When you work for yourself and wear most — if not all — the hats in your business, having ninja-level time management skills is a must. And one of the best ways to add some extra time to your day is by taking advantage of online apps and tools that can take some of the load off of routine tasks. But with there being so many out there, finding the right ones for your business can be tricky. So I’m giving you a peek at my top 13 essential apps that I’m using to help make your search a little easier.
Gmail/G Suite – Email and calendars
I have at least five custom email addresses set up for my business, and if I had to check each individual inbox multiple times throughout the day, it’s practically a guarantee that something will slip through the cracks. That’s why I love Gmail. They’re filtering and forwarding features allow me to manage all of my custom email addresses via one inbox. And once it’s setup, the whole process of receiving and replying to emails is seamless.
Dropbox – File backups + sharing
I don’t know what it is about the way I use computers but my hard drives don’t last very long. So using Dropbox at all times is pretty much a non-negotiable. Anything business-related goes in the Dropbox folder on my computer where it’s synced automatically to the cloud. And the next time something happens to my computer, all I have to do is re-install Dropbox and I’m back in business. Another plus is that it makes file sharing so much easier by letting me generate direct, emailable links to files and folders.
Grammarly – Error-free writing
It’s so easy for typos or grammar mistakes to slip into your writing. And it can be annoying when you don’t notice it until after you hit the “Send” button. Avoid those scenarios with Grammarly, a free writing assistant that will look at everything you write in your web browser and let you know about any issues and how to fix them.
Asana – Client + Project Management
Using a project management tool definitely takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it once you get fed up with hunting things down in email threads. Enter Asana which I really like because they give you multiple options for viewing projects and assigning tasks. So whether you prefer a list, or boards similar to my 2nd runner up, Trello, or a calendar, you’re covered. Another nice feature is the ability to create tasks via email, so if I do get stray email requests, I can just forward it to a special email address and everything’s back in Asana where it needs to be. And the best part is, they have a free plan with no limits on how many projects you can set up.
Wave – Invoicing
When I first started invoicing and taking payments online, it didn’t occur to me that there might already be an app for that outside of PayPal. So I built my own app from scratch which I used for about 6 months or so. And it actually worked pretty well. But as I got busier, I had less time to spend on maintaining it and adding more features, so I started searching for an alternative. I eventually stumbled upon Wave, an option I hadn’t heard anyone else talking about, which was kind of surprising considering all you can do with it for FREE (minus the standard 2.9% + 30 cents you have to pay most payment processors). You can send an unlimited amount of invoices to an unlimited amount of clients, set up late payment reminders, create client statement reports and so much more.
Hello Sign – Contracts
The simplest way I’ve found to set up a contract and get it signed online. All I have to do is open up my master copy in Google docs, fill in the details, then click a button in the “Tools” menu that pulls it into Hello Sign. From there I create my signature fields, fill in my client’s email, and Hello Sign handles the rest.
Godaddy Bookkeeping – Accounting
This handy tool is hooked up to all of my bank accounts, Wave, and my other payment processors like Paypal and Stripe, pulls in all of the transactions and categorizes them for me. It doesn’t always get everything right, but you can easily recategorize a stray transaction and have it remember how to treat similar ones that come through in the future.
LastPass – Password Storage and Management
Install this app on your browser and stop worrying about forgetting your password, or reusing the same one over and over again and putting all of your accounts at risk. It also lets you share login information with others without having to actually show them your password. And you can get the same benefits on your phone (even inside phone apps) by installing their mobile app.
Calendly – Appointment Scheduling
If you’re still going back and forth over email to find a good time to meet, you need to get with the program. Allow your clients to see a calendar of your availability and reserve a spot with no involvement on your part (aside from sending them the link to your Calendly page.) Honorable mention: Acuity which I personally haven’t tried yet but looks pretty good too.
Mailchimp – Email marketing + automations
I know pretty much everyone has jumped ship for ConvertKit but I’m still rocking with Mailchimp. Especially now that it’s possible to have a subscriber sign up for multiple opt-in offers without having to create a brand new mailing list for each one. Features like tagging, groups, segments, and automations, along with the ability to connect it to pretty much any application for free or a reasonably low price depending on how many subscribers you have, make sticking with Mailchimp a no-brainer.
Later – Instagram Scheduling
Consistency is not one of my stronger suits. But with Later, I can make it seem like I’m always hanging out on Instagram by scheduling days or weeks of posts in one batch. You can start out with the free plan and move up if you want more advanced features like scheduling gallery posts, getting hashtag suggestions, or preparing stories in advance.
Adobe CC – Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, InDesign + more
An essential suite of professional-level tools for doing everything from design to development.
Canva – Graphics editor/Photoshop alternative
Need to create a shareable social media graphic but don’t have Photoshop or find it too difficult to use? This freemium online app is a nice alternative. Plus they have tons of high-quality templates for everything from Facebook banners, to logos, to ebook covers that will get your ideas flowing.