18 Helpful Tools for Online Entrepreneurs
These are some of my very favourite tools that make running my business so much easier. Despite loving new tools, it’s very important not to try and implement everything at once but rather to look for a solution when you are experiencing a problem. Here are the tools that are solving my business problems:
I have always used Gmail for my personal email and so when it came to choosing a business email, Gmail was my go to. Having a business email account costs $5 dollars a month, but it is worth it. I feel at ease knowing that all my emails are stored in a place where I can access them from any device, anywhere in the world. I also love that I get some extra space on Google Drive, which is a platform that a lot of people use. There are so many benefits that G Suite offers that I haven’t even begun to explore, so this would be my first recommendation for any new business. Other Google Apps I use often are:
I really struggled to use Google Cal at the start but the busier I got the more I had a need to see my time visually. Google Cal integrates with almost everything so every time I tried a new app, I was able to integrate any deadlines into Google Cal. It is also great for planning out your ideal week (which is what I use for the most) and keeping track of meetings
Google Keep has a Chrome extension that allows you to save content directly from the page you are on into Google Keep. I don’t use it often or for important information, but it is a very handy tool for saving things that you want to get back to or remember for future use.
I am a big fan of Microsoft Word, but having a very similar product that you can easily share online makes Google Doc a great tool. The look is clean which makes it easy to focus when you have a lot of writing to do.
Online storage is one of my very favourite tools. Although Google Drive is not my primary online storage solution, I love its online interface and how easy it is to share with other people. Most of my clients find Google Drive easier than some of the other solutions so when I need to collaborate on something – Google Drive is my go to.
Dropbox is my primary online storage provider and I pay a premium fee for their plus account to save me a lot of time, effort and worry. Dropbox was the first app I paid for because having to worry about backing up client work can be terrifying. Yes, my laptop gave up on me one day and yes I was able to quickly download what I was working on from Dropbox and finish it for the client in time. Although I also make hard copy back-ups quite often, Dropbox is installed on my laptop and I simply need to sync the app at the end of the day to know that everything is safe. Note that you would need a good internet connection for this, which is something else I happily pay for.
I don’t deny that I am a Google Chrome Junkie. I have so many Chrome extensions that I’ve had to delete a few in order to see my search box. I love that Chrome is customisable to a person’s personal browsing habits which can make a workflow so much faster. I use the bookmarks bar at the top for all my everyday links like email, Asana (to follow) and Google Calendar. I then have bookmark folders and sub-folders such as “learning”, “resources” and “clients” to save important links that I need to find fast. Some of my favourite Chrome extensions is News Feed Eradicator for Facebook and Noisli.
When I started my business, Google launched a beta service called Inbox by Gmail. I instantly fell in love. Many years later, I am still a hardcore Inbox by Gmail fan and will recommend it to anyone who is visually inclined and gets distracted easily by visuals. Inbox allows me to “snooze” emails or reminders until I want to see them (much like Boomerang for Gmail). I can save web pages (like articles I want to read) as saved links right into my Inbox and hide them until a day where I know I’ll have time to read them. I also create folders using filters (similar to Gmail) for every client as well as “newsletters” so that 20 emails display as 3-4 neat folders that I can go through according to priority. This takes away a lot of overwhelm from doing email as I only have emails in my Inbox that are relevant to me on the day, and all of those emails are neatly sorted into folders. Overall the look of the app is pretty and makes me happy.
Boomerang is one of the best apps I started using at the very beginning of my business. Coming from an 8-5 job, I was adamant to stick to those hours and to never create an expectation by clients that I was available after hours because I wasn’t. Sometimes it did happen that I kept working on a project later than 5 PM or if I had something on during the day, I’d complete the last bit of a project later that night. Boomerang allowed me to schedule my response email for a time in my working hours the next day. What I love about this is that I could complete the project, complete the email and schedule it to send which meant that I could tick off that task as complete – not having to worry about sending an email the next day. If you find that you work irregular hours but that you don’t want people to expect your response during those hours – use Boomerang to schedule your emails during your working hours.
Momentum is a Chrome extension that creates a beautiful page when you open a new tab. When I was lecturing in design, the students would laugh when my new tab boldly displayed, “Good afternoon Maryke”. It also displays a motivational quote and has features like a basic task list (which I used for a long time). They also offer a premium subscription for a very low cost in order to integrate other apps – but to me, the basic extension is a great way to keep your browsing beautiful.
There are many password manager apps online. I started using LastPass and would be lost without it. LastPass saves all of my passwords and allows me to use advanced passwords without having to remember everything. This is a great tool to use from the get-go.
Asana is my project management app and I love it. I have tried A LOT of different project management apps in the hope of finding the “perfect” one and Asana is the only one that stuck. Saying this, every person works and thinks differently so you might prefer something else, but Asana is a great place to start. I love the list based layouts that I can complete and it vanishes (pure app nerd pleasure) and the drop and drag interface makes prioritising tasks very simple. Know that I created an account and only started using Asana a year later when I saw how someone else used it – so give yourself time and search for tutorials on YouTube if you find it intimidating.
Trello is another project management app that a lot of entrepreneurs prefer. Trello works on a “Kanban” concept and almost looks like a board full of sticky notes that you can move around. I don’t use Trello for project management but I love using it for saving ideas and mapping out projects or processes. I have an entire board for saving quotes (that I get on Momentum) and another board for blog ideas. I save my ideas and can get back to them when the time is right.
I use Toggl to track my time. The iOS Desktop app makes it super simple to make a note of what I’m working on and to press start. My favourite part is if I get up and forget to press stop, Toggl will ask me if I want to “keep” or “discard” my idle time. At the end of a week, I get an email that indicates how much time I spent on what so I can easily track whatever I am working on.
Best of all is that for these basic yet handy features, the app is FREE!
Grammarly has a Chrome extension which allows it to check your spelling and Grammar on several sites while you are writing (saving grace!). Most of us think that we spell better than we do and there’s nothing worse than a professional email with a big terrible spelling mistake. Grammarly clearly indicates wrong spelling and provides the right spelling. This is a wonderful tool that everyone using email should have!
I am not a Pinterest junkie and actually spend very little time using it for personal interest, but what I do love about it is that you can so easily collaborate on visual projects using shared boards. Be it a wedding, a baby shower, business branding or a new website. Pinterest provides a collaborate space where conversations can start. When I started as a designer, we used to print out all our visual inspiration into mood boards (which was fun), but it was such a waste of paper and ink. So Pinterest is the ultimate eco-friendly mood board solution.
I LOVE reading articles online but I don’t always have the time to read through everything that I find. Instapaper has a Chrome extension (I told you I’m a junkie) that saves a web page into a readable format in your Instapaper account. Although I have hundreds of articles that I still need to get to, I love the fact that I can take my phone or iPad and read through those articles when I have a moment to spare.
As a designer, I cannot fail to mention the Adobe Suite. The Adobe Creative Suite has a more expensive monthly fee but as I use it every day, it is worth that cost. The suite includes Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and many other apps which makes it possible for me to provide my clients with the best possible visual solutions. The software has a steep learning curve and I would only recommend it to professionals who work with visuals every day, but my resources list would not be complete without mentioning these wonderful tools.
Although I have Adobe Creative Suite, sometimes I need to create a quick graphic with the correct sizes without spending hours on it. Canva is a great solution for people who want to create graphics without having to spend money on expensive software. I also love that I can create templates for my clients so that they can continue with creating beautiful visuals without having to buy any additional software.
WaveApp is my favourite online accounting tool. I was very fortunate to be introduced to this when I started my business because it has made organising my business finances SO much easier. Using Wave I can send estimates and invoices as well as track expenses and client payments. The dashboard makes it easy to see if any invoices are outstanding. The overall functionality and look of Wave made it possible for me to establish myself as a professional from the start.
DayOne is my most recent app purchase because I needed a place to throw all the many ideas floating around in my head without creating clutter. There are many free note apps that could probably so the same but the look and layout of DayOne allowed me to write in cryptic text and just brain dump without feeling that I had to add it to a task list. Using tags I can easily search for ideas and it takes away the overwhelm of feeling that I forgot what I was thinking about.
Evernote can do what DayOne can do and more. Unfortunately, I’ve never loved how the layout works and so every time I write small ideas in Evernote I felt like it would get lost. What I do love about Evernote is that I can write specific pieces and put them in Notebooks so I often use Evernote to make notes whilst I’m watching webinars or tutorials. I can store the notes in the correct notebook and refer to it when I need it.
As mentioned, I have the Newsfeed Eradicator for Facebook installed in my browser so I don’t Facebook on my laptop. What I do use a lot is Facebook Groups. I have joined a few wonderful local and international female business groups which help in answering difficult questions that Google can’t answer for me. Being able to search past discussions for answers makes life a lot easier and when you are really stuck – you have people who can answer your questions. I would recommend that every business owner be part of at least one good and responsive Facebook group.
I started Bullet Journalling at the start of 2018 and have never looked back. As a visual thinker, I have never found the perfect app or planner that allows me to see things like my brain works. Bullet Journaling has been the perfect (almost) answer and I am an addict. I have also found it to be very therapeutic which allows me to do something I love whilst also being productive. But more on this in a future post! If you are interested to learn more, subscribe to my newsletter below and you’ll be the first to know.
Please note that I am an app junkie and that you DO NOT NEED all these tools to build a successful brand online. Rather save this page as a bookmark (in Google Chrome) and refer back to it when you feel that you need a better solution for a specific process in your business.