As entrepreneurs and side hustlers, we end up juggling so many aspects of our business from marketing, finance, legal, not to mention delivering our actual products and services. It can be overwhelming! Anyone else trying to manage all that comes with entrepreneurship while still enjoying the “freedom” that we were seeking in the first place?
To make matters worse, there are an INFINITE number of business tools out there that claim to help simplify our lives and systematize our processes. But, where do you get the time to try them all? How do you know if they integrate with one another? It makes you feel like you might need a tool to keep all of your tools organized.
These 7 sites are an integral part of my daily business life, were fairly simple to set up, and have made my life much easier over the past couple of years.
While WordPress isn’t exactly a well-kept secret, it’s is worth mentioning because it’s absolutely crucial to my business. There are a growing number of competitors like Wix.com and Squarespace, but I have found that the flexibility and functionality with WordPress is unrivaled when it comes to website development.
How I Use It: I have a WordPress.org account versus a WordPress.com account. This means that my site is self-hosted and I have many more options for customization. For a great infographic on the difference, click here.
Why I Love WordPress: It’s free! Because I have a WordPress.org site, I do have to pay for hosting, but WordPress itself is free of charge. The best thing about WordPress is that there are a million plugins that allow you to customize your site easily. For example, I have plugins that connect my site with ConvertKit (see below), automatically check my posts for SEO optimization, and I used a plugin to create my online quiz.
Canva is a web-based graphic design tool that I use almost daily. Their software is really versatile and allows you to create and download designs for web or print. Here’s the thing – it’s super easy. I am not a designer, by any means, so Canva has been a constant part of my business from the beginning.
How I Use It: Name a graphic element in any of my business materials and I used Canva to create it. Social media posts, website images, PDF downloads, and presentations are all super easy to create quickly (and painlessly!). Just this morning I’ve used it to create a Pinterest graphic for my latest blog posts and the graphics for my online course launch.
Why I Love Canva: You can use Canva for free! They provide pre-sized templates which means that you don’t have to spend time cropping and editing images. They have a stock photo library built into their interface. Because I use Canva almost every day, I pay $12.95 per month for their “Brand Features”. This means that they store my brand colors, logos, and fonts for easy access which makes the process 10x faster. For those of us who aren’t graphic designers and don’t have time to learn how to use the Adobe suite, I cannot recommend Canva enough.
One of the most intimidating things about starting my business was dealing with the financial aspects of entrepreneurship. How do I separate personal and business expenses? How do I plan for taxes? What is the easiest way to invoice clients. Wave makes all of that super easy to setup and manage on an ongoing basis.
How I Use It: I use Wave in two key ways. First, I track and categorize my expenses so that when I file my taxes, I easily know how much to include in my deductions. For example, whenever I receive a receipt in my inbox, all I have to do is forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it automatically syncs with my account. No more saving receipts! Secondly, I use Wave to invoice my clients. Wave generates an invoice that is sent to them electronically and they can pay via credit card immediately. You look super professional and it links right to your bank or PayPal accounts.
Why I Love Wave: It’s free! While the free aspect is nice, truly the biggest thing that I love about Wave is that it lets me toggle between my business and personal dashboards easily while keeping everything completely separate. On the personal side, I can set budgets and track spending while the business side provides a financial snapshot that includes income, expenses, overdue invoices, and accounts payable.
If you have or are building an email list of subscribers, clients, or followers, ConvertKit is a powerful tool that allows you to manage your list, create landing pages, setup automated sequences, and track your list growth in one dashboard. I have to be honest, I’ve only switched over from Mailchimp a little over a month ago but I’m already completely converted.
How I Use It: The reason that I switched over from Mailchimp was the ability to create forms and landing pages that are independently hosted and easy to create. I use this to capture subscriber information, add them to specific automated sequences, and tag them so that I can segment them if needed. ConvertKit also allows me to send out my weekly email to certain segments of my list.
Why I Love ConvertKit: Flexibility and visibility. I got to the point where I was creating more landing pages and downloads than it was logical for me to build in WordPress. With ConvertKit, I have created a landing page template and can simply duplicate and edit as needed. I also love the dashboard which allows me to see subscriber daily, weekly, and monthly totals as well as the conversion rate for all of my forms.
Insightly is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system at heart, but it is highly customizable to your specific business. If you find yourself writing notes and keeping information in 12 different places, then this is for you!
How I Use It: I use Insightly to keep track of three main things in my business. The Contacts feature allows me to build a database of clients, partners, and contacts that is more reliable and easy to use than just my email inbox. The Opportunities section helps me see my sales pipeline and automatically assign tasks based on where prospects are in the process. For example, when someone schedules a complimentary coaching session, I automatically get tasked to send them a confirmation email. Finally, I can manage client engagements in the Project section where I can track progress and complete milestones.
Why I Love Insightly: It’s free! (Are you noticing a theme?) Insightly is free for up to 2 users, so great for solopreneurs and small teams. Overall, Insightly is one of the more flexible and customizable small business CRM systems I’ve seen. You can truly make it work for your specific business. One feature that I especially love is the Gmail integration. When I send an email, it automatically syncs to that contact’s page in Insightly. This way, I can see all communication at once when I’m looking up that contact. Insightly also syncs with Trello, so I can keep my tasks visible in one place!
While it’s one of the simpler tools on this list, Trello is the most crucial to my business. Billed as a web-based project management tool, it is made up of boards, which contain lists. Each lists contains cards (which typically correspond to tasks).
How I Use It: The bigger question here is how DON’T I use it! Trello holds my daily to-do list, monthly blog content calendar, and my yearly goal tracker. I have 4 Boards: Goals, Projects, Next Actions, and Content Calendar. Under each of my goals, I have specific projects that are then broken out on the Project board with specific tasks that eventually make it to my Next Actions board. Then, on my Next Actions board, I have lists like “Create”, “Contact”, “Write”, or “Client Tasks” (which links to Insightly). This allows me to know at any moment what I should be working on depending on if I’m sitting at my desk, in a waiting room, or just have 5 minutes to spare.
Why I Love Trello: It’s Free! Trello is also infinitely customizable and constantly adding new features. For example, they recently released an update which allows you to have recurring cards – perfect for weekly blog posts or meetings. Mostly, I love it because I have an easy dashboard to help me stay focused and get things done. Plus, there’s an app so, if you need to add something to your to-do list on the go, you can access it from your phone.
Whether you’re a solopreneur or have a team, Frontify is a great tool to define and protect your brand standards. With it, you can create an online brand book to share with your team members, partners, affiliates, or anyone who needs to represent you and your brand with consistency and accuracy.
How I Use It: I use Frontify for one really specific reason and that is brand consistency. I learned the hard way how difficult it is to maintain brand integrity across web and print design so I went in search of an online brand book. My Frontify Style Guide holds my Mission, Client Profile, Brand Experience, Brand Colors, Typography, Icons, and so much more. This way, if I am in the middle of creating something new, I can always refer back to my brand book to make sure I am staying consistent with my other materials.
Why I Love Frontify: It’s Free! It’s super easy to use and is very visually appealing (as you might expect.)
Let me know if you use any of these – or which other tools you’re obsessed with!