Note from Sean: By now you should have a pretty good idea of who Liz Froment is, as the Community Manager for Location Rebel, she’s always helping field questions and offer tips to members on how to grow their brands.
This week, she’s got an awesome list of tools anyone can use to help grow their brands. Take it away, Liz!
When you get involved in project management like I have, you realize quickly it becomes easy for things to get lost in the shuffle.
Which, of course, is terrible for business.
That’s why I turn to an arsenal of tools to help keep me in line and my business running. Here, I’ve shared my best recommendations for the basic tools anyone starting a business should use to get started.
Setting and getting control of tasks has to be a priority as you start to grow your business. I used to think I could store everything in my Mind Palace (shout out to the Sherlock fans in the house…) and be good to go.
These tools are going to help you get your tasks on board. Plus, they can help with goal setting, keeping you focused on the most important things you need to get done today.
Sean is a huge fan of Momentum, it’s a sexy little tab replacement that reminds you of your most important task of the day every time you open a new tab.
If you want more than just one task, Dayboard has got you covered. This is another tab replacement task management system, but it asks your 5 most important tasks of the day.
Prioritab not only shows your most important daily, weekly and monthly tasks, but drops a not to subtle kick in the pants by reminding you how much time has already passed.
If you want task management that is more than a tab replacement, it’s hard to go wrong with Trello. Most people I know who are building their brands use this as their go to task management system.
Whoohoo you’re ready to get out there and start pitching prospects, or maybe your in talks with a couple of potential new clients.
Now it’s time to actually start tracking what you’re doing.
Too many times I’ve seen a possible customer get lost in the shuffle. These tools will help you see exactly where you stand with all your contacts.
Hubspot CRM is another easy to use client system that works inside your email. Integrate it with Hubspot’s Sidekick and you’ll have an awesome tool that gives you tons of client information at your fingertips.
I’m a huge fan of Streak. It works seamlessly with GMail, making it super easy to keep track of anyone you’ve pitched, need to follow up on, are working with, or is not interested.
If you spend a lot of your time pitching potential clients via cold or cool email, this one’s for you. Followup.cc is like a little spy in your inbox, tracking who’s opened or clicked your emails, and setting follow up reminders.
I think most of us would be lying if we said we were always productive all the time. I would never say anything like that, which is an entirely different problem…
But, sometimes when your natural high for running your own business starts to wear off in those cold winter months, you might need a little bit of a pick me up.
That’s where these productivity tools can help you kick it up a notch and get back to work.
You might think you’re locked in and focused all day, but chances are you spend way more time on Gawker than you should. Use RescueTime track where you spend your time and improve your habits (and productivity).
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to step up my focus and productivity is using Pomodoro Time. It’s so simple, but hey, it works. And, I love seeing my progress over the last few weeks as an extra source of motivation.
If you’re someone who needs to listen to music when you work by find yourself distracted by words (looking at you, Adele) try Focus@Will. The music is specifically picked to make your brain happy and focused.
When you need to take serious measures to get work done, turn to StayFocusd. It allows you to not only block your own access from certain distracting websites, it can also set time limits on your browsing.
You may think you don’t need to step up your game when it comes to writing, but here’s a little secret: you do.
So much of building your brand is based on your ability to communicate effectively, so the sooner you start working on your writing skills, the better.
These tools can help you start habit forming a consistent writing habit and improve your writing along the way.
I’ve seen tons swear of writers by using the Hemingway App. It’s a dead simple tool for cutting the bad from your writing and tightening up your message. You can also get a desktop version for distraction free (i.e. no WiFi) writing.
I was first introduced to Scrivener by Lise Cartwright who uses it to write Kindle books. Since she has about a billion of them, I listened. Scrivener is a monster writing tool that allows you to keep everything from research to outlines all in one place.
If you struggle to write much at all but want to form a daily writing habit that’s manageable, check out 750 Words. What I like about it is the gamification aspect, it gives you points for writing, plus tracks everything.
Automation may be a big buzzword running around the internet today, but the fact of the matter is, when you can reduce the time (and mental energy) some tasks take it can free you up for more important things.
I can predict, though, once you start dabbling in automation, it can be hard to stop.
Using these tools you’ll find tons of ways to automate your life that you didn’t even know existed…and now won’t be able to live without.
Zapier is an awesome automation tool that helps you streamline some of those annoying time consuming tasks online. It works with hundreds of other tools, apps, and programs online, allowing you to link actions between everything from your GMail to Trello.
If This Then That
IFTTT is another handy automation tool. It includes hundreds of apps to connect not only your business, but your life. My favorite recipe? A text alert when someone on my fantasy baseball team is injured. Priorities!
If you’re not on social media, well what exactly are you doing with all that free time?
Seriously though, and speaking of automation, it never hurts to use a couple of tools to manage your message on social. Especially if you are looking to share some of your own content over time.
These tools can help you find the right balance between posting live and sharing from your archives.
Buffer is sort of the ultimate in social media automation. You can link up everything from your Twitter account to your Pinterest boards and schedule specific times of the day and week to share your content.
Another social media sharing tool I love is Edgar. What sets this one apart from the rest is you can keep libraries of past shared content, and also separate your content into categories to share at specific times.
When it comes to keeping track of my social media streams, I turn to HootSuite. What’s cool about this tool is it really gives you an all in one option. You can monitor your feeds, schedule, and share content from one place.
I don’t know about you, but I love to “educate” myself aka wildly procrastinate by reading tons of articles and posts online.
Trouble is, once you get started reading, you suddenly realize it’s two in the afternoon and you haven’t done any of the work you were supposed to do by noon. Whoops.
That’s where these tools are a lifesaver. Now I can save content till my little heart’s content and access it all later when I’m taking a break or need to reference it.
I don’t even remember my life before Pocket came along. This is one of the handful of very special tools I use every single day. Pocket is awesome for saving and tagging content for reading, social sharing, and research.
Evernote is one of those indispensable tools. I don’t even know anyone who doesn’t use it, actually I don’t know if I want to know anyone who doesn’t. With Evernote you can write content, store and access files, create to-do lists, and a lot more.
The Interwebz are a visual place, so if you aren’t creating images to go with your content (and that includes social media) you might not get a ton of traction.
Thankfully, the days of needing to be a pro in Photoshop aren’t necessary for regular people like you and me.
Now, there are some awesome tools you can use to create kick ass images for any piece of content you want to put out there online.
Canva has to be one of my favorite tools. I went from struggling (and I mean struggling) to create images using Photoshop to blasting out tons of content in a snap. Use Canva for social media, blog headers, even presentations.
Just like Canva, PicMonkey is a great tool to use for creating all sorts of awesome images you can share with your content. I love their collage feature, I’ve seen people do some amazing images with it.
You can’t spend any time online with thinking at least a little bit about security. This is especially true for you digital nomads out there.
Anytime you travel, or even work in a coffee shop there is a risk of hacks, or even worse, your equipment getting stolen.
Protect yourself by getting a password tool and a VPN, here are a few recommendations.
Once you get into your business, you’re going to discover just how many passwords you’re going to need. It will be virtually impossible to remember them all, that’s what Dashlane is for, they do it for you.
Another password manager is LastPass. It allows you to keep track of your passwords, and even share your passwords with others without them seeing the actual password. Perfect for things like tech support and admins.
Hide My Ass (VPN)
Looking for a VPN to keep your devices protected when outside your own network? Check out the appropriately named Hide My Ass, which allows you to browse anonymously through a proxy network.
Once you start creating content, you’ll soon realize you’re going to need a place to store it all. Sure, you can save it to your laptop, but what if it crashes?
You don’t even want to think about it, I know.
That’s why I turn to the cloud. I save everything, and I mean everything to the cloud. Not only does it keep my stuff safe from any potential technology disasters, but it also means I can access it from any device, anywhere.
One of the most popular cloud storage tools out there is Dropbox. It’s super easy to use, allows you to give access to certain documents to others, or even create shared groups which is pretty cool.
Sean is a huge fan of Amazon Web Services for his cloud storage needs. Just like Dropbox, it’s an easy and super convenient way to store your files, videos, podcasts, and webinar recordings for access anywhere.
If you live your life in the Google universe (like I do), then turning to Google Drive for your storage needs is pretty much a no-brainer. It’s also perfect for sharing docs, folders, and projects for group collaboration.
Accounting and Invoicing
Boo, everyone hates accounting.
Yes it’s true (sorry my accountant friends). But, it’s a very necessary part of business. If you can’t keep track of your books, your not going to get too far in the profit part of it all.
Hand in hand with that is invoicing. You like to get paid, right? Well use these tools to make sure you do.
Designed for small businesses, FreshBooks is an easy to use system to help you keep track of your invoices, expenses, and payments all through one simple and attractive interface.
QuickBooks Self Employed
For my accounting software, I’ve been using QuickBooks Self Employed for the past few years. It allows you to link it up to your credit cards, payment processing accounts like PayPal, and lets me see what my quarterly taxes will be so I know what to set aside.
The relatively new kid on the block, Wave is making a splash (get it?). This free service is specifically designed for freelancers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs to make accounting and invoicing super easy.
One of my favorite things in the world is getting paid. It’s pretty awesome, right?
When you get started working online you’ll discover getting paid isn’t quite as simple as that monthly direct deposit you had in your 9-5.
Here are a few tools you can use to make sure you’ll get your funds.
I really like Dwolla and have been using it for a few years now. It’s really easy to use, the fees are virtually nothing, and it integrates seamlessly into my bank account with zero issues.
If you do anything online that involves getting paid, PayPal is going to be the go to tool for you to use. It’s pretty easy to use, it’s everywhere, and you can even use it as an invoicing tool as well.
A third option for getting paid is using Payoneer. What’s cool about this tool is it’s worldwide, working in over 200 countries and in over 150 different currencies. For those outside the US, it’s a great option.
The Holy Grail of email for many is inbox zero.
While I don’t aspire to those levels, it’s still really important to keep your inbox as de-cluttered as possible, especially when you’re trying to balance personal emails, networking emails, client pitches, and well you get the point.
These tools will help you remove some of the junk and keep your inbox focused on what matters.
Tons of entrepreneurs absolutely love SaneBox. It helps you track what emails are unimportant, allows for one click unsubscribes, and even lets you snooze on emails to come back to them later.
Another tool that’s been designed to remove spam and help you see what emails are clogging up your inbox is Unroll Me. It also lets you see all the unwanted emails in a daily digest with an unsubscribe feature.
You can’t get too far in growing your own brand without having a good handle on your calendar.
For many entrepreneurs, their calendar is the single most important tool that they have for keeping track of their lives.
I’ve gone from someone who never used a calendar, so someone who schedules virtually everything, and it’s made a huge difference.
Live in the Google world, well then you’ve already got a pretty good calendar sitting right at your fingertips with Google Calendar. Use it to keep track of your schedule fright from your email or phone.
If you want a beautiful calendar that seamlessly integrates with your Google Calendar, check out Sunrise. It allows for multiple people to use it, has special icons, and even works offline.
Ever have to try to schedule a time to meet with someone? Fifteen emails later, you’re finally set, right? Until now. Use Calendly to easily coordinate times and schedules to book instantly on your calendar.
Well, there you have it.
An epic list of tools you can use to help grow your business and take it to the next level. Did I miss any? I’m always on the lookout, so let me know what your favorite tools are in the comments!