Tips From A Tool Junkie’s Toolshed
I’ve always loved tools, which I think is related to my desire to be uber-efficient. When you are a solopreneur, or working with a small team, you have the challenge of first and foremost delivering your product/service, while ensuring that all the other pieces of your business are running smoothly in the background. At times, it can be overwhelming! I wish I could say I do this all with ease and grace, but I have to admit that sometimes I find myself stumbling around in the dark. The truth is I maintain an active and growing wishlist of cool stuff I would love to do, and that I imagine would make me soar like an eagle. I regularly visit this wishlist, and that’s when I look for tools to help fill the gap.
So, What’s A Tool?
When I say tools, I usually mean apps, software or some other type of technical infusion that will make the day easier or more efficient, and we all know there are plenty of them out there! The great thing is that software is getting ever-cheaper, faster and simpler to use, plus a lot of it is designed for the everyday entrepreneur.
The Golden Key
Some of you may be shaking your head as you read this, thinking, “Ugh, I’m not tech savvy.” But trust me, you can do it, and this resource page is designed to help you. When you are just getting started with all of this, the sheer number and options for available tools can be overwhelming. But here’s the key… avoid simply looking for “cool stuff”, which may be cool, but may also be a waste of time and money. Instead, look at your typical day or week objectively and figure out what you need to help you be more efficient in your business. What type of tool would help you reduce your workload where it is currently crippling you? What type of tool would better help you to meet your goals?
I know that asking these questions is only part of the process…you also need to know what tools are out there, and what they can do to help you. Well as I’m a self-proclaimed tool junkie, you can benefit from my addiction!
A Guide For You
Here is a quick guide that I like to share with other vegan entrepreneurs to provide insight into the best tools I have found. These are tools that I use in my business, and some that I frequently recommend to my clients. Since I’m a tool junkie I’m always on the lookout for a great new business tool, so if I find a new goodie, I will update this page.
Note that this list has been created with the small business owner in mind. As a result, I have chosen tools that provide lots of value for the cost, or that offer some type of free-to-paid option so you can grow into them. Keep in mind, I don’t recommend getting EVERY tool on this list. Depending on where you are at in your business, you might need only a few of them. So, remember to ask yourself the questions above to help get you started.
Accounting: WaveApp or Xero
BENEFITS: Get a handle on your finances by using an online tool to track all income and expenses in one place. Never let a month pass before you know if you are in the red or black. The best part is WaveApp is FREE.
Appointment Scheduling: You Can Book Me
BENEFITS: When you use this tool there is no need to send emails back and forth to schedule appointments with prospects or client. Never be double booked again! You can even embed this tool on your website and potential clients can access your calendar any time, any day.
Client Relationship Management (CRM): Nimble, Insightly or Hatchbuck
BENEFITS: One of these tools is a must for anyone with a service- or client-based business. They will help you track meetings, emails and engagements, and build rapport with top clients and prospects. These tools provide the opportunity to turn marketing and sales into a conversation instead of a “buy now” request. If you’ve been using excel, it’s time to upgrade to a dynamic database that will allow you to look at every interaction just by placing a quick query.
Credit Card Processing: Stripe (online) or Square (offline)
BENEFITS: Paypal isn’t bad, but these tools are just so much better. The major advantage they provide is allowing you to collect credit cards during events, and without customers leaving your website (online).
Domain Registrar: Namescheap
BENEFITS: You can buy your domains anywhere; however, I really like how easy it is to order, reorder and get help when you need it with Namescheap. Also, they charge very moderate renewal fees for domains.
eCommerce: BigCommerce or Shopify
BENEFITS: Pretty and functional, these tools provide the best ways I have found to sell products online. Both are easy for customers to use, and will not only make your products look beautiful, but help customers enjoy the experience of buying them from you.
Email Marketing: Mailchimp
BENEFITS: I can’t get enough of the data and testing I can do with Mailchimp. It helps me complete head-to-head tests with different designs, offers and subject lines so I know what’s working in my business. I can see who opened my emails, and follow up with those who are most interested in my services.
File Sharing: Dropbox
BENEFITS: Easy to share large files with anyone, organize your files across multiple devices (e.g. phone, desktop and laptop)
Invoicing: Due, Harvest or WaveApp
BENEFITS: It’s time to get professional…no more email attachment word invoices. Send digital trackable invoices to clients with your logo, reminders and the ability to track due dates.
Listing Building: LeadPages
BENEFITS: This tool is truly an investment, so only use it when you have a handle on your lead generation process. But if you can afford it (and create a killer implementation strategy) LeadPages will blow your mind (helping build the list you thought you would only ever dream of)
Native App: Good Barber
BENEFITS: Do you wish you had an App for your business?This tool makes it easy to set up your own mobile app without hiring a coder or dealing with all that technical stuff.
Password Management: 1 Password
BENEFITS: So you can stop using your pet’s name as your password.
Project Management: Asana or Trello
BENEFITS: These tools provide an efficient way to organize your thoughts and ideas, and help track the status of tasks across teams (and it keeps the solopreneur organized and drives accountability).
BENEFITS:You know those ads that follow you after you’ve left a website? This is the tool that will let you do that, and stay top of mind for customers who have recently visited your website.
Screen Recordings: ScreenFlow
BENEFITS: Perfect if you do a lot of training videos where you need to record your computer screen with a voiceover.
Social Media Management: Buffer or Sprout Social
BENEFITS: Great for scheduling posts in advance and tracking your social media results in one place. These are universal tools that you can use to follow and listen to the conversations happening in your community.
Ticketing Systems: Tickera or Event Expresso
BENEFITS: If you sell tickets for cooking classes, events or training sessions, it’s great to have software that can do it all for you, from sending confirmation emails and making printable tickets to a check-in mobile app, setting venue limits, and more.
Web Hosting: Liquid Web
BENEFITS:→ It’s all about the customer service. If you have trouble, they help you. So you never feel alone and don’t need to be a coder to get your site up and running.
Mailmuch – List Building
Cart66 – eCommerce
Google – Google Analytics
Note: I’m a big fan of spreading the love, so I include affiliate links for everything I recommend. That means in some cases, I will receive a commission if you decide to sign up for a service. This helps me to cover the cost of the free services we offer at Vegan Mainstream, but be assured, I only recommend things I use and love.
It’s easy to get stuck into a rut of using the same old systems and tools that you have been using for years because it does take some time and effort to look for new ones. However, if your current tools are dragging you down – or there are parts of your business that you suspect you can make more efficient if only you had the right tool, I hope this resource will encourage you to explore the possibilities!
Remember, if you need more help determining which of these tools is right for you, or if you want help adding one to your business process, book a 1-1 consult with me, so I can help you get set up with tools that make sense for your business. Click below to find a time that works for us both!