I’ve always loved tools, which I guess 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.
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. The great thing is that software is getting ever-cheaper, faster and simpler to use, plus most is designed for the every-day entrepreneur.
Some of you may be shaking your head as you read this article thinking, “Ugh, I’m not tech savvy.” But trust me, you can do it, and I’m going to tell you how. The key is not to simply look 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?Don't just look for “cool stuff” but figure out what will make you more efficient. Click To Tweet
In other words, the key is finding the tool that’s right for you, not necessarily the one that everyone is crazy for right now. You might not even be choosing a tool that is highly popular. Remember, you are looking for the right fit, not a name or brand.
Some of you might say, “Steph, I can’t afford all this fancy software.” And it’s true that these monthly costs can be burdensome. That’s why I’m a huge advocate for starting with the free/starter services. I don’t mean you should use sub-par tools. Most software companies offer a free version of their software that may not have all the bells and whistles, but will allow you to get started and grow with them over time. This, of course, is also a great way to figure out if a particular tool IS truly a good fit for you and your business. There is no shame in keeping your expenses low until you know where you need to spend the big bucks.
All good advice, but where do you start? As a primer, here’s a quick list of some of my favorite tools. These are the free options that I have used over the years to help get my business off the ground:
- Mailchimp for email marketing – Yes, it is a great tool for managing email campaigns, but I also love Mailchimp for features like its A/B testing. It helps me complete head-to-head tests with different designs, offers and subject lines so I know what’s working in my business.
- Insightly or Highrise for Client Relationship Management – One of these tools is a must for anyone with a service- or client-based business. They will help you track your meetings, emails and engagements with everyone you meet, or prospects that aren’t ready to become customers just yet. 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.
- WaveApp for invoicing and accounting – Why I love it? WaveApp helps you have a quick pulse look at the financial state of your business. You can import your bank accounts and credit card statements, so you can quickly know on a monthly basis if you are in the red or the black.
- Trello for project management – This tool provides a quick way to organize your thoughts and ideas, and helps track the status of tasks across teams (and it keeps the solopreneur organized and drives accountability)
- You Can Book Me for appointment scheduling – 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.
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 article has encouraged you to explore the possibilities!
This article first appeared in the September 2016 issue of Vegan Lifestyle Magazine. You can download full issues of the magazine here: