A decade ago the local printer was making a million dollars event year printing letterhead stationery and triplicate invoice books. Australia Post was selling franking machines because cheques and invoices were being mailed out in their thousands every week. People were faxing, filing, printing and storing. Advertising meant a letter box drop, radio ad or a billboard. A website would cost you as much as a car, and learning meant spending nights in a classroom.
The below list of online business resources changes everything about your business. From graphic design, upskilling, filing, sales, communication, marketing, and accounting. If you have a smartphone or a computer, and you’re not already using these tools, take a look.
- Canva – Design your social media graphics and emailable brochures with this simple online design platform. Registration is free and it really is very simple to use. I’ve even designed brochures for clients using this online software. PC and smart phone apps make this such a great resource.
- Udemy – Don’t know how to set up an email campaign, use excel, or speak spanish? No problem, Udemy will have a course on pretty much anything you want to learn. I taught myself a whole range of Marketing strategies that changed my whole business using courses that cost under $20. Also available on smart phone which makes it perfect for those dead times – I do loads of courses while driving the freeway.
- Dropbox – Arguably the easiest cloud based storage to use, and has a reasonable amount of free storage and the ability to easily share files. Great for when you are sending large files that can’t be emailed. Once you exceed the storage limit, you will have to start paying, but the free version is quite big, and you can earn additional storage by inviting others.
- Skype – Got a team that are not all based in the same place, or the same country? No problem – You’ll feel like you are working as part of a real office team with Skype chat. The screen share function is excellent for training, and the ability to send files in chats means whatever you are doing can be sent without emailing. I speak for free to people all over the world on a daily basis and have built real working relationships that are just as efficient and effective as local ones.
- Trello – Got processes you need your team to follow? Create checklists and they can be ticked off as completed. This software is cloud-based and extremely versatile. You can literally use it for project work, assigning tasks, or setting up your processes. I use this for tracking software edits with my developer, and processes such as new customer on boarding. I’m never guessing what still needs to be done because it is all there complete with notes, images, files, shared with the relevant team members.
- Hubspot – Need a sales CRM and don’t have a big budget? This software has a free for life license with some limitations to the higher end functionality. The free version will be plenty for any small business. Email directly from the platform, see who has opened your emails and clicked on your links, keep notes on clients, change the status of a lead, and best of all, it is easily customisable.
- Zapier – It does cost a little, but it is worth every cent. Automatically ‘zap’ information collected from just about any web based software, to just about any other software. I have zaps set up so that when someone clicks on my social media marketing, enters their name, email and phone number into the form – Zapier automatically sends that information to Mailchimp to send them a series of 4 emails, and also sends the information into Hubspot which sends me a notification email. Brilliant! I couldn’t live without this little genie.
- Mailchimp – Email automation that is simple and affordable. Automate a series of emails and ‘boom’ like magic you are keeping your valuable contacts connected. Free up to 2000 clients. There are plenty of others, Mailer Lite, Constant Contact and the more pricy versions that double up as a crm.
- Biteable – Make amazing animated videos that don’t much at all. With just one small investment, you can use the software to get your message across in a multitude of styles – My 12 year old introduced me to this one after dazzling me with a video she made on saving the environment that was good enough to put on TV. The free version has the Biteable watermark, which is removed for the paid version – so try before you buy.
- Snagit – Screen capture software is great for recording training videos and taking screen shots. You can use the editor to grab an image on the screen, then type notes or comments, draw, or edit. I often use this software when working with designers for web or graphics. Wonderful communication tool when it comes to ‘showing’ someone something.
- Calendly – Such a great way to let people book appointments, and there are plenty of nice customisations available too. There is a free version, and the paid one starts at just $8 per month – it automatically links with your Outlook or other calendar, so you can manage your availability.
- Xero – I know keeping the accounts tidy isn’t fun – but as an accountant with 10 years’ experience running a public practice specialising in small business bookkeeping and company accounting I can vouch for the ease and grace of this software. It does cost a monthly fee, but I literally do my bank reconciliations while sitting on the couch in the ad breaks. Invoicing, receipting payments – all the main stuff can be done on your phone and you don’t need to be an accountant to understand it.
- Receipt bank – If you’re one of those businesses that has a lot of business expenses, this software means you can just snap a photo of the receipt, email it – and it will automatically file it in ‘the cloud’ for tax, and enter it into your Xero accounting file. Same with emailed invoices – just forward the email to the receipt bank email address, and it just magically gets entered into Xero. (Some help setting this up would be required from a consultant).
These are all fantastic products and very affordable. Not every business needs every single one, but most would benefit from some. Pick one that you are interested in, research it, and get comfortable. Remember, you can do a Udemy course on pretty much any of these online business resources. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to use them; many of these resources didn’t even exist five years ago, but boy am I glad they do now. They make my business lean, efficient, and way more professional than I could ever be without them.