There are thousands of low-cost or free desktop and mobile apps available to you with a click of a button. 2020 is around the corner and using apps has become a mainstay for all types of businesses. We use apps to create marketing collateral, logos, flyers, communicate, email, accounting, and keep us on track. They enable us to power our businesses similarly to large corporations, while stretching every budget dollar. We're breaking down our go-to online tools that have driven our organizations operations.
Let's take a closer look at 6 of our favorite.
1. Google Drive
Our number one business tool is Google Drive. It's not perfect, and that's OK because the benefits greatly outweigh the quirks. It consists of Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. Together they make up a powerful office suite that permits collaborative editing of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, forms and more. Create your email database, contracts, merchandise price sheets, policies and procedures all in one place. It can be used throughout your organization and across all functional departments.
Google Drive has become our central database for internal organization. Anyone from the team can access the information needed from a mobile device or computer. Long gone are the days of emailing documents back and forth. What a pain that was to end up with a dozen emails in a thread caused by changes and edits to one document. With Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides there is only one working document, and the result is a simplified workflow.
This tool has helped us get rid of countless folders cluttering up our desktops. From within, say a spreadsheet, we can remotely add comments, ask questions, and review any changes made to keep track of the overall progress. Get into a routine of backing up your data onto a physical hard drive. If you've ever experienced the horror of losing valuable information, I'm sure it included files that you never got back. Protect your time and investment and practice good habits of backing up your work at least every other month.
Our biggest gripe with Google Drive is the user interface. It just isn't sexy like other alternatives available. For what it can do, we'll let that slide. The uses are endless for a small business owner with creative ideas, so if you're thinking about it now is the time!
Canva is one of the easiest graphic design tools available and it's free! Well sort of. Drag-and-drop features and professional looking templates enable you to easily design stunning graphics, flyers and documents. Use Canva for both web media, print media and marketing collateral.
We're big fans of the UI since the homepage consists of just three main sections. The dashboard on the left, the templates in the middle, and the search bar at the top. You can find hundreds of templates that suit your style, or study them for inspiration and create your own.
Like any good business model, some templates are reserved for paying customers who upgrade. Priced at $12.95 a month, it isn't cheap. We sure miss the days when we could buy software and programs, compared to leasing. Another drawback is that under the free version, once you complete your artwork, the downloaded image comes with a watermark. For us, we'd rather pay $1 to remove the watermark on the handful of print flyers we create, rather than pay the monthly rate. Still, the free version packs plenty of umph to bolster your small business.
Create Instagram posts, Facebook posts, posters, logos, business cards, resumes, presentations, flyers, infographics, and anything else you can think of. Even if you don't consider yourself artistic, give this tool a try and let the creativity flow!
How do you workplace message? Communication is key and Slack solves the pain of having to CC and BCC everyone on your team. This cloud based tool is ideal to keep important conversations organized into specific channels that you create. For instance, one channel can be for sales, another for deliveries, and a third for schedule changes. The amount of channels is really up to you.
The interface for both the desktop and mobile versions look great, making it easy to navigate. The slack support team is quality and will get back to you promptly. It's our preferred method to share documents, links, surveys, and important updates. Slack has a ton of 3rd party app integrations and with the free version, you can integrate up to 10 apps. That should be more than enough for most small businesses. We have one plugin, and that's because we mainly use Slack for real time messaging.
We like using Slack to create specific channels for certain projects we're working on that require extensive communications. It allows us to separate information into categories and does a good job of keeping us organized.
Slack is underwhelming as an archiving platform, and old messages can easily be lost. The pricing starts at $8 a month for the standard version, but we recommend staying with the free membership. That's why smaller businesses and startups are the ones who will benefit the most. So if that's you, check it out!
The new kid on the block versus the 800-pound gorilla MailChimp. Mailerlite is gaining popularity with entrepreneurs and we were curious as well. While using MailChimp, we experienced more and more features being restricted from the free version. They literally took one feature away after another, which was frustrating because of all the work that went into building it out. It became unusable for us and so the hunt began for a different email automation platform.
Enter Mailerlite. Not as sophisticated as MailChimps paid tools, but it doesn't always need to be. It's desktop interface is clean and easy to understand. Quite straightforward compared to its main competitor and easy to automate your scheduled blasts. Both platforms offer a free version up to 1000 subscribers. However, MailChimp has completely stripped down it's free version, forcing users to upgrade or leave.
As you grow your email list to more than 5000 subscribers, Mailerlite's monthly rate of $20 is less than half of MailChimps $50 a month plan. We can do the math for you, but I think you get the point. Email marketing is incredibly important for you to grow your tribe. Imagine if Instagram goes away? So does your network. With Mailerlite you can export CSV files of your subscribers that are your company's tangible and valuable assets.
Zoom.us is a communication tool that allows you to connect with others through videoconferencing, online meetings, chats, webinars, and collaboration. It has a corporate and business vibe. Not super sexy, but functional.
Users first need to download the desktop program to access the portal. Once you create an account it's very easy to setup and then it's pretty much hands off from there. All you have to do is schedule a meeting, send the participants the URL of your meeting, and lastly start the meeting.
The free version has unlimited one-on-one videoconferencing, but who needs that. You can host up to 100 participants, which is nice for webinars. Unfortunately, there is a 40 minute cap before they turn the lights off. To increase the duration of meetings, their higher tiers fall under two price points of $14.99 and $19.99. Besides the unlimited meeting durations, the additional features don't excite us too much.
Compared to Google Hangouts where we've experienced poor quality and dropouts, Zoom is robust. How unprofessional have we all felt on a videoconference asking someone on the other end to constantly repeat themselves. "Can you hear me now". It is stable and you can expect good audio and video quality.
On the flip side, if webinars is more your thing, there are better options for you. Firstly, you can't see what your audience sees. Secondly, the options are limited. Lastly, it can become confusing as to what on your desktop you are sharing with your audience. At times, the indicator light goes away, and it is up to you to know what you're sharing live.
To be clear, the 40 minute cap duration is a drawback that will be a make or break point for you. If you decide not to upgrade to a higher tier and your small business can get away with that limitation, you can't go wrong with Zoom.
Here's a tool that can help organize your business. Evernote a note taking application that helps you keep your information, thoughts, and ideas in one place. Document your instagram hashtags, newsletter ideas, email lists, project ideas, and recommendations, from a reasonably easy to use web application.
What's the difference between using this versus your iPhone notes or other tools? The nice thing about Evernote is the integration possibilities with other programs. For instance, you can automate to transfer your instagram posts automatically into Evernote. The capabilities with 3rd party apps is so cool. Organized, just like that! Sync Evernote with your devices and input data on the go. Never forget all those great ideas that hit you on the fly!
That’s a wrap
There you have it, 6 online tools that we use in our organization to boost our productivity and streamline our operation. These tools can provide your business framework. Use what you like, and dump what you don’t. Remember consistency is king! Find something you like and stick with it.
Thanks for reading!