Many of us are running our business with a digital storefront or office that is at the heart of all our client interactions. If you’re an ecommerce business this is more obvious, but those of us with a serviced based businesses, the more we can automate and leverage digital tools, the more time we should have to focus on our core business, our ‘Zone of Genius’.
There are so many choices for digital tools when it comes to business, and the choices can be overwhelming. In my business and as a digital business designer, I don’t pretend to know ALL the tools – who could!! But I have tried too many (shiny-object syndrome – hands up!) and landed on the list below for all sorts of tasks within my small business.
I use or have used all of the tools list on this page. I recommend them as they are tried and tested and served my needs. Many of these tools work across my desktop and on my phone/iPad to allow a truly mobile business for those of us hustling and juggling.
Note: Some of the links contained on this page are affiliate links, meaning I make a small amount of money (at no cost to you) if you sign-up using my link. Thanks in advance #digitalbusiness
I use Siteground for my own website, websites I host for clients and therefore recommend them to everyone. Sign up takes minutes, their interface is really simple and their uptime and performance is amongst the best.
Siteground hosting includes a free basic SSL certificate (basic web security required to get the green lock in your browser bar, and it’s a necessity to get a good ranking on Google.
Costs: First year $4.95/month (paid annually, first year)
Subsequent years $14.95/month
G Suite by Google is one of the simplest answers to a business email account. It allows you to access all of Google’s services with a business account, think G Drive, google docs/sheets/analytics.
You’ll need to own the domain name for your business, even if you’re not ready to develop a website.
Many web hosts offer email packages but you are then tied to your web host should you need to move your website.
G Suite also allows multiple email addresses per domain (for example, Anna and I have separate email addresses and inboxes Kate@ and Anna@) as well as Alias emails, so I have hello@ and tech@ but they all come through to my kate@ mailbox.
Costs: From $5/month/mailbox
A necessity for having a website, but even if you just want a branded email, you’ll need a domain name.
There are so many choices these days outside of the .com. If you’re in Australia, you should consider the .com.au to validate your an Australian businesses (you’ll need your ABN to get this one) as well as the .com. I have the .digital for example there is .photo .info and loads more.
If you end up with a couple of domain names, you can redirect them all to your one website.
Crazy Domains has an easy to use interface for redirecting the URLs to wherever you need them to.
Cost: from $12.50 per year
Elementor is a game changer in the WordPress world. The page builder is a plugin that allows you drop & drag theme/design page designs.
Gone are the days where you purchased the prettiest WordPress theme you could afford, only to then find you were so restricted by the themes limitations, you couldn’t adjust the colours or it wasn’t mobile responsive.
Elementor in the right hands – is a blank canvas where your only restricted by your design skills.
Cost: Free or go PRO for $49USD/year
Got more than one gmail account? Hate having multiple extra tabs open in your browser for more than one gmail account, and then your google docs and and other for your FB messages, and the list goes on.
Shift is a desktop app (not for your phones yet) that allows you to have one interface/window for your email addresses, google docs etc, FB messenger and more.
I find this streamlines my workflow significantly with less clutter aka #tabsfordays
Costs: Free or $29 – $99/year options for additional features.
Dubsado is a Client Relationship Management platform that I use daily. It manages lead capture, questionnaires, proposals, contracts, invoices and payments.
It enables automated workflows, helpling serve your clients without you having to lift a finger. I have client portals set up with questionnaires and can track projects and the email communication for projects. Suited to freelancers and service based businesses, they are always improving the platform and have great FaceBook community to ask questions and get ideas.
OK a new found tool that rivals Dubsado for me. (I am very close to moving across). Plutio is a Business Management platform. It manages clients, project tasks, proposals, contracts, invoices and payments. It tracks time, conversations, emails, live chat, project communication.It even has the ability to host a wiki style customer information source.
It doesn’t allow automated workflows but does do client portals.
Suited to freelancers and service based businesses.
Costs: From $15USD/month
Toggl is a time tracking app. I use it to track the hours I spend on projects for clients that I charge hourly rates for. It has a desktop app and phone app, meaning it’s a really quick and easy to ‘turn on/off’ while your busy working away then go back and add some project details.
At the end of your billing cycle, you can review the work you’ve done and create reports broken up by project or client, ready to send to them with their invoice.
A must for anyone charging clients by the hour.
Costs: free + premium options.
Acuity is a calendar/scheduling app that can manage your online booking/appointments. Set up different appointment types, integrate it with your Google calendar, send email reminders to clients, accept payments for appointments and it’s all online.
You can embed a booking tool into your website like this http://goldb.digital/discovery
Cost: Free + Premium plans $15-50/m
Dropbox is one of the best cloud storage platforms I use (I also use iCloud and GDrive, bit hos i use them all is a topic for another discussion)
Dropbox integrates with my Mac computers so it’s just like another folder, I can work on live documents – all formats and not need to upload them again. I can share links to anyone. I use Dropbox for my client projects, cause they don’t have to have an apple iCloud account of a Google Gmail account.
Cost: free + Premium options for more storage
Canva is a game changer in Graphic design world. What used to take me 15mins in an Adobe program, takes me 5 mins in Canva.
A web-based graphic design tool, (that also has a phone/tablet app) it’s full of templates for the non-designers out there, as well as all the Google fonts, and a library of free and paid stock images/icons.
A great tool for making social media images.
Cost: Free + $12.95USD/month plan that allows you to add your branded fonts and colours.
Envato Elements is a library of graphics, photos, design templates, fonts, that will help take your business marketing to the next level.
A one-stop shop for your next marketing project.
Cost: Various for individual elements or $16.50 USD/month to have unlimited access.
Lastpass is a password management tool that has been a game changer for my business. With so many passwords and more complex password requirements, there is no way the old little black book of passwords works anymore.
In my line of digital work, I also manage multiple passwords for each of my clients. Lastpass stores the passwords for me, has a Chrome extension that then pre-fills usernames and passwords for me, even when I have multiple passwords for the one site (like multiple WordPress logins for the many sites I manage)
For those serving clients, clients can also share a folder of passwords with you, without actually having to share the ACTUAL password. Laspass accounts connect and I can log in with your details and all i see are the stars or dots in the password field. BOOM! Game changer for privacy.
Cost: free + Premium monthly options based on users.
I came across Mailerlite when Mailchimp starting messing with their platform.
Mailerlite is free for the basics services (which is all a small service based business will need). It has all the templates, and the automations, landing pages and sign up tools.
Cost: Free for up to 1000 subscribers + Premium plans with larger emailing limits and additional features from $10/month
Zapier is the ultimate in digital-connectivity.
I always try to directly connect tools and interactions where I can, but for almost everything else, there is Zapier.
Zapier takes an action or trigger from one platform and uses that to trigger another action on a separate digital platform. they call it a ZAP.
For example, when i get a new lead through my website (which is a Dubsado form) I get a new ‘card’/task’ created in Trello. From that same lead capture form I also get that person’s name on my MailChimp list. All automagically.
The tools that feed into and out of Zapier are almost endless.
Cost: Free + Premium plans with more apps/zaps from $25/month