Running a business isn’t easy. It involves managing a lot of moving parts, and it can be a huge challenge to keep everything organized.
I’m often asked what the best tools are for managing different business tasks – so I thought I’d share with you the various tools that I use, and why.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. Rest assured that I only recommend products and services that I trust to be of the highest quality, whether I have an affiliate relationship with the company or not, and I promise that every tool on this list is one I use personally and highly recommend.
So here we go, in no particular order:
PROJECT & TASK MANAGEMENT
Teamwork is by far my favorite project manager, and believe me, I’ve tried just about all of them. I used Basecamp for a while but it couldn’t do a lot of the things I needed, like setting priorities and dependencies, and making some tasks/projects private. Teamwork does that and so much more. There is a free version that you can use to try it out, and various levels of paid accounts at different price points above that. Their fast and friendly customer support rocks, too.
For simple lists and brain dumps, I use WorkFlowy. It’s basically one big list that you segment however you like with sub-tasks (nested tasks), and you can have as many levels of subtasks that you need. Then you can zoom in to focus on just one segment of your list, or zoom out to see a big picture of everything. And it’s totally free, which is always a bonus.
I just discovered Todoist last week, and I am in love. It does everything I need it to without being so complicated that I get lost in it, and the interface is gorgeous – clean and simple, easy to find what I need. It’s perfect, and you can use it on just about every device you can think of. I’ve tried so many other tools over the years (Things, Omnifocus, Wunderlist, Remember the Milk, etc…) but none of them really worked. Todoist is free, or you can get a few more features by upgrading to premium – which is still only around $30/year.
INVOICING AND ACCOUNTING
I’ve been a loyal user of Freshbooks for many years. It handles all my invoicing, including recurring invoicing and automatic late reminders. My clients can log into their own account and see their history (which is handy at tax time), and I can also see whether or not an invoice has been viewed, so I can check in with the client if needed. You can also import all your expenses into Freshbooks, making it a good choice for simple accounting.
If you need more robust accounting but the thought of using something like Quickbooks makes you want to run for the hills, try Xero. It’s $30/month and will do everything you need it to. I’ve used it for two years now and it makes tax time a breeze.
YNAB (You Need A Budget)
For budgeting, there’s nothing better than YNAB. It’s easy to use, has a friendly interface, mobile support, and there is a collection of great tutorials on their website. You can also get support setting things up if you need it. You get a 10% discount with this link.
Google Calendar & BusyCal
For my calendar, I use Google Calendar and BusyCal together. BusyCal is a desktop app for mac with an easy to use interface that connects to my Google Calendar. My Google Calendar then syncs to every other device I use, so I can access my calendar anywhere. BusyCal has a free 30-day trial, or you can purchase it from the Mac App store.
For scheduling phone meetings, rather than going back and forth with clients via email to find a time that works for everyone, I use Acuity Scheduling. I just send a link to my calendar, and the client picks a time that works for them. I can connect multiple calendars, set my availability, and let the system do the rest. I can also collect payments at the same time, which is handy for coaching sessions. My clients love it because it’s so easy and it saves us all time.
Another good one is ScheduleOnce, which I used for years until I discovered Acuity. The main difference between the two is that ScheduleOnce does not have payment integration.
Google Apps for Work
My email is hosted through Google Apps for Work (formerly called Google Apps for Business), which also gives me access to their entire suite of tools – including Google Calendar, Google Analytics, and Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), which are the ones I use most.
Mailplane (mac only)
Mailplane is a desktop app for managing Google mail. I have tabs for all of my email accounts (personal and business), and I can check them all from one window. If you use a mac, it’s definitely a time saver.
Yes, I’m a Mailchimp fangirl – because they’re awesome, fun to use, and the others are clunky or make my head hurt. Deliverability is critical, and they pass that test. Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers. There are some features that you can only get with a paid account, like Automation (autoresponders) and a few others, but unless you need autoresponders you’ll be fine with a free account.
Yes, believe it or not, fax machines do still exist. On the rare occasion that I have to send a fax to someone, I use HelloFax. It’s easy to use, connects with Google for faxing via email, and it also has signature capabilities, so you can sign a document digitally and send it back. There’s a free version and full-featured paid versions that start at $9.99/month.
MEETINGS & WEBINARS
There are tons of services out there for running meetings remotely, and everyone’s needs are different. I’m currently using FreeConferenceCallHD, because it provides free conference calling with international support – so my clients from outside the US can dial a number local to them and join the call without paying expensive international phone charges.
FreeConferenceCall (owned by the same company) is similar, but it doesn’t have the international support. They did just add free screen sharing for up to 25 people, so it’s worth checking out for webinars.
UberConference is pretty cool. It offers screensharing and it will even call your attendees for you. The only thing I don’t like about it is that if you’re using the web dashboard (if you’re screensharing, for example), attendees can see who else is on the call and mute other people – which is fine for team meetings and calls where everyone knows each other, but not appropriate for the general public.
Still, it’s a good option and support is fantastic. There’s a free version and a paid version for just $10/month that allows you to choose your own call-in number (even an 800 number), access international numbers, choose your own hold music, and have the system call your attendees for you.
I’m convinced that there is no perfect webinar platform, but I’ve found MeetingBurner to be one of the best overall. I’ve run multiple courses with it, and have consistently had good luck.
I <3 Moo. Design your own or use one of their designs. Choose your style, your paper, and get it fast. I’m all about working with fun, forward-thinking companies who put the customer first, and Moo is at the top of the list. This link gives you 15% off your first order, too.
DOMAIN REGISTRATION & WEBSITE HOSTING
For domain registration, I use Namecheap and have for years. Reasonably priced and don’t try to upsell you a bunch of crap you don’t need.
A Small Orange
Hosting can be a bit of a crapshoot (because these companies are always changing), but I’ve had experience with a number of hosting companies over the years, and these days I’m using A Small Orange. I have a VPS account, but their shared hosting is decent too. And their support is fantastic.
There’s nothing better out there than Genesis, which is a framework developed by Studiopress. Every website I build these days is done on Genesis, and they have a number of child themes that you can use. If you want to DIY it, you can purchase a child theme and set it up. If you want someone to do it for you, you can check out our Fresh Start Package to get your own customized version of a Studiopress child theme.
Whew! That’s the mega list. Got questions? Ask below!
I saw this image a while ago on one of Brené’s Facebook posts, and I keep it open on my monitor as a reminder that I’m not the only one who goes through this. When I’m deep in the thick of “The Suck”, this is the encouragement I need to keep going.
The hardest part is getting started. I promise. Just start somewhere.