Almost every business owner has the same specific parts of a business to manage. It can be a lot to do for one person.
Therefore, it’s imperative that a busy online entrepreneur seeks out time-saving tools of the trade. A very small business can appear on the outside to be a very well organized large business with multiple moving parts with the right tools.
I’ve organized my 10 favorite time saving tools into what I see as the main “departments” a small business will need to cover in order to realize success. Now, of course, it’s true that it’s likely mostly you and a few contractors who are doing all the work, but it’s on you to ensure that everything runs smoothly. With these tools you can ensure that they do.
Management & Organization
Keeping your business organized and managing a team is an important aspect of building your online business so that it works, functions and earns like a much larger entity.
- Basecamp.com — My favorite tool for business management and organization is Basecamp. I honestly cannot give it enough praise. Basecamp is an online, cloud-based project and task management system and so much more.
You can set up accounts for your clients, as well as for your contractors to all work together in harmony and organization. They have great tutorials and its user friendly and intuitive. It also integrates with other tools you may be familiar with through their API to extend the usefulness of the basic program.
- Dropbox.com – I love using Dropbox.com to organize my client’s orders and I use it as a backup. Years ago, on April 27, 2011 we had terrible tornado outbreaks in my area. I lost power for several days and my external drive was destroyed. Unfortunately, I did not have Dropbox or any other cloud-based back up or file storing system set up yet. Lesson learned.
If you don’t have something like this, get something now. There are other options but these are the ones I like.
Accounting & Bookkeeping
Not much is more important in your business than keeping track of your cash flow. You should know how much you are making at any point in time. You should be able to create a report on the fly, if needed, to show your profit & loss, income and expenses easily. In addition, you should be able to, at a glance, see how much money you have coming in soon, and what already came in.
- GoDaddy Bookkeeping — My favorite tool for automated, online bookkeeping is GoDaddy Bookkeeping. That may surprise some of you because you know I am not especially fond of Go Daddy. But, Go Daddy Bookkeeping started as Outright.org and was purchased by Go Daddy. I love it because it is super simple and automated. The paid version keeps track of contractors, taxes, and it even offers some invoicing options, although for that I prefer my next option.
- Freshbooks.com – This is an excellent online invoicing tool that also allows you to do some rudimentary project planning, bidding, time tracking, as well as budget minding for your clients. Even though I have other options I still like to use Freshbooks.com for billing all my clients over any other program. It integrates with Go Daddy Bookkeeping too. I can easily see who paid me, when, how fast they typically pay bills and even set an automatic late fee structure. Clients can have their own sign in as well for each of these options.
Marketing & Advertising
Where to start with marketing and advertising? There are so many great tools that can help you with this aspect of your business. I’ll just list my top choices and you can pick from there.
- Aweber.com – This is, in my opinion one of the best autoresponder services for small business owners that exists. I’ve tried others that are easier to use, but that offer fewer features for more money. I believe the value is good, and that for the most part Aweber does what I need it to do in a user friendly way that I understand.
- Hootsuite.com – This is a social media dashboard that lets you manage multiple social media accounts. While I frown upon too much automation, the ease at which you can use Hootsuite to both schedule and use your social media live is unmet. It helps you watch your social media accounts easier, as well as plan campaigns and gather the reports you need.
- Canva.com – This is a great free and low cost way to create many different types of graphics for all your online marketing needs. Many of the layouts are free, with images for as low as a buck each; this easy to use tool can’t be beat.
Innovation & Production
In order to be successful running a small business you have to always be creating something new and getting it out there. You already use WordPress, so I’ll avoid the obvious and move on past that.
- LeadPages – This software is so easy to use and works with or without WordPress to create dynamic, converting landing pages within minutes. LeadPages also comes with all the bells and whistles with split testing, social media integration, potential to make digital downloads easier, and more.
This tool is probably one of the most important tools you can invest in, in terms of improving production in your business.
Sales are an essential component of an online business. You will either make sales selling your own products, or someone else’s. You don’t need a shopping cart if you aren’t going to sell your own products.
I use Freshbooks.com to bill my clients, and for the few products I currently have I use eJunkie.com to act, along with Paypal.com as my shopping cart. I will be implementing aMember.com soon, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
- The one to go with depends on your needs, but most of the people I work with use either Amember.com or 1Shoppingcart.com. Something I’m seeing more often is ONTRAPORT.com. Essentially, you have to look at what you will be using the service for, and what your expertise is, and whether or not you can afford to hire someone to set things up or not.
While I am usually technically savvy, I don’t enjoy shopping carts at all, so I will be using an expert to help me.
When you first start your online business you can typically get by with using a contact form, and regular email to deal with customer care issues. However, as time goes by you’ll likely need to invest in a ticketing system.
- Basecamp.com works fine when you work directly with clients, as does email, but if you sell products you will want a help desk of some sort like ZenDesk.com. You might even want to completely outsource customer care once you sell more than a couple of products.
The questions to ask about about any product or tool that you want to use for your business is, will it serve the purpose that you need it to serve, and is it an accepted tool by your audience? Will your audience trust it enough to use it? If so, you can use any and all of these tools to save a lot of time running your online business.