The best productivity and business tools that will make your work life so much easier.
As a small business owner, you must find ways to do more with less. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of 20 of my favorite productivity and business tools because I know that nothing can be more distracting and crazy-making than using manual systems that you’re too busy to use properly.
Piecing together software requires research, testing and time—something you probably don’t have a lot of these days. I’ve already done the research and testing, so I want to share with you what my top recommendations are for productivity and business tools. Find the combo that works for you, integrate what you can and you’ll notice an immediate improvement in the way you operate.
To find the right software, and avoid overwhelming yourself with too many bells and whistles, it’s useful to take stock of what you’re currently spending too much time doing. It could be invoicing or emailing or updating your social media accounts. If you’re not aware of what’s sapping all of your time, try an app like RescueTime https://www.rescuetime.com which measures and reports on your digital activities. Use the following list to find the right solutions to fit your situation and free up more of your time.
There are many project management apps out there, but I love, love, love Asana. It’s easy to use, and the free version offers enough capability to work with a team and plan out your entire year, project-by-project.
To keep things moving along in your business, you need deadlines. Asana lets you plan tasks and then assign them to people with deadlines. Assignees receive email reminders and there’s also a messaging and document attachment function in the app so that less back-and-forth (read: lost) email occurs.
Automating basic tasks will save you a ton of time. It also ensures that your team isn’t missing steps. Zapier automates workflows between your apps. For example, if you do a lot of live events you can connect an app like Eventbrite to Mailchimp so that all of your attendees are automatically added to your email list. You can send an automated welcome email in Mailchimp when your attendees are still excited about your event…not a week or two later when they’ve forgotten already.
For free, you get 15GB of space on Google Drive. It’s like Microsoft Office and Explorer on steroids because it’s all in one tidy space. You can share folders or files with contractors or team members, and it’s all stored in the cloud, meaning you can access it from any mobile or Internet-connected device. Google Drive’s auto-save function also allows you to collaborate on one document—that’s right ONE, not five different versions (where are they all saved again?).
Are you waiting for cheques in the mail and do your accounting via Excel spreadsheets? Make getting paid easier for you and your client, and keep on top of your balance sheet. Freshbooks is an ultra-affordable way for you to create estimates and invoices in multiple currencies. You can also hook up your PayPal or Stripe so your clients can pay securely online. You can also create reminders, take deposits and collect tax automatically. Create monthly reports, track your business accounts and more.
Whether you’re a freelancer or you work with a lot of contractors, you want to be able to make the onboarding process as seamless as possible. Bonsai has built-in contracts, e-signing capabilities, and invoice templates and allows you to receive online payments. Get it all done in one place and keep those client contracts in order!
Email can be the worst sometimes. Slack is a great way to communicate with your team, share files, and sort team members into sub-teams for specific projects. Word of caution: Just like email, Slack can be a time-suck if you don’t use it wisely. Save the cat memes for Friday afternoons.
Meetings can be a real pain to organize and follow through on. Do is a planning, meeting management, and recording app all in one. Set clear objectives and action items that your team can’t lose in their piles of notes.
Customer Relationship Management
If you’re just starting out or run a small business, not an enterprise, then Zoho’s an affordable CRM to start with. Find and follow up with sales leads using workflows and team communication tools. It can also sync with your calendar and email.
Salesforce acts like a giant rolodex and sales team manager. Keep track of conversations with clients for seamless follow-up and customer data, and generate insightful reports.
If you’re new to sales funnels and you want to engage your website visitors at the right time, ConvertKit offers a great multi-function solution. Create landing pages, opt-ins, automated email marketing sequences and learn how to build sales funnels using their proven templates.
Email marketing is a key part of all online businesses and even brick and mortar businesses these days. ConvertKit makes it easy to create automated email sequences that are triggered by actions people take on your online channels. Improve your engagement and increase sales.
As far as email marketing programs are concerned, Mailchimp is one of the best quality apps for its cost. Setup automated sequences, create emails using a huge library of templates, A/B test, and more. Plus, they recently added a Facebook ads feature that’s much simpler to use than Facebook’s own ad creation tool.
An effective content strategy requires a lot of moving pieces. CoSchedule houses an editorial calendar, social media management tool, and blog management tool all in one place. Plan and publish a blog and the schedule it on social media (ideally more than once). You can set up team workflows as well to help reduce email traffic.
Having to log into each separate email channel at the exact time you want to post something is way too inconvenient. From Hootsuite, you can manage all your social channels and see what people are talking about at the same time. With Hootsuite, you can follow specific accounts, and hashtag streams, you can like posts, reply to comments, and schedule content in minutes—not hours.
Buffer’s similar to Hootsuite, though it has some different functions. Buffer is great for those newer to social media marketing. It offers an excellent scheduling calendar tool and quick analytics so that you can see how your posts are doing.
If you produce a lot of content, such as recipes or photography, that’s not necessarily timely you’re missing a big opportunity by not sharing it over and over again. You can increase the amount of content you post and store your entire social media content library in Edgar and tell it how often you want things to re-post.
Everyone needs a proofreader, especially if you’re a busy businesswoman on the go! Grammarly is a grammar and spelling checker that’s a cut above Microsoft Word’s spell-check. It catches context, overused words, and more. It will help you improve your writing, making you more effective with each word.
If writing concise and snappy copy doesn’t come naturally to you, this easy-to-use online app will help. Paste your copy in and the Hemingway App will give you a readability score and give you tips on how to improve your copy.
If Adobe Photoshop makes you want to scream, try the more user-friendly Canva. Use pre-built templates and craft graphics using a huge library of design elements, fonts, and stock photos (usually around $1 per image) to create imagery for your website, newsletter, and even print publications.
Edit photos fast to use for your newsletters, blog, or social channels. Easily touch-up portraits before you post them and make cute collages for your Pinterest page.
Would you like to make that a combo?
You don’t need to use all of these apps, so choose carefully. If you’re a solopreneur, you have different needs than someone running an agency. You need to select a set of tools that ideally integrate (talk to one another), and that solve specific problems for you. If you’re considering an app, ask yourself:
- Will this save me time?
- Will this save me effort?
- Will this improve the quality and consistency of my work?
- Will this help my team collaborate better?
- Is the cost worth the benefit?
I can tell you from experience that having the right systems makes life so much better. It frees you from redundant tasks so that you can spend more time on the things that are important.
Did I miss something? Please share your recommendations and why they’re useful!