Something that often comes up when people talk about starting their own business is fear of overwhelm. Running your own business means being a jack of all trades in many ways. You have a lot to juggle, and that can be intimidating!
So one of the best ways to streamline your work is to find helpful software that works for you. In this post, I’ll run through the small business tools I use to help me run my business.
Figuring out what you can automate and what apps and tools can help save you time and energy is a lifesaver! From productivity and planning to marketing, communications and inspiration – these tools can help you manage your business in the most efficient way possible.
One of the most important skills of the self-employed is finding how to harness your productivity. On a larger scale, this can include what time of day you work best, or what environment suits you.
Some people prefer working completely alone at home, while the bustle of a cafe works better for others and some people like a mix of both. But part of being productive means knowing what you need to do and when you need to do it.
The following tools can make this a whole lot easier:
OmniFocus – Task & project planning. Free 14 day trial, then $9.99 per month (or $99.99 per year)
Described as having “tools to help tame the chaos”, this software is the ultimate task organiser. With the option to share items to OmniFocus from any app on your phone, it will help you keep on top of everything on your to do list in one place. While managing present task, clever forecasting options in the app help “set your future self up for a win”!
Harvest Forecast – Capacity planning. Free 30-day trial, then $5 per person per month (10% discount when you pay yearly).
Managing a number of clients and projects at once means keeping on top of my own time and availability. Harvest Forecast is excellent for this. It’s a clear, visual platform allowing you to keep your schedule under control. If you manage multiple projects or work across a busy team, this software is a no-brainer.
PaymoApp – Automatic time tracking. Free version available, subscriptions from $8.95 per user per month.
Did you know that studies show we waste on average 2.5 hours a day at work? Keeping track of where your time is going is an important way to streamline your business. Paymo allows you to easily track your time without having to remember to hit stop and start. Useful to keep track of all your billable hours and also handy for quotes, proposals and invoicing.
Learn more about how to save time and automate your workflows.
Freeagent – Invoicing and expenses. Starts at £19 +VAT per month (sole trader), with 50% off for your first 6 months.
Freeagent easily halved the time I spent every month on invoicing and expenses. It’s well known that some of the most common issues business owners encounter are around accounting. This software helps you take control of your finances and admin. It has the added benefit of helping take care of your tax return too, another time-consuming and potentially stressful task if you’re new to it!
Social Media and Content
Canva is a well-known tool and it’s popular for a reason. With templates for anything you can think of, from Instagram stories and LinkedIn banners to business cards, it’s an amazing time saver. Create templates for each platform and then simply switch images and text. This will create a consistent look on all your accounts. Canva is free, with a pro version starting at £10.99 per month.
If you want to go further than Canva and create your own visuals and edit photos, have a look at Pixelmator and Affinity Photo. Adjust colour, paint, create stunning layouts and retouch – become your own graphic designer! It’s worth exploring the offerings of both and finding what works best for you. The Pixelmator Pro software is £38.99 to buy and Affinity Photo is £48.99 to buy. Both offer a free trial.
SocialBee – Social Media Scheduling. 14 day free trial and then starts at $19 per month.
SocialBee saves me so much time! It automatically posts for you based on your own customisable, channel-specific schedule. You simply define content categories like “promotional posts” or “blog posts” and fill them up with posts without manually having to schedule each one of them! It’s easy to create a custom version of each post for specific channels and if you want them to be reposted automatically, simply define them as “evergreen” content.
Tweetdeck – Twitter Dashboard. Free.
If you use Twitter a lot, this is hands down the best tool around! Schedule your content in advance, and view multiple feeds all on one screen. You can browse home feeds, mentions, notifications, scheduled posts, messages, lists and specific hashtags all together. It’s ideal if you manage more than one Twitter account – schedule for and keep track of them all in one place!
Analytics and Reporting
Google Analytics – Website Analytics. Free.
The OG when it comes to website analytics, Google Analytics is a great way to keep track of how your website is performing. It helps you identify areas that may require some work, and shows you where your traffic is coming from. All great ways of making your site more efficient and maximising performance.
Google Data Studio – Reporting and monitoring. Free.
Need to regularly create web performance reports? Google Data Studio is your best friend. This app will help collect all of your analytics and produce customisable, easy-to-read reports. You can create bar charts, line charts – edit it to suit your needs. Even import your Facebook analytics into a Google sheet and you can create reports on that too!
Google Search Console – Google search optimisation. Free.
As stated by Google themselves, Search Console helps “monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results”. This service can fix indexing problems, show where your site is linked elsewhere online and explore search traffic data. Using Search Console can help you really optimise your site’s performance in Google Search. And, let’s face it, that’s where you want to be popping up!
Read on to find out why you should always track and analyse your marketing results.
Serpstat – SEO. Some free features then pricing starts at $69 per month (20% discount for annual billing).
If search engine optimisation isn’t your area of expertise, it can feel like a minefield. Finding small business tools to help with it makes a huge difference! I recommend Serpstat. It’s great for keyword research, page audits, competitor research, search analytics and more. A huge weight off your shoulders, particularly if you’re a newbie!
Slack – Communicating with remote team. Starts at £5.25 per person per month. Free trial available.
Especially when communicating with several members of a remote team, email can get messy. From forgetting to hit CC to searching through endless threads, it can become a bit of a headache! With Slack, you can message individual members of your team, or create chats with multiple members, keeping everyone in the loop. I find it really helps the whole team stay in touch much more productively! One of my favourite small business tools.
Trello – Collaborative projects. Free basic then starts at £12.50 per month.
Used by millions of people worldwide, Trello is a great collaborative project manager. Use project boards, lists and cards to organise projects across your team. It’s fantastic for highlighting pending tasks and due dates – it keeps everyone on the same page and up-to-date.
FaceTime – Video calls with other Apple users. Free.
If both you and a client have Apple devices, FaceTime is a great way to speed up communication. Especially now, in the midst of a pandemic, video calls are becoming much more common. FaceTime is free on iPhone, iPads and Macs. Use it to have a quick catch up with a client – it feels more like a face-to-face meeting than a phonecall, which can be a nice way of staying connected.
Zoom – Online meeting and conferencing. Basic Free account or starting at £11.99 per month for pro.
Hosting a webinar or an online conference? Zoom is the platform for you. It is an easy way to organise online meetings and stay connected with your team, even when you can’t be in the same room. Zoom syncs with your calendar and can be accessed on any device, making life so much easier!
Feedly – My favourite blogs in one feed. Free basic with Pro starting at $6 per month, billed yearly.
Subscribing to various blogs and websites to keep up with the information you’re interested in is great! But trying to access that all from every different corner of the web can be off-putting and time consuming. Feedly allows you to follow all of your favourite blogs in one place. Therefore, all of the articles you’re interested in are at your fingertips!
Paper – Sketching ideas. Free on AppStore.
I use Paper by WeTransfer to doodle, sketch, collect ideas and brainstorm with my pencil on iPad. This is a great way of getting creative ideas out of your head and sorting through them. Ever have that nagging feeling that there was something you meant to be working on, but days have passed and it’s slipped out of your mind? Use Paper to sketch out or note down thoughts when they first come to you! As a result, you’ll find you really stay on top of all your creative ideas.
Mindnode – Mindmaps. Free basic with Pro starting at $2.49 per month or $19.99 per year on AppStore.
Much like Paper, Mindnode is a great way of sorting through your inspiration! I like to use it to create mindmaps to collect ideas or organise information. Because Mindnode functions in a really simple way, it’s great for easily working through a lot of potential ideas in one go. The simplicity of the app and lovely, clean visuals make it a really enjoyable app to work with.
So there you have it – some of my favourite small business tools. I hope you’ve found some in there to help transform your work-life – they’ve certainly made a massive difference for me!
To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
10 Things I’ve Learned Running My Own Small Business
Why You Should Work on Your Small Business – Not Just in it
How to Save Time and Automate Your Workflows
Make Your Small Business Work Smarter Not Harder