Time (and money!) saving tools for small businesses
I have been self-employed since 2017. I realise that many people might have had a change in circumstances over the last crazy year and a half. So here are my recommendations for some great apps and websites that I find super useful. I hope these tools will make life easier for you so that you can focus on the areas of your business that you really enjoy. And best of all they are all free or have free versions!
While I would always recommend using a professional photographer to shoot your product or portrait images, there are many really good free images available online. These are perfect for adding some visual interest and personality to your social channels and marketing materials. My personal favourites - Pexels and Unsplash - both have a great selection whatever subject matter and style you are looking for. Pexels also offers video content for free. Keep that good karma going by crediting the photographer or videographer if possible.
Fonts are another really useful tool to keep your style consistent, and increase brand awareness. Some fonts have expensive license agreements but thankfully there are lots of free options available online. My go-to site is Font Squirrel as all of the listed fonts are completely free to use. Do check out Google Fonts as well and also Dafont, just be sure to check the font is listed as '100% free' and then you can use it anywhere, both for print and online. Happy days! Here at Working Progress we usually supply our clients with font files as part of a brand identity project.
Social scheduling - Buffer
This is a great tool for scheduling social posts. You can use it to schedule content for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Instagram Stories, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, so it's pretty comprehensive. With the free version you can add 3 different channels and up to 10 posts per social channel. This should be plenty for most small businesses. The only downside is that you can't schedule Stories posts using the free version but I find lining up grid posts saves me so much time. It also helps with the holy grail of batch creating content!
Meeting scheduler - Calendly
Perfect for arranging meetings with clients, colleagues or suppliers. Calendly allows you to find a convenient time for all parties with ease. Just set your availability, send it to the other guest(s) and wait for the other party to choose a time. It completely eliminates any back and forth. Plus you'll all be sent reminder notifications. The basic plan is free but you can upgrade to packages with more features if that's useful for you.
Support - Leapers
The main thing a lot of self employed people lack is a support network and the sense of a community. Leapers is the perfect tonic for this. They describe themselves as a 'team for people without a team' supporting freelancers and the self-employed. It uses slack with lots of really useful channels. #ask anything #marketplace etc. It's free to join; just sign up with your email address and you'll be sent an invitation. As well as being a great source of information it's also a brilliant networking tool, as members, including the fabulous founder Matthew Knight, are super responsive!
Note taking - Evernote
Evernote is a free app that helps you keep track of notes, receipts, to-do lists and photos. It's like a virtual folder, or scrapbook, where you can keep all of your important notes and references together. You can also use it to annotate saved files. It is cloud based, so accessible from multiple devices, and safely backed up so you can't lose anything.
Organising tasks - Trello
I recently attended a networking event for freelancers and self-employed people. One person was waxing lyrical about Trello. It appeared to be the highlight of her day! For the uninitiated, Trello is a list making application based on the Japanese concept of Kanban - a way of visually representing work. It's basically like a batch of digital Post-its! Great for planning and breaking down a project into smaller, more manageable chunks. Trello also lets you share boards and collaborate with other people so it's perfect for teams as well as individuals.
Organising everything! - Notion
And if you need an upgrade from Trello there's also Notion. As well as offering project management boards like Trello it also features databases, calendars and notebooks. It's described as an "all-in-one workspace." Although there's a free personal version, with the option to share files with up to 5 guests, be aware that you'll probably need to pay if you have a team of people who would all want to use it.
Communication - Zoom
This might seem like a strange one to add, but I really think that it deserves a place in this list. I know that Zoom is somewhat like Marmite - you either love it or hate it - but I do believe that going forward it's a great way to interact with clients, suppliers, stockists and other members of your team. And when it comes to getting customer feedback surely it beats an impersonal email without tone hands down? Do you agree, or not?! Please let me know.
These apps are all free to try so they are a great way to test out something new to see if it can help you become more productive. I'd love to hear from you if you have any other tips and recommendations. And if you need any further help or advice do get in touch! For more tips for small businesses and entrepreneurs follow us on social - Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn
Image: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels