I would not be able to run my business as smoothly and efficiently as I do without the use of these tools and apps to keep me organised. I am a huge advocate of getting the processes and tools you need and that are affordable at the beginning to ensure your creative business starts on the right foot. If you’re already in business and are not using any tools to keep you and your business organised then I would definitely recommend starting now.
Here are my 10 favourite small business tools and apps that I use (in no particular order):
There are so many ways to take in content nowadays however I think blog posts will also be one of my favourites so when Google announced that they were shutting down Reader, it’s safe to say, I soon got looking for another app so I could follow all my favourite blogs. I tried Bloglovin initially but just couldn’t get on with it. Apps and tools that are easy to use and are pleasing on the eye are important to me as a designer and which is why Feedly fits the description nicely. I’ve been using Feedly for a few years now and it’s safe to say that I love it. So why is Feedly so awesome? Well in addition to the amazing and easy to use design, I can organise blog topics; for example, I have folders for design, business, lifestyle, motherhood and weddings. On the right hand side there are suggestions for new reads, you can save posts to come back to later and it links to so many apps such as Pocket, Evernote, Buffer, Hootsuite and more.
Ah Google, the hub of my business. I use Google for so many business related tasks but mainly for my emails. If you’re a professional business owner, there’s no need to use an unprofessional email address such as email@example.com. For £3.30/$5 per month, you can have a professional email address like firstname.lastname@example.org and they offer a 30 day free trial. Along with my emails, I use Google Drive for storing documents and sharing files with clients, Google Calendar to log both personal business appointments and Google Docs, Google’s version of Microsoft Office.
I love Evernote. Put simply, Evernote is a note-taking app. I use both the desktop version and mobile app which sync together to ensure I can make notes wherever I go. I mainly use Evernote to plan editorial content such as this very blog post however I also use it to keep a note of my monthly and long-term goals and jot down any notes to do with the business such as new products and services.
Buffer is a social media scheduling system that is easy to use and allows me to schedule tweets, Facebook posts and Pinterest pins. They have also just released a beta version of a content library enabling you to store posts to re-use at a later date. Perfect for driving traffic to blog posts from six months ago.
Wave is a free online accounting software and perfect for those who are just starting out and don’t have the money to invest in accounting software. I don’t use it for invoicing as the designer in me doesn’t find the templates aesthetically pleasing however it’s great for keep track of my day to day accounts and expenses.
I use HelloSign to send contracts to my clients. The contract arrives in their inbox and requests their signature. Once they have signed it, it requests mine and when all parties have signed, it sends both a copy of the signed contract.
Streak is a CRM (Client Relationship Manager) for your inbox. I’ll admit it’s still something I’m trying to get my head around and I’m not using it to its full potential yet however I currently use it to schedule emails to send later, i.e. when I don’t want a client to know that I’m working at 10pm and to keep a track of when my emails are opened, perfect for when I’ve sent a design proposal to a client.
Inbox Pause is an add-on for Gmail that is a must have for any business owner. As a small business owner, it’s so tempting to check your emails during evenings and weekends. With Inbox Pause, you can literally pause your inbox so that email doesn’t enter until you unpause it. You can also run it on a schedule meaning that emails are dropped into your inbox once, twice or three times a day depending on your settings.
I use Pocket alongside Evernote and Feedly to store links that I would like to refer back to later. For example, any blog posts that I read in Feedly that I want to come back to, I simply pop it in the ‘pocket’ to save for later. It’s also great for personal use and I use it to build a virtual shopping list of things I need want.
IFTTT (IF This Then That) is a free web-based service that allows users to automate activities across the web. For example, how many times have you posted on Instagram, clicked the button to share it to Twitter only for it to show the link. By setting up a simple ‘recipe’ on IFTTT, you can tell it to post the image to Twitter when you post on Instagram. There are so many great timesaving recipes; I’ll do a post on them soon.
This may seem like a lot of tools to use however once they are integrated, I promise it really does save me time. Only use the tools you really need and don’t add another tool to your workflow just because someone is raving about it.
I’d love to know what your favourite tools and apps are to help you run your business.