As a small business owner, having affordable and easy-to-use tools is critical to running your business successfully. So many are on the market these days with more coming online all the time. As of February 2020, these are our personal favorites that we use internally at Freedom Makers.
Our 3 criteria for making the list:
-Must have a free version. Small business owners don’t have time to waste with setting up a program just for a free two-week trial. All of these software have a free version you can use until the time is right to upgrade.
-Must be subscription based. Cash is king for small businesses. While a monthly payment is more expensive, it’s nice to have the flexibility if necessary. Furthermore, with new software coming available all the time and with the constant adapting and changing small businesses go through, it’s imperative to have the flexibility subscriptions provide.
-Must be easy to use and quick to set up. Most small businesses have limited resources (time, money, and energy.) Anything that makes it easier for small business owners--like quick setup--is a win in our books.
Check out our winners below. Those listed below with a * in front are new ones that we have added for 2020.
Keep all your business processes in a checklist format, so nothing falls through the
cracks. Using a checklist allows you to serve your clients more quickly and fully. It also
makes it a lot easier for your team to collaborate. See our video about Process Street.
Use online forms to collect information and requests from clients and subcontractors.
JotForm offers a lot of flexibility in how to build these forms, including conditional logic,
notifications, and integrations with many other apps for seamless process flow.
Why do people still tolerate the back and forth of email for scheduling? We like Calendly
for its user friendliness and simplicity. You can customize meeting types and
availability as well as what type of information you need before the call or meeting.
To see our discussion on Calendly: click here.
We have added Loom to our list of tech tools because it is a great way to interact, train and teach instantly. Loom can be used in a variety of ways. It is a free program that allows you to record your voice and computer screen and then share with others. For example, if you want to show someone how to add users to a website, you would click on the Loom extension that you add to your browser. Up pops prompts that tell you when to start recording. You speak into your microphone and instruct. The video captured includes both your voice and what you are doing on your screen. You can also include a video of yourself with the instruction if you so desire. Here is a short example of a Loom video that could be shared. To get started, go to the Loom website and you can create your account.
A dynamic and easy way to create databases? Yes please. Airtable lets you track, manage, and manipulate your data easily. And they have templates to make it easier for you. Want something more than Excel but not ready for a complicated system? Airtable is where it's at.
Zapier is like the middle man for apps. It lets you connect apps in ways they don’t naturally do. For instance, when a team member makes a comment in Process Street, I won’t necessarily know due to the way they have it set up. I have a Zap when someone makes a comment in Process Street, it then shows up in Slack for me to see instantly. Zapier has done a lot of work to make this easy on business owners, but it still may take some practice. Check out our summary video here. And a How To here.
Streak is a customizable CRM that sits within your Gmail. Let me say that again, it sits
within your Gmail, meaning no more switching between windows! Not only do we love
the ease of having a CRM within our email, but we also love the simplicity of it. It’s very
easy to customize for your needs. We use it as a CRM for prospective clients, active
clients, and inactive clients. We also use it as a database for active and inactive
Freedom Makers. Others use it to track tasks for customer support, project
management, or applicant tracking. It’s super flexible and super easy to use.
We use Zoom to help our clients train their Freedom Maker. Zoom allows attendees to share their screen and to record meetings. We like Zoom because their connection quality is great and it’s relatively easy for attendees to figure out how to share, how to record, etc. You would be surprised how many software programs make that difficult. Also, it’s easy for non-Zoom subscribers to log in to the meeting, even if they haven’t downloaded the program.
Toggl is a time tracker that many of our Freedom Makers use to track their hours. It has an easy push button time tracker. There are tons of ways to breakdown your data into reports. Toggl can be used on your computer through a browser extension as well as on other devices. It gives you a glimpse into how you spend your time each week. The Basic Plan is free, but it does offer other plans for a fee with more capabilities. Overall the feedback and reviews for Toggl are that it is super easy!
Adding Bitly this year because who else hates long URLs? Bitly is perfect for any social management routine as it helps maintain your brand with customized URLs that are recognizable to your customers. It also shortens the very long URLs that come with shared content from outside sources, thus making everyone’s feed a bit tidier.
We have added a bonus platform this year with Asana because we, at Freedom Makers, are using this internally and it is changing the way we do business. It has both a free and paid version. However, the reason it is a bonus is because we feel the paid version is the best. It is a great way for a team to stay connected when working virtually and has changed our lives at Freedom Makers! Everything can be found in one place and you can easily follow workflows. Though we cannot fully recommend the free version, we highly recommend the paid one.
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