You CAN run a business on your own with the right online tools. If you're just starting out, there are many free trials and subscriptions to get in there and see what you like (or don’t like) before you commit to something that may end up not being perfect for you and your unique business. Since I have been working in the online entrepreneurial world for a while now, I’ve come across tools that have made my life a lot easier. Today I'm going to share the top five tools I open and use every single day to run my business.
1 // HARVEST — ESTIMATES, INVOICING, TIME-TRACKING
A friend introduced this tool to me several years ago. While I love a gorgeously-designed estimate and invoice, the time it was taking to make that invoice was draining me. This clean interface allows me to get all the information in and sent out to my clients in a couple of clicks. It keeps track of money in and money out in a simple way. Online payments? Check. Reminders? Check. I love it.
Cost: Free. Solo is $12/mo. Team plan is $12 pp/mo.
2 // ASANA — PROJECT MANAGEMENT
I cannot say enough good things about this one. While I don't have a giant team (yet!) this tool has allowed me to set up projects and color code them per “team.” By that, I mean to-dos for client projects, marketing, finance, etc. You can enter a project, set its schedule, set reminders, store files, and even communicate with clients and employees about the project itself. This helps to keep that inbox level fairly low.
I'm one of those people that loves a to-do list. Some days I get jazzed about entering it all in and scheduling it out. However, some days I sit down at my computer and my mind is overwhelmed with all kinds of random to-do's and their due dates. By simply opening my Asana dashboard, I can breathe and see exactly what I need to get done that day in order to move forward.
Cost: Free. Team plan is $9.99 pp/mo.
3 // ACUITY SCHEDULING — ONLINE APPOINTMENT SCHEDULING
I had previously been in the corporate world using a different system that could set up meetings with anyone in the company very easily — because we were all using it. However, when I moved to my own calendar, it was tricky to invite someone I had never met before for coffee or any meeting type without going back and forth and back and forth via email or text to try to set something up. Then if they didn't have the same calendar system (I use iCal), it wouldn't connect the two of us and, as a result, someone wouldn't show up. No bueno!
With Acuity, you can own your calendar and share it when you need to. Instead of the back and forth, I send them a link to a specific calendar — customized by meeting type — so THEY can look at it and set up a time that works for them. This saves time, and they can reschedule if something comes up. You also get notified when changes are made. I have it set to send a 24-hour reminder to both of us as well. It's great!
Cost: Free. There are other paid plans with upgraded features.
4 // FILE SHARING WITH GOOGLE DRIVE AND DROPBOX
When working with digital files and clients that may live across the globe, having an online platform to share brand design assets is completely necessary. Google Drive and Dropbox are my platforms of choice. These are popular options, so most clients already have accounts that I can share files with.
I can put everything into a folder (logo files, patterns, fonts, illustrations, photography, everything the client needs) and send it to the client easy peasy! These websites do have some space limits, but most of the time it’s not an issue.
Cost: FREE cloud storage.
Cost: Plus (2,000 GB) is free. Professional (3,000 GB) is $19.99/mo. (more…)
5 // ADOBE CREATIVE CLOUD — ILLUSTRATOR, PHOTOSHOP, AND MORE
Yes, this one seems pretty obvious since I've been creating graphic designs on a computer for more than 15 years. Yet, I get questions about how to design something quickly. There are lots of apps and simple-to-use systems — I've tried MANY of them out. However, the quality always ends up extremely poor.
The robust system of Adobe Creative Cloud is something that keeps evolving, and I will never know all the things each of the programs can do. I’m sure I’ll never even scratch the surface! However, I love it with literally all my heart.
What I do know for sure is after all these years: a well-designed 'something' has taken hours and hours of energy to study and befriend the software. Nowadays with the Cloud subscription service, there is no buying a box with an expensive disk in it and installing on your computer. (I'm old, kids!) So you are always up to date with the latest version.
Cost: Photography is $9.99/mo. Single App is $19.99/mo. All Apps is $49.99/mo. See their website for more customized costs.