Having run a creative business for the past 10 years, there are certain business tools I wouldn’t do without. As owners of creatives businesses, it’s paramount that we’re using tools to help organize and streamline our business. Here are my top 12.
This is a given. I need to maintain my books. My accountant uses Quickbooks. My bookkeeper already knows Quickbooks. I can easily track multiple accounts and multiple companies inside Quickbooks.
Office Suite: Open-Office
The most popular Office Suite is MS-Office. I chose Open-Office because it has all the same type of capabilities as MS-Office…and it’s free. It can read MS-Office files and save files as MS-Office documents. It includes a word-processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, database, drawing program, and a program to do scientific and formula equations (not sure if I’ll ever use that one).
Thunderbird is a free email program by Mozilla. It’s easy to set up, can handle multiple email accounts, and one can organize their inbox by folders. It includes a plug-in for a calendar and a task list.
Browser: Firefox or Chrome
This is a toss up between Firefox and Chrome. I’ve used Firefox for years, but within the past month I’ve found some very nice-to-have plugins for Chrome. And, I’m finding I’m using Chrome more than I used to. I’d love to hear your thoughts between these two.
Organize Ideas/Thoughts/Lists/etc: Evernote
This is a great utility that helps me track ideas and thoughts. I place all my blog ideas into Evernote. Any ideas that I might want to move on in the future go into Evernote. I can access Evernote from any computer. It’s installed on my laptops and the Evernote app is on my blackberry. I can capture audio, images, and notes using Evernote. If I am driving and an idea comes to mind, I can record it on my Blackberry using the Evernote app. When I bring up Evernote on my laptop, I will find that same audio note.
Online Communication: Skype
I use Skype to communicate with individuals who are working on various projects for me. It’s a great tool to visually connect with them and, if needed, to see their desktop.
Web Site Software: WordPress
As creatives, we want to share our work with the world. WordPress has become the go-to system even for web designers whose clients want to update their site. If need be, find some training in WordPress to get you started. In the long run, WordPress gives you the most flexibility and options as you grow your website.
Web Design/Graphics: Adobe Master Suite
Since I train on web design and do web design for specific industries, I have the Master Suite from Adobe. It includes all I need when it comes to graphics, animations, websites, and video editing.
FTP Client: FileZilla
As a web designer, I need to be able to access my clients’ webserver. The FTP client I choose to use is FileZilla. It is a freebie and it has all the functionality my previous paid-for program has.
Email List Management: MailChimp or Aweber
There a number of options available to handle email lists. MailChimp has a fun, yet professional feel. However, They recently changed their pricing structure. Aweber is also a strong candidate. In some ways, their product is a bit more robust than MailChimp.
Online Training: GoToWebinar
Up to this point, I’ve used GoToWebinar to offer online training. I like the options it offers: list of attendees, the chat option, the mute/unmute settings, being able to ‘chat’ with just other presenters, etc. I’ve seen other comparable products, but I haven’t found one that also lets me do a recording of the webinar. I’m including this tool because it’s essential to my type of business – offer online training. I’d be curious to hear what other options you recommend.
Online Access: Tether (when WiFi isn’t available)
Once in awhile I still end up in places where WiFi isn’t available. There is a very handy app installed on my Blackberry (and laptop) called Tether. It allows me go online on my PC through my blackberry. I connect my blackberry to my laptop through a USB connection, start up Tether on my laptop and my blackberry….and I am online. I think I paid $25 for tether. The other alternative would be to signup for the appropriate plan from Verizon, but saving $$ is important as a small business. Tether is a one time fee.
Still Need: Project Management, CRM, Cloud Computing
This list is incomplete. I am still looking for a good project management tool and a CRM tool. I am also finding that it’s becoming more important to use some kind of cloud computing option. I’m needing access to files when I’m on the road that aren’t always on my laptop but are on my external drive in my office. I think cloud computing would help resolve that issue. I am also considering Google Apps. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
What am I missing? What are your essential business tools?