Setting up a business can be extremely challenging, everything falls on your shoulders, and you take on a whole host of responsibilities that you may be in your realm of expertise. Initially, at least, you become the marketing executive, social media manager, accountant, designer, content writer for your own business, and a whole lot more, on top of juggling your clients and workload. Many startup businesses fail within the first few years as it can be challenging to manage conflicting responsibilities while building the business and making a profit. Even those who have worked in management positions find it incredibly challenging, which is why you need as many useful tools at your disposal as possible. If you are starting up a business, these are some of the best tools out there to cover a range of aspects of your working day.
Every business, no matter how big or small, needs a presence on social media. Even if it doesn’t feel like social media is bringing in any direct business, it is building your brand awareness, and this is paramount, especially for startups. The most common social media platforms to consider using are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You may also want to use others, like Snapchat. The social media platforms out there all offer something different. Twitter is great for linking up with other professionals and networking with people you’d never usually come across; it’s especially useful if you want to speak to people on a global scale. LinkedIn is a professional platform and valuable for linking up with your target market and getting contact details for other professionals. You can get right to the top of the organization by using LinkedIn, by connecting directly with Directors and Managers, something which can be extremely difficult to do by emailing or calling. Facebook is less formal and doesn’t give you as much exposure as Twitter. However, it is an excellent tool for running ads and gaining more business. Instagram and Snapchat are image-based and are ideal for increasing engagement for events and particularly important if your startup business is product-based. Some people have built most of their business on Instagram, so it is well worth using as many platforms as possible. If you don’t know how to use social media effectively, it is worth enlisting the help of an expert, as social media is a must for any business. If you don’t have a social media presence, you instantly lose credibility.
As part of your business, you will be speaking to clients over the phone, via email, and also face to face in some instances. Zoom is a free tool (although you can pay for a premium version), and it allows you to speak to your clients via video. It is also ideal if you want to share your screen. Zoom can be downloaded onto your phone to use on the go, or you can download it onto your desktop and use it at home. You are bound to be asked by a client to speak on Zoom at some stage, so better to prepare in advance by downloading it as soon as you get started. If you have clients globally or you want to offer any kind of online service, such as a 1 to 1 session, Zoom is an ideal tool for doing this. If you have other people in your business working with you, it’s another effective way to keep in touch.
Similar to Zoom, Skype is another option for speaking to clients via video online. Skype has been running longer than Zoom, and some people prefer this, while others prefer Zoom. Both tools pretty much offer the same service; you can speak to your clients or colleagues via online video and like Zoom. Skype is also free, although you can pay for additional services. You can download Skype on your phone or desktop and speak to people both on the go and at home.
The main challenging aspect of running a startup is managing your time effectively and conflicting responsibilities. Handling time is particularly challenging if you are running a one-person show. If you are selling products, you will need to keep track of orders, when to send your orders, payments, etc. If you are a service-driven startup, you will need to keep track of clients’ orders, deadlines, invoices, etc. If you don’t keep track of these elements of your business, you will end up missing orders, stressing yourself out and potentially, losing clients or customers. Trello is a great tool to use for staying organized, as it allows you to create a board, which you can divide into separate lists. For example, you may want to divide your board into lists for each date to show any work/orders you need to complete and cards for invoices to be sent. You may also want to create a board for your tasks as well, so that everything is in one place. Trello is free, and it’s a potent tool for startup businesses. If you need to get more organized, Trello is the place to start.
Email campaigns are known to be highly effective for engaging with clients, and it is worth setting email campaigns up, especially for startup businesses. MailChimp is an excellent tool for creating email campaigns, and it is one of the most popular for businesses. It is relatively simple to set up your campaign using MailChimp; you just follow the steps the program takes you through. It is worth sending our emails to clients every month or so to keep them updated on what you are doing, or if you have published a new blog, you may want to inform them via email. Just make sure you request permission from the sender to use their email address before you send anything out.
If you want to share any documents with another person or a team, Google Docs is a great tool. It saves you the hassle of emailing documents over, and it allows for online editing. It is much more convenient than emailing back and forth, especially if a lot of edits are required. Google Docs is a common tool for small businesses and well worth utilizing. All you need to do is sent a link to someone else, and they’ll be able to go in, access it, and make any edits. If you are working with clients on content writing, for example, this is a convenient tool for going back and forth with edits.
Startups need to be able to market themselves, and this means creating business cards, themes for social media, logos etc. If you are working for yourself and don’t have design knowledge, this can seem like an impossible task. Canva is a tool that has come along to save the day and is excellent for novice designers who don’t have the money to pay for experts. With Canva, you can use their templates to create your marketing tools, and it is easy (and free!) to use. You also get access to a lot of images to use, although you can also pay for premium access, as there are charges for some photos and templates. It is worth paying for the subscription though if you are going to be making use of Canva frequently. Some startups even use Canva to provide a service to clients, such as creating their marketing tools for them, so if you want to use it for that purpose, it can also be extremely beneficial.
Love it or hate it, one aspect of a business, especially for startups, is networking. Alongside social media and other forms of marketing, networking is one of the main avenues for gaining business, and you must utilise it. Although not as well known as other tools mentioned, Shapr is an excellent tool for quickly linking up with your target market, and it’s free! Shapr is similar to dating apps, like Tinder, although it is for business purposes. You swipe through different profiles and click the tick if it’s someone you’d like to link up with and potentially organize a business meeting. If they want to link up then you have a match, and you can start messaging each other. Depending on your business, you may also want to pay a subscription if you’re going to reach out to people in other countries, as the free version only allows for local contacts. Shapr is an excellent way to quickly link up and speak to potential clients, from the comfort of your phone. It’s another avenue that is worth exploring to help with gaining more business. It is especially useful for startups who need to build up their client list.
Another useful took for networking is Eventbrite, which is where you’ll find local networking events (or further afield if you wish) to attend. Some networking events are free, while others have a charge associated with them, but again, startups need to use any tools available to help grow their business. If you are looking to organize your events, which may include workshops/public speaking seminars, you may also want to consider using Eventbrite. Eventbrite is an event app, which is the ultimate tool for exploring opportunities around you, both for networking and learning. There is no cost associated with joining up to Eventbrite; the only costs are those for the events themselves.
One part of running a startup is (unfortunately), taking care of your accounts, at least initially until you have built your business up and can afford an accountant. There are many accounting packages out there to consider using, and one of these is Quickfile. With Quickfile, you can send out your invoices, and any reminders you may need to issue, and it’s an excellent way to keep on top of your finances. It can be easy to lose track of your invoices if you don’t have any systems in place, and it is also beneficial for tax purposes too. You can quickly find out your earning and what you may or may not owe the taxman!
If you work for yourself, you can easily drift off and become remarkably unproductive. If you enjoy listening to music as you work away, Spotify is a great tool to use while you work. You can choose any type of music you want, and you’ll soon be whistling while you work. Some people prefer complete silence, though, so it depends on your individual preference. Spotify is free, although there are adverts unless you go for the premium option, which is worthwhile if you are using it a lot.
Similar to Spotify, YouTube is an excellent source of music, but it also offers a lot more. If you need some quick assistance with something, YouTube is an effective way to get an answer, complete with a video to show you exactly how to do it. For example, your computer might suddenly lose your internet connection, or your client may ask you a technical question, and you want to be able to provide them with an answer. YouTube is a popular tool for getting answers quickly, complete with tutorials.
It is worth starting as you mean to go on when you are running a startup, and setting yourself up for success means having the right tools around you to do the jobs. If you don’t keep yourself organized, or have tools to save you from distraction, you may end up struggling, and that’s not what you want to end up doing. Running a startup business should be enjoyable. It will come with stressful situations, but for the most part, you should enjoy running your own business, and all the benefits which come with it. There are many free tools out there that can help support you with your startup, and it is worth taking advantage of these. If you don’t have the luxury of another person to support you with your business, this is the next best thing.