I’ve identified and put together a list of some useful tools to help you increase your productivity and boost the profitability of your business.
Time Management/Organisational Tools
Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Absolutely fantastic and I couldn’t run my business without it!
A nifty little program that allows you to jot down notes and then sync between multiple devices (computer, iPad and iPhone. It keeps all of your notes together and let’s you access them wherever you are…. In your home office, sitting waiting for a ballet lesson to end, school gates to open etc etc
Oh my goodness! This one is great. If you see something online that you want to remember to read later, Instapaper lets you “Save to read later”. You can then go to the website or the iPhone/iPad app and see your reading list. This tool has transformed my life. I would do lots of online research and then either bookmark the website or cut and paste the link to an excel spreadsheet. More often that not I would forget to go back and take a look at it. Instapaper let’s me store all the information I want to read later in a user friendly format. Brilliant!
I love this one, just for the name alone. A nifty little list building tool which let’s you keep all of your ‘to dos’ in the one place and accessible across different devices (computer, iPhone, iPad)
If you bill by the hour then Timedock is a great little time tracking tool that lets you record how much time you are actually spending on each project.
As your business grows you may well need to invest in software that allows you to track and manage the relationships that you have with clients and potential clients. Capsule can be used to keep track of the people and companies you do business with, communications with them, opportunities in the pipeline, and what needs to be done when.
Free software to track your website traffic. If you have a website you must track your traffic so that you understand the number of people visiting your site, where they are coming from and the information that they are accessing. Google Analytics is an absolute must for all business owners.
The Google Adwords Keywords tool is an excellent way of searching out keywords when deciding on titles for your blog articles and You Tube videos. Search for a keyword and look for variations of the keyword that have high monthly searches, but low competition. You are much more likely to rate highly on Google if you target these keywords rather than those with high monthly searches and high competition.
I would argue that for a small business owner WordPress is the ONLY web platform you should consider. There are lots of providers offering ‘free’ websites but none of them give you the freedom and flexibility that WordPress has to offer. You can literally build a great website or blog in minutes completely for free. There are loads of great themes and plugins available to customise your site.
If you do decide to have a WordPress blog then you will need a hosting provider to host your website. I have been using TSO Host for over a year now and have been really impressed with their customer service. It is very simple to open an account, install WordPress and get working straight away.
You know those really annoying pop up boxes that appear when you open a website asking if you want to sign up for a free report or newsletter? Most of those are made using PopUpDomination. Now you might find them quite annoying but Pop Up boxes have been proven to increase your subscriber rate by up to 500%. You really can’t argue with that!
Fantastic software that allows you to easily record videos either from your screen or using your web camera. If you want an easy way to get videos on to your website then check it out.
If you do create videos for your website (or want to upload anything that is a relatively large file) then make sure you host the files somewhere like Amazon S3 rather than on your website. If you have a large volume of traffic trying to play your video at the same time you could find that your website constantly crashes if it is hosted on your own server.
The most simple way to setup a shopping cart for a basic store without needing to get approved by a payment processor.
Fabulous application that allows you to edit and create professional looking images/photographs very, very, very simply. If I can use it then anybody can.
A Helping Hand When You Need It
If you have a small project that you need completed (particularly good for design work) then take a look on Fiver and Fivesquids to see if there is anybody available who can help you with the task. It is amazing what you can get down for $5/£5. BUT do be very specific with your brief as you often find you have to pay another $5/£5 to get any amendments made!
A great way of hiring support on an adhoc basis. You post a job, freelancers who are interested bid for the work and then you select a supplier. Simple, straightforward and a great way of getting help for your business without paying the costly overheads of a permanent employee.
There are lots of different email list software providers. An email list is the lifeblood of your business and you should be devoting considerable time and effort to build and maintain relationships with your list. All of these providers have a ‘free’ version and you can upgrade to a payment plan for more sophisticated tasks/bigger list of subscribers. Personally I use Mailchimp, but have heard good things about all three providers.
A free Chat/Video conferencing software. This is a great way to meet with people online when it just isn’t possible to see them face to face. You can also screenshare so that you can collaborate on tasks or provide support to each other.
If you decide to run webinars for your followers, GoToWebinar is a high quality live webinar software. It is very straightforward to use and highly recommended.
Social Media Tools
Did you know that Facebook lets you schedule posts from right within Facebook? This is a massive timesaver, you can set all of your posts for an entire day/week and then you just need to go back and check how people are engaging with your posts and respond to any questions.
Facebook apps for running sweepstakes, competition and giveaways. These are all great for increasing engagement on Facebook, particularly if you sell a physical product.
Plan and upload all of your social media updates in advance using Hootsuite. You can manage multiple accounts from the Hootsuite interface and you can also get detailed analytics reports of your engagement levels on social media. A real timesaver.
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