I realized I never did quite share the useful tools I've found and loved in my business, so today I decided to dedicate a post to that! It is a great time to share as well, seeing as I've been using most of these tools for a substantial period and can attest to their usefulness better.
I am a one-person business, and I'm intentionally staying that way, at least for now. I don't even have a VA, mostly because I don't feel like I need one as yet, and also because finding a really good one will take some time. I did try expanding last year, but I found that managing a team wasn't my cup of tea, so I went back to the drawing board to automate and make efficient more of my processes so that it will work out, even if it's just me alone.
Some of these tools have helped me really get everything in gear, and they aren't revolutionary (in fact, most of them are hugely popular), but I just wanted to share a bit of how I use them and how they help me in the everyday operations of my work.
(P.S.: some of the links might be affiliate links, not all, but I stand by the products and services I recommend. They will be annotated with an asterisk)
1. Dropbox Pro
I recently streamlined my business and also enhanced my back-ups to make sure that everything was running as best as it can, and that I would be protected from any unwanted surprises. Now, everything on my computer is stored on the Dropbox folder that syncs with the Dropbox account. This in turn is backed up via TimeMachine on my external hard drive. So my computer doesn't use double the space to store the things that would otherwise need to be on Dropbox, and I have an original and two copies of all the files I ever could have.
2. ScheduleOnce and Acuity Scheduling
Ever since I started taking on more introduction and discovery calls, I bought the cheapest subscription to ScheduleOnce because it was the most fuss-free system. I generally liked the system, especially the ease of adding timings and rescheduling, but there were two things I didn't really love, mainly the fact that you had to pay the $10/month subscription to get "automatic booking" without confirmation from my part; and that you cannot edit the form fields unless you're on a much more expensive plan.
I resisted but I am signed up to Acuity Scheduling now, and will start filling appointments with it next week. Acuity is at $10/month and with that comes tons of functions, even payment ones. It really is a great system that syncs both with my GoogleCal and iCal, which I absolutely love.
3. Evernote Premium
My telco offered a free year of Evernote Premium, and I am loving it so far. I would most likely revert to the free version once this ends, because I don't need most of the Premium functions, but Evernote is amazing at helping me keep track of everything. I have two copies of everything, one on paper and one digitally, and I store everything digital on Evernote. I have tables and notes for blog post plans, social media plans and my monthly webinar notes.
4. Campaign Monitor / Active Campaign
As with most other entrepreneurs, I started out with MailChimp, which offered up to 2000 subscribers. I moved to Campaign Monitor a few months ago because I liked the interface, but mostly because my MailChimp emails kept going into spam (even the customer service emails from MC went to spam!) and I didn't even know how long it had already been happening for. Unfortunately, I'm not in love with the automation features with CM, so I've decided to move to Active Campaign this month.
Active Campaign has a fairly complex dashboard, but the automation features are endless and there are loads of possibilities! This is also a good in-between before I am ready for the big guys like Simplero, InfusionSoft or Ontraport.
5. Sunrise for Mac and iPhone
I've been searching for a clean calendar that resembles iCal, but syncs more seamlessly with GoogleCal. The 2-way sync between GoogleCal and iCal confuses me and I often end up with duplicate events, which I hate to the core. With Sunrise, I am able to sync everything together -- including my Acuity appointments and my football game schedules -- easily and it has a gorgeous interface to boot. Plus, Sunrise Meet is pretty handy on the phone, too.
I use this in conjunction with Evernote and Sunrise and I love it! I have my physical, pen to paper copy on my Kikki K planner, but having it digitized allows me to be focused as everything is on my work computer. ToDoist is easy to use and fuss-free. It really is the perfect to-do list software that helps me get stuff done and stays open on my computer all the time. I can't believe it's free!
Bookmarks are so 2000. Pocket is easy to use and syncs across my devices so I can read the articles that I don't have time to in the day, and I can even view them online! It really is a lifesaver and I can easily catch up with business articles or research when I'm getting ready for bed or on the train.
I recently started offering brand coaching sessions (at $100 / 45-minutes) and CallNote has been invaluable! Coaching sessions are often recorded so my clients can go back to them again in case I speak too quickly (I have the tendency to) or they need to take more notes on the call. CallNote is sometimes glitchy, but overall easy to use for a free program. It records Skype video and audio calls in a handy folder and syncs to Dropbox if required (but they have yet to successfully sync for me). I just manually copy my recordings to each individual client's files.
9. GoDaddy Bookkeeping (formerly Outright)
GoDaddy Bookkeeping is the most fuss-free, simple-to-use bookkeeping software EVER. I have tried, multiple times, to go over to Quickbooks or Freshbooks, but in the end I still stayed. It is not too pricey, it has a simple interface and allows for recurring payments, and it also calculates estimated taxes. Since I am not based in the US, I cannot sync my bank details with any accounting system available, so GDB is good enough for me. I use its system easily to classify expenses and income, and when tax time comes in Singapore, it's a breeze!
10. Google Apps for Work
This is obvious, but I've seen that a lot of people are still not on Google Apps! Coupled with some extensions, Gmail has been invaluable to my business as well as all the bells and whistles it now comes with (Google Hangouts on Air, Google Sheets etc). Everything is in one place which makes it super easy to sync between devices, and with a bit of personalization it works for your business seamlessly.
11. A Small Orange Hosting
I've wanted to put my big girl pants and get decent hosting for a while now, and I decided to go with ASO as I've heard so much good things about their customer service and the stability of their hosting services. I haven't regretted it so far, everything is generally easy to set up. My only complaint is that their sales are way too enticing, and it makes the full-price payers (me) feel very awful. They have up to 50% discounts, so if you're not in a hurry, wait!
12. HelloSign / Adobe Acrobat DC
As a designer mostly, I sign contracts with all my clients. Being based in Singapore means that this is usually not so easy, as I would need the documents to be secure and legally covered. I used HelloSign for many months as I loved the ease of use and the clean interface, but since Adobe Acrobat DC came out, I have no use for HelloSign anymore. I am on the Adobe Creative Cloud full package and got DC for free. Now I get signatures right from my Adobe Acrobat, which is awesome!
Recording slides and screencasts to walk through my clients' new websites has never been easier! ScreenFlow is easy to use and has great editing capabilities. These are great for creating courses and also recording calls or webinars, if required.
14. RunClick / Webinar Ignition
I bought RunClick when it first came out, and even though it's not a program I would shout about, it was US$27 and lifetime access. I would say that it is extremely easy to set up a webinar page and subsequent pages (replays etc), but they are not very pretty. It takes a lot of work to make it pretty, and a lot of useful features are hard to find and use. But it works as a stable webinar program that complements Google Hangouts on Air, so no complains there.
I recently found Webinar Ignition, whose interface looks much less clunky and much cleaner, it also is at a cheaper price than RunClick since the promotion is over.
Last but not least, I use StreakCRM with my Google Apps email account and it makes my sales and follow-up process so much easier since I am one person. I organize my mailbox with multiple inboxes and then classify everything with Streak. With Streak, I can, with one click, see ALL the notes and emails I've ever had with one client, and I can, at a glance, see which stage of sales they are at, or if I am due to follow up or help them with something.
Additionally, it also comes with the send later functions to schedule your emails, and the snippets are pretty useful too for canned responses.
These are all the main software/apps I use for my business, hopefully it helps you in refining your business processes. If not, let me know what systems or apps you use to make life easier! I am always up for experimenting and testing out new ones.