When I start work each day, there is a group of business tools, apps and tabs that I open and use without fail throughout the day. I work for multiple clients (and on my own business) across multiple projects every day. This means I need to make sure I’m organised, communicating well, managing my time and consistently delivering. These business tools keep me on track and I’m not sure I could live without them now.
Note: this post contains affiliate/referral links. However, I would never recommend anything without genuinely loving it and you are free to sign up to any of these services without using my links if preferred. Signing up using them just means I may be paid a small commission.
Need a spreadsheet? Google Sheets. A document that is easily shared and collaborative? Google Docs. Cloud storage for all your work, invoices, presentations and resources? Google Drive! Need to schedule a video call, send attendees and invite and follow up with a welcome email? Google Meet, Google Calendar and Gmail have got your back.
Honestly, I don’t think there is a more powerful, more joined-up or more streamlined set of business tools out there. If you pick one thing from this list to start using regularly, Google Workspace or Google’s suite of free apps should be it.
Google Workspace starts at £4.60 per user per month for its Business Basic plan…which is pretty powerful considering it’s described as basic. I’m on the Business Standard plan, simply because paying a few extra £ a month gives me access to enhanced Google Meet features, which means I’ve done away with my £11 a month Zoom subscription. No brainer! Oh, and you can also get a 14-day free trial. Even without paying for Google Workspace, just using Google’s free suite of apps and tools is powerful enough for some. All you need for this is a free Google account.
The design tool for people with absolutely no idea about design (that’s me!). Canva helps you easily create beautiful graphics for social media, your website, newsletters, presentations, invitations and pretty much everything else you could possibly want. I mainly use it for designing my Instagram posts and images for The Duck Pond, custom Pinterest pins like the one below (please pin it if you like this post) and for client proposals and presentations. I also like the fact that you can invite team members to collaborate on your designs.
Canva’s free has a lot to offer on its own. But if you want to be able to access Canva’s full collection of graphics, templates and images as well as have the ability to create a brand kit to keep the look and feel of your creations on-brand (this has saved me SO MUCH TIME not having to look up hex codes all the time), the paid version starts at £8.99 a month.
And if you’re finding this an interesting read so far, please pin it to your own Pinterest board, so you can refer back to it later and so others can see it.
If you’re looking for email marketing and customer experience automation, ActiveCampaign is my platform of choice.
I am REALLY into automation and scheduling at the moment. If you’re looking for an email marketing tool that does WAY more than just email marketing, then ActiveCampaign is well worth a look.
It is much more powerful than my business currently needs it to be, and I love that there’s that room to grow into it rather than having to switch providers as I grow.
At the time of writing, their “Lite” plan starts at $9 per month (up to 500 contacts) and operates on a sliding scale depending on what you need and how many people you have on your list.
This WordPress plugin that guides you through optimising your web pages and blog posts for search engines was particularly helpful when I was first learning about SEO. You simply enter your chosen keyword/phrase into the tool and it scores your writing on elements such as keyword density, optimised images and number of words. A must-use for anyone for whom SEO is a bit of a mystery, and still useful to me today! I use it to check my workings on everything I write.
There is a free version that should suit beginners, but you can also level-up your SEO with Yoast Premium, which is currently £89 for a year. (As of June 2020)
Communication junkies, behold! Slack does it all. It’s a messaging tool with clout. Organise your chats into “channels” so only relevant team members are involved in relevant groups. Use the in-app video calling function to chat over your latest ideas and use the private messaging area for conversations that the whole team doesn’t need to see.
You can also link Slack to GSuite – including syncing with your calendar and easily sharing documents – for ultimate productivity.
I’m currently working with a client who has 22 people working across 6 different countries and 4 time zones. Most of us have never met. But with the help of Slack, our communication is organised, easy to refer back to (goodbye difficult to navigate email chains and a single inbox of woe) and SO efficient.
Like most of these tools, Slack offers a free version but has some limitations, such as only having access to your latest 10,000 messages. The paid version starts at £5.25 per user per month.
Whether writing is not your bag and you need a helping hand, or you write daily and you just need to keep typos, repetitions and general oversights in check (this is me), Grammarly is a fantastic business tool. I have it installed as an extension on Chrome because I do the majority of my client work in cloud-based documents and in WordPress. But you can also get it for your phone and on iPad, too.
Grammarly’s free version is pretty powerful, but Grammarly Premium is where the app comes into its own. With advanced writing suggestions, grammar analysis, feedback on tone and readability and more, it’s a great way to uplevel your writing. Prices for premium start at around $12 per month for a single user, or if you want to invest in Grammarly for your whole team, Grammarly for Business starts at $12.50/month per member, with an admin panel and some added perks and stats included.
All but one of my new clients over the last year have come from LinkedIn (the “but one” was from Instagram by the way). Done properly, LinkedIn is the perfect place to track down, build relationships and work with your target client or customer. If you’re a LinkedIn beginner, first make sure your profile is up to date and devoid of waffle (if you need help with this, email me – I write LinkedIn profiles, too!). Then start connecting with people within your industry or niche (yes, potential competitors included!) and start posting, commenting and interacting with content that is relevant to your business. You could come up with a unique brand hashtag, too. Mine is #carpetpoo. This is why:
The free version is more than adequate for most, but for heavy-duty users there is a variety of premium plans. Which one is relevant to you depends on your business and what you’re using LinkedIn for:
My bullet journal (yes, that’s right, a notepad…)
OK, so not strictly an app, online tool or browser tab, but I absolutely could not get by without my trusty bullet journal. In fact, before this blog was also my business, it was called Bullet Point Parenting because of my love of lists. Bullet journalling takes list writing, goal setting and life organising to the next level. You can find out how it works here.
Every single day, I re-write my to-do list on a fresh sheet of paper in my journal. This keeps the tasks of the day fresh in my mind, makes sure nothing gets lost in the noise of yesterday’s tick-offs and is just part of my daily routine that really helps me work.
The other elements of bullet journalling that I used to be all over have fallen by the wayside a bit recently, but I plan to get into it because I swear by it. And it feels nice and creative too.
This is entirely up to you, so buy what you can afford and you can always upgrade next time around once these business tools have totally upped your game (and your income).
Another quick deviation to a LinkedIn post from a while back on The Pomodoro Technique. I absolutely swear by this method to keep me on track with my tasks and stop me from drifting off and staring out the window.
Tomato Timer is FREE!
I get FreeAgent for free with my Natwest Bank Account (which I wouldn’t recommend, actually, I’m only keeping it for FreeAgent!). The paid-for version varies depending on the type of business, you can see the options by clicking here.
It’s no secret that I love Instagram. Across my two accounts, Little Green Duck and Little Green Duck Pond, I’ve connected with SO many amazing people. They are a like-minded, supportive group of absolute ANGELS who pick me up when I’m struggling, make me laugh, and just generally “get” me.
I debated whether or not to include Pinterest on this list of business tools. I’m relatively new to it, but reading a solitary blog post from my friend Hannah spurred me on to make sure I’m using it daily. There’s still way more I could be doing, but I have already seen an uptick in my engagement and website clicks, so it’s worth my time each day, I reckon.
You can read Hannah’s blog post by clicking the image below:
Jetpack for WordPress
Google Analytics is all well and good, but it’s not simple to master. It’s super powerful but you have to know what you’re doing to get the best out of it, and even then, the data lags a bit so you can’t see a rapid update of your visitor numbers.
If you have a WordPress website , I recommend taking a look at the Jetpack plugin. Even though you can’t do in-depth reporting like you can with GA, it gives a good overview of visitor numbers, where people are finding your site and the links they click when they’re reading your posts or pages.
Jetpack also has some great security and performance enhancement tools too. Well worth a look!
I use Jetpack Free currently, as it suits my needs, but the paid for version starts at £33 a year.
Created by digital marketing powerhouse, Neil Patel, Ubersuggest is a great business tool that allows you to analyse your website’s SEO, research keywords and start putting together a content marketing strategy. If you’re completely new to SEO and content marketing, Neil’s blog is a brilliant source of tips and information.
Bonus business tool: Tesco plain chocolate digestives
They’re just so good. And vegan. Eat some.
Currently 60p. No free version available, sadly.
Tell me about your favourite business tools, apps and productivity hacks...
I’m always looking for more ways to help me run my business as efficiently and in the most organised way possible. If you have any favourites that I haven’t mentioned here (or you agree with any of the above), please drop me a comment below to let me know, or come and share on my Instagram or LinkedIn.