Starting a business can be overwhelming. I like to help people outsource appropriately and spend where they need to in order to build a business efficiently. (Don’t get me started on creating your own website and logo!) I work with a lot of advisors when they first launch. Over the years I cobbled together apps I like to use, but when I launched Kimberlite I needed to add to my bag of tricks. We’ve all read the Top Ten Apps for Dog Lovers, and 15 to try in ’15, or The 74 apps to try before you’re 74 – so I throw my list in as well. I give you the Cheapskate Startup’s Guide to Apps. I am a bit nervous because this is not a professional evaluation that you may find elsewhere. It’s just things I have stumbled upon or had recommended to me. Most of them are free or really inexpensive, so it’s great if you are just getting started or you don’t have a lot of cash on hand.
My One Woman Business Apps & Tools List AKA The Cheapskate Startup’s Guide to Apps:
I am still trying to get my arms around my time tracking. Billable time is easy, but as a startup I want to make sure I am marketing, networking, and creating content in appropriate ratios (I am not there yet, but I am getting better). That’s where Toggl comes in. Whether it be my phone, iPad, or desktop, I have almost no excuse to skip recording time. Creating projects and organizing your tasks in incredibly intuitive with reports that come straight to your inbox so you can’t avoid knowing if you are on track or not.
Many of my clients try to use a spreadsheet instead of an official CRM (Client Relationship Management) solution to help them at first. I used to approve, but I am no longer a fan of this method so I always work to coax them out of it. Insightly is the perfect tool to do that. It is a surprisingly robust solution given the non-existent price tag (you can pay, but I haven’t upgraded). I am still learning all the facets, but for a one man shop it is easy to import contacts and keep great records of email, files, and notes associated with them. I use the linking feature a lot to record who referred whom, which contacts are associated with various projects and other connections I want to keep track of. As I find a variety of speaking engagements on my calendar, as well as my fledgling communication calendar, the project milestones are saving my bacon. It’s also ridiculously straightforward to enter notes just to remind yourself you ponder a brilliant idea you had, but don’t have time to address just yet.
As you know networking is insane as you grow a business. Early on a colleague recommended CamCard for quick business card entry. It’s simple to use; if you can use a camera on your phone you are all set. I then have visual record of the card, as well as all of the data translates into fields which I can easily transfer to my contacts or Insightly. I admit I am not always in sync. Someday I will invest in a more integrated system, but for now it keeps me from drowning in business cards and provides an easy way to take notes before I forget why I wanted to follow up.
With email I still use two tools. Cloud Magic allows me to access email from a multitude of sources seamlessly on my phone & ipad. I have several accounts I need to access, and I was struggling to coordinate it as I began. I don’t want to login in to Gmail for personal, somewhere else for our condo email (Any one skiing? Shameless plug here!) and still somewhere else for work. One app, all email. I can look at them separately or merged.
On my laptop Mailbird is fantastic due to user friendly integration with other apps. I chose to go for the Pro Lifetime level because I found a deal for $30 and just wanted to be supportive. From Mailbird I can access apps, such as Evernote, Moo.do, ToDoist, Dropbox, Twitter, easily from the same window, creating a dashboard of sorts when I am working through email. I love the format of Inbox with Moo.do to the side for a visual of what I need to be focused on. This has helped me get my inbox down to zero and not lose track of emails I want to follow up on – like folders, only better.
LastPass – it’s a must. Just get it and quit using the same password for everything.
I do not claim to be a social media expert, but I have been trying to get my act together. Ironically I do better for the charities I volunteer with than my own business. Buffer is really helping me develop more organized and intentional social media outreach. I created schedules for myself and several organizations for posting to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. You can also post to Pinterest if that fits your strategy. I could have probably used the free version for some time, but decided to get the “Awesome” plan for $102/year so I could have up to ten profiles, more posts queued, and RSS feeds in the app. They have business plans as well, for multiple users and still more profiles.
While in no way is this a complete list, nor is it a claim that there are no other tools that do the same thing, these are the ones I find helpful during the crazy start up days when I need shallow learning curves and low prices. I would love to hear what apps you can’t live without. I may have to do a part two, once I hear from you and what your gotta-have-it apps and tools are.