When it comes to running your small business, you’re only really as good as the applications and resources you use. You could have a stellar product and a kick-ass business plan, but every small business owner knows that time is where the money is. If you’re spending all of your time working in your business instead of working on it, you risk stunting your growth. And I’ve learned some of the best ways to make the most of my time is to use better applications and resources.
So today I’m sharing with you my definitive list of the ten must-have apps for growing your small business. PLUS two bonus resources that every creative business owner should know about.
Now ya’ll know I love Canva. I love Canva so much, I see their ads on Hulu and my first thought is, “That doesn’t even begin to cover the benefits of your platform.”
If you don’t know what Canva is, it’s a free design application that was created for designers and non-designers alike so that anyone can design stunning marketing materials for their business in a matter of minutes.
With different project templates pre-sized for your business needs (like keynote presentations, A4 documents, Instagram posts, and Pinterest pins), loads of free fonts and graphic elements, and an intuitive interface, Canva enables every small business owner to take control of their designs in a user-friendly way.
We’ve also got an entire shop full of pre-designed Canva templates that are easy to customize and ready to share in minutes, further maximizing your time.
Click-Up is hands down my favorite project management software, and I’ve tried several, including Asana and Monday.
The thing I love most about Click-Up is that I can literally do everything in their platform, like write documents, save photos and GIFs, keep track of useful links and website, and send emails. They also make it easy to integrate with different platforms and set up automations and workflows that you can share with your team or just use yourself.
As a small business owner, and a creative one at that, my brain is in constant motion and can be a little scattered. But Click-Up helps me organize and keep track of all of my work and to-do lists. It allows me to break my projects down in to individual, actionable steps that make them easier to complete. And it helps me keep track of tasks that my creative brain might otherwise forget (like reconciling my books).
There are tons of different views and customizations so you can create a workspace that works for you. And their interface is very clean and organized.
Click-Up is one of those apps I just can’t live without, so if you’re looking for a project management app, give them a try.
Speaking of reconciling my books…
I don’t hate math, but there are a lot of other ways I’d rather spend my time than staring at spreadsheets and organizing receipts. You know what I mean?
There are a ton of great accounting apps out there. But my personal favorite is Wave. Wave was specifically designed for small business owners and makes it ridiculously easy to manage your small business finances.
From uploading receipts, seeing your financial health at a glance, sending invoices, doing payroll, reconciling your books, and crushing your taxes, Wave is designed to simplify your efforts and make accounting easy, even for those people who HATE accounting.
Their support team is also fabulous, super responsive, and very friendly, which is a major plus.
I’ve waxed poetic about the benefits of Later many times. But if you’re spending a lot of time each week on your Facebook and Instagram posting, then you NEED Later. Need it like you need a fancy dinner out after spending a year and a half quarantining.
What’s so great about Later? Mainly the fact that you can preschedule your Instagram and Facebook content so it posts automatically.
Now maybe you’re saying, “So what?” But prescheduling your FB/IG content is a GAMECHANGER. Instead of going in to the platforms every single day, thinking about what to post, finding a photo, cropping it, editing it, adding hashtags, adding a location, etc. you can plan all of this in advance. Like weeks or months in advance, which makes your social media planning way more efficient and streamlined.
You can take that 30-40 minutes you spend every day creating a post and condense it to only a couple hours each month with a little discipline and a scheduling platform like Later. Sound impossible? Friends, I am living proof that it works.
Later also lets you save your hashtags so you can add them to your posts with just a click. And with the Premium plan you can schedule your stories too!
The virtues of Tailwind have also been extolled quite heavily around here. Tailwind is for Pinterest what Later is for Instagram. It helps simplify your Pinterest efforts by allowing you to plan all of your Pinterest marketing in advance and pre-scheduling your pins throughout the week or month. You can add your captions, keywords, etc. all through the Tailwind platform.
But one of the best benefits to Tailwind is being able to save your pins to Smart Loops. Smart Loops will continually share your pins based on a pre-determined schedule, so you can constantly have content pinning to Pinterest without needing to do a lot of heavy lifting.
While you’ll still need to go in from time to time and make some manual adjustments or recalibrations, Tailwind makes it so that the bulk of your Pinterest strategy can be put on auto-pilot, which is huge.
Have hourly contracts with your clients? Toggl is the best app I’ve found for tracking your time. Not only can you organize what’s being tracked by client and by project, you can also set up automatic time-tracking reminders. I don’t know about you, but I’m always forgetting to start my time clock.
Toggl takes care of that. By setting up triggers based on the programs or windows that you open on your screen, Toggl can start tracking your time automatically or give you a gentle nudge to do so. It’s super simple and cuts down on the amount of time it takes me to track my projects.
If you work with clients or a team, you probably find yourself in situations where you need to show someone how to do something, like navigate a new application or platform or review a lot of information.
This is where Loom can be such a huge help. Loom is a screen and video recording platform for your computer. Instead of typing out long emails with instructions or taking a bunch of screenshots, just use the Loom extension in your browser to record yourself doing it instead.
It saves so much time and you don’t need to have a Loom account to view the video. You can record videos and send them to your client without them having to worry about the hassle of creating an account to watch it.
There are tons of different email service providers out there and they all have their own challenges and benefits. While none of the platforms I’ve worked with in the past have been perfect, I personally think MailerLite is the best value for your money, especially for businesses starting out.
Their free tier in particular is fantastic for solopreneurs and small businesses. I was a MailerLite convert from Mailchimp. Though I liked Mailchimp, when it came to workflow automations and audience segmenting, they didn’t offer much in their free subscription. And those two things are a huge part of my email strategy.
With MailerLite, their pricing is based on the number of subscribers you have, or the number of emails you send on a monthly basis. And while some parts of their platform aren’t the most intuitive (I’ll admit), I still find their offering to be the best for what it is.
If you’re looking to understand how people interact with your website or where you could make some improvements, HotJar will be your next best friend. It’s pretty much the more humanized version of Google Analytics.
Where Google Analytics gives you data and numbers, HotJar gives you recordings of how people navigate your site. These are recordings of actual site visitors, anonymized of course, so you don’t know who they are.
But you can watch as they click through your site, visit different pages, scroll through your product listings, add items to their cart, and even check out. So what does this information do for you? It helps you identify opportunity areas in your site and places you might need to fix to make it work harder for you.
That data you get from HotJar is invaluable when it comes to creating your best website.
An oldie, I know. But a goodie. I use Google Sheets every single day. Excel is great and all. And if you’re an analyst or financial consultant, Excel is probably still the way to go for you because Google Sheets lacks some of the functionality.
But for someone like me who is organizing social schedules or project details in a way that’s easy to share with clients and access anywhere, Google Sheets will always be where it’s at.
Now for the two bonus resources every creative business owner needs to have in their arsenal:
The best way I can think to describe Creative Market is that it’s basically a digital farmer’s market or bazaar for creative goods. With hundreds, if not thousands of sellers offering a variety of digital creative assets through their Creative Market shops, it’s the best place to find custom fonts, patterns, illustrations, marketing templates, website themes, and photo mockups, among tons of other things.
If you want your business to look good, but don’t have the specialized knowledge to create a cool font or custom image mock ups, Creative Market has everything you need to make your business look its best.
Looking for high quality stock photos? Unsplash is my favorite place to go for a crazy big collection of professional stock photos that you can use FOR FREE. No watermarks, no strings attached. Just a never-ending selection of beautiful photography that you can use in your marketing materials.
You can search their database for just about anything, save photos to your own collections to use at a later date, or download them instantly to immediately start using them.
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