Jamie Lyko

Job Management Software

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I am slowly getting more and wood working jobs and my "system" of managing receipts, time, etc. needs an upgrade.  Additionally, my "presentation" when making bids/proposals could use a facelift.  Does anyone have any suggestions for software, apps, etc that can make all of this easier or more professional.  I am only generating a few thousand dollars a month in sales and am not dealing with huge amounts of money when it comes to materials, so affordability is certainly issue.  That said, I would be willing to pay for quality.  Thanks for any advice anyone has.  It's cool to join this forum.

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Each client has their own folder where I store all details of their order. Pictures, proposals, drawings... etc... I track everything in spreadsheets. I use a very basic budget sheet for each project. I then roll that information (manually) into an overall spreadsheet which gives me a high level look at what's going on.

I focus on fewer but higher margin jobs, so it makes my life easier.. That makes my life easier than selling a lot of things at a lower margin.

I'm sure some sort of budget software would be more helpful for you, I'm just not there yet.

 

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Hi Jamie, and welcome. Not a professional myself, but I deal with software for "project management" in my day job. In my experence, there is no single software package that does all those functions well, and certainly not at a cost reasonable for a one-man shop.

Trimble Sketchup is worth taking the time to learn, as it can help tremendously with design/planning, and client presentation. I would also suggest something similar to Microsoft Project for time and cost planning & management, and perhaps something like Quickbooks for tax / accounting records.

Sketchup is still available for free, with a paid version having some useful (but maybe not necessary for you) enhancements.

MS Project isn't cheap, but a reasonable business expense. There are less expensive alternatives available, but you more readily will find help for MS Project.

I know little about Quickbooks, or any other accounting software, but I hear its pretty good. Again, there are less costly alternatives, but it is one of the most popular.

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-Autodesk Fushion 360 for design work. It will do exploded views and I think renderings. You can also do mechanical drawings and customize the templates used to make them your own. Fushion 360 is free for "hobbyist and enthusiasts". I have Fushion at home but haven't played with it that much. I use Solidworks 2016 at work and have access to it at home. 

-PowerPoint for presentations using screenshots of 3D models and PDFs for drawings.  

-Also, for a "professional" look as you stated, you may want to look into some GD&T (Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing). Dont delve too deep into this, it can be overwhelming. For woodworking you will not need to call out most things, but would look really nice in a professional presentation.

-Microsoft Excel can be configured to used for lots of data entry and calculations. Microsoft Project is another.

-For configuration management, I would just figure out a folder system that you like and go with that. Have a project folder and then subfolders for each project, ie hardware, raw material, consumables.

 

Matt

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Welcome aboard, Jamie!

SketchUp can provide project drawings in 3D quickly and easily. It's available as a free download or for using in your browser. I'd recommend starting with it as there are tutorials and resources available specifically for woodworkers. That way you spend less time figuring out how to use the software and more time creating projects for your clients. If you end up needing more features, you can buy the Pro version or switch to other software that you prefer.

For the business side of things, a lot of it comes down to finding software that makes sense to you, not to hordes of other people. You want to find software that works with you, not against you, or that makes you spend a lot of time learning how to use it.

There is so much software out there that I'd recommend taking an hour or two just to surf web sites, ignore the marketing verbiage, and look only at screenshots. Make a list of three to five that feel right, then download or browse the demo. Even if you don't understand various concepts, you'll get a handle on how difficult it is to set up customers, vendors, and run a general ledger report.

I'd also schedule an hour with a local accountant for a consult. The accountant will have a handle on what you may need for your business, software that might fit your style best, and things you can do to help prepare for tax season, including deductions for your equipment and business expenses. It may even be cheaper to have the accountant come in for a couple hours once a month to reconcile your books rather than you spending five hours a week wrestling with a computer.

Let us know what you find, I think lots of folks would be interested to hear what you end up using.

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If you are looking for time management software, I recommend LiquidPlanner. The company I work for (~20 employees in the manufacturing/engineering sector) switched to this from MS Project, which was just too complex and user-unfriendly. LiquidPlanner is good at dealing with estimates, as well as examining how your scope or work changed over the period of a job.

For small business accounting, Quickbooks is still kind of the gold standard. It can certainly be clunky, but it's well proven, and there's lots of help out there. My father's landscaping business (1-3 workers) used QB for over a decade. There are online versions, and competitors now, so you'll want to do your homework.

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