• Claire

10 Great Apps for your Small Business



I had a notification pop up on my Facebook feed this week; “Congratulations! 12 years ago you joined Facebook”, or something like that. This got me thinking, it’s hard to imagine a time without social media and technology at our fingertips. But, of course, there was a time... I would have been 31 when I joined Facebook, with a newborn in tow, which means I happily spent my twenties without any of my life being on Facebook, as well as not being able to access emails without a desktop…


Who would have thought 12 years ago that technology, social media and the internet would have changed our lives and the way we do business so much? We know, of course, that the gig economy is not a new way of working, but technological advances mean the way we work is very different now and is rapidly changing. Technology makes our business lives so much easier, allowing us to work where we want, when we want and be more productive. It is therefore so essential that we embrace it - if you already haven’t done so...


To help you wade through what seems to be an endless (and promotional) sea of apps, I have picked what I consider to be good apps that I use on a regular basis or those that have been personally recommended to me. Most of these are free and have optional upgrade options, so take your pick, have a go and if they don’t work for you, simply delete and try something new.


Oh, and I don't get any referral fees, these are purely my recommendations.


Security

If, like me, you spend most of your day working via a laptop, you need to ensure you have top-notch security. I’m going to assume that you already have a decent anti-virus software package already installed, so the next step is to secure all those passwords. Apps like Lastpass and Dashlane keep your passwords stored safely and will automatically fill logins for you. You can even share passwords with other people securely, without them ever actually knowing your password.




Online Collaboration

There are a lot of apps to choose from if you’re thinking about online collaboration, so consider what you actually need. Slack takes conversations away from email and brings it to a platform where either your employees or clients (or both) can chat etc. For me it’s become an essential tool that allows me to collaborate with my clients and I’ve even written a blog about it here.


There’s also Trello and Asana, plus a heap of others.

And of course, there’s also GSuite and Office 365. I use both for different clients, but personally I prefer GSuite for online collaboration such as sharing documents, but conversely, I prefer the email, PowerPoint, Word etc in Office 365.



Accounting

There are quite a few standout apps for managing your accounts, all of which have slightly different options and pricing. I was unsure about paying to use an accounting system, but I’m so glad I did, simply because it makes doing my tax return so much easier. Many of them will have an introductory fee. Just think about what you require in an accounting software system and your target price, then do a bit more research. Top of the list are QuickBooks, FreeAgent and Xero for small businesses. I personally use QuickBooks.



Organisation

There are a ton of apps out there to help with your online organisation and productivity. Some are of course paid-for, like Evernote, but there are also many that are free. Depending on your need, Wonderlist is a planner that you can access from your phone, desktop or tablet. It’s very simple to use, free and has other features such as setting reminders and attaching files and photos. One of my clients uses Wonderlist and loves it. Any.do and Todoist are alternatives to Wonderlist, just with slightly different features and user interfaces.



Grammarly

Once you download this great little tool you’ll wonder how you managed before. Grammarly offers an online editor where you can copy and paste your text or use the browser extension (I do) and it will check text as you type in nearly all online system. I also use only the free version. Great if you do a lot of writing.



News Aggregators

These are online apps for both desktop and mobile. The purpose is to collect articles from various sources and view them in one place. They are a great way to see what’s happening in your niche. You have the option to add your own websites and the apps will also give you their choices. Top ones are Flipboard, Feedly and Pocket. I use both Flipboard and Feedly as I was introduced to one by a client and have kept using it. I think it’s also worth mentioning Medium. This isn’t a news aggregator as such, but it is an online publishing platform that has some really interesting writers, journalists and bloggers.



Social media scheduling

When used correctly, these are great tools that can save time. They allow you to schedule content when you like, and often in advance. Some offer an approval process with their upgraded options, which is great if you work with a team. But these apps are not a replacement for social media interaction; you still need to allocate time in your day to comment, like and share content.


Top schedulers include: Hootsuite (my choice) and Buffer; both offer free options. Tailwind (Pinterest + Instagram), Loomly and SproutSocial are paid-for options. It also must be noted that I use the Facebook scheduler for posting content on Facebook.



Instagram spacer

If you use Instagram, then you will know what a pain it is to space paragraphs - you can’t without using an app or inserting dots, so have a look at Instaspacer, which is an app for both Android and iOS. It’s super easy to use and, if like me, you post from your phone, then nothing could be simpler.



Content Marketing

Check out my blog post, where I have put together 25 FREE content marketing tools, all of which I use on a regular basis. They have enabled me to streamline my business by creating templates and processes that make my business more efficient - an essential requirement with 2 busy boys, a cricket-playing partner and pets to work around.


ImageResizer.com

This is a great tool for resizing images with the addition of a compressor for pics that are too large for your website, blog etc. It also has lots of other features including a colour picker and file conversion.



Graphic Design - Canva

I love Canva so much. If you’re looking to create graphics for your social media blog or just about anything else, then this is the program to use if you’re a beginner or don’t have the time or inclination to learn InDesign. The free version is great but I use it so much that I have the pro version. There are lots of templates to provide design inspiration and their blog is also pretty good. There are, of course, others and Donna Moritz in one of her blogs will take you through them.



Screen recorders

There are quite a few of these out there, but it’s really important that you pick the correct one for the task in hand. OBS software is free, albeit a bit complicated, but it’s the best software out there if you’re recording video games. For other tasks, there’s Loom and Screen-o-Matic, both of which are free (with upgrade options).



Stock Photos

Finally, you have to have a few stock photo sites bookmarked, as you can’t simply download and use a nice pic you saw on Google. You can read my blog post for more advice on how to comply with the law and my recommendations for some of the best free sites.


I’m sure there will be many apps that you use that I haven’t included, particularly for iOS (I’m on Android), so please let me know in the comments, as I love trying out new apps.



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