“The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
As a one-woman business, if there is something I can use to make my business life easier, I’ll gladly take it. Over the years I’ve taken on numerous free and paid for tools to help me operate more effectively and efficiently in my business. The key has been finding the right tools to streamline my processes rather than complicate them. With so many tools available, it’s easy to end up feeling overwhelmed rather than empowered. It’s for this purpose I wanted to share the tools I use and the processes in which I use them.
I offer complimentary coaching calls to members of my audience to both be of service and to give them a true sense of what it would feel like to work with me. To allow people to book sessions with me online, I use a tool called Calendly. It allows me to simply share a URL either as a link on my website such as on this page or in an email or message. I have my Calendly synced with my Google Calendar so that when people check my availability on Calendly it’s aligned with the calendar I use daily to schedule calls and tasks.
The premium version of Calendly (which I have) allows you to use different URLs for different types of events so once I’ve signed a new client I send them a different URL (specific to clients) so that they can book in their sessions. Doing this saves a lot back and forth.
Calendly is free if you only use one event type. Otherwise there are premium and pro options. I use the premium option as I host many different types of calls.
Video Calls (1:1 and Group)
To host all of my calls, both 1:1 coaching sessions and the live group calls I host for my Female Business Academy, I use Zoom. I used to use Skype but the quality of calls wasn’t great and to record sessions, I had to purchase a separate call recorder and then it was on me to upload the calls (to Google Drive) for my clients to be able to then download them. It was such a hassle! What I love about Zoom is that the call quality is great and my clients can record the sessions themselves, meaning I don’t have to worry about doing anything after the call or having recordings taking space on my hard drive.
It also allows fun features on my group calls like break-out rooms – so I can divide up my attendees into smaller groups for group discussions. There are a whole host of other features and what’s great is that if you want to use zoom for 1:1 calls, you can get the free version, which has unlimited 1:1 calls. If you’re wanting it for group calls, then you’ll probably want the pro version (which I use) as there is a 40 minute time limit on group calls in the free version.
File storage and sharing
Google drive is a free cloud storage service which you can get when you register for a google account, you’ll automatically have it if you have a gmail account. I mainly use this to share files with clients that are too big to send by email or when I want to allow the other person to make comments or edit. Most of my clients use it to send me content they want my feedback on and what’s great about Google Drive is that I can edit right in the document in real time and they’ll see the changes right away. I can also access documents in my Google Drive folder from my computer and my phone. You get 15GB free and if you want more you can upgrade.
In much of my business communication, I use photography, to accompany blog posts, on my website, with my social media posts and in worksheets and e-books. There are three places I get my photos from. For free images, I use Unsplash and Pexels and for paid images I use Creative Market.
I do my own branding and have a set of brand colours and brand fonts. To create designs for my business like, social media posts, blog post images, headers for social media channels and workbooks and guides, I use Canva. It’s an amazing tool that allows you to create professional looking graphic design without being a professional designer. It also comes with a free version. I have the paid version called Canva for Work which has a whole host of extra features including the ability to have in one place all of your brand colours and fonts, the ability to re-size designs and upload custom fonts for your brand.
I also use Creative Market for my graphic design needs. They have a wide range of fonts, social media templates and design elements that I use to make my designs look even more professional.
As well as the graphic design tools mentioned above, I also use Adobe Acrobat when I have a lot of work to do on a PDF such as with my Business Planner product, where I needed to combine various PDFs created in Canva and then make a LOT of sections editable. If I’m working on a paid for product, I’ll simply get the monthly subscription of Adobe Acrobat and then cancel when I’m done. For smaller jobs and free PDFs, I use a free tool called Small PDF, which is also great!
There are a few tools I use to manage my business finances. I use Paypal to create payment buttons on my website. I use Paypal and Stripe to accept payments for my Academy and coaching and I use Freshbooks to track my expenses and income, raise invoices and track client hours.
To sell my digital products and affiliate schemes, I also use Sendowl.
All of my websites (I have three) are built on WordPress using the Divi theme and hosted with Hostgator. I recently switched from WP Engine to Hostgator to save costs and to be totally honest, regret the decision. WP Engine is pricey but far superior in all ways.
On my websites I use Google Analytics to track my website traffic. I’m also a fan of these plugins: Yoast SEO for my SEO, W3 Total Cache for performance improvements, Updraft Plus for back-ups of my site and Askimet for spam protection. Other than Askimet, I use free versions of all of these plugins.
Running a Membership Site
I run a membership subscription service called the Female Business Academy. The Membership is hosted on a website using the Memberpress plugin. It’s on this site that I have all of the classes, including videos and workbooks and all other resources and live group call recordings. The plugin allows people to subscribe to the Academy and get login details and access to the classes and content.
To record my videos I usually use Zoom for interviews and classes or Quicktime Player for my screen tutorials. For Facebook lives, it’s my Macbook Pro or my iPhone7. I edit my more complicated videos using iMovie (which is free on Mac computers) and Quicktime Player for simple edits. To host and share my videos I use Youtube (free version) and Vimeo (pro version). For any graphics in my videos, I use Canva and for all the music I use in my intro and outros, I buy rights to on AudioJungle.
To have a professional email address that includes my domain name ([email protected]) I use GSuite. To send my weekly newsletter, I use Mailchimp. I also used to use Convertkit, which I like a lot but it’s a lot more expensive. In my opinion, Mailchimp is definitely the best email marketing solution for beginners (and even for many old pros) in business.
To manage my tasks across all of my projects and services, I use Todoist, which allows me to manage tasks on both my Macbook and my iPhone. I also use the free version of Trello to keep a record of content ideas. To record and review my annual goals and plans I use my own Business Planner which I created because I couldn’t find anything on the market that adequately covered all of my planning needs.
To manage my contacts and clients I use the free version of CapsuleCRM which allows me to keep all of my contact details in one place, including copies of emails sent and received. It also allows me to set reminders and tasks that relate specifically to my contacts, which is great for helping me to better manage my relationships and outreach activities. There are other features of this tool but I’m not currently using them.
What all of these tools do is help me to run my business more efficiently as a solopreneur. This particular set of tools has come about after years of trial and error and I’m happy with each and everyone of them. If you have any questions about the tools I’ve shared here, please drop them in the comments below and if you have other tools that you use that aren’t listed here, please share those too.
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