10 Ways to Make the Cloud Work for You


Make Your Small Business Seem Large

That is so old school. Hemera/Thinkstock
That is so old school. Hemera/Thinkstock

If you're a sole proprietor or a freelancer, you play many roles. Some of the more unpleasant and time-consuming roles include overseeing back-office functions. Thankfully, the cloud can streamline business financial management. One approach, especially if you have a relatively simple billing and payment structure, is to piece together one or two cloud services. Some freelancers require nothing more than a timekeeping application to track hours spent on a project and an invoicing application to bill the client accordingly.

If you have multiple employees or contractors, you'll want one of the cloud-based applications that integrate all of the basic accounting functions. As the business owner, you must register with the provider of your choosing and then input all of the necessary data, like billing information. Finally, you set up your team and invite employees to projects. After accepting the initial invitations, employees can log in, from any computer, and track hours spent on their assigned projects. At the end of the month, collect employee time and prepare invoices, which can either be e-mailed to clients as PDFs or printed out for postal delivery.

The old desktop favorites -- Peachtree Accounting (now Sage 50) and QuickBooks -- have cloud-hosted versions of their software. If timekeeping is all you're after, check out Toggl. For a full-featured timekeeping, invoicing and financial management solution that integrates with PayPal and offers a solid smartphone edition, give Freshbooks a look.