Work smarter not harder. It’s what they all say! But how?! As an entrepreneur, small business owner or freelancer, there are so many different areas you need to master to grow your business – accounting, product designing, website development, photography, branding, social media, customer service, email marketing, business development – the list goes on! With all those different aspects to juggle it is more essential than ever to make your life as easy as possible wherever you can, rather than creating more work for yourself. In my opinion, the best way to do this is by utilising the tools that have been created by all those techy geniuses out there to generate shortcuts, simplify processes, turn manual tasks into automated ones and SAVE YOU TIME! Check out my top 7 tools every entrepreneur needs below, and start freeing up your time to get back to doing what you love!
Please note: none of these systems or tools are endorsed, I am sharing them simply because they have made my life SO much easier and I want them to do the same for you! I use all of these on a daily basis and can personally vouch for each and every one of them!
EMAIL MARKETING: OMNISEND
I have only been using Omnisend for around 3 months now, prior to that I was a Mailchimp super fan, and I really wish I discovered it sooner! Although a smidge more expensive than Mailchimp, the tools it provides make it so much more valuable. The options for embedding pop up forms and subscription boxes into your website are so much more diverse and easier to use, allowing you to grow your mailing list SO much faster. The best part though is the amazing automated tools it provides, from automated cross sell emails to birthday emails, customer reactivations, product review requests, abandoned cart notifications, welcome messages and so much more. You will 100% be able to work smarter not harder by investing a small amount of time in setting these up, then sitting back and watching them work all by themselves. Note – in order to use Omnisend you need to own your own email address domain e.g. email@example.com not firstname.lastname@example.org. These are easy to buy through your domain provider and are a great way of making your business look a lot more professional and trustworthy.
ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE: XERO
I still can’t believe that for the entire first year of running my business I used to manually count up my hours for each client, create each weekly invoice in a spreadsheet, download it, attach it to an email, send to said client, note in my spreadsheet that it had been sent, watch my bank balance for the total to be paid, then tick it off in my spreadsheet. Even writing this out is boring me!? Who knows how I survived doing it for a whole year! The best thing about Xero is that it connects to your bank account and will automatically mark off your paid invoices. If an invoice is late (hello freelance life) then it automatically sends email reminders to your clients prompting them to check their online balance with you and settle the overdue payment. Yay for not having to chase clients yourself! Xero also allows you to incorporate your own branding to your templates and emails, it keeps track of your outgoings, it has a super easy to use interface and it will make tax time a breeze. Xero offers a free trial so you can give it a whirl before committing to an account – but trust me, once you’ve tried it you’ll never look back.
GRAPHIC DESIGN: CANVA
I feel like Canva is one of the biggest blessings to ever reach small business owners and freelancers alike. Canva is a FREE simple to use graphic design tool website that uses a very easy drag-and-drop format and provides access to free photos, vector images, graphics, fonts and design templates. The tools it provides allow you to speedily create both web and print media design and graphics, so whether you’re looking to create a logo, a fancy business card, a menu, a leaflet, an album cover, an invitation, an instagram story, a social media banner – *gasps for breath* literally whatever you think of… Canva has got your back!
INSTAGRAM SCHEDULING: PLANOLY
There are obviously a LOT of social media scheduling tools out there but my favourite by a country mile is Planoly. I am a visual person and like to see images clearly, especially when I’m working with something where aesthetics is everything! Planoly has a beautifully designed drag-and-drop formatted grid which allows you to upload drafts, save captions, save hashtag groups, save stories, play around with your feed to make sure it is looking fabulous, schedule your posts in their wide screen calendar and auto-post for you when you’re busy. It also has some great analysis tools allowing you to check out your social media metrics straight from the app AND it is both desktop and mobile friendly. They have a killer blog too – which is a great place to get a few more social media tips and tricks. If you want to save yourself time and some sanity, I really recommend taking out an hour of your week to schedule your Instagram posts and captions for the seven days ahead of you. That way you’ll get them all done at once, ensuring your content is epic and well thought out and you’ll NEVER have to wonder ‘what on earth am I going to post tonight’. This will keep your relationship with social media nice and healthy as it won’t gobble up all your time or leave you feeling uninspired.
WEBSITE WIZARDS: SHOPIFY & WORDPRESS
I’ve included two options here as it totally depends on what sort of business you have. Personally I use a WordPress powered website as I don’t currently sell any products but use my website regularly for blogging and sharing my services and work. It is the perfect solution if you are a service based business and want to show off case studies and portfolios. If you are a product or retail focused business then I recommend setting your website up with Shopify. Whichever one you go for, during the customisation process you will be prompted to pick yourself a theme. I recommend avoiding the free themes and opting for something more professional and premium looking with snazzy features and online support. All themes come with set up instructions to help you through this process, but if you ever need a hand with setting up a website – please get in touch! It’s kind of my thing. Having an easy to use website with a customisable theme is so important for SBO’s and freelancers as it allows you to keep your website updated and fresh all the time. In my experience Shopify and WordPress are the most user friendly, which means you can hop in make an edit really quickly – no painfully wasted days trying to wrap your head around a complicated website host.
LIFE ORGANISATION AND EMAILS: G-SUITE
My G-Suite account is probably the tool I use the most across my whole business. I use my emails to stay in touch with all my clients, my calendar to keep track of my week and time management, my google sheets to keep my life and clients organised, my google docs for writing, and my drive to save everything under the sun. I love that all these different aspects are connected under one umbrella account and it’s as easy to use on desktop as it is on the mobile app. The best thing about these tools is that they are all online, so you can be logged into different computers or devices and still access ALL of your emails / meetings / documents / images – you don’t have to save anything to your desktop, so you can work from anywhere and not worry about memory space, searching for lost documents, waiting for applications to load or those ole’ dusty USB sticks.
PHOTO EDITING: LIGHTROOM PRESETS
The quickest most effective way to have beautiful photos that look professionally edited is by investing in some lightroom presets and installing them on your phone or desktop. There are thousands to choose from on the internet (check out creative market here for just a few). The best way to select one is to do some research on the preset creators own feed to ensure you love the way it looks and blends together, then make sure the colours that are accented match your branding and style so it will suit your photos! It helps if the creator you’re buying presets from has similar photography objects to you too, e.g. if a creator users their presets for their wildlife and nature photography, they might not be the best person to buy from for your interior decor shots? In a nutshell presets work the same as a filter, you can slap them on your photos and achieve a polished look in two seconds instead of having to manually edit all the settings on every single image you take.
And there you have it! The top 7 tools every entrepreneur needs to work smarter not harder. Got any questions? Get in touch!