By Haley Brown
There has never really been a better time to start a business.
Thanks to the Internet, anyone can virtually launch and build a startup or lifestyle business. Just take a look at all these online tools and products at your disposal.
I have personally been using online tools in my business. For most small business owners including myself, the ultimate goal is to overcome the little hurdles in running the business and get more done in the smallest time possible. And I’m a huge advocate for setting your business up for success from the start. If you start out with the right tools, as your business grows you won't need to waste time, money and resources on upgrading them down the track.
So the question is, which tool should you choose? Which one could work best for your business?
Here’s a list of my most tried, tested and trusted online tools, which I’m sure you’ll find helpful in your search to save time and money.
1. Project Management
Asana practically manages my life. This project management tool helps me organise workloads among my team. You can manage different tasks and assign them to each member of your team, track the progress of each project from start to finish, and even turn conversations into tasks. It saves precious time than constantly communicating with them over the phone or via email.
Trello is another project management tool I use. Compared with Asana, Trello is more visually appealing. Here you can see all your tasks laid out across the screen – like virtual sticky notes on a virtual cork board. You can create boards and label them with tasks and then simply drag and drop items to mark your progress.
2. Email Management
It's a terrible idea to mix web hosting with email hosting. If one goes down, it all goes down. In maritime tradition, a captain always goes down with his ship. If the ship sinks, well, so long Cap’n!
Your web hosting account is the ship in this story.
Now raise your hand if you’ve never had downtime on a host. I don’t even need to see you to know your hand’s not raised. Every host* – even the top-notch ones – experience occasional downtime.
Now raise your hand if your email is a critical part of your business? My hand’s up. I conduct a tonne of business through email, so losing access to email is more than just an inconvenience – it’s a show stopper.
Trust Google to give you the best business cloud apps and collaboration tools. G Suite includes Gmail, Google Drive, Docs and Calendar among others. Here I can easily manage emails, chats and even video meetings.
When you are running a creative agency, writing proposals can be tricky. So rather than spending hours formatting my proposals, I use Better Proposals. It’s easy to choose from their customisable templates. Once you’ve chosen a template, you can type in your proposal and send them via an attractive email template with your logo on it.
4. Lead Generation
Who doesn’t know MailChimp? It’s my go-to tool for email automation, newsletter processes and lead generation. MailChimp allows me to easily build my email list and create landing pages for my email leads.
MailerLite may be a lesser-known email automation tool but is actually a formidable contender when it comes to lead generation. For one, this tool features more attractive templates and an easy-to-use landing page and pop-up forms builder.
I manage business receipts and invoices using Wave. It has basic accounting features and is extremely easy to navigate. Best of all, it’s free. This is perfect for those who are just starting with their business.
You may find that Wave’s capabilities are limited, so QuickBooks might be your best bet. This software is equipped with advanced functionalities an expanding business will need. The basic plan is incredibly affordable, and you can scale up according to your requirements.
HubSpot may be better known as a marketing and sales platform but it also has a CRM software. Other platforms can be too complicated to use, but HubSpot is not. Also, the pipeline management system is a gem. It lets you sift through your leads and focus on the quality ones.
What I like about SalesFlare is that it offloads you from the tedious and repetitive task of encoding customer data. This CRM practically fills itself out and syncs contact details with your email, phone and calendar.
And that’s a wrap
These tools have a huge impact on the success of my business. Think of it as the oil to your car’s engine. It makes for a much smoother ride. These tools may have worked for me but it’s also best if you take the time to research and do some trial runs before deciding to invest.
What are your favorite tools? Which online apps and business software you feel you can’t live without?
Haley is the straight-shooting head honcho of Brand Shack, guru in all things websites and branding. Crediting her success not only to her design skills but to her processes and project management that allow her to run her business from wherever her travels take her.
When not backstroking in branding, she loves nothing more than travelling the globe on her quest to find the perfect pina colada.