I have a hard time sitting still. Not in an anxious way. More like, ‘my to-do list never seems to be a ta-da-done list.’ This leaves me forever testing tools, apps, and resources that help me do everything – faster, smarter. And for good reason. I love what I do. I want to do more of it! Here are 29 tools that help me do all-the-things. How many do we both use?
EMAIL & CALENDARS
1) GSuite (& the Gmail App)
Signing up for GSuite’s Gmail service is by far the number one thing I suggest all of my clients do when setting up their website. Why?
I work with a lot of small teams, side hustlers and solopreneurs, and they all tell me some version of the same thing: they want to look legit. The first and easiest step is getting an email with the same domain name as their branded website. Because the beauty is you can access it anywhere and the app is powerful too. And I love that it sync’s with your Google calendars. All of them. Plans start at $6/month. If you’re like me you spent that on your last Starbucks grande + tip run, and like that first sip – GSuite is totally worth it.
Calendly helps you schedule meetings without the back-and-forth emails — how’s that for a tagline? I love any tool that limits the number of emails I have to respond to. I don’t use this as often as I want to, but it’s still in the deck of tools that makes my life easier when I do.
Speaking of less email and getting people on the same calendar, meet Doodle Poll. I love bringing large groups of people together. What I don’t like, is scheduling or attempting to schedule a date and time that works for all of them. Instead, the free polling feature in Doodle has helped me schedule everything from board meetings, committee meetings and most recently Facebook group meetups!
And it’s so easy to set-up. Choose your date or multiple dates, choose times and then grab the link and email it your colleagues for them to choose. After everyone submits a preferred time(s), you can view the calendar to find the date that “wins.” Have multiple options? Even better. Here’s an example:
MONEY & RECEIPTS
4) Fresh Books
You know how your accountant loves detailed accounting, patiently (or impatiently) digs for every invoice, every receipt? You know she’s got your best interest in mind, but in the day-to-day, you just need to run the business. You could use their software or you could try the software you’ll actually use. FreshBooks is the software that keeps up with you. It’s a cloud-based accounting software ideal for service-based businesses. I’ve worked with others in the past, but nothing saves me time, hassles, and headaches like FreshBooks. They even have a user-friendly app so I can send out invoices in just minutes.
When I have in-person events that require a credit card reader, I rely on my Square reader and app. They’ll send your first reader for free, $10 for the upgraded one or swing by Best Buy and sometimes I’ve seen them at Target too. Download the app, input some of your info, including which bank they should deposit it to and begin taking payments.
As a business owner (and mama) there are so many things to keep track of. Receipts. Recipes. Ideas. Contact Information. Kiddo stuff. So much paper.
Check out the Scannable app! If you can take a picture with your iPhone —you can do this. This has been the one app that helps me reduce and organize in a camera-snap and then later find things in a tap, tap. Start by recording your receipts then show it to your team. Have a business expense? Snap the image and email it to yourself or your team to record it. Toss the receipt. Done.
HARDWARE THAT TRAVELS
Even while working ‘in the corporate world,’ the majority of my work life has been on-the-go. I think it was the best way to appease my entrepreneur’s heart. ‘Have laptop will travel’ is my favorite phrase and working on the road only gets easier by having my backpack packed with all of my essentials.
7) Roost laptop stand
I love my home office. Standing desk, Thunderbolt monitors make my neck and back happy. But I’m a work-realist so I have a ‘go bag’ at all times. It just took me several years before that I filled that bag with the perfect items. The Roost laptop stand is my absolute must-have when working on the road. It’s a lightweight, collapsible laptop stand that opens in two seconds and saves me on a mountain of chiropractor visits. Bonus, it makes me a new friend every time I work at a Starbucks or public library space.
8) Battery Back-up
Whether I’m traveling to my local Starbucks or to bustling London or remote spots in Uganda this little battery back-up with a charging cord has made a world of difference.
9) External Hard Drive
I never want to be slowed down by something I could have prevented. Which means I keep large client files on an external hard drive. In fact, I have two. One for client files and another to backup my entire MacBook that’s filled with my important and essential files.
10) Traveling Mouse
This is the same as my regular Apple mouse, but I’ve kept the clear case and keep it packed in my laptop backpack (with extra batteries.) I mention it because having this one always packed in my bag because I felt like a rookie before I invested in a mouse designated for work-on-the-go.
11) Backpack, Bags & Cord Control
I have two or three go-to bags. But my wide mouth K-Swiss is the current front runner. I’ve never seen another open the way the top does — I can see everything at once. Here are a couple of my other favorites items when carrying work gear. Anything at livefashionable.com and the Container Store sells this little gem to organize my cords and my hard drive.
WRITING & PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS
I write a lot. And even though I’ve identified writing as my One Main Thing, thank you Gary Keller – finding time-saving hacks is crucial.
As a business owner, it’s easy to get distracted. By a client or someone on your team needs input. Or sometimes I’m procrastinating something so I look for a distraction. Either way, distractions are bad, you know what I think is worse? The time it takes to get back in the groove. GIF where was I?? That is until, Asana’s project management tool.
At any given time I have specific tasks, to-dos and status updates on any of the 30-50 projects I’m managing. Getting it set-it up is key. I keep my tasks as specific single to-do’s, I add only necessary team members projects, give deadlines and reminders that make sense so now when I have to pivot, I can jump back in with less start up time.
It’s true. On the Enneagram, I’m a three — an Achiever or a Reformer. So if you tell me there’s going to be a time of my day I can’t work towards my goals (read: driving or poor signal or any other mindless tasks) I’ll tell you I have Audible or Podcasts for that.
(True, my toddler might be able to tell you the best takeaways from my favorite self-improvement or business podcast or book he’s heard in the car, but I do manage to keep our evening walks an earbud free-zone.)
When I hit a writer’s block, Neil Patel’s free chrome extension gives me a healthy dose of ideas that real people are searching for and reading. Think Google Suggest, but on steroids.
Does anyone remember building Pivot tables in college? *shudders* I loved the idea, the power, I loved what results I got at the end of building one — but I couldn’t fall in love with creating one. And then I met AirTable. Oh, how I love it. I can create dozens of social media ideas and posts in one stretch, I can sort and filter them in ways that keep my writing ultra-focused. Love that. Give it a try, their free option has been a world of usefulness and has inspired my writing.
A free website and chrome extension that serves as my spell check and grammar police. I prefer the website just before I publish a blog or important document, I think the extension can be a distraction from doing the real work of writing. Write first. Edit later.
I do a lot of writing. Lead magnets, e-books, blog posts, social media prompts for myself and for my clients. You know what I don’t do? Obsess over headlines. Who has time to over-think it? Get a click-worthy headline and hit publish. Some clients want a headline to be clever or cheeky. Some clients want nothing extra. I believe in Donald Miller’s book thesis: “When you confuse you lose.”
So instead I encourage everyone to choose a clear but click-worthy headline that informs their most perfect reader. No bait and switch. I don’t want to make Google guess what the article is about. This free online tool gives me an instant double-check. Can you be clever? Yep. Can you be effective? Always.
Don’t have time to write? Me either. I’m writing (read: cramming) now while the kiddo naps. It’s like a race against the clock!
For months, I’ve wanted to write about my favorite tools that I use every day – but without this voice-to-text app, I’m not sure I would have made it to 29. tools. Otter to the rescue! Otter is an app that generates notes for meetings, this blog post, client interviews, lectures, and any other important voice conversations I can think of all with an AI-powered assistant.
I love my what I do. I love it, even more, when I’ve created a workflow for the little things that bore me. That’s what Zapier does for me. For example, instead of emailing my assistant about creating an invoice for a client. I can drop info in a Google Spreadsheet and she’ll get an email auto-magically. Any time you need to trigger a process, particularly a repeatable process, there’s a zap for that. Your first five zaps are free. (Sign-up! You’re just a few clicks away from saving yourself mountains of time.)
20) Facebook & Instagram Creator Studio
I could tell you all about my favorite scheduling tools or I could tell you about the one that gives me major brownie points when I use it. Go check out FB’s Creator Studio. Scheduling Instagram is a little glitchy at the moment, but using a platform scheduler will be a game-changer for your business.
STORAGE & DOCUMENTS
21) Google Drive
Years ago, I bought a three-drawer, commercial-sized file cabinet for my first business in 2008. Today, it’s a $499 paperweight. Fast forward and Google Drive is my virtual, go-with-me-anywere file cabinet. In the car? It’s with me. At the tax office? It’s with me. Speaking from a podium and I forgot my notes? True story, Google Drive to the rescue. It’s the single place I collaborate with every client, team member, my husband and anyone else I’m forgetting.
Another tool to collaborate on large files, Google is my go-to. Dropbox is perfect for sensitive items shared between other organizations.
WEBSITES, PLUGINS & DESIGN
Wanna know my secret sauce?
I started designing sites for clients for two reasons: lack of designs built to convert and I wanted to rescue ‘hostages’ from ineffective websites.
As a digital marketer, I know how hard (and expensive) it can be to get relevant traffic to your website. Because that traffic can be so valuable, I believe websites should be your other employee who works ‘round the clock to convert those visitors (without taking a lunch break.)
23) Elegant Themes
Now, about those hostages. (Their words, not mine.) New website clients kept repeating a similar ‘hostage’ story. They all told me they felt held hostage by previous web designers and developers. That each edit, new hyperlink, line of text or new image they would be charged an hourly rate. That each time they wanted to understand how their site could prove it’s ROI, they were stumped.
When I can, I like fixing small, but annoying injustices in the world. The Divi Builder by Elegant Themes is my answer. I’m so confident in its abilities that when I launch a new client site, I prepare two video tutorials for my client their team. I show them how they can make common, easy edits that I know will remain mobile-friendly and within their brand standards. Win-win. Do they come back to me for the really technical edits? Yep.
24) Google Analytics
So you have a website. You spend money building traffic to the site. But what is it doing for you? What insight is it giving your team? They say what gets measured gets managed — but do you know what’s happening when web visitors arrive? No, not what your mom said she liked or disliked — legit prospects and paying customers. What do they click on? What do they read? Where do they go? Where do they never go? How long do they stay? What do they type into your search bar? All of these are valuable clues to how you can serve your audience better on-the-site and off-the-site.
Add Google’s free analytics tracking code to your site and you’ll start to demystify all of these answers. Depending on the volume of your traffic, I’d suggest you look at it weekly/monthly or quarterly.
25) WordPress & Shopify
WordPress is like a Lego box for websites. Put a bunch of your favorite pieces and elements together, shake it up and what you build is different every time. I love that. Here’s the thing, WordPress isn’t for everyone or every situation. For example, my e-commerce site, Lucky & Luke is built on the Shopify platform. I knew I needed something that had built-in drop shipping options, tech support, and other tools to teach me (read inspire me) along the way.
26) Smush Plug-in
Have photos on your website? Want it to load faster for free? After you make sure your photos have been sized to the appropriate sizes for your design, install the Smush plugin. They have a paid option for photographers, event planners, contractors, or others who need a photo-heavy site to show off their work.
27) Instagram Feed by Smash Balloon
Pssst, wanna know the longest-running SEO secret that has never changed? Google rewards an active, updated website. Why? Because their client’s love (and respond!) to regularly updated sites. But what if you don’t plan to write a blog post regularly? Do you have an Instagram presence? Try adding your feed on your website. This plugin offers free and premium options. If you’re short on time, you may need your web designer or developers help to get it installed. You’ll just need your Instagram login ready. To see it in action, scroll down the home pages of Balarisi Designs or Michell Santelik Photography.
The internet’s source of freely usable images, powered by creators everywhere is one of my go-to’s for non-stock looking stock photography. I’ll choose an image that’s high in resolution and use it for social media, web design, print items and more. Did I mention it’s free?
29) Techsini Multi-Device Mockup
Want to see your website on Apple products in just a click? This multi-device website mockup generator is a free online tool to test your responsive website on apple devices including Apple iMac, MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. It’s really helpful for website designers or theme developers to mockup the web template and show them off to clients, social media or their website.
The most incredible part is you can scroll to select different parts of a site on each of the four devices. Yes, separately! (See the recent SmartCookie website design for www.ccsklaw.com below.) Word to the wise, use this when your browser is incognito or private so you don’t have any caching problems.
Bonus: Placeit.net (paid, but hundreds of options!)
Placeit is a paid service that does what Techsini.com does but for hundreds of different product mockups. For example, I can’t afford dozens of models and dozens of shirt sizes for my t-shirt business (www.luckynicumom) but I still need to show off t-shirts on moms, dads, and kiddos. Done! Here are two of my favorite Placeit models below. (Courtesy: www.luckynicumom.com)
THIS ISN’T REALLY THE END, IS IT?
You did it! You made it to the end of this list. I do hope you paused along the way to download some of these time-saving apps. I’m not sure how I’d run my business without them! And I know I use at least 20 more. (Notice I left off all of my graphic and video tools) Thinking I’ll update this list or create another long post. In the meantime, do we use any of the same tools? Have any other resources that could save me time? Send it my way!