I wrote this one by popular demand.
I’m not going to lie, I’m giving away trade secrets which will allow you more time to spend elsewhere. Just call me the Val Valentino of business support. I could be getting myself into BIG trouble with others in my industry, so I hope you appreciate this.
I find one of the biggest difficulties in running a business is remaining consistent. Customers respond well to regular contact as it makes them feel appreciated, and social media platforms are only effective if you post regularly (for more information I speak briefly about SEO’s in 5 tips to start your own blog and reasons why you should). So, it’s best to set up robust systems from the start which will withstand the test of time.
Below are applications (apps), tools and resources that will help streamline your business’ processes and procedures. They are either free, free for a period of time, or free for low users:
10 FREE Tools to Help Streamline your Business
- Password Management: LastPass – Do you have so many passwords you can’t keep up? LastPass is the answer. It also helps if you outsource passwords to employees because you don’t have to change them all if they resign
- Customer Relationship Management: Insightly – I love this app because it integrates with Xero and MailChimp, so you only have input a lead/customer’s details once, and that’s it. It provides the lifetime value of a customer at a glance, and you can manage sales pipelines flawlessly. You can also link your email accounts so any relevant correspondence with clients can be saved, so the whole team knows what’s happening at any point.
- Task/Project Management: Trello – My whole life is in Trello, even my shopping list. Manage projects by setting up a “board” and each task can be given an owner along with a due date. It’s organisation on steroids.
- Design/Branding: Canva – This is effectively the poor man’s Adobe Illustrator. If you ever hire a virtual assistant, I’d bet good money they designed their logo in Canva.
- Email Marketing Management: MailChimp – This one is very obvious to me because it is SO good at what is does. Even the paid version is cheap ($10USD per month) considering how effective it is with direct marketing. A huge part of my role is MailChimp because it is cost effective. If you don’t have any marketing or design experience it will take you a lot longer to get the hang of it than me (5 hours compared to 1 hours), hence why it is such a large part of my role. Give it a crack if you can, it will be worth it.
- Social Media Management: HootSuite – Not only does it allow you to consolidate all your social media platforms to manage in one place, but you can schedule posts well in advance.
- Royalty Free Images: Unsplash – All images (whether it be on social media or in internal documents) need to be royalty free. Unsplash has lovely photos available. (Just remember that images should have to correct pixel size or your website will not be optimal – for more info refer to “pixels needed for sharing photos online“).
- Photo editing: PicMonkey – Using an image on social media can be an effective way to grab peoples attention, much more than a wordy post. PicMonkey can help you edit images and turn them into a meme. If you are using royalty free images, you may want to edit them, since you’ll generally find them on every poor unpaid blogger’s website.
- Timesheeting: MyHours – Track time, and even invoice it out. It also has a start/stop app for your phone which is very handy, particularly for people like me who is interrupted by phone calls a lot.
- Contract management: HelloSign – You no longer have to stand over someone and watch them sign your engagement letter. This app sends your contract so it can be digitally signed, and automatically follows it up if it remains unsigned.
There is something in it for Virtual Assist too, as there is usually a big difference between working with companies that utilise apps and those that don’t. We want to work with companies that want to keep things running, and running smoothly.
Just remember, most of what is listed is appropriate for small/start up businesses. There may be other tools out there that are more suited to your organisation, but the fact remains – there will always be something out there to make your life easier.
A large part of what we do at Virtual Assist is align businesses with systems best suited to their needs, and we spend a lot of time investigating and quantifying them. If you’re interested in anything I have (or haven’t) listed here, please get in touch. Helping businesses is what we love, and what we do best.
We would also love to know what business tools you use and why as it helps us expand our own understanding of tools, as well as our knowledge base. So feel free to comment below on what works for you.