If you’re like most new business owners, you’re running the whole show by yourself. And even if you have a small team or a virtual assistant, there’s still a lot of back-end business that you didn’t know about until…well…you forgot something. Can you relate? (It’s okay. I’m raising both hands over here!)
That’s why I rely on productivity tools to help me get through my to-do list each week. Whether it’s actually keeping track of the list itself, helping me with communications or setting up systems that run automatically, I couldn’t live (or, at least, work) without some of these.
I’m giving you the low-down on some of the most popular tools here. It will take some trial and error to find which work with your business and your processes, but it’s worth the time to find out!
There’s an endless list of project management tools out there for small business owners, and the one you choose might depend on the size of your team, your budget and your personal preferences.
Basecamp – With a flat rate, Basecamp is great for larger teams or business owners who are looking for a streamlined system with multiple users and projects. You can assign projects and deadlines and allow clients to upload files directly into the system.
Trello – If you’re a visual person, Trello boards are the way to go. Many business owners (including myself) use Trello to keep track of their content calendars and other projects in this system’s boards—where you can also color-code projects, set deadline dates and add file attachments.
Asana – Similar to Trello, Asana allows the user to create boards, but you can also create lists and sub-tasks for individual users and projects. Asana has a more linear feel to it, but it acts much like Trello.
What’s great about calendar scheduling is that you can send a client or collaborator a link to your calendar (that’s already synced with your Google calendar) and they can schedule an appointment with you—without all the back-and-forth, “Does this work for you? No? How about this time? Can we bump it up by 30 minutes?” Save hours each month with a calendar tool! There are so many options, like Bookeo, Candely, Acuity, Time Trade and more, all with their own features to check out.
If you just want to start small and you like putting pen to paper with printed calendars, I have something that I made just for you!
Click the link below.
I always recommend using a branded email address with your domain. It’s more professional and streamlined and it’s easy to add team members as needed. You can do this in Gmail, where you also have a number of additional add-ons you can use for productivity.
One of these options is Boomerang. If you’re anything like me, you sometimes forget to respond to an email that you’ve already read. It happens! With Boomerang, you can read and email and then remind yourself to respond by “boomeranging” that email back to you at a time you know you’ll have time to respond fully. Not only that, but if you’re checking your email at 1 a.m. (because you know you do sometimes!), you can respond to emails but then schedule them to send during your normal business hours. So your recipient doesn’t think you’re completely crazy—or available at all hours of the day and night!
Sometimes you need two tools to work together. Maybe you want your Instagram photos to go out as Tweets. Or email attachments to automatically save to your Google drive. Or your work hours tracked in your Google calendar. You can do all of this and so much more with Zapier and IFTTT. Pricing varies depending on the services you need, but if you have programs that need to talk to one another on a regular basis, having automations set up is totally worth it.
Invoicing and Contracts
If you’re still customizing every invoice or contract, you’re living in the dark ages! There are tools out there that will auto-invoice clients, store your contracts so you can use them again and again and duplicate client questionnaires so you can send them out to get feedback and gather information from new clients. Dubsado, 17 Hats and Honeybook are just three such programs, and the features vary on each. I recommend diving into each program’s website and asking around in your favorite Facebook groups before choosing one. There’s definitely a learning curve in setting up each one, and it pays to do your research.
Of course, this is only the beginning of the productivity tools available to business owners. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices out there. I suggest deciding where you feel you’re wasting the most time and start there. Do your research, choose a tool and try it out. Once you feel you’ve mastered that tool, start looking for a new solution to another business challenge!