Make 2023 your best business year yet.
Whether you’re selling products or delivering a service, experienced or just starting out, you need the right small business tools.
Which tools do you really need? There’s so many options and everyone has their favourites.
We all know the minute we start googling and reading reviews, we’ll be served up ads for more apps and tools than we’d ever need.
I’ve tried so many apps, some free, some paid. Some have been worthwhile investments, while others have been expensive mistakes.
After 4 years, I’ve settled on my favourite small business tools, and I thought to kick off the new year, that I would share them with you.
Asana is a work management platform that helps me manage and track tasks. I always have the desktop browser open and I have the app on my phone.
If I need to do something, it goes into Asana because it’s more organised than my brain. I have separate sections for client work, my business, my volunteer work and personal tasks.
I can also add other collaborators or subcontractors. During our renovation last year, I even added my husband so I could allocate tasks to him.
Xero is my invoicing software, and it was one of the first tools I paid for. When I only had a few clients, I could use a word document and spreadsheet. But having software makes it easier for my bookkeeper and accountant to do their jobs. And it also makes it easy for me to track my income and expenses.
Xero allows me send professional invoices and reminders (so I don’t need to have those awkward questions with clients). I’ve integrated it with Stripe so clients can also pay via card.
Of course, you don’t have to use Xero. MYOB and Rounded are other options.
But unless you’re a finance whizz, I honestly think this is the first small business tool you should pay for.
ProWritingAid is a paid app I use to help me write better, which might seem like a bit of a cheat for a copywriter. But it saves me time and ensures the work I send my proofreader is better.
On a basic level, it detects spelling and grammar mistakes, and makes suggestions to improve the structure and flow of my writing. You can also use the web-based app to do a more thorough check on things like repetitive words, the flow of text, etc.
I also have the extension installed on my computer, so it works across web apps like Facebook, my Google email accounts and my website. I can also turn it on in word to check through a complete document.
Hemingway.app is a good free option and helpful for assessing the reading age of a document.
If you’ve ever wasted time trawling through your email looking for a message, or trying to piece together a conversation, Slack is super useful.
It’s a messaging platform that makes it easy to manage projects with a team, especially when combined with Asana. You can create channels for specific project discussions or for specific people.
I’ve mainly used it when working for others as part of a big team, but I’m hoping to use it with my subcontractors and OBM more in 2023. Rather than assigning work and asking questions via email, we’ll use Slack and Asana.
I agonised over buying a Remarkable tablet for months before I decided to stop wasting time and buy one, knowing they had a 100-day return policy.
I can confidently say I won’t be returning it.
It’s great for note taking in meetings and conferences. If I’m going to a meeting, I’ll download the agenda onto my Remarkable (via an app on my computer) and then write my notes directly on the agenda.
It syncs automatically and it’s easy to organise folders and sort documents. You can convert text, and while it’s only black or white, your highlights show up in different colours when you open the document on screen.
This has saved me so much paper, and I know where my notes are. No more taking the wrong notebook to a meeting or searching through a pile of notebooks for a specific meeting.
I have a referral link which gets you a discount (and earns me a small payment) if you’re keen.
As a solo business owner, tracking my time and working out how I spend the limited hours each day has been a key part of increasing my profitability.
Knowing how long something takes helps me to set the right price. Being clear about how long certain types of projects take helps me schedule time so I don’t overbook myself. It’s also a good a reality check on how much time you actually waste.
Toggl is a fantastic free option for time tracking and you can link it to other tools like Asana. It allows you to set up separate projects for each client or activity, and generate reports which are helpful if you’re working as a sub-contractor or on a project where you’re charging by the hour.
I am no graphic designer, but thanks to Canva, I can create the images I need to support my written content. I use it at least once a day for social media graphics, reports, proposals and marketing materials. It’s even handy for resizing photos and images for my website.
While there are huge numbers of templates, fonts and images in Canva, I think it’s worth working with a graphic designer to develop a brand kit to use with Canva. Saving your fonts, images, logos and colours not only ensures you have a consistent look and feel, but it will save you time.
I’ve also invested in some customised templates I can save and reuse.
Who wants to waste time reinventing the wheel? Whether you buy a template or make your own, they can save you so much time. When I first started copywriting, Kate Toon’s TCCS templates were so valuable. They’re more than just a useful format to follow. Kate’s templates provide step-by-step guidance and tips, making them more like a course.
Over time, I’ve tweaked the templates to customise my proposals, briefing document, blogs and copydeck. Not only do templates save time, they also help push past blank page overwhelm.
9. Google Profile (formerly Google My Business)
Another latecomer to my list of small business tools, but only because it’s not available to everyone. It’s technically for businesses with a shopfront, but if you have an office (or home) address you’re happy to use, you can set it up.
It’s super valuable when you’re targeting local businesses. You know when you search ‘X business near me’ – well, it brings up what’s called the local pack.
Google Profile is more than just claiming your listing. You can update your business hours, add holiday periods, list services and offers, share photos and request reviews. Always take a screen shot (or get your reviewer to) as Google can be funny and delete them. It seems to be a problem if you get too many reviews at once.
My memberships are among my most valuable small business tools. Yes, they usually cost money, but what they deliver in terms of training, networking and support is well worth it. The 3 paid memberships I interact with daily are Kate Toon’s The Clever Copywriting School community and Digital Masterchefs and SA Woman. I’ve been a member of all 3 for about 5 years. All have raised my profile, delivered work, provided training, skills development and supportive networks. As a bonus, I’ve made some genuine friendships.
11. Social media
I almost didn’t include this as one of my favourite small business tools. Sure, I love social media and will share this post and snippets of this blog on several channels. But I also feel like many small business owners already put too much emphasis on it.
Then I realised this would be an excellent opportunity to remind you it’s just a tool. You need to pick the right tool (or platform) for the job.
Choose the platform your clients use, be yourself, share useful content and don’t despair if you don’t always get it 100% right.
It should come as no surprise that a copywriter focused on website copywriting would include your website as an important small business tool.
For most businesses, a well-designed, well-written website is crucial. It’s where you should collect emails, telling your potential clients about what you do and how you can solve their problem. For many businesses, it’s also an online shop, with Stripe or PayPal (or other payment options) helping to sell goods and services.
It’s also a mine of information. With the right tools (like Google Analytics) you’ll see how many people are visiting your website, what they’re searching for and which pages they spend the most time on.
Over to you
I’d love to hear about your favourite small business tools. Are there any you think I should include on my list?
And what about your most important small business tool? Your website.
Is it sharp and shiny and ready to help you make the best of every business opportunity that comes your way in 2023?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post. If you know someone doing business, or planning to start a business in regional or rural Australia, I’d love you to share this with them.