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I recently made the case for having and using fewer apps (phone apps, computer apps, web apps—all of the tools, resources, and platforms we are bombarded with as business owners). So today I want to talk about which apps I’ve chosen to invest in and why.
Every business should have a few core apps that are used to run the majority of their systems. The fewer there are, the leaner and simpler your business will run. Fewer overhead costs, fewer passwords to remember, and less brainpower needed for your day-to-day tasks.
So without further ado, let’s dive into the core apps I use:
Without a doubt, this is my absolute core app for my business. If you are any sort of coach, designer, or other service provider, this may be a great fit for you! If you’re a Maker, it might not be. Dubsado houses my forms, questionnaires, proposals, contracts, invoices, client portal, process checklists, and even my bookkeeping. Once upon a time, I had separate tools for most of these tasks, and I don’t miss that one bit.
If you’re in business online, you need an email list—it’s non-negotiable. I won’t wax poetic about the importance of email marketing in this post, but suffice it to say it’s so important that your email marketing platform is automatically a core app. For my business, I chose ConvertKit. It provides a lot of flexibility for the type of business I have, and it’s automation and segmentation features are top-notch. If you are a product-based business, super budget-conscious, or for some other reasons feel the need for “pretty” emails, then I would recommend MailChimp. If you are a blogger or content creator, ConvertKit is absolutely worth the investment.
This is another wonderful multi-tasking tool and if you’re a content creator, add this one to your toolbox. CoSchedule serves as both an editorial calendar (for all types of media, not just WordPress) and a social media scheduler. I love that it does the heavy lifting of deciding when to post to my channels–it’s like having a social media manager, without having to hire a social media manager.
G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work)
I waffled on including this in my core, but it really does belong here. Your business email is important. If you’re still using firstname.lastname@example.org or your email is part of your hosting account, I urge you to invest in the $5/month for this email solution. The former is simply unprofessional (and yes, your potential clients notice) and the latter puts you at unnecessary risk of being unreachable if your site goes down (and that’s particularly important if you’re on shared hosting). This is an inexpensive fix that will save you a lot of headache down the road. Not to mention, the features of G Suite allow for amazing automation that will make managing your inbox a breeze. P.S. You can use these coupon codes for 20% your first year – MA4WAVA4L9QX9GT (for the G Suite Basic Plan) or W7XPREGEFUAKG7L (for the G Suite Business Plan).
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Okay, so those are my absolute core apps. If I was weathering a financial storm that sent me to bare bones, these are the ones I would absolutely find a way to keep paying for. The next set of apps are my “nice to have”.
Okay, so this one is almost a bridge to my core apps. I would fight to keep it, but ultimately, there is a free option that I could move down to if needed. If you offer appointments of any kind, Acuity Scheduling is like a personal assistant that doesn’t need to take sick days. If you book any sort of session with me, you’ll see it in action. It helps you find a time, collects the information I need to make your session a breeze, and if necessary, takes your payment. And it even sends reminders to both of us (and that’s drastically reduced the number of no-shows I was dealing with).
Again, there’s a free version of this that may work for some people. Zoom integrates beautifully with Acuity Scheduling so each appointment is booked with a meeting link. Audio-only, video, or screen-sharing calls are all supported and you can record the session with a click. It even offers webinars as an add-on so you can hold workshops without setting up yet another tool.
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And now for the free apps that simply make my life easier:
This is included in G Suite, or with your free Gmail account if I didn’t sell you on upgrading. If anything you do involves sharing any sort of file with your clients, this is a simple solution. Not to mention, storing client files in the cloud protects you from inevitable computer crashes and allows you to work on the fly. Of course, there are options like DropBox, OneDrive, and many others—but for simplicity’s sake, you probably already have this, so use it. I consider it part of my G Suite core but thought it deserved it’s own mention, same goes for the next app.
I’ve talked before about the importance of using a digital calendar. Again, it’s free and already included with accounts you surely have. I have mine synced with Dubsado and Acuity and I’d be lost without it. The reminder feature has been a great addition and I use it frequently.
Trello or Asana
Confession, I have both of these still, but there’s really no reason for you to have both. If you are a list person, go with Asana, if you’re more visual, Trello is probably the right tool for you. Or maybe you don’t need either one, and that’s cool, too. Right now, I primarily use Asana with my main retainer client because it was the best for their business model and their team was familiar with it. Personally, Trello eventually grew on me and it seems to be easier for my husband to use since it’s more visual. It’s my catch-all for ideas, login info, and bookmarks. It is one of the few areas that contains both business and personal, but it handles it beautifully and replaced a handful of apps. Note: if you are only using it for business, you’ll find similar features in Dubsado. I’ve been using Trello since before Dubsado added task boards and just haven’t made time to transfer my data over.
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There are a handful of other apps and tools I use, but these are what’s in my basic toolbox and what I would recommend any new business owner invest time, money and energy into. If you’re missing any of these basic functions, I urge you to consider your options and cover these bases. At the very least you need:
- A CRM (customer relationship manager)
- A bookkeeping/invoicing system
- An email marketing platform
- An email service provider
- A calendar and a project manager (but can be analog if you’re a solopreneur)
Anything beyond these is completely dependent on the type of business you’re running. A photographer will need something different than an apparel designer or other product maker. A content creator’s toolbox will look different than a graphic designer’s.
What core apps do you find invaluable in your business? I’d love to hear!
If you’re looking for a customized recommendation for tools that fit your business and personality, I would love to have you book a Business Systems Strategy Session!