Working on your own project can be taxing, especially when you’re your own team. You’ve got all these grand images in your head: the man who can do it all by himself, a strong independent woman who don’t need no help. While those people do exist, talk to them and more often than not you’ll find they wish they didn’t. As a space aimed at helping others get their ideas on their feet, we’re always looking for useful apps or bits of software which can make some of our daily tasks easier or just quicker. I myself was more of a pen-and-paper type before starting in my new position, but it didn’t take me very long to look back on my old ways with contempt. So, it is in this spirit that we share with you today our top 5 most useful pieces of tech kit (most are free of charge, depending of the amount/complexity of work you need done).
At first glance, it’s just like any other messaging app but a few uses reveal some pleasant surprises. First off, you can choose to use the online platform or the downloadable app (our personal favourite) available for most devices. Once you start using it, you’ll realise that Slack’s potential to be a useful business tool lies in its customizability and its ability to fit around individual needs. You can set up a team, which will include the people you want to communicate with through the app, and either message a member directly, create group conversations or create open channels which any team member can access; you can even invite guests to Slack, for those times when you only really need a one-time chat. Notifications come in all shapes, sizes and sounds but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to be part of every conversation like in those old internal emails: it’s very easy to set a recurring “Do Not Disturb” mode for sensitive hours, or you could simply mute a particular channel altogether. The interface is also bright and easy to understand, with profile pictures and contact details for every team member and customizable sidebar menu, where you can colour-code different channels for easy identification. Give it a try, it’s well worth it.
LastPass is a great tool which almost becomes vital as your team expands and starts using more web services. Essentially, it helps store all the passwords for your different accounts in one place, prompts you with the correct username and password when accessing a certain service and can be shared with other members of your team. It also allows you to directly browse your “collection” of passwords individually, which can be ordered by website category (which of course you get to choose) and can even fill out online forms and credit card information if set up to do so. To top it all off, a team of security researchers and companies working in tandem with LastPass to improve security levels on a daily basis means you can rest assured your passwords are safely protected.
We’ve been using to do our accounting for a while and. The basic plan comes in at $9/month (-25% if you are a non-for profit, -15% if you have other businesses registered with Xero, on all plans) and lets you track expenses but limits you to only 5 invoices, quotes and bills. While this can be enough for a budding business, it is unlikely that it will satisfy the needs of larger operations. An upgrade to the $30/month plan will let you send unlimited invoices & quotes and enter unlimited bills, while also letting you manage payroll for up to 5 employees. Another valid alternative for larger businesses is QuickBooks online accounting. QuickBooks enables you to create and track invoices, while also letting you manage corporation tax, VAT returns, employee payrolls and schedule repeat payments. It’s good to know they often run promotional offers, so worth checking every now and again
Very useful, especially when your schedule is full and for businesses for which online presence is key. Buffer allows you to schedule posts across most social media platforms, posting either as a “profile”, “page” or “group” (on the platforms which include these categories). The free version allows you to connect up to 10 social networks while only allowing for one team member (not a problem unless you’re running a large operation); once you’ve connected the social media accounts you want it to post to, you can start scheduling away. You can either choose to schedule posts individually using a calendar layout or create a pre-set one by choosing on which weekdays you want the content to be posted and at what times. What’s good to know is that they also offer a browser add-on which lets you schedule a post from its origin page, so when you find something interesting you can be sure you won’t forget about it. Even better, Buffer can be integrated with other systems which automatically select and post content to your schedule!
(Our suggestion is you don’t use it to schedule content on Facebook, as Facebook itself tends to penalize content leading away from it/posted through third parties, reducing its reach).
….and Quuu is one of those systems! Creating social media schedules can be one of the most tedious tasks but it is also one from which your business can benefit immensely. Once you’ve integrated it with your Buffer account, you may choose to send content suggestions to all or only some of your social media accounts. After selecting the accounts it’s time to choose the news categories (from a pre-selected list) you’d like to be suggested and the number of suggestions a day you would like to receive. The free version lets you choose up to 5 categories and limits the number of suggestions per day (per account) to 2, which should be fine for a smaller business. What we suggest is that you don’t rely solely on Quuu for content, but rather use it support your own posting schedule.