business & brand organization
Every list may say something a little different, but we've done some research, piqued the brains of small business owners, and compiled our favorites to offer you a few tools that can make your life more organized, more streamlined, and more effective in the new year.
AGENDA / PLANNER
As a longtime blogger, I often rotated through several planners trying to find the right one. I loved being able to write with a pen and paper, as many bloggers and small business owners will also attest to; but there are advantages to digital editorial calendars (see: Using Google Calendar as Your Editorial Calendar). Also, depending on your blog or website platform, there are plugins that are wonderful tools for built-in and featured packed editorial calendars (see: CoSchedule for Your Blog).
With all that said, it doesn't matter how you plan and organize, but it is imperative that you do so! Here are a few super popular options for the good ole fashioned kinds:
And, if you're feeling the need to have a little extra fun, I highly suggest you head on over to my friend Paige's Etsy shop, Creating & Co, who creates custom planner stickers. Everything there is to die for if you are an organization addict like myself!
Lastly, here's a quick comparison of popular planners if you need a little more help deciding before committing.
Also called editorial planners, these are different than the blank agendas aforementioned (even those that include prompts and different sections). These planners are specifically designed for meeting goals, namely small business ones. EpicBlog is popular, but there is also The Badass Blog Planner and Your Best Year amongst many others.
17hats is an all-in-one small business center. It helps with scheduling, timekeeping, invoices, contracts, questionnaires and forms, documents, contacts, bookkeeping, payments, lead management, and more. Plans start at $29/month if paid monthly and down to $13/month if paid annually. It can arguably do what many of what is listed above can do in one, as they put it, “beautifully designed package.”
Elle & Co has a great review of 17hats with pictures that goes over an in-depth look at how she uses 17hats to organize her client workflow and manage her small business.
Google search (or Bing search) discounts and special offers for cloud storage and getting space for free.
Lastly, I am including Evernote under here because it can kind of be like a location for idea-keeping, thought-mapping, and even document-drafting. Most bloggers would say the same about Evernote for themselves. And I just stick with the free version.
Cloud storage that is popular is Dropbox. I use Dropbox for personal cloud storage as I don’t feel the need to pay a monthly fee because I have 50gb for free of Box cloud storage.
Box has all that I need for my precious business, blog, and project files plus it includes great apps and tools for businesses. It essentially functions just like Dropbox.
Having a scanner can be imperative if you are a small business owner. While you could spent a hefty penny taking up real estate (albeit minimal) on your desk for an official receipt scanner, you could also just get these apps on your phone or computer that will actually do a quality job: Genius Scan, Scanner Pro, and Office Lens.
In addition to scannable apps, you can get browser extensions, like OneReceipt for Google Chrome, that can also easily manage your digital receipts (like PayPal, Stripe, etc) with your paper receipts. You just connect your email address and it collects any and all receipts that email account works with (and when you log in to OneReceipt you can just make changes as needed).
accounting + more
In terms of more full-blown programs, Wave can be your own little money manager. Wave can securely connect to your bank account (if you want it to) and organize your transactions, collect receipts, process reports, and even pay employees or third-party vendors.
What is nice about Lastpass is if you do a lot of client work where you need login information (eg, web designing), then Lastpass will allow you to share login information without the recipient actually knowing what the password of the account is. And then, the owner of the site can then revoke access at the end of the job.
Similar apps: Dashlane and 1Password.
LastPass functions across any device and easily stores your logins, passwords, and secured information (think of Keychain if you are an Apple product user). On your computer, Lastpass is a browser extension that can automatically sign you in on any website you allow it to.
Within the Lastpass mobile apps, there is a browser you can use or you can just copy and paste into other apps. With many mobile apps (but not all as the app needs to support it), LastPass can even automatically log you in on other apps. I noticed success with my banking app, PayPal, and many others. For phones without a fingerprint scanner, this can be extremely helpful.
SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT
Social media is without a doubt one of the most important business tools brought in by the 21st century. Companies big and small are on Facebook, Twitter, and even Snapchat. Learning how to manage your social media channels effectively can save hours of time and increase traffic exponentially to your brand/business.
Edgar is the new kid on the block that is going to be a major powerhouse for social media management. Meet Edgar has content categorization, smartly schedules the content, and then recycles everything so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s not cheap, though; at $49 per month it is up to you whether it’s a worthwhile investment for your startup or not quite lifted off small business. For everyone else, it may just be a no-brainer so you can focus on other tasks.
Social media management fo’ free? Yes, please! Hootsuite not only can manage social media channels (now including Instagram), it also can track your influence, help you search your competition or just key phrases, find people that may not realize yet that you are the answer to their problems, and help engage with your audience.
Buffer is also a very great resource for social media management and it is much more user-friendly. However, over time I just felt like I needed a little more in terms of capability – especially when you’re working with streamlining multiple projects – and that, to me, is Hootsuite.