10 Online Tools Your New Business Can’t Live Without

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.

G Suite
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.

3.    Proposals

 Better Proposals
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.

5.    Accounting

 Wave Accounting
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.

QuickBooks Online
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.

6.    CRM

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.

How To Write A Kickass To Do List

By Smack Bang Designs

My desk is a total disaster.

It looks like a crew of teenage girls converged for a fluoro party with post-it notes and artliner pens. And scraps of paper. And paperwork I should have dealt with ages ago. There is what appears to be a designated section for empty teacups and a graveyard of scrunched up notes. There are three items that I’m unable to identify and two empty lunch containers that should most definitely go in the bin rather than the dishwasher.

I think my current desk situation is accurately reflective of my life at present. Chaotic, crazy and full. I’m in the midst of fulfilling three roles at Smack Bang, negotiating a rather large deal at Urban Growers and doing the legwork to set up my next business baby.

Busy, yes. Happy, absolutely.

I’m a Type A personality and I thrive on being busy just as much as I thrive on having a colour-coordinated wardrobe and matching skin care products. Being busy is my jam.

Over the years I’ve toyed with becoming a more chilled out, zen-like person. The idea of lunchtime yoga and slow beach walks is awfully romantic. In fact, one of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to slow down and learn how to do less in my two businesses. And in typical Tess style, on January 4th I thought of my next business idea and by January 5th I was knee deep in concept development. Four days Tess, kudos!

Being busy is bonkers, but somehow my brain has not yet flown the coop (this statement is most likely not supported by my boyfriend). I owe it to a great support network and epic team – oh, and by always writing a kick-ass to do list each day.

Without my to-do list I would probably be in hospital getting my limbs sewn back onto my torso from a classic case of trying to run in too many different directions at once. Without my to-do list I would likely be a nervous wreck trying to learn how to teleport so that I can be in two places at once. Without my to-do list I would absolutely be staring blankly at a white wall trying to slow my racing mind down to prevent one thought obliterating the next.

My to-do list is my bestie, and here’s the low down on how we keep sane together.

    I know how it goes; you wake up, you smash a coffee and sit down at your desk feeling super pumped and ready to take on the world. With a never-ending landscape of time ahead of you, you fill your to-do list with a billion tasks knowing that you’ll easily finish them all by 2pm so that you can clock off and head to the local pond to feed bread to the ducks and ponder the meaning of life. Perrrrfect. Truth? That ain’t happenin’ anytime soon, my friend. Calm the hell down and be reasonable with yourself. If your to do-list isn’t realistic, you’ll end up finishing your day feeling like the kid that missed the Mr Whippy van – majorly bummed out.
    When you’ve got a long list of things to do in front of you, it can send you straight into paralysis mode. Prioritising your to-do list by order of urgency will show you what you need to concentrate on today and what can wait until tomorrow, allowing you to breathe easier in return. Start the list with at least two items that absolutely must get done today, so you don’t end up vacuuming under the couch instead of finishing a project report due tomorrow.
    Easier said than done: pick one thing off your list and do it! Once that’s done, do another thing. Lather, rinse, repeat. If you try to juggle five tasks at the same time, chances are you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and outnumbered. Write things down as soon as you think of them so nothing slips through the cracks. Then pick one thing first and see it through. Reward yourself with cheese or a Jimmy Fallon YouTube clip. Just one! Okay, three.
    On the occasion that I manage to write my list the night before, I wake up to singing birds and talking deer and coffee brewing and wafts of almond danishes through my door. Legit, writing your list the night before gives you the clarity and rational mind to not assume you can dust off 15 blog posts and teach yourself HTML coding all before noon. Writing your list in the morning can sometimes make you feel like you’re already one step behind, which is sort of depressing when the goal is winning.
    And on that point, step away from the cliff in your mind telling you that you’re a failure because you didn’t get it all right, all the time. Don’t write an unrealistic list the length of Santa’s just to remind yourself that it’s not possible. Break the habit of martyrdom and set yourself up for more wins. Unrealistic expectations on yourself do nothing but drain energy and make you reach (again) for the Cadbury block. Eat that chocolate because you’re stoked, not miserable!
    To-do lists come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s all about what works for the individual. Some research suggests writing information by hand helps us remember it better, but if you last picked up a pen in 1998, fear not: there’s a huge range of digital apps that help create personal to-do lists. Have a to do list that travels with you. I find that Google Docs are the bee’s knees.
    You know you need to make a list, so now comes the actual crux: you have to write it down. Schedule time to schedule – sounds a bit wacky but you will relax in the knowledge that there is time set aside to write a nice list and take back some small bit of control over your life. Take that, chaos!
    Make a new list every day so the same old items don’t clog up the agenda. It’s also a useful way to make sure we actually get something done every 24 hours and don’t just spend time decorating the paper with colourful smelly pens. Don’t use your email inbox as your to-do list. It’s just too tough to prioritise the big to-do’s from the small annoying ones that clutter up your inbox. Start fresh and start strong.
    Eat the frog for breakfast, and the rest of your day will follow on nicely behind it. Once you tackle that monster task, you’ll feel in control and on top of the world! And maybe a little bit French. Tres bon! And on that note, effectively prioritising means only having one to-do list. Keep it simple, keep it real and keep hopping until you get into a solid to-do list rhythm. You’ll get there

This post originally appeared on Smack Bang Designs and has been republished here with permission. To check out more of their incredible design work visit their website.

How to tackle your never ending to do list

By Lily Dagdag

Between me and my twin sister, we've got 3 kids under the age of 5 so trying to run a business can be quite a juggling act. It's easy to get caught up putting out fires all day, then you look at the clock and realize that it's 8 pm and you haven't done anything to move your business forward, (oh and you forgot to eat lunch again). When that happens, it's easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you're never going to catch up.

So how do you get back on track?

Be intentional.

A few months ago my coach introduced me to the one page productivity planner, which included my top 3 priorities for the day. That way, even if I didn't do much else, I knew that I made progress towards my goals. Also, having those 3 priorities meant that whenever I had a spare 15 minutes I could get something done without wasting the first 10 minutes wondering what I should do first.

The tricky part about this is to choose 3 realistic intentions. It can involve multiple steps but it should still be doable in the time you have. For example, if you want to overhaul your business systems, it's probably not realistic to aim to do it in one day. Instead set the intention to choose 1 process (such as client intake) and write down everything you do. Then you can spend some time thinking about how you can streamline what you already have in place. At the end of the day, review what you did and didn't get done, then use that information to set your intentions for the next day.

Keep in mind that this is a process, so if you find yourself constantly unable to finish your intentions it may be time to tweak something. Also, it is okay to accept that some days, things won't get done. Beating yourself about it won't help. Just set the intention that tomorrow will be better, then follow through! Before you know it you'll be more productive, and you'll be able to get some time back for the things that really matter (like binge watching your favorite shows on netflix).

Lily Dagdag is the co-founder of Save Your Time Biz Solutions, that helps their clients build a powerful online presence step by step–concept, design, and all the tech stuff, so they can save time, avoid overwhelm, and focus on the good stuff – getting more sales.

Her and co-founder, Patricia Talavera are on a mission to help women business owners create websites that will grow their business without stress and overwhelm. Follow them on Facebook.

Photo Credit: StockSnap