Running an online business on my own is made easier by some amazing tools I’ve discovered along the way.
I thought I’d share these with you in case they’re of use to you too. All the tools below are free to use, with upgrades for extra features and larger capacity.
How many hours do you spend on the phone or emailing back and forth to customers and stakeholders trying to find appropriate times to book in a meeting or call? For finding a convenient date for a team or group of people Doodle (www.doodle.com) is an amazing tool.
But what about when you want to allow customers and clients to book a call or meeting with you directly from your website or Facebook page? Then there’s Calendly (www.calendly.com) my number one tool for showing when I’m available for meetings and helping customers book a call or meeting in my diary, without me ever having to speak to them. It also automates an email to confirm the booking and there are settings for reminders too. You can also sync it with your Google Calendar (ICal or Office calendar) so you know when it’s been booked in.
Do you spend a lot of time on the road going to meetings? Why not organise more video calls to save you time, money and carbon emissions. It’s still face-to-face, you can share documents, screens, invite others in and record the calls with Zoom (www.zoom.com) – my go to video call platform. I run my business from my laptop and I couldn’t be without zoom, it means I can connect to clients all over the world and jump on a call with my remote team members for weekly check-ins. You can also add bolt-ons for webinars and more than 10 people.
So you’ve probably heard of Mailchimp (www.mailchimp.com) and maybe you’re using it. I loved Mailchimp when I first started as a social entrepreneur. It was a great way to design and send weekly newsletters to our mailing list. It’s even easier now you can create opt-in forms and landing pages to capture email address on your website or via social media. And it probably is the simplest way if you’re just starting out with a mailing list and want to create a simple email sequence to introduce yourself and warm leads.
But now I use Convertkit (www.convertkit.com) for most of my email communications as it allows me to automate funnels and send broadcasts to different segments of my mailing list much more easily, with great reporting functions. (Note this is not free to use). I connect it to Leadpages via Zapier so anyone who signs up to one of my free resources or webinars automatically gets added to my mailing list.
If you’re not scheduling your social media so it automatically posts each day, you’re probably wasting time or not being consistent enough on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram. I use Hootesuite (www.hootesuite.com) as one of the easiest platforms to draft and schedule posts for weeks in advance.
Trello (www.trello.com) is a great planning tool. I use it to create lists of ideas, things to do and helps me plan projects as well. It’s particularly useful for when I work with virtual assistant and need to plan a piece of work with multiple people. I also like Wunderlist (www.wunderlist.com) for creating quick to-do lists and setting deadlines or reminders for things.
Not a graphic designer? Don’t have the funds for Adobe Suite? I use Canva (www.canva.com) every single day in my business because it’s so easy to create graphics and documents with. If you need to create an image for social media or a flyer to promote your services Canva is the tool for you. I even use it for creating Impact Reports.
Zapier (www.zapier.com) is like a wonder tool that links everything up so you can automate workflows and alleviate repetitive tasks in your business. Seriously I could write a whole blog post just about this one tool, there’s so much possibility with it. But if you’re using some of the other tools I mention below and you want to simplify how they all connect up then check in Zapier if it can do that first. For example when people book a call or meeting with you, you can create a “zap” in zapier to add them to your mailing list (if you have the correct GDPR permissions of course).
I know we all struggle with is losing passwords. Especially when you’re working across teams, you have new volunteers or interns helping out every couple of months, and you have to update your passwords regularly to stay secure. LastPass (www.lastpass) is your answer. Never forget a password again and give access to team members at the click of a button all in one secure place. This has been particularly helpful for me when I work with virtual assistants because I can give them limited access to certain programmes I use whilst they’re working with me.
Printing out documents like contracts and funding applications to sign and then scan back in to your computer to send via email - what a complete waste of time (and paper!) HelloSign (www.hellosign.com) is a simple tool that allows you to sign documents electronically, without all the faff and unnecessary printing.