Congrats! You’ve done it. You’ve entered the club of elite dream-chasers by starting up your own business. Entrepreneur estimates roughly 550 thousand people take the plunge into self-employment every month. But how many actually swim?
A great startup idea is exciting but if an idea is all you have, you don’t have much. To make your dreams come to fruition, you’ll need to find the right tools to get you there. Your team of staff members and investors all have your back, but technology tends to complicate things. Not every shoe fits and you don’t need a massive bespoke system to do simple tasks.
The following tools were created specifically to help you and other startups succeed. They exist in the digital arena because that’s where all new business lives.
Here we name our favorites as well as describe what they’re about and why we love them. By the end of this bad baby, you’ll have an idea of where to go for help to scale your business and how not to go insane in the process:
LegalZoom is the easiest way to legitimize your new business. They specialize in helping you fill out and file even the most complex documents in your area. LegalZoom is an online alternative to visiting a traditional law firm and a lot more affordable.
Did you know most American small businesses are set up as S-corporations? LegalZoom can help you choose the right legal structure for your business by first assessing your goals and needs. Who knows? An LLC may just do the trick. It’s entirely up to the structure of your business and how you choose to run things.
FreshBooks is user-friendly, cloud-based accounting software that helps track purchases handles invoicing, and prepares year-end tax data for your CPA. FreshBooks seamlessly integrates with payment processors like PayPal and most banks.
PayPal is the easiest way to take online credit card and check payments. Add your bank info and effortlessly transfer between your PayPal and business accounts. Use their app to even accept in-person payments with their special device, PayPal Here.
Just be aware, with PayPal, you pay for the convenience. There can be hidden fees, so keep track of what you are doing, and the costs incurred. PayPal typically charges for almost anything you do besides give them money. Ugh!
Calendly is a super convenient app. Users receive a customized link to their online schedule. You can then send the link to prospective clients or employees and allow them to choose the best date and time for their appointment.
Now there’s no more juggling tasks or weird conversations where nobody’s calendars match. FYI: Calendly also integrates nicely with Google’s G Suite.
Meetings and Communications
Skype is the leader in VOIP calling. Use it every day to contact contractors, members of your team, clients, or to network with like-minded entrepreneurs. Skype provides video chat and voice calls between computers, tablets, and mobile phones. You can also quickly “ping” someone with a quick text if that does the trick.
Slack is cool a way to send quick text messages between members of your team. You can build a complex network made up of various channels – like when using a walkie-talkie. It’s an anagram that stands for “Searchable Log of all Conversations and Knowledge.”
Slack is also great for sharing work within a team. Users can upload media and data that the rest of the group can review and comment on. Task management is a breeze with tools like Slack in your back pocket.
Wix is a free way to quickly build and develop a website. It uses drag and drop tools that walk any novice through the process of putting together a professional site for their business. Why mobile? Well, half of all web traffic comes through cell phones and tablets. So, why ignore what the masses demand? Silly you!
Canva is similar to Photoshop and other neat Adobe graphic design products. It boasts over a million templates, images, and pre-designed graphics, as well as a unique photo editor. There’s even an app available through for iOS and Android.
One of the most convenient aspects of Canva is that you can easily share designs with your group. Forget about downloading and uploading and waiting like the Dickens. Just send your peeps the link and be on with it!
Asana allows you to create multiple projects within a specific set of boards and organize your tasks according to lists. It’s a web-based app designed to help teams track their progress on any given project.
You can also follow various projects for the same or multiple clients. Tasks can be assigned to individuals or groups. Once appointed, they can be displayed on a virtual board or as a list. When jobs are completed, they are marked accordingly and stored for later analytics.
Trello is a less-complex version of Asana. What’s different in Trello is that it integrates with your Gmail account to send email task reminders and notes. Newer features include a bullet journal to help you sort through your tasks and creative thoughts. The Trello app gives you a bit of perspective on your projects while keeping you organized.
Boomerang is like a magic trick for your email. It’s a plugin for your Gmail account that lets you:
- Schedule emails for future sending.
- Save messages for later by hitting a type of “Snooze” button.
- Get notifications when someone opens your message.
- Sends you reminders to respond to important items in your inbox.
Managing your email can be a daunting task, so apps like Boomerang make it easier for you to assess the best place to focus efforts.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
InfusionSoft automates your sales and marketing by integrating CRM functions into a robust email marketing platform. It offers lead capturing and e-commerce integrations, too. Basically, CRMs are a tool to organize multiple facets of business into one easy-to-manage avenue.
Clearbit Connect lets you sleuth around and find the employee email addresses for any company. It integrates nicely with your Gmail account and gives you the data you need with minimal effort.
G Suite includes many features you’re probably already familiar with like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Voice. In addition, it also includes Google Drive or G Drive. G Drive is a cloud-based storage platform that makes all your files accessible with a link. Permissions are up to you, of course, but the idea is less data deduplication and more convenience.
LinkedIn is a social meeting place for working professionals. It’s a way for you to connect and network with like-minded individuals who are on the same journey. Use it to find mentors, scout for new in-house talent, and hunt for new prospective clients.
Meetup allows users to schedule events on its searchable platform. Use it to find networking mixers nearby. This doesn’t even have to be about business! Meetup is also great if you just want to Scrabble and chill at your local bar with cool new friends.
Buffer is an intuitive sharing system that works across all your social media profiles. It’s a means of multi-channel management with little effort. Buffer works as a type of scheduler to help you share links, photos, promotional videos, or whatever your brand demands, with your entire audience.
The Upwork motto states: “the world’s largest online workplace…” Actually, it’s a global freelancing platform where business owners and independent professionals connect and work together. Use Upwork to find quality content writers, web builders, assistants, developers, and much more.
Fiverr is a valuable resource for entrepreneurs. Like Upwork, it’s a booming place to find someone to help you with things like logo design, content writing, etc… Unlike Upwork, however, bids start as low as $5 in some cases.
Small businesses are the backbone of our global economy. The US Small Business Administration says there are 28.8 million small businesses in the United States. All told, they employ 56.8 million people and account for 99.7% of all business in the country.
The “little guys” are essential to our economy. We keep the train on the tracks! Small businesses keep money in motion by providing valuable services and employing people. They’ve consistently played a significant role in our economic growth.
Still, building a business doesn’t come without risks. Most new businesses fail, and while they may fail for various reasons, arming yourself with the right tools prepares you for the battle ahead. Grab your best shield and tally ho!
Starting up is only the first step in the process. From there, you’ll need tools to help you gain an edge on the competition. The best advice to take is to know the inner workings of your business and the audience that will appreciate it. Once you connect those dots, the tools you’ll need to get there will become evident. Just make sure to do the research. You owe your goals at least that much!