When I started my business as a VA, I was aware of the ocean of apps available to use, and I have to admit I struggled a bit to find the right ones for me. I felt overwhelmed: when there are too many options is normal to freak out and at some point I didn’t know what to use. So today I just want to share with you, my top 12 apps to run your business smoothly.
Of course, these are my favorite, I love some more than others, but I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions!
1) Asana: I was introduced to this tool from one of my clients. I had heard about it but never had the chance of trying it out. Since I started using it, I never left it. You can easily assign tasks to your team, create projects, and add subtasks.
Once you complete a task, tick it and forget about it.
Great for you if: you like lists but instead of a paper-and-pen, you prefer a digital tool and you can access from your mobile too.
2) Sumo me: is a free app for WordPress, which has a paid version too. It helps to grow your websites’ list and there are many different features: you can set put a “hello bar” or a scroll box or welcome mat. You can create a contact form or, thanks to the heat map, you can actually see what are the most seen areas of your website.
It’s really effective even just to use the share buttons, customizable and easy to move around.
Great for you if: you want a tool which includes elements for list building, contacts, and analytics. Instead of using many plug-ins (one for the hello bar, one effective contact form, analytics,etc..) you use one, it’s really easy to set up but there are limits due to the free plan.
3) HootSuite–Buffer: these are maybe the most known scheduling tools, both with a free and paid plan.
I have used them both and my personal preference goes to Hootsuite. With Buffer you can’t schedule more than 10 posts per social media, although it has a clean structure.
Hootsuite, on the other hand, doesn’t limit you to the number of posts, and has the benefit that you can add as many streams as you want: you can monitor specific hashtags, people you follow, monitor your Twitter lists. I honestly really like HootSuite, although the free plan doesn’t allow you to add members and to have more than three different accounts.
The negative aspect is that if you are a person who needs a clean and simple interface, Hootsuite may not be the right choice for you, but keep in mind that you can add or remove streams, so you can make your board as tidy or as full of information as you want.
4) Getresponse–Mailchimp: oh we come to newsletters now! These two platforms are quite easy and cheap. Actually, you can have Mailchimp for free if you have a small e-mail list (up to 2000 subscribers), but if you want slightly advanced features, for example, an autoresponder, you will need to upgrade. The cheapest option is a 10$ fee. On the other hand, if you enjoy simplicity, Mailchimp is the right tool for you, as for example, you don´t have all the functionalities of GetResponse, when creating a sign-up form. Easy and free!
When it comes to GetResponse, you will have a complete service: you can try it out for 30 days for free and, if you like it, subscribe to their services. The cheapest option is 15$ per month and they offer quite a lot already: you can set up autoresponders, create sign up forms, and they can host them on their domain, so it’s really convenient. They even offer the creation of landing pages. They have two options: you can choose from many templates but there is no way you can personalize the colors, or you can start from scratch and you can customize pretty much everything (although the fonts are quite limited). To be honest, I was hoping it would be possible to customize a template, because when it comes to creativity, I’m not the best, and if I have to start from the very beginning I get stuck. So, in my opinion, there are much better options for a landing page.
Mailchimp: Great for you if you are starting out, you have a small list, you send a few newsletters and enjoy simple and easy tools.
GetResponse: Great for you if you need more complex features such as autoresponders and enjoy the creative process.
5) Trello: Trello is one of my loved ones: it’s THE project management tool IF you are a visual person. It’s like having a board with a lot of post-its: on Trello, the post-its are on your screen. You can create different sections (for example, To be done, in progress, done) to have a visual representation of the tasks you need to do. There are more and more integrations that go with Trello, and there is also a calendar (you just need to activate it), which is really useful if you want to use it as an editorial calendar.
Great for you if: you are a visual person and you need to clearly see the task flow or have a wide vision of your projects.
6) Freshbooks: it’s a platform I use to create invoices since I need the integration with Stripe (it has lower commission rates than PayPal). It integrates a time tracker and an expenses section where you can upload them and keep track of your incomes and expenses of your business. I really like that there is the “report” section, where you can find your profit and loss statement, expenses, invoices, about clients and taxes. It´s easy and fast to use, I really like it.
Freshbooks´ valid alternative is Nutcache, a free tool. It´s a general project management platform, where you can add projects for different clients, track the time, create estimates and turn them into invoices. It has the integration with Stripe and PayPal. In addition, it has a board, similar to the concept of Trello, and an expense section. Although it has the benefit of being absolutely free, I am used to FreshBooks, so for me, it´s a bit challenging to get used to the new and different structure of Nutcache.
Great for you if: you are a solo entrepreneur or a small company Is a really handy, cheap and useful tool.
7) Wisestamp: is free/paid tool that allows you to create a professional and good looking signature for your email. You can add as many contacts as you want (social profiles, other emails, phone number) and even an invitation to sign up for your newsletter, opt-in to receive a freebie…
The only limitations for the free option are that you can use the signature for one email address and Wisestamp´s branding will appear in your signature. The premium plan is only 4$ per month.
Great for you if: you want something good-looking and catchy in your e-mails. My opinion is that if you want a nice signature, you can easily create it with Gmail or any other email provider. No need to pay 48$ a year, or have it for free, but limited to one address and with other´s branding.
8) Calendly: Really nice system (and free) that helps you when you need to set up calls, meetings and consultations. When you create a new event (for example a call with a client), you set up your availability and the client can choose the time and day suits her the most. You both get a notification of the scheduled meeting and you can even add questions for the other person (for example if you need her Skype ID). I really like its flexibility and I have never had problems or misunderstandings with prospective clients when they have booked a meeting through Calendy.
Great for you if: you need to set up calls or meetings and want to forget to send endless series of emails asking “so, does this time/day work for you?”, “I can´t make it on that day…what about…?”.
9) Canva: I guess everyone knows it, it’s the easiest tool for graphic design. You can create flyers, headers for your blog or articles, business cards..anything you may need.
Although I use it daily, it has a big limitation when you need to print. Even if you download the file in high resolution, it’s not enough for a good print. It’s exceptional for digital creations, but if you need for example a business card or a paper flyer, definitely do not use it because the resolution won´t be enough. Much better using Illustrator, and if you don’t know how to use it, you can easily find a freelancer to do it for you. Better to pay a bit more and have a great product, rather than having it cheap, but ugly.
Great for you if: you need to create fastly way fliers, headers, etc, for digital purposes.
10) Last Pass: maybe the best resource for passwords’ safety. It’s an extension for your browser that allows you to safely save all your logins and passwords, and it also helps you creating new and super safe passwords.
I use it for everything: for my personal accounts, even for my internet banking, and for clients’ details. I absolutely trust this tool.
Great for you if: you need to safely store your passwords and logins without worrying to remember all the details.
11) Sniply: an interesting tool that I discovered recently: when you share somebody else’s content, you can “snip” it and when the reader will open the link, they will find a little banner with your picture/logo and you can add a link to your freebie/opt in/ website. So basically even if you share your competitor’s content, there is still a “reminder” of your offer visible to the reader.
Great for you if: you want to share others’ content without risking to “lose” your readers.
12) Google Alerts: a great tool that informs you ,daily or weekly, about what interests you.
If you want to monitor what people say about you, or track your competitors or a specific product, you can set up the alert, choosing when to receive the notification, the language, and many other details.
Great for you if: you need to monitor details, information and you want a complete and trustworthy report.
So, here are most of the tools I use almost every day to manage my business or my clients’.
Of course, there are many others, and I would really appreciate if you would share your opinions and thoughts. And if you have other suggestions too!