The best business tools to use in your business can be difficult to figure out. To help make life easier for you and save you time, I’m sharing the business tools that have been useful for me and resources to help you. I have used the tools shared below to create more income, time and connections through the years.
Most software applications I recommend are free or very low-cost with upgrade options, have web and mobile device access, and some even connect to your hard drive. As my preferences change, I will update this list.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. I have experience with these companies, and so am recommending them to you because they are helpful and useful. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you meet your goals.
You will need a base of operations for your business even if you are location-independent. This is where you will conduct business, send people for more information as well as send and receive communications.
- Laptop/PC. Operate out of your home or closest coffee shop/library easily with your favorite computer. Find a comprehensive guide on laptops on Amazon.
- Smartphone. Maintain flexibility with this essential item for convenient business ownership and life. Tip: ensure the operating systems of your smartphone and laptop/PC can talk! #teamiphone. Check out smartphone options on Amazon.
- Domain. Operate online with basic professional address for people from around the world to find out about you. My preference: Namecheap – reliable, easy-to-use and cheap!
- Web Host. Your website lives at a domain on a host. Tip: Maintain your domain and host with different companies (you’ll thank me later). My preference: A Small Orange – is a web hosting provider of choice, for now. I started with them because they were local. It is good for starting out.
- Mailing Address. Your address used to receive physical mail. My preference: USPS P.O. Box is my preferred method for flexibility purposes (also they have a street addressing option if you don’t want to show “P.O. Box”).
- Physical Work Space. It’s easy to work from home but sometimes you will need to get out to save your sanity and interact with adults. Your library, local coffee shops, Starbucks and Panera Bread are decent options but so are actual coworking spaces like WeWork and Regus. Be sure to look for your locally-owned ones too – my favorite in Durham, NC is The Frontier (heaven.on.earth.).
Organizing all of your materials as early as possible helps for smoother operations later, especially when you bring on more team members because your business is growing like gang busters 🙂 The tools you use to systemize your knowledge base is important.
- Files. When you create internal documents, and digital content or products for your customers, you’ll want to maintain them in a location conveniently accessible from wherever you, your team and/or customers are. My preferences:
- Box – I use this for my own backup and sharing with direct clients.
- Dropbox – I use this to share documents with the public.
- Google Drive – Another option I use to create and share documents and spreadsheets with the public. It’s easy for them to copy or download my tools to their own Google Drive (or preferred location) and use instantly.
- Notes. Sometimes you just need to take notes on the fly, save a web article or keep a picture that illustrates what you want to accomplish. My preference: Evernote provides flexibility to make that happen.
- Financials. Track your business income and expenses along with invoices, receipts, and transactions. My preference: Square has an easy interface and is very convenient for different ways to collect revenue with instant deposit for little cost.Wave is a great alternative that’s also easy, connects to receive payments and its simple to share your financials with your favorite bookkeeper too.
- Social Media. Create business social media updates in batch to drip out over time. My preference: Buffer makes it simple to share scheduled content from you and others. Hootsuite is a long-time provider that does it well. Edgar is a new provider created by a long-time expert Laura Roeder that I have tested and highly recommend.
The tools you use to communicate for acquiring and nurturing clients, staff and partners will make a difference in how much time and energy you place in keeping them all satisfied and happy working with you.
- Content Management System (CMS). Maintain the content you share with the world at your domain. My preference: WordPress is my favorite tool because of its flexibility in creating the look and functionality of my websites. You can self-host a site created by www.wordpress.org or use www.wordpress.com*. Squarespace* is beautiful as well. Pro Tip: Use your own domain name with either option.
* You do not need to purchase web hosting with these options.
- Learning Management System (LMS). Create a resource and training center for your tribe to access anything from free worksheets to paid courses. Choose the solution that works best for your students as well as your teaching style. Also consider payment options (for you and to you), customer service reviews, and user experience. My preference: Thinkific is my go-to tool for creating my school and resource library.
- Email Address. Setup at least one email address with your domain name to continue looking professional. There is no reason to use an email address with a different brand when you own a domain. Your host should have a way for you to access messages. However, you can use Gmail to conveniently send and receive messages with your business email address. Or consider downloading an email client like Thunderbird.
- Email Marketing. Easily send messages to your audience with one click. Also track and measure the results of your sends to check how well people are buying what you are selling. My preference: Mailchimp is a great starter choice. I’ve tried Convertkit as well. It’s great for customer segmentation!
- Appointment Setting. Set appointments with current and prospective clients with ease by using automated software that tracks your availability, sends reminders, and allows quick messaging via text. My preference: 10to8 is very useful in adding more appointments to my calendar with very little work on my part. I’m testing Square Appointments since I also use Square for accepting payments.
The tools you use to sell your product or service can make a difference in how easily your customers can capture value from you and make their lives easier. Make sure it’s something that will make your life easier too! Do not hesitate to use or at least try out different ones.
- Marketplace. Sell your goods or services in an online mall to start off and let them help you with marketing and other back end maintenance. Ebay was the first place I sold products online. Etsy was the first place I sold my digital product creations. Amazon is a place I will sell in the near future!
- Point of Sale (POS). Receive cash from your goods in a convenient way for you and your customers and with minimal cost. Square is easy to use with your smartphone or tablet and has relatively quick turnaround into your business bank account (emphasized to say a bank account separate from your personal account). I’ve recently signed up with Stripe and am still testing it but it integrates well with many vendors including Wave. Paypal is another convenient (customer preferred) option for sending invoices via email, providing a secure checkout for web transactions, or accepting payments on your mobile device. They provide financing options as well.
These are essential tools you need to start and manage your business. Additional steps include: organize a company, develop a plan, create (or connect with) a product or service to sell, and market like crazy. Getting started with tools like this gets you on your way quickly though. Let me know if you need help!
If you are uncertain of what you want to do, enroll in The YES Filter, a course to help you quickly discover your priorities so you can create meaningful work. In this course, you will determine your mission, purpose, values and vision as an entrepreneur in order to have a stronger guide for what you should be doing with your time and what you should not waste time on.
Business Plan Resources
Many resources exist for people interested in starting and growing a business. Below you will see a list of a few of our favorite resources to help you get started. If the information becomes too overwhelming, feel free to contact us for our services – we will put you on the right path!
If you are considering starting a business, check out this slideshow for help in deciding what to do next: