Whatever your business’s budget for office tools, it’s always nice to hear the word “free.” It’s not that you mind paying for something you need, but high prices better come with significant value. But it’s nice when you can employ a free tool, or even a free trial, to help you narrow down the kinds of tools your business needs to thrive.
There are all kinds of lists out there with suggestions for different industries. This one contains suggestions for three free tools for business owners with hourly employees.
1. For establishing pay rates
If you’re hiring for a position, it helps to know the ballpark figure candidates expect you to offer. Dice.com’s user-friendly salary calculator only requires an email address in exchange for infinite salary wisdom.
Many websites—from Monster to Glassdoor to SimplyHired—will tell you the average salary for a position in any area. But Dice’s salary calculator tool also includes a list of tagged skills you can add or remove to customize the estimate.
For instance, say you’re a small boutique in Boise, Idaho, looking for a bookkeeper with five or more years of experience. Dice automatically adds in tagged skills like payroll, bookkeeping, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and QuickBooks. The salary estimate is $34K to $42K, which breaks down to about $17 to $21 an hour.
But say you’re looking to hire a bookkeeper who is also a certified CPA. Add “CPA” as a tagged skill, and the calculator adjusts to a range of $35K to $44K automatically.
Plus, each job has a long list of related skills Dice thinks you might want to add to your estimate. And each skill shows a percent added value, so you can see what skills will increase your estimate. You can also see a list of related skills that don’t have any effect on salary.
On the bookkeeper-CPA combo example, “job costing” and “benefits management” don’t affect the salary estimate. You could add those skills as qualifications in your job listing and not see a jump in compensation expectations.
2. For compliance with labor laws
Hourly employees can be especially tricky to manage in regard to labor law compliance. Overtime hours and different kinds of bonuses affect pay in ways busy small business owners don’t expect. Underpaying workers, even unintentionally, is easy to do, which is why wage and hour lawsuits were up over 400% in 2017.
Often, payroll software can help keep businesses compliant, with automatic calculations that take into account state and federal laws. But if you’re still looking for additional, free tools, you may find the answer is on the wall—literally.
Labor law posters are helpful resources for both employees and employers. And while the text might not be particularly riveting, knowing the rules may save your business from future lawsuits and fines.
One thing that makes the Department of Labor (DOL) site particularly user-friendly is there isn’t an expectation of prior knowledge. You might not know the kind of literature you need, and that’s ok. The elaws FirstStep poster advisor has a list of industries to start. Once you select an industry, the site will walk you through a list of clarifying questions that will help determine what posters you should have. Questions include, “Do you plan to maintain a retirement savings program for employees?” and “Do you employ or seek to employ foreign workers?” Then select your state.
The result of all this is a customized list of labor posters you’ll want to hang up in your place of business. Select the posters you want to print, and the DOL will provide you with links to downloadable PDFs. These can be combined to form 11- by 17-inch posters when printed.
3. For time tracking and payroll
If your small business hasn’t yet invested in a full-service payroll provider, you may find yourself drowning in math each pay period. You wouldn’t be the first to run your calculations through an Excel spreadsheet.
But there are other tools out there that can provide high-quality assistance, such as this free timesheet calculator. The system is still fairly bare-bones—it doesn’t account for taxes or other deductions, for example. But it does offer some customizations.
Payroll managers or business owners can base calculations on:
- Weekly or bi-weekly payroll
- Five- or seven-day workweeks
- Overtime after eight hours, after 40 hours, or overtime exemptions
- Time and a half or twice the hourly base pay for overtime pay
Once you’ve selected the options appropriate for your business, you can calculate payroll for each employee. The timesheet calculator even includes an option to duplicate hours over days, which means less work for you. With everything entered, the timesheet calculator reports the employee’s total gross pay, including regular and overtime hours.
Free for now, but maybe not forever
Free tools are a necessity for any small business owner’s arsenal, especially when margins are tight. But while many such tools are handy, hopefully, there will come a day when free won’t matter as much as helpful.
Until then, keep using those free tools. But be vigilant about guarding your personal information. Here are a few easy ways to check if a website is safe:
- There’s a reference to privacy or a privacy page somewhere on the site.
- The web address has an “s” after http (https).
As great as it is to get access to printable labor law posters, you really want 100% compliance. You want tools that help you cover all your bases. Just as, someday, you won’t want to calculate payroll one employee at a time.
Author: Danielle Higley is a copywriter for TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking and scheduling solution. She’s been a contributor to MSN.com, FiveThirtyEight, and a variety of HR and business blogs where she can put her affinity for long-form storytelling to best use.