Three Time-Saving Apps for Tradies

January 19, 2021

It can be incredibly overwhelming when you’re starting out with little money to invest in software, aside from the financial investment, you really need to research what is going to give you the results you are in need of.

Three Time-Saving Apps for Tradies
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This is where the name ‘Behind the Tools’ came to fruition! Tradies often come home after a day on the tools to hit the computer for quoting, invoicing, client management, project management, and all of the other admin that comes with running a business. It can be incredibly overwhelming when you’re starting out, with little money to invest in software. Aside from the financial investment, you really need to research what will give you the results you need. 

I like to think of apps and software that improve business operations and reduce the amount of time spent “running” the business as buying back time; it really helps justify the transaction. Let’s face it, we all want to maximise our family time or free time to pursue our hobbies and interests. Here are my three recommendations for time-saving apps designed to simplify estimating, quoting, bookkeeping, customer relationship management, and help you get back on top of cash flow. 

There was a time when I used to run spreadsheets for all of our accounts. Each week I would review the weekly business transactions and categorise them into two separate spreadsheets for incoming and outgoing. I’d have to manually enter the date, dollar value, and GST, add the amount to its designated category, then continue this sequence until the spreadsheet was up to date and balanced. 

Using Google Sheets enables you to run your books at no cost. However, as the number of transactions increases, this system relies heavily on your discipline to maintain the sheets or else you’ll find yourself sliding down a slippery slope of ‘catch up’. 

After a few years of spreadsheets, my accountant recommended Xero for our business. She explained that for a really affordable price, I could link Xero to our business transaction account and, at the click of a button, allocate each expense to its place in a few minutes each week. 

Using Xero allows you to produce income statements for accounting purposes like BAS and PAYG, not to mention your annual tax return. After many hours spent balancing spreadsheets the old way, it didn’t take much convincing for me to adopt Xero as the efficient, new way to manage our accounts. I even discovered an unexpected perk to my Xero subscription, which I hadn’t accounted for.

Xero made quoting and invoicing so comprehensive and straightforward that our cash flow noticeably improved along with my knowledge of bookkeeping and accounting. Back in the earlier days, I was writing our quotes into a word document, then pasting them into Adobe Illustrator to add our letterhead, then exporting the documents as a PDF to be able to then sending them as an email attachment. Xero quotes work intuitively and cut out so many steps from the old process without losing any of our branding. 

Over the years, as our business grew, we were able to add payroll onto our Xero account and still use it daily for bookkeeping, paying wages, and keeping track of the financial health of the business. Our estimating and quoting process has only recently changed due to the size of the projects increasing and the scope of works being so much more in-depth. If you’re looking for estimating or quoting software, I’ll share with you what we use because we found quoting software to be a game-changer. 

I know electricians, plumbers, plasterers, painters, concreters and roofers who all happily use Xero and rave about the positive impact it’s had on their cash flow. Electricians have a more detailed set up as there is a long list of accounts, stock, and itemised components to be quoted and invoiced. If you are an electrician starting up and would like to give Xero a try, I would strongly recommend you find a trade bookkeeper to help you with the initial set up in Xero (I’ve listed some at the bottom of this blog). This small investment at the beginning will pay dividends when you can add batched items, like powerpoints, inputted with materials and labour. For plasterers, painters, concreters, carpenters, and builders — as the project scope grows it’s so important to nail your estimating and quoting. 

The quotes you offer for free in hope of winning work, are less time consuming and more accurate with Xero. The more accurate you can get your costs for the job, the more competitive you can be thus increasing your clientelle. The last thing you want to do is underquote a job. If your quote includes labour and material costs, overhead costs plus a profit and you lose the job, that’s fine, you’re far better off going surfing than working for nothing. The key is to know all the elements that go into a well researched costing so that you can submit the quote with confidence. You want to feel excited (not dread) when your quote is accepted! 

In Australia, there is a handful of popular project management software on the market that will allow you to quote, invoice, project manage and document your project. Tradify, Fergus, ServiceM8 are a few of the programs in heavy rotation right now. 

After trialling different quoting and estimating software, I ended up selecting one that had the simplest interface, one that could integrate with Xero, and that enabled me to estimate projects without being a tradie. Being married to a builder doesn’t translate into being a qualified carpenter. However, with BuildXact I was able to measure square meters of tiles, bricks, concrete, carpet, cladding and much more with their very simple to use software. This meant I was able to alleviate some of the pressure from my husband by performing some of the leg work with quoting. I’m not sure if the designers of BuildXact designed the software for women, but I have to say, it’s definitely the prettiest one on the market! After quoting the first couple of houses I established a quoting process that has been hugely valuable and time saving and which anyone else could replicate within their business. It will only take you fifteen mins to set up and you can come back to this system with each quote and repeat the steps, saving you heaps of time. I love BuildXact so much that I’ve dedicated a whole blog on it with the best features so you can see if it’s the best thing for your business.

My final software recommendation is HazardCo, it’s an OHS app that enables your workers to check in and out of sites with a QR code. Before you run away, let’s just take one minute to recognise the importance of keeping all of our tradies and workers safe (and alive). As employers we have a responsibility to keep our people safe and check the health of the environments we work in. 

There are a lot of cowboys out there who would love to leave this up to commercial sites and it’s simply not the case. Worksafe have already recorded four construction-related fatalities in Australia this year — you don’t want one of them on your site!, HazardCo is accessible and easy to use and allows you to create SWMS using your smartphone. The process is clean, streamlined and means a paperless induction and SWMS. Furthermore, you’ll have a database of records at the tap of a finger when Worksafe pop onto your site for a visit. It’s peace of mind, low cost, and most importantly will help you to identify possible risks on site and keep everyone safe to go home to their families at the end of the working day. 

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I’m Holly, the coastal mum from Behind the Tools.

I’m here to guide builders and their partner’s entrepreneurial minds in the art of transforming overwhelming business management into simple profitable solutions.

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