When starting a business, it’s hard to fathom all the blood, sweat and tears that truly go into it. You can hear stories, read articles, and watch as many talks or interviews as you want but until you’re in the thick of it - you won’t know all of the nitty gritty details that you deal with as a business owner. I know for myself and a lot of my #bizbesties, we are a one-woman show juggling about 50 things at a time and trying not to drop any of them. Sound familiar??
ENTER: platforms and apps! As I've found out, no matter what stage of business you're in, platforms and apps will become your best friend (or basically like an employee)!
Not only do platforms help save a TON time, they also help you look at your business strategically and focus your time intentionally. As a new business owner myself, it feels like there are a million and one things I need to do all at the same time and be in as many places as possible (digitally and IRL). My investment in platforms and apps has truly saved me countless precious hours that I can now focus on growing my business!
While you may have to pick and choose which platforms and apps to invest in when you are first starting out (because let's be real - all of those subscriptions can add up VERY quickly), some have been non-negotiables for me and I’m so happy I took the plunge to get my business organized and set up properly from the get-go!
So today, I want to share those 7 must-have platforms that I've invested in and are extremely useful for any small business owner, whether you're just starting out or you’ve been in business for several years! These have been instrumental in getting my business off the ground and staying organized along the way. I hope they can serve the same purpose for you!
1. Planoly // Instagram Visual Planning
Planoly has been SO incredibly useful for me. With a huge focus being on social nowadays (Instagram specifically), Planoly is the perfect tool to help you not only plan out what your grid will look like but it has a ton of other features. You are able to type all of your captions right in the platform for each picture, you can see analytics for all of your posts so you know what’s working and what’s not, you can plan and schedule your Instagram Stories, and you can create “drafts” for different campaigns you are working on.
For a new business, I suggest getting the Solo Plan. It’s $7/month billed annually and gives you the most bang for your buck if you just have one account!
Find out more about Planoly here.
2. ConvertKit // Email Marketing
Where do I even begin with ConvertKit?! This platform has been a lifesaver and has helped me in all areas of my business. ConvertKit is an email marketing platform that was created by bloggers for bloggers. You can use this platform for your email newsletters, an email sequence once someone downloads one of your digital products, you can add ConvertKit forms directly to your site so the names get added to your subscriber list automatically, and you can add triggers and segments to your list depending on what you are trying to accomplish. This is only a high-level overview of what this platform can do for you and I’m still trying out all of the cool features that continually help me automate and grow my business!
ConvertKit’s pricing is based on subscribers and grows with you. To start off, if you have 0-1,000 subscribers, your monthly subscription will be $29/month. If you already have an email provider, they have services that can help you transfer everything over!
Find out more about ConvertKit here.
3. CoSchedule // Content Scheduling
I just started using CoSchedule a couple weeks ago but I already love it! It provides you with a calendar to plan and schedule all of your content whether that be blog posts, newsletters or social media. You can share calendars with teammates, create workflows and task lists right within each piece of content and you can use the amazing color coding system to keep everything organized (now that's a type-A's dream come true)! I’ve always struggled with crafting really catchy headlines and subject lines so my favorite feature of CoSchedule is the headline analyzer. When you type in your title for a particular piece of content, it’ll analyze your title based on a series of criteria and score it! If you get a low number, it challenges you to tweak and play with it until you get a higher score. This helps to create catchy headlines that people actually want to click on.
I signed up for the Solo Marketing plan that costs $30/month billed annually. This plan gives you everything you need to get started as a solopreneur!
Find out more about CoSchedule here.
4. MileIQ // Mileage Tracking
So… what I really want to say here is just trust me and go download the app now because it will change your life forever, but I guess I’ll explain it to you a little bit! MileIQ is an app that you download on your phone and it tracks all of your miles when you drive. It runs in the background but doesn’t suck up all of your data (huge plus!). At the end of each month, I go in and classify all of my drives, whether they are personal or business and include the details on what the drive was if it’s business related. You can also auto-classify so if you go to the same places on a weekly basis, it will automatically recognize it and classify it for you. At the end of each month, I pull a report for all of my business drives and save it with my other expenses. At the end of the year, I pull one report and hand it over to my accountant for taxes. Enough said. Go download it now!
The annual plan is $59.99 which saves you about $12 per year vs. the monthly plan.
Find out more about MileIQ here.
5. 17hats // Client Management System
I LOVE 17hats. There are a ton of client management systems out there but when I started my business, 17hats was a great price point for me and it had all the features I needed. This platform has helped me setup my client workflow on the backend and provides a professional, organized experience for clients on the front end. Once I set a client up, I can open different projects under them, and I can send quotes, invoices, contracts and questionnaires. You can set due dates for you and your clients and it provides reminders when things are past due. It also connects to various payment methods like Paypal, Stripe (this is what I use), and Square. There is also a bookkeeping section where I can track all of my revenue, income, and expenses so everything is in one place! It’s been great for me so far, especially as a solopreneur who doesn’t have a ton of cash flow yet!
When I signed up, it was $17/month (get it??) but it looks like they just recently raised their prices to $25/month billed monthly or annual. The monthly account (which is the one I have) has limited features but the annual account is paid all upfront. Totally up to you which option you prefer to go with based on your business needs.
Find out more about 17hats here.
6. Asana // Project Management
Okay, so I wanted to include this one because everyone has different preferences when it comes to tracking tasks and writing to do lists and I’m still personally torn on my favorite method. I’ve tried everything from a Google Sheet, to Trello, to Asana and back to good ‘ol paper + pen! Out of all the online platforms I’ve tried, Asana was definitely my favorite and made the most sense with how my brain functions. I’m currently still only using a notebook to track all of my to-do’s but I feel myself leaning towards using Asana again. With so many different facets of business between client projects, blogging, The Nook, The Bookshelf and basic administration tasks, it’s getting REALLY messy with written to-do lists. Asana is great because you can add team members, track different projects with separate to-do lists, set due dates and create workflows all within the project. It’s a great way to stay organized and they have some awesome introduction videos here.
Asana is a free platform to get started and it stays free unless you want added features for more robust teams.
Find out more about Asana here.
7. theSkimm // News
So, this last one isn’t really a platform but I’ve been obsessed with it since it launched! theSkimm is a newsletter that arrives in your inbox every morning with all the latest news and info you need to know about what’s going on in the world. It’s not like your typical news outlet though because it gives you easy to read blurbs about the most important topics and it pretty much sounds like you’re having a conversation with your best friend! No joke. It’s amazing. Plus the two co-founders are total #girlbosses which you all know is a huge plus in my book!
It’s free to sign up and I promise you won’t regret it!
Find out more about theSkimm here.
What are some of your favorite business platforms or apps that you use to run your business? I'm always looking for new things to check out so leave a comment below!