There are 100s of tools that most people use to run their businesses. If you are just getting started it can seem overwhelming, so I’m giving you a simplified list of the must have tool every budding entrepreneur should have. As you set things up you will realize there is plenty more to add to your tool kit but these 6 are essential.
For each of these options, there are at least 3 to a billion others. 🙂 But I’m making it simple by only giving two main options for each. My criteria are ease of use, cost, and popularity. Why popularity? Because the more widespread use of a tool = the more free resources you will find on using that tool.
We live in a digital age, so a website is a must (Do people run businesses without websites? Sure, but most don’t.)
WordPress OR Squarespace
You can always change your mind when it comes to tools, but switching website platforms can be a pain. These platforms are not compatible with each other, so if you were to build a site on Squarespace, you could not take the work and just transfer it over to WordPress or vice versa. You can take your copy, but you would have to set up a whole new site on either platform.
Pros: Very flexible, tons of resources and functionality that can be added through plugins/themes, open-sourced, so there is lots of development that happens (hence all the plugins), less expensive (at least to start)
Popularity: Extreme (many free resources)
Pricing: You can basically get started for the cost of hosting which for first-time customers on some services can be as low as $5-7/month. You can get a free theme, and WordPress itself is free.
Cons: It can get technical and there is more of a learning curve to set-up and work with.
Pros: User-friendly, less technical since you don’t worry about the “backend” at all, quick to get setup and running.
Popularity: It’s a newer player on the market but very popular due to it’s easy of use and set-up.
Cons: Less flexible, fewer options in terms of functionality, more expensive ($18/month for annual plan), limited in integration with other programs such as payment processors, email marketing services, etc.
I think one big thing to consider is that WordPress is very flexible and free. You are paying for your host, not the WordPress platform and if you don’t like your host you can easily switch to get the band-width/speed whatever you need. With Squarespace, they are the whole thing. Having server issue? Well that’s it, you just have to hope Squarespace will fix it. And you are at their mercy when it comes to pricing structure.
If this is your first business, DO NOT have a custom site built right away. If you need help hire someone to do the setup/install and maybe tweaking of a pre-built site. Wait until you understand your audience, services, and overall brand very well before hiring out for a customized site.
Do your research, ask a techie friend for advice and then just pick one and go with it. If you are scared by tech, then Squarespace might be worth the extra fees.
Email Marketing Provider
As soon as your website is live, you should have some way for people to join your mailing list. Even if you have no idea what to offer as an incentive, have a place for people to join and simply say, “for updates join my newsletter.” Even offering just a subscribe form while you build out your site for people to subscribe to is a good idea.
ConvertKit OR MailChimp
I use ConvertKit but started with MailChimp, and I’m so happy with the switch. I find the setup and workflow so much easier with ConvertKit regarding segmenting my list and knowing exactly what opt-in has brought that subscriber in. They make it super easy to set up links between forms to then lead that subscriber into a sequence. You can easy divide your list based on what resources subscribers are interacting with, either from your newsletters or your site.
Pros: Super user-friendly to segment/tag and set-up email sequences.
Cons: No free plan, so you pay monthly even with 0 sign-ups.
MailChimp is a good option if you need a budget friendly service to start your list with. They offer a free plan, so you don’t have to pay as you try to grow your list. I switched between the two providers, and it was easy peasy, with a simple download….the biggest thing is making sure all your forms are switched over if you are using embedded forms from that service. You totally could start with MailChimp and move over, especially if you are starting out with just one opt-in offer.
Pros: cheaper, user-friendly for basic set-up.
Cons: harder to set up sequences, harder to segment audience, you pay for subscribers based on each segment they are a member of- so if I’m segmented to 3 different lists as one person I count as 3 people towards your total subscribers.
If you are not creating multiple opt-ins or offers for your business to start with MailChimp is a great way to save some money until your lists grows or your services grow.
Building a business is no joke when it comes to tasks, lists, and millions of to-dos, not to mention all you need to organize once you get down to business. 🙂 You need a system to keep track of it all. Again I’m keeping it simple but are lots of other options out there. You should start building processes for your main business tasks as soon as you start and having a system to support that is key.
Trello OR Asana
If you’ve been around here very long, you will know my love of Trello runs deep. 🙂 I never really played around with Asana as much, because when I chose my system Asana did not have the same card options. Asana only offered written lists and I like being able to have more of that visual aspect to my boards.
To get started with Trello for your business grab my Trello 101 course to learn the basic features!
I do think Asana is a great option as well; it does seem quite popular in the business groups with lots of users. I do think Asana makes it easier to work in teams, to delegate tasks and permission to certain members. That side of the program just seems more intuitive where Trello it gets a little more complicated.
Want to get to know your audience and industry fast? Set-up coffee chats.
The easiest way to do this? A scheduling app.
Have a service you are selling? The easiest way to book that? Scheduling app.
When building a business, it’s important to start interacting with your customers or potential customers as soon as possible, and coffee chats are a great way to do that.
Acuity OR Calendly
I love Acuity for a scheduling system that will grow with you, especially if you are a service-based business. Acuity (paid plan) has a ton of integrations to other programs and you can even take payment for bookings. They do offer a free plan with less of the bells and whistles, but by paying only $10 a month, I get a TON of features. Such as, being able to select different availabilities for different appointment types, integration to ConvertKit, integration to Zoom (you do have to have the paid version of Zoom), payment processing and more.
If you are only needing a scheduling app for coffee dates and have not need for client booking, Calendly will work just fine. It’s simple to get set-up and visually appealing. When I first started out I chose Calendly but quickly moved to Acuity because at the time the scheduler could not adjust timezones, I believe this has changed now. But that was a huge deal breaker on even the free plan, as I work and have biz pals in so many different timezones.
Accounting Software/Payment Processing
You need to be tracking your expenses from day one, even if you don’t have revenues yet. You also need a way for people to pay you and you need a way to charge them.
Side note: You can set-up payment for sessions booked right in Acuity, so invoicing is not necessary, depending on your business this might be a great option. You do need a payment processors regardless of where you invoice from if you take credit cards.
Paypal OR Stripe (payment processors)
Paypal is a well-recognized payment processing service. Clients pay directly to Paypal, and you can even invoice through the program. If you work internationally, Paypal can be a bit trickier with their terms of service.
Another payment processing service that allows payments via credit card online. The advantage of Stripe is that it allows for repeating payments (like monthly subscriptions).
I use both services.
Wave OR Xero (bookkeeping)
My personal choice is Wave since it’s FREE and super easy to get set-up. I do not use it for invoicing, but it’s great for tracking expenses and revenues.
Another simple to set-up option, though their basic plan starts at $10/month.
There are lots of programs that can be used for bookkeeping, and client processes. You can read about some other options in this post.
Social Media Scheduler
While there is planning that should take place regarding your content strategy and how social media plays into that, you do have to attract people to your website somehow, and social media is a big player in that. You build it and they will come is not a thing. You’ve got to tell people about your thing. 🙂 So when you are ready to start telling them about it, social media scheduler (s) is a must have. You 110% are not gaining value by taking time out of your day to live post.
What I Use
I’m not going to go to in depth on this one since I’ve written quite a bit about what I use. You can read more about the below schedulers in this blog post.
I use Buffer for Twitter, Facebook page, and my Facebook Group. I’m currently in the process of figuring out if I’m going to make a switch to either SmartQueue or Requeue so I can utilize recycling posts as that is not an option in Buffer.
I use Tailwind for Pinterest. Here is a post that talks about why I chose Tailwind.
Building a business takes a ton of learning, many new skills to learn and many new tools to figure out. One of my favorite and cheap learning tools is Skillshare. I’ve used classes from there to teach myself how to make a logo, how to take a picture, and how to use many of the Adobe tools. There are many classes on many different topics available in Skillshare; not all of the classes are created equally, look for high ratings and a large number of attendees. If I class doesn’t suit you find another one.
Want to see the full list of tools I use to run my business? Grab that below! Plus I’ve included some of the Skillshare courses I’ve taken to figure out those tools.
This post includes affiliated links meaning I get a small payment if you purchase through my link or free service, it’s no additional cost to you. All of these tools are the exact tools I use and I would share them with an affiliated link or not.