Software for small business: a list that works for me
When I got started doing this thing online, my software tools were basic and my requirements simple.
Things have changed since then, quite lot.
Below is a list of most of the tools I use to run this one-and-a-half man business. It’s pretty complete, but if I’m missing anything, drop me a line and ask.
(Big Frank, my beautiful assistant, is the half-man referred to in the title. Not because he’s half a man, but because he only needs do a few hours a week, just in case you were curious.)
Let’s start with email
Mondays are email and admin days.
I log into HelpScout where Big Frank has assigned me emails that came in the previous week that he prefers I deal with.
Top priority is responding to the Single Malt Mastermind emails that arrived over the weekend.
Anything urgent during the week goes to my personal email, which I check using CloudMagic Email on my phone, and, sometimes, desktop. It’s minimalist and distraction-free.
Using Google Apps for Work, I set up filters in my email that mean that everything that doesn’t come from Frank, or my wife, or a very small handful of other people, doesn’t hit my inbox.
It takes a little bit of willpower to not check my “All Email” folder, but not too much: the benefits of not getting regular email far outweigh the quick fix of seeing what’s come in.
On the rare occasion that I need to track an outgoing email – normally to the bank or another reluctant supplier – I’ll send it either using MixMax directly out of Gmail’s web interface, or else with Contactually. That way I can see when it’s been opened and follow up accordingly.
I use Contactually for about ten minutes every day for my Five Things and occasionally for its ScaleMail mail-merge function.
I prefer to do personal follow up with Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp or iMessage. Much higher open rates …
First drafts of anything normally get bashed out in OmmWriter. Again – minimalist and distraction-free. Writing without an internet connection is one of my favorite productivity tips.
Depending on where the writing ends up, it then gets copied – without formatting – into Google Drive (for copywriting clients) – or WordPress (rarely) or, more frequently, straight into Infusionsoft.
I don’t like copying formatting over because stuff gets messed up, and re-reading, re-writing and formatting from scratch means another set of eyes goes over the finished piece before it gets redirected or sent on.
I use Authorize.net for credit card processing today. I’d use Stripe but it’s not an option in Malta.
Offline orders for speaking gigs, consultancy and the like are processed directly and manually through Freshbooks, which integrates directly with Authorize.net and PayPal for online payment.
One of my biggest time-savers.
All incoming and outgoing invoices and receipts are saved to Dropbox and that folder is shared with my accountants once a month. Paper receipts are carted off manually once a quarter, or once they start to take up too much space in my desk drawer, whichever is sooner.
I’m in LOVE with You Need A Budget for cash forecasting, both at home and business. I update it manually about once every ten days, which keeps me sharp on where the money is going, and I do my best to combine it with Mike Michalowicz’s Profit First principles.
Productivity and not letting things drop.
Asana takes care of all projects and to-dos, combined with Kasban.io for work-based, up-against-a-deadline sprints (read this book for more about that). Mrs K and I share a dynamic shopping list in Apple reminders.
(If you feel you’re not getting the most out of Evernote, I strongly recommend Evernote Essentials by Bretty Kelly.)
A recent addition to my note-taking practice, which I fell in love with in about three minutes flat, is to use Paper by 53 on an iPad Pro. I just used it for three days solid at an event in Santa Monica and – for the first time ever – all my notes are in the same place, digitally saved, and easy to find.
RescueTime runs in the background and keeps an eye on how I’m spending my time and I use a Zap to send a daily summary to my Google calendar so I can quickly glance at how many productive hours I’ve had in the previous days.
I use Sunrise calendar at the moment, primarily for its two-way native sync with Asana (so I can drag my to-dos around my calendar and they get updated in both places) but since Sunrise was bought by Microsoft and its team moved to work on Outlook, that might not be an option for much longer … which would suck.
1Password syncs passwords across devices and the shared vault feature lets me share specific passwords with specific people.
Marketing and Delivery
Infusionsoft runs payments, mailing list, affiliates and smart-marketing.
I’ve been using it for six years and can’t bring myself to change. I’m also a big fan, which helps.
Also playing with EverWebinar for evergreen delivery of automated webinars.
Google Tag Manager has been hugely appreciated for wrapping up code and sticking it on websites, especially since the amount of different things that I want to track has increased.
(Currently wrapping Infusionsoft, Google Analytics, Facebook pixels, Facebook Connect and iTracker360 code on most properties).
Currently in love with AdEspresso for managing Facebook ads. It makes split-testing and creating multiple variations of ads a breeze, its reporting is stellar and it automatically optimizes your ads in the background so you’re getting the best return for your buck.
I monitor effectiveness of ads by creating a unique referral partner in Infusionsoft with a 0% commission. Individual ads and campaigns then get their own links, built with Google’s url builder and this handy spreadsheet, and created as affiliate links inside of Infusionsoft.
I find that running the affiliate report inside of Infusionsoft then gives far more accurate results for leads and sales than relying on Facebook’s own metrics, which are sometimes out by a factor of two.
I create slideshows in Keynote and – when creating screenshare videos – either record natively within Keynote or else screen capture with ScreenFlow and tweak. I used Screenflow for editing on the rare occasion I do to-camera video (although rarely do video and very rarely do my own editing now.)
[UPDATE: Big Frank says “truth be told I don’t really use it that much anymore. Compared to good ol’ Photoshop it’s too restrictive.”]
For stock photos I go to one of these (paid) places:
Or one of these (free) places:
Unsplash – Stocksnap – Gratisography – Negative Space – Splitshire – Little Visuals – Life of Pix – Superfamous – Death To The Stock Photo – Pic Jumbo – IM Creator – Lock and Stock Photos – Snap Wire Snaps – Jay Mantri – TookAPic
CoSchedule for marketing calendar and content creation, although it’s more than I need given my blogging frequency. Great tool, but likely not to renew. When I was working with a content creation team at Book Yourself Solid it was critical to our workflow. For a one-man-band, not so much.
For planning out general email marketing campaigns I prefer to use Google Calendar.
Transmit for FTP. Bluehost and Synthesis for hosting. Namecheap, primarily, for domain names. Bitly for link-shortening and tracking. Akturatech for site-monitoring and speeding up and so that I have somebody to call when I’ve got a problem. I use their on-demand web guy service …
And probably other stuff that I’ve forgotten right now.
It’s been a process of continuous tweaking and improvement. Although the list of tools might seem long, each component, once slotted into the system, makes for a reduction in hours worked and headaches had.
But remember: the tools don’t matter. It’s what you do with them.
And what you SHOULD do with them is my Five Things.
And if you’ve got any questions, head over here and ask away.