10 Awesome Tools That Every Small Business Needs
I freely admit to being a planner. I love organising and thinking up new strategies and ideas. Some of them work out, some don't but there's no doubt that my business as a freelance writer and web designer has jumped in both volume and income thanks to planning.
Running a small business by your lonesome has probably never been more complex than it is today. These are the tools and apps that I use on a daily basis and frankly, couldn't run my business without! I am completely self-taught, half of these tools below I'd never heard of six months ago, so it's all a learning curve but one I'm glad to say is getting smoother every day!
6 months ago I wasn't using Buffer. I was wondering how on earth people managed to get thousands of social media followers and be posting tweets and grams and posts around the clock. The secret, of course, is automatic scheduling with a program like Buffer.
Now I only spend an hour a week sourcing and scheduling a week of content on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn. Buffer has saved me oodles of time and supercharged my social media strategy, especially with Twitter and Pinterest, where I'm gaining new followers every day.
I love Google, I've used it as an email program for years but this year, I delved into its suite of online apps such as Google Docs, Sheets and Drive. For years I felt tied to Microsoft Office and Dropbox though I found both to be unreliable, especially with the Mac-PC incompatibility. Now I write all my articles on Google Docs, do my finances with Google Sheets and organise my client production processes on Drive.
3. Sumo Me
Sumo Me is another recent addition to my business life. It's all about growing traffic on your website through various tools including email marketing and social media sharing. The free version has loads of apps that are very suited to solopreneurs or small businesses.
Both of my websites now have a yellow bar running down the left side of the page encouraging readers to share my content with tallies on the total number of shares. Sumo Me is a great way to attract more social media shares in an easy and visible way.
ConvertKit is an email marketing program. It's hugely popular appeal lies in its simplicity and straightforward approach to sending emails and newsletters. It also incorporates opt ins, campaigns and email sequences, which are useful for launches, courses and other promotions.
One downside to ConvertKit is that it's not cheap. Unlike Mailchimp's free plan, ConvertKit has just one price - $US29/month. For small businesses with fewer subscribers it's expensive but it's helping me growth my subscriber list and I haven't found a better alternative. If you know of one, please share!
5. Microsoft Outlook
I admitted above that I don't love Microsoft but I do love Outlook for desktops. It's the only thing still tying me to Office. I use both business and personal email accounts in Outlook, primarily because of their fantastic folder system. I am a folder junkie; I slot everything into a complex folder system and revel in its brilliant simplicity.
Ntaurally! After a few trying years with Wordpress, finding Squarespace was a breath of fresh air and I haven't looked back. While it's smaller than the Wordpress giant, Squarespace is a far more intuitive, streamlined and easy to manage platform. It has all-in-one for hosting, security, domain and maintenance. They have 24/7 email and chat customer service and a great forum. Best of all, their templates are beautiful, clean and always look flawless.
I used Paypal long before I started my freelance business, when Paypal was tied to Ebay. That partnership untied itself a while ago but happily I never did. Paypal is brilliant because it removes the credit card security issues, and it's an instant payment - there's no waiting around for days for money to clear. The fees are also minimal, whether you're sending or receiving payment, and far less than bank fees, especially international.
I use Paypal to pay all my bills and wherever possible with sub-contractors. I offer it as an alternative payment on my invoices and it's definitely the best option for international money transfer, though unfortunately many publications, in particular, still favour telegraphic transfers.
Wave is a free accounting and invoicing online program. It's perfect for small business and it's free. It syncs to my bank account and Paypal and tracks my income and payments. Before using Wave, I just used Word to create invoices and kept track of the invoice numbers. It's great to automate that stuff now and produce a professional invoice every time.
9. Notes (iPhone)
I love using Notes on my phone for when I'm out and about. I always have my phone on me so there's no need to carry anything else, I don't need an internet connection, and there's login; I just open and type. If I have an interesting conversation with someone, am outlining a blog post over a lunch or coffee by myself, or just have a brilliant idea pop into my head, I get it all down with Notes and then email it to myself. Too easy.
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10. Pen and paper
You betcha! I am a writer after all. I'm also an obsessive list-maker and write out 2 lists a day - work and personal. I love the feeling of accomplishment and completion that comes with crossing things off my lists. I'm also an old fashioned scribbler for interviews, both phone and in person. I then transcribe all my interviews so essentially it's twice as much work but I also write down descriptions of places, sounds, smells and sights. There's no doubt that my handwriting gets worse with age but it's something I won't be giving up, ever.
What are your favourite work tools and apps? I'd love to hear your recommendations!
Note: There are no affiliate links in this post. It's on my if-there's-ever-a-slow-moment list which means I'm not going to get to it anytime soon. So, all my links are just about being helpful for you!
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, Squarespace web designer and blogger currently based in Vientiane, Laos. She loves helping freelancers and small businesses get online with web design and content, blogging and her awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff". She also writes food and travel articles for businesses and magazines, and blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos, just for fun.