Free plan allows up to 20 users and 1GB of storage, and support response time is within seven days. Nutcache offers two paid plans. The Pro plan is $6/month/user [$5/month/user when paid annually] and includes unlimited members, 25GB storage, no Nutcache branding and VIP support within one day). The Enterprise plan is $15/month/user [$12/month/user when paid annually] and includes everything available in the Pro plan plus 100GB of storage. Both of the paid plans have a 30-day trial period.

Odoo Invoicing The Community Plan is absolutely free and is intended for developers. It provides developers with basic accounting, desktop interface, Project Management tasks, timesheets, CRM, sales, customer portal and more. The Enterprise Level costs $240/year/user and is ideal for 50+ users (customized projects). This plan includes open source features, advanced features, mobile support and material design. Odoo’s Online plan is designed for fewer than 50 users and provides all the benefits included in the Enterprise Plan plus cloud hosting, support and implementation service. Pricing for the Online Plan is determined by the number of users ($25/month/user) and the apps chosen. The first app is free. The Online plan has a 15-day free trial with no credit card required.

Paper Free Billing is an online software application that allows the user to create, manage and track invoices. This software offers mobility as it can be used at any location with Internet connectivity. The Basic version is free, users receive three invoices and unlimited clients. The Professional version is approximately $10.58/month {£7.49}. This version includes unlimited invoices and allows users to have unlimited clients.

ReliaBills ReliaBills offers a Forever Free invoicing solution. Users receive unlimited invoices, email reminders, customers and recurring invoices. With ReliaBills, there are no set up fees, long term contracts, hassles, minimums, or termination fees. Even without purchasing the plan, users create the emails and ReliaBills emails them for free. Small businesses interested in adding processing and the ability to accept online payments can purchase ReliaBills plan. The plan allows users to accept online payments on their websites, within emails, by phone and in person. The plan originally costs $34.95/month; however, it is currently reduced to $24.95/month (March 2016). Other fees include a 3 percent + $0.30 per transaction to accept Debit/Credit Cards (Visa, MasterCard and Discover). Users can also accept ACH/eChecks for $0.99 per transaction. In addition, there is no additional charge when a customer uses a Rewards card. Plan users receive a branded customer portal, automated email reminders and recurring payments as well as a virtual terminal. There are additional fees for various ‘unique’ situations. To access the free benefits, no credit card is required. It does not mention a free trial for the paid plan.

Ronin is a simple online invoicing product that is versatile and can be used for a variety of businesses, ranging from freelancers to large companies. There is a Free Forever version; however, forms in this version will carry Ronin’s brand. This version includes one user, two clients, SSL Security and one contact per client. Ronin offers three paid plans. The Small/Solo plan is $15/month (one user, 30 clients, SSL Security, two contacts per client and an unbranded interface). The Team plan is $29/month (three users, unlimited clients, five contacts per client, payment integration and a custom domain). The Agency plan is $49/month (five users, payment integration, SSL Security a custom domain, unlimited clients and contacts). All three paid plans allow additional users to be added for $10/month/user; furthermore, all paid plans have a 30-day free trial.

Sage One offers simple online accounting and invoicing tools, along with business insights. The capabilities of the Free Forever version are unclear. There is a paid plan that costs $10/month (multiple users, multi-currency capability, online invoicing, unlimited quotes, users can accept online payments through PayPal and Sage Payment Solutions; in addition, users have the ability to link financial accounts). The Sage One mobile app is an add-on available for iOS and Android devices. This app allows users to manage invoices, track expenses and access reports on the go. This plan offers a 30-day free trial.

Servicejoy offers the Servicejoy Basic Free Forever plan. The free plan allows up to five clients, 5MB of file space and a single user. There are two paid plans available. The Servicejoy Pro costs $20/month (includes everything offered in the Basic plan plus up to 500 active clients and 3GB of file space). The Business plan costs $30/month (includes everything offered in the Pro plan plus unlimited active clients, 15GB of file space; furthermore, 10GB of additional file space is available for $10/month and users can be added for $5/month/user). All paid plans have a 45-day free trial.

SimpleInvoices is a free web-based application that can be installed on a web server, Windows PC or hosted by one of SimpleInvoices service providers.

Simplybill offers a clean interface and design to make the online invoicing process easy. The dashboard offers three tabs: Invoices, Quotes, and Clients. Simplybill offers the ability to keep in contact with customers via reminders and thank you notes. There is a Free plan that allows users three invoices a month. The Basic plan is $5/month (unlimited clients and estimates as well as 25 invoices). The Enhanced plan costs $15/month (includes everything in the Basic plan, plus another 75 invoices). The Premium plan is $25/month (unlimited everything). There is a 14-day free trial available. Following the 14-day free trial, users can choose to purchase a plan or use the Free plan that allows three invoices per month.

Smenta is a robust business application suite. Smenta is designed to assist in the management of key business processes, including sales (quotes, proposals and invoices), product management, order processing, in addition to shipping. There is a Free Edition for one user, it allows three customers, receipts, service and sales invoices. The Basic Edition is $12/month, or $8/month if paid annually (everything in Free Edition plus an unlimited number of customers and the ability to add users at $5/month/user). The Professional Edition is $16/month, or $12/month if paid annually (includes everything in the Basic Edition plus purchase orders and reports, etc.). The Accounting Edition is $20/month if paid monthly, or $16/month if paid annually (includes everything offered in the Professional Edition, plus accounting management tools).

Street Invoice
Street Invoice offers monthly and yearly subscriptions. The Starter plan is free and provides users with 15 invoices, the ability to send email invoices, accept credit cards and track payments. Street Invoice also provides users with mobile access, report dashboards, and tools to easily manage customers and items. In addition, an S1 cloud securely stores data and keeps devices current. The Basic plan costs $4.99/month or $49.99/annually includes 50 invoices and everything included in the starter plan as well as invoice preview and mobile printing capability, an additional mobile device (limit of two devices per user) and the ability to share invoices via chat or SMS. The Basic plan is also ad free. The Pro plan costs $9.99/month or $99.99/annually (100 invoices, everything in the Basic plan plus signature capture, estimates, account statements, logos on invoices, the ability to import items and customers, PDF reports as well as Desktop access). The Enterprise plan costs $14.99/month or $149.99/annually (unlimited invoices, everything in the Pro plan as well as automatically generated monthly statements, the ability to provide credits and refunds, track profits, costs and export to Excel. There are also multiple company brands and pricing levels. With the purchase of any plan users receive a 30-day trial of all the benefits listed in the Enterprise plan.

The Time Tracker is a project management tool offering time tracking features. There is a limited Free plan. Advanced features are available with the Free plan for $5/month/user. Unlimited personal project management, edit, view or delete projects and single click time tracking. New members receive a 15-day free trial of the Pro version.

Tick Although many of the online invoicing and accounting solutions include time tracking tools, there are some that do not. Individuals who need to add a time tracking tool to the invoicing and/or accounting software they choose can use this standalone time tracking tool.  You and your team can use iOS, Android, a laptop or desktop computer or even the Apple Watch to update their time.

The Toast Invoice and Time Tracking tool makes keeping track of time and creating invoices fast and simple. Comprehensive reporting and analytics, tracking payments, and incoming revenue for invoices are all possible with this product. The Basic plan is free and allows users up to three clients, unlimited users, invoices and payments as well as time tracking capability. The Premium plan is $9.95/month (up to 30 clients, unlimited users, invoices and payments as well as recurring invoices, and time tracking capability). The Unlimited plan is $19.95/month and provides users with unlimited everything, time tracking and recurring invoices. A credit card is not necessary to sign-up for the free Basic plan.

Tools4Com provides a simple online, interactive invoicing tool that allows users to control and manage their entire invoicing process. There is a Free version available: the free version provides users with three invoices, six estimates, product and customer management tools, as well as the ability to save and send professional documents in PDF form. The Free version is intended for individuals to try the service; therefore, once an individual reaches a specific volume of use, payment is expected. The OIS Bronze subscription costs approximately $5.61/month {5€/month} and includes 20 invoices, 40 estimates, 20 of each: delivery notes, recurring invoices, pro forma invoices and refund invoices. The OIS Silver subscription costs $9.81/month {8.75€/month} (includes 50 invoices, 100 estimates, 50 of each: delivery notes, recurring invoices, pro forma invoices and refund invoices). The OIS Gold subscription is $15.42/month {13.75€/month} (includes 100 invoices, unlimited estimates, 100 of each: delivery notes, recurring invoices, pro forma invoices and refund invoices). The OIS Pearl costs $37/month {33€/month} (1000 invoices, unlimited estimates, 1000 of each: delivery notes, recurring invoices, pro forma invoices and refund invoices). The final subscription is the OIS Diamond. It costs $56.06/month {50€/month} (unlimited everything). French, German and English capability.

Tradeshift is an online invoicing service. There is a Free version that allows businesses to send as many invoices and quotes as they need, Tradeshift offers apps that work with QuickBooks and PayPal.

Vcita is a client engagement platform. There is a free plan. The Basic LiveSite Experience offers users the ability to manage contacts, click-to-call, online lead capturing, and more. There are two paid plans available. The Professional plan starts at $12.45/month. The Professional plan provides users with a LiveSite that is custom, branded with no advertisements. Other benefits include a customized client portal, online invoicing, payments and CRM software (mobile and online). The Business plan starts at $39.90/month. Some of the Business plan’s benefits include document sharing, three staff accounts and automated client reminders, and more. Both paid plans offer a 14-day free trial.

Wave Accounting offers a completely free accounting tool. This tool is ideal for managing both personal and small business finances. Wave offers free tools for invoicing, accounting and payroll as well as receipt scanning.

Winkbill offers a robust invoicing and billing app that allows users to create, send and manage invoices online. The Free Forever plan offers three invoices and one sub-account. Even with the Free Forever plan you can add your logo on the invoices you create; however, you cannot send them as a PDF. There are three paid plans available. The Silver plan is $9.95/month (50 invoices and three sub-accounts). The Gold plan is $19.95/month (50 invoices and 10 sub-accounts). The Platinum plan is $39.95/month (5,000 invoices and 20 sub-accounts). Although there is not a trial-period for the packages, Winkbill does offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Winkbill also offers a nice variety of templates.

Yendo is a full service cloud-based small business management software. It includes accounting tools, customer relationship management (CRM), cloud payment tools and newsletter software. There is a Free plan available. The Free plan allows one user and includes 10 invoices. For the first 30 days, the Free plan users receive access to all of the Premium plan’s benefits. To access the information about the Free plan, a visitor needs to click on one of the ‘sign-up now’ buttons that are located at the bottom of the pricing page. Then, as there is no option to choose the free plan, visitors must fill out the form on the left side of the page to inquire about the free plan. The Solo plan is $19/month and allows one company, one user, unlimited invoices and 500 bulk emails. The Standard plan is $49/month (five companies, five users, unlimited invoices and 1,000 bulk emails). The Premium plan is $99/month (10 companies, unlimited users and invoices, plus 5,000 bulk emails). The Enterprise plan is $299/month (unlimited companies, users and invoices, plus 10,000 bulk emails). The Enterprise + plan is $599/month (unlimited companies, users and invoices, plus 20,000 bulk emails). All paid plans have a 30-day free trial.

ZBillingNet’s Free License allows one system user, three products, unlimited clients and invoices (these invoices will have the ‘Powered By’ Backlink-Branded on them), the Standard License costs $19/month (unlimited clients, system users, products, one installation and a dedicated CPU. These invoices will not have branding on them). The Pro SaaS License costs $29/month (includes everything in the Standard License plus API/Code support). There are 15-day free trials available for the SaaS Standard and Pro SaaS License.

Zoho offers time tracking, invoicing, online payment, open APIs allow for integration with third party services, automated reminders and expense management. Zoho’s Free plan is for one organization, a single user and allows up to 25 customers. The Basic plan is $7/month (one organization, one user and 50 customers). The Standard plan is $15/month (one organization, three users, 500 customers, recurring invoices and multi-currency support). The Professional plan is $30/month (one organization, unlimited users and customers, recurring invoices, and multi-currency support). Zoho offers mobility in that it has an app for Windows, iOS and Android devices. All paid plans come with a 30-day money back guarantee. All plans receive support 24/5. Users that pay annually receive two months free.

Please note: At the time of this publication, the details listed here are believed to be accurate; however, features, special offers and discounts may change over time. Always check the vendor’s website for up-to-date details.

This post featured 48 Completely Free Forever Invoicing Solutions. Be sure to also check out 51 Premium Invoicing Solutions That Offer Free Trials.

This article, “48 Completely Free Invoicing Software Solutions, Not Just Trials” was first published on Small Business Trends

48 Completely Free Invoicing Software Solutions, Not Just Trials

Microsoft Giving Away Free Windows 10 Update Until July 29

Microsoft Giving Away Free Windows 10 Update Until July 29

If you’ve been putting off that upgrade to Windows 10 because of the price tag, Microsoft is giving you the deal of a lifetime. Well, at least your computer’s lifetime.

From now until July 29, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is giving away an upgrade to Windows 10 for FREE. That’s right … zero dollars.

Free Windows 10 Update

And this is a full version of Windows 10, too, not a trial or some limited-capability version of the operating system. If you’re running an older version of Windows, this could be a savings of between $119 and $199, depending on the version of Windows 10 you’ll get for free.

There are some caveats, of course.  

This offer is only available for computers running genuine versions of Windows 7 (Service Pack 1) and the Windows 8.1 Update. The version of Windows 10 that you’ll get will be based on the older version of Windows you’re running on the device you’re upgrading.

For instance, if you’re running Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, or Home Premium, you’ll get Windows 10 Home. If you’ve got Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate, you’ll get Windows 10 Pro.

Windows 8.1 users will get Windows 10 Home. Users of Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 8.1 Pro for Students will receive a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Microsoft says that, depending upon the computer you’re upgrading to Windows 10, some features of the new operating system may not be available.

Computers running older versions of Windows, like Vista, XP, or Enterprise, are not eligible for the free upgrade. Windows RT and Windows RT 8.1 devices are also not eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 10.

If your devices running the eligible older systems are ripe for the upgrade, Microsoft says you can get Windows 10 by opening the Get Windows 10 app. That gives you the option to reserve, start or schedule an upgrade to the new operating system.

Wondering what the Get Windows 10 app is? Check for a Windows logo in your notification/status/task bar. That’s it!

Microsoft will take some time to verify that your computer is eligible for the upgrade and then notify you on your PC that the upgrade to Windows 10 is ready.

This is not the first wholesale free upgrade to Windows 10 that Microsoft has offered. When the operating system launched, a lot of computers running Windows 8.1 were eligible for the same upgrade.

Image: Microsoft

This article, “Microsoft Giving Away Free Windows 10 Update Until July 29” was first published on Small Business Trends

Microsoft Giving Away Free Windows 10 Update Until July 29

You Can Apply for These Small Business Loans with Bad Credit

You Can Apply for These Small Business Loans with Bad Credit

Small business owners are often turned away by lenders when they have poor credit. That’s because a bad credit score implies you have not managed your finances properly in the past.

Luckily, it’s possible to secure small business loans with poor credit.

A number of alternative lenders are offering loan solutions for bad credit today. These lenders place more importance on the operating history and strength of your business. In other words, they do not focus solely on your credit score when they consider your loan application.

Here are some loans for bad credit options worth exploring.

Small Business Loans with Bad Credit

Kabbage

The best thing about Kabbage is that it does not require a minimum credit score to qualify. It does, however, check your credit history. If you are looking for some short-term working capital, Kabbage is worth trying. You can borrow from its line of credit and repay on an as-needed basis.

To qualify, you should have minimum annual revenue of $50,000 and have been in business for at least a year. You must also have a business checking account, bookkeeping software or an online payment platform.

It takes only a few minutes to complete the online application process and if approved you can get funds in just a couple of days.

Fundbox

Fundbox does not have a minimum credit score or minimum annual revenue requirement. Instead, it takes the value of your invoices and ability to repay the loan into consideration.

Funding is prompt and takes up to just three business days.

To qualify, you must use bookkeeping software or online accounting that can link to Fundbox and have a minimum of six months’ activity in one of these software applications.

OnDeck

OnDeck offers both term loans and lines of credit. You can go for the term loan if you are looking for some quick cash to expand. If you want to manage your cash flow and working capital, a line of credit is your best option.

To qualify for OnDeck’s term loan, you must have a personal credit score of 500 or higher. For a line of credit, your personal credit score should be at least 600.

Once you complete the online application process, you’ll get a decision within a few minutes and funding as soon as the following day.

Interestingly, OnDeck reports your payment activity to the three credit bureaus, which means paying off your loan on time can boost your credit score.

BlueVine

If you lack collateral, have poor credit and unpaid invoices, you may consider BlueVine. The lender offers an advance based on the value of your invoices. Approval is based on the strength of your cash flow and the financial strength of your debtors.

You do need to have a personal credit score of 530 or more to qualify. Also you should have at least $120,000 in annual revenue and have been in business for at least three months.

StreetShares

If you have a new business, StreetShares is a good option to explore. The lender requires a minimum of one year in business and $25,000 in annual revenue. But even if you have been in business for only six months and you can qualify with $100,000 in revenue.

You need to have a minimum personal credit score of 600 or more and a strong cash flow to be eligible.

Dealstruck

Dealstruck is a good option if you are looking for different loan products. The lender offers a term loan for expansion, an asset-based line of credit for businesses with unpaid invoices and an inventory line of credit for businesses that have recurring inventory purchase requirements.

To qualify, you need to have a minimum credit score of 600, although company CEO Ethan Senturia has said that the company accepts scores in the 500 range. You also need at least $150,000 in annual revenue and need to have been in business for at least a year.

A bad credit score may create problems for you when you try securing funds for your business, but it shouldn’t stop you from exploring options. You need to understand your needs and look for options that meet your requirements.

Credit Score Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “You Can Apply for These Small Business Loans with Bad Credit” was first published on Small Business Trends

You Can Apply for These Small Business Loans with Bad Credit

Boost Your Productivity by – Standing While Working?

Boost Your Productivity by - Standing While Working?

Looking to boost your productivity at work? The answer may be simpler than you think. In fact, a recent study by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health found that simply standing at your desk can have a huge impact on productivity.

Standing While Working Shown to Increase Productivity

The university’s researchers studied the productivity differences between two groups of employees working at call centers. The employees who had the ability to raise or lower their desks as they pleased throughout the day were about 46 percent more productive than those employees who only had traditional seated desks.

That doesn’t mean those workers have to stand at their desks all day. The study found that those with stand capable desks sat for about 1.6 hours less per day than the workers who only had regular seated desks. So simply having the option to stand on occasion made that much of a difference.

In addition, the study found that those with the ability to stand at their desks experienced decreased body discomfort over the six-month period of the study. However, the study’s authors did not that many of the results were not immediate. But over time, they did become noticeable.

So as a business owner, what this means is that it might be time to rethink the traditional workspace. Investing in standing desks for yourself and your team may be more affordable than you think. And if over time that leads to a 46 percent increase in productivity, the initial investment could very well be worth it.

In addition, you don’t have to just go with a regular old standing desk. There are plenty of different options out there ranging from desks that allow you to lay down while you work to those that let you constantly walk in place on a giant hamster wheel.

Of course, putting together a bunch of hamster wheels for your team probably isn’t the most practical use of your time or resources. However, if you find a unique work station that could allow you or your team to get up and move around once in awhile, it could be nice to offer special workstations that they can sign up to use from time to time.

Or, you could even practice some basic exercises at your desk just to keep attention and productivity levels up throughout the day. Doing something besides sitting, whether its standing to work for awhile, walking in place or even just moving around at your desk can have a big impact on your team’s overall health and well being. And if you can make a positive impact in that area, you might also be able to improve satisfaction and productivity in the workplace.

Standing Desk Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Boost Your Productivity by – Standing While Working?” was first published on Small Business Trends

Boost Your Productivity by – Standing While Working?

Update Your Email Strategy With These 2016 Email Trends

Update Your Email Strategy With These 2016 Email Trends

Email is an essential communication tool of the digital age. For marketing professionals, an email list is a vital part of any digital marketing strategy. Indeed, one of the most important parts of modern advertising and marketing is to create meaningful interactions with customers. Email allows ample opportunity to do so, but only if marketers carefully analyze and optimize their approach to email marketing.

Most people have a spam folder overflowing with emails they’ll never read or will simply delete upon receipt. If you’re a marketer, hopefully customers are allowing your emails into their inboxes and you’ve made sure that they’re not automatically caught by a spam filter. However, what incentive do your customers have to do so if they don’t consider your messages valuable?

Rethink Your Email Strategy Based on 2016 Email Trends

Many companies fail to put a reasonable amount of effort into their email marketing, and most of the notes to their customers are simply automatically generated responses to customer actions (one ubiquitous example being shipping confirmation emails for online purchases). Some companies send automatic reminders about sales, promotions, and unused bonus offers available to customers, but there are many more opportunities to take email marketing further.

Considering some of the trends in email design that we’re seeing today, here are a few of the things you may consider to breathe new life into your email marketing strategy include:

  • Provide built-in shareable content. Most people are browsing emails on mobile devices or have their desktops configured so they can sign into their social media accounts with a few simple clicks. Incentivize customers to share content in your emails through social media.
  • Ask for feedback. Customers want to know that their opinions and insights are valued. Offer them a simple way to provide feedback in your email, or link to a short survey. Customers may be able to tell you exactly what isn’t working in your marketing strategy.
  • Convey urgency. Limited-time offers and flash promotions are an excellent way to boost the returns you see from your investments in email marketing. If customers are saving money and finding tangible benefits from reading your emails, they’re more likely to continue doing so.
  • Send reminders. If a customer logged in to your website fills a shopping cart but navigates away from your page before checking out, a gentle reminder can be a good way to get him or her to come back and finish the sale. Set up reminder emails to be sent after a set period of time once a customer fills a cart on your website. The user may have simply been distracted.
  • Provide value. Give customers something valuable in your emails. They should look forward to your next message rather than simply dismissing it as soon as it arrives. When you provide real value, customers will be hungry for more—which helps drive engagement.
  • Give updates. Include short sections with recent company updates, especially those that highlight your humanity. Recent tweets and Instagram posts can be a fun addition to any marketing communication (and can be made easily shareable, too). A “Year in Review” email can also show customers the strength and staying power of your brand, and including a message about what they’ve done to help is an awesome way to communicate customer appreciation.
  • Show the power of mobile. Almost every brand now has a proprietary mobile app. Include screenshots of your newest app or updates to existing options in your email, showing customers what it looks like on a phone. This is a fantastic way to increase downloads and further drive engagement.
  • Don’t skimp on visual appeal. Although minimalist visual design has been the golden standard in digital media for years, it’s important that you don’t conflate “minimalist” with “bare-bones.” Your emails should be vibrant, using color palettes that reflect your brand image. Make bold statements with color choices without going overboard and becoming too ostentatious. You don’t want a simple black and white wall of text, either.
  • Use infographics. One of the most engaging ways to provide information in an easily digestible and interesting way is with infographics. A decent graphic designer should have little trouble turning your brand’s year in review or other statistics into a fun and dramatic infographic.

This list delineates a few of the ways you can revitalize your email marketing and turn it from an expected, humdrum communication tool into a powerful force for driving customer interactions. Remember that technology is constantly evolving, as are the ways in which we communicate with each other. For business owners, that means there are always new ways to reach customers, build brand awareness, and foster meaningful interactions.

Email Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Update Your Email Strategy With These 2016 Email Trends” was first published on Small Business Trends

Update Your Email Strategy With These 2016 Email Trends

Tips for Adopting Virtual Reality in Your Business

Things to Know About Virtual Reality in Business

Small businesses are early adopters of technology, but they also hold on longer when they find solutions that work for them. The latest Annual Brother Business Survey revealed just as much when it comes to printers, scanners, copiers or fax machines. According to the survey, 91 percent of small businesses still use these hardware, but an increasing number of companies are also migrating to the cloud and deploying mobile devices for their remote workforce.

So with virtual reality (VR) now slated as the must have technology, how will the adoption process go for small businesses, and does VR have a viable business application?

First, it is important to note VR is in its infancy, without mass adoption, as of now. However, there are some heavy hitters who are betting on the technology. The most publicized case is the purchase of Oculus by Facebook, but Reuters has also reported some 38 companies have highlighted VR as part of their business plan in their corporate earnings report, a 375 percent jump from the same period last year.

Second, the interest is there, with a huge potential in several segments, such as entertainment and gaming. But does this translate to other industries, and will small businesses be able to capitalize on it? A crystal ball would come in handy right now, but even without one, the future for VR looks very promising.

Just as your printer doesn’t make or break your business, VR solutions will be a technology you can use to improve the overall operations of your company. Granted there will be businesses that will rely on it completely, but for the vast majority, it can and will probably be used as a supplemental piece of equipment.

So if you want to be an early adopter of VR, here are some tips.

Things to Know About Virtual Reality in Business

Educate Yourself

Educate yourself and your employees about VR technology. This includes software, hardware, content, maintenance and usage. You can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars just on cameras alone, or you can get an affordable option such as the Vuze. So you really have to make a concerted effort to know as much as possible about the many options that are available to you.

Don’t Let the Hype Influence Your Decision

There is a lot of hype regarding VR at the moment, and it all sounds exciting. But how realistic is it for you to monetize your investment in the technology. Since the investment can be considerable, depending on your choice of products, don’t get swayed into spending your hard earned money on something that may not pay off for you. Again, it merits repeating, educate yourself thoroughly.

Will Your Product Translate to VR?

There are some industry sectors where VR is an obvious choice, gaming being one of them. But there are also many sectors where it is not that clear. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean you can’t find creative ways to use the technology to grow your company. Just as you have used video and posted it on YouTube, VR can be seen as another extension of rich media. This is a new technology, so there are no conventions you have to follow, create your own path.

Form Partnerships With Experienced Users

Even if you educate yourself in the technical aspects of VR, real world applications are going to be much different. Find experienced VR practitioners and form partnerships so you can have the right person guiding you through your early days of development.

Find the Right Content

As they say, content is king, and in the virtual world the quality of your content will greatly determine your success. Whether you create the content yourself or you are having it produced professionally, it has to deliver your message, so know your story. Just because it is VR, it doesn’t mean it will be good, and the quality of the content will be the differentiator as the hardware becomes as common as smartphones.

Test Until You Get it Right

No matter what kind of content you create, test and test again with many different people to see how they respond to it. Find out what works and doesn’t throughout the entire show. Whether it is motion sickness, bad lighting or a weak story line, try to have an end product that is professional.

Know Your Audience

Who are you creating the content for? Are you going to show it in your brick and mortar store, online, a trade show or elsewhere? The length of the production has to mirror these outlets to get as many people as possible in your door, after all you don’t want a customer in your store asking for popcorn and a large soda.

The Importance of Sound

Sound in a VR environment is extremely important. Recording your content with a single microphone will not deliver the full impact of virtual reality. Sound is used to create the right atmosphere and guide the direction of the viewer. If the sound just comes from in front of them, they will not turn around if they can’t hear the sound to their left, right, top or bottom.

Start Simple

Incrementally grow the content you create until you master the technology. A 30 second project can be just as exciting if you have a clear understanding of a 3D environment and you put everything you learned into it.

Selling VR

One of the best ways of selling VR is by delivering a great experience directly to your audience/customers. This of course will take many forms, and until everybody has a VR headset, you will have to find creative ways to give them the experience where they are or make them come to you.

Channels for VR

Eventually VR content will be as common as regular videos on YouTube. The company introduced its 360-degree live streaming and spatial audio recently, which will be the first step towards becoming a fully VR content platform. This will greatly increase adoption rates as consumers, businesses, content creators and hardware manufacturers see the many possibilities of the technology.

The reality of VR becoming a reality

Jeremy Bailenson, head of Standford University’s virtual reality lab told Fortune, “Most things don’t work in VR. If you show me 20 ideas, I’ll say 19 of them would be better in another medium. I think VR is best for special, intense experiences?…?things that are expensive, dangerous, counterproductive, or impossible.”

The truth of the matter is, there is no guarantee VR will work in the day to day operations or activities of a company. But it will provide some value if and when the technology achieves a saturation point that demands businesses to create services to address consumers who own VR devices.

VR Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Tips for Adopting Virtual Reality in Your Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

Tips for Adopting Virtual Reality in Your Business