Must-Have Tools for the Budget Solopreneur
Hey! I'm Rita. The Web Design + Owner/Only Employee here at Heydays.
So you started a business on a whim and you realize you need some help. You need to schedule meetings, take notes, send e-mails, and just overall get your LIFE. Feeling super motivated you:
- Research (okay, just Google) the best apps
- Find what your peers are using
- Sign up for the free trial
AND THEN your 30-day trial ends and it’s time to pay up.
But your budget is zero dollars and zero cents. I get it. I launched a biz in the midst of planning a wedding and a cross country move. $10 a month is not bad but with so much going on I ain’t have it.
I tried EVERY business tool under the sun and found what I liked, what was worth spending a few coins on and how to hack the tools I love. Keep reading to find out the must have tools for business owners on a budget.
The Short Version
My Must-Have Tools for the Budget Solopreneur, Entrepreneur, Small Biz Owner and Girl Bosses are:
Hootsuite or Buffer
The Long Version
All Things Google
Google is The Business Gods’ gift to you.
E-mail Provider: Gmail
There’s no need to explain the benefit of an e-mail address or the beauty of Gmail. I will say only two things on this topic:
- If you have Yahoo or a Hotmail account. Stop reading and just go cancel them now. Your e-mail provider says a lot about you and those two scream I’M STUCK IN 2002.
- Pay the $5 a month for a google business e-mail address. It says you are serious about your business. firstname.lastname@example.org > email@example.com
HACK: Use Gmail aliases. An alias is a nickname for your email address. I pay for one e-mail user: firstname.lastname@example.org BUT I have “hello” & “support” as aliases. If you email either of them email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org the email comes to email@example.com but I look way official saying e-mail my support team. Right?
Phone Service: Google Voice
Your customers will need access to you besides e-mail so provide a number. I wasn’t too thrilled about listing my cell publicly so I signed up for Google Voice. Google Voice allows you to sign up for a number and forward that number to your cell phone + send texts from that number on the web or your cell phone. I love it because I can screen calls. I answer client calls with “This is Rita” vs “Yo” ‘cause I’m professional like that.
HACK: When someone calls your Google number, you can choose to have your Google number displayed on your phone's caller ID, so you know it’s a business call.
Note-taking: Google Keep
Ya’ll sleep on Google Keep. It is hands down my favorite Google product. It’s like iPhone reminders + notes but better. They are Post-It like notes that syncs with your google account so you can access thru the app or online. As a new biz owner, you have a ton of idea, right? Jot them down. Notes from 3 months ago may inspire you today. Just download now & thank me later.
File Storage + Sharing: Google Drive
With 15GB of free storage Google Drive is better than Dropbox & Onedrive. E-mailing product pictures or files back and forth is a pain. By client no. 4, I learned to appreciate Google Drive. I create folders for clients to upload or download documents. No more re-sending files. No more searching thru e-mail. Biz life made easier.
Scheduling + Automation
Get more time in your day to actually to what you love.
Calendar + Scheduling: Calendly
Thee most annoying part of launching my biz was finding time to chat with clients. I seriously sent 5-6 emails per client finding a “good time to meet.” Calendly saves lives (seriously it saves time. Lots of time). It allows you to set the times and days you are available and clients schedule their own meetings. No more asking are you free Tuesday? The beauty is it syncs with Google Calendar, so clients don't schedule meetings during your nail appointment.
Social Media Management: Hootsuite or Buffer
When I started following biz accounts on social media, I was like “Who has that much time to post?” I saw accounts post every 2-4 hours and I was like “How Sway?!” Then I discovered Hootsuite and Buffer. These applications allow you to schedule your social media posts. So now I spend Sunday creating my posts and scheduling them and the week actually being social. Hootsuite and Buffer are practically the same to me and free (with limitations of course), so sign up for one and get social. That’s the only way to grow your following.
HACK: Write your Instagram hashtags in Google Keep so you can easily copy & paste once your scheduled post is published.
Project Management: Asana
I could write a whole post on this, but if you collaborate with peers and clients you need Asana. Asana allows you to create workflows, assign tasks and set due dates. As web designer, I use it to post links to inspiration and use the chat box to communicate with clients. It’s our primary form of communication. It frees up your e-mail box and text messages. Fellow designer, Kelsey, of Paper & Oats wrote a blog on Asana that actually encouraged me to try it out.
Invoicing: Zoho Invoice
A free invoicing system to collect your coins. I send cute branded invoices and receive payments faster straight from my phone. When I charge by the hour (like writing copy or searching for stock photos), I can track time spent on projects and invoice customers using project-based billing.
Keepin’ It Cute
Online Graphic Design: Canva
Use Canva to make pretty social media posts, blog graphics, social media banners, and ads. They have templates and they have a design school to teach you how to use the app and to inspire your designs. No one likes ugly, so brighten up your brand with Canva.
We curated a list of 20 sites that offer free flat lay and stock photography. Grab your freebie now.
I use these every day. I am a side hustler, solopreneur, entrepreneur, one-woman show and these tools makes managing my life + biz + the 9-to-5 a breeze.