Five (mostly free!) apps that will instantly uplevel your biz
I have a love/hate relationship with tech, but I can’t deny that it’s made entrepreneurship SO. MUCH. EASIER.
I’ve been doing this business thing for a while now.
Since the days when you still had to go buy Quickbooks in a store and come home and install it from a series of CDs, and you either had to forgo the big software suites like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator in lieu of freeware or pay out the nose for a version that would be outdated next year but you would keep using for a decade because holy crap that was expensive.
Luckily for both of us, those days are in the rearview.
There are tons of apps now to make you look and feel like a pro, many of them free.
Some are web apps, which are meant to be used on a computer like a regular webpage. A lot of them also have versions for your phone, if that’s how you prefer to work.
I like to do most of my work in my office on my computer, because that’s what works for me. I also keep several of these apps on my phone though, especially those I use for scheduling social media or tracking my projects.
The one caveat I want to make before I tell you the wonderfulness that is these apps is just because you *can* work from your phone doesn’t mean you *have to*. Find what works best for you, but don’t feel like you have to be glued to your devices 24/7 just because suddenly you can write a blog post and send invoices from your iPhone.
Here are five of my fave apps and services for running my online business.
My business is 99.999% online. The large majority of my clients aren’t in the same state I’m in, and some are in different countries altogether.
This would have been really hard to pull off 15 years ago, but today it’s practically seamless. I have video chats with all my new clients as well as my team. I invoice and collect almost all my payments virtually. I even hired my VA virtually.
Here’s a few of the apps that make it all possible:
Take your project management up a notch with Asana
If you have clients you need some kind of project management software. Even if you don’t have clients but have a team, or projects, you need some way to manage them.
I’ve used other software for this in the past, and Asana is definitely my favorite so far. It has a totally free version, which I still use, or you can upgrade to Premium for some added features.
I set up boards in Asana for all new clients, and the very first thing I do is add all the tasks needed to finish their project, complete with deadlines. You can assign tasks to anyone on your team, including the client if you invite them to join your board. I keep track of all client projects here, plus I have a board set up for tasks I’ve assigned my assistant, and a few others for internal projects and content creation.
Bonus perk - when you check things off your task list Asana rewards you with rainbow colored mythical creatures flying across the screen, which is fabulous for morale.
Set up some systems and keep yourself in order with Google Drive
I’m all about that Drive, bout that Drive, no Word.
In case you’re somehow not a Google user, Drive is sort of a combination of cloud storage and Microsoft Office alternative. You can create documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, even presentations, and store them in a folder structure that’s easy to share with other people. You can upload files from your computer here as well.
I keep all my client folders and any content I’ll want to share with my team in Google Drive. I also have a folder there for systems and processes, where I’ve started outlining everything from my onboarding process to how we schedule blog posts.
Low-cost high-reward bonus: Brand your email with a G Suite account
Google recently (a year or two ago I think?) came out with something called G Suite. It’s a professional version of Drive, with more storage and a lot of other options I’m not qualified to talk about (and haven’t fully checked out yet to be honest).
One super cool thing G Suite offers though is a branded email address that works just like your Gmail account. This means if you own a domain name (like lenaelizer.com), you can grab an email like email@example.com and it will function just like your Gmail account - same inbox you’re used to, easy account maintenance, and you get a bunch of Drive storage to boot.
I don’t have to tell you how much more professional it is when your clients can reach you at firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com, right?
Start paying attention to your time with Toggl and send professional reports
I’ll be honest, I’m torn on time tracking. I think it’s important for knowing how long different tasks take, or finding places you’re sinking time that might better be spent elsewhere. But also one of my core values is freedom, and I’ve found I work much better if I’m not tied to tracking every tiny increment of my day.
With that said though, sometimes you just need a good time tracker. Maybe you’re working hourly for a client, or you just realize that being more intentional with your time will help you get more of the right things done. Either way, I’ve tried several trackers and Toggl is my favorite hands down. It’s easy to use, has an app for your phone (handy if you do work on location), and doesn’t overcomplicate things.
Use invoicing software like Wave or FreshBooks and get paid quicker
If you’re not already using an invoicing software to collect money from clients you need to do this to-day. It looks 100x more professional to send an invoice from a system like Wave than the old school PDF (or worse, Word doc). Not to mention the time you’ll save with branded invoice and estimate templates, automatic late payment reminders, and online payments.
Wave is what I use, and it’s completely free unless you need Premium features like payroll. They do deduct a transaction fee when you receive a payment, but that’s honestly just the price of doing business these days and should be thought about when you set your prices. It’s still a helluva lot better than having to track people down and ask if they’ve put their check in the mail yet.
Another bonus to Wave or Freshbooks is you can easily keep up with your business expenses and view income reports. You can connect them straight to your bank account, or update manually on a schedule that works for you. Keeping all your transactions here makes tax time so much easier - I just add my accountant as a collaborator on my account and I’m done.
Those are a few of my favorites, but let me know yours in the comments below! What apps help you be boss in your biz?