I’m obsessed with tools. I’m more conscious now of being careful how much money on spend on them, or how much time I spend tinkering with them, but I still love them.
The bottom line is, as a sidepreneur, our time is limited…so I’m always on the look out for tools that will make me more effective and efficient.
I feel like right now I have a nice stable of tools that I use — and my list hasn’t changed much in the last 6 months — so it felt like a good time to write this blog post.
Here are the tools I use & recommend and why (in no particular order):
This is a tool I use for finding really good social media content to share. In fact, I even use it for my Twitter service. You put in keywords and then it finds relevant content for you to share on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn. What I like about it, especially for Twitter, is it automatically suggests hashtags to use and people to @ mention.
Man, I’ve been using this tool for years now. It’s my CRM (customer relationship management) and I use it to manage the contact info of both my clients and my prospects. I can send email from it that looks professional and I can even send direct mail i.e. postcards, greeting cards, etc. It recently added an email drip feature, but I haven’t tested it yet.
CallRail is what I use for tracking all phone calls to my client’s website. I don’t track my own phone calls because I don’t want people calling me being I’m not available during the day. And that might be the case with you, but I’m including it on this list because it’s super easy to use, and if you are looking to get calls for your side business, you absolutely need to be tracking how people find your number.
Cyfe is a relatively new tool for me, but I love it. In fact, I’m transitioning all of my client reporting to them. What you can do with Cyfe is create endless dashboards on different metrics like website traffic, rankings, social media stats, etc. So it goes back to what I said about tracking phone calls in that you need to be tracking the overall metrics of your website to know what’s going on. And one other thing worth mentioning is that you can also hook into PayPal, Stripe, etc. if you want dashboards about your side hustle’s financials as well.
Outright, now owned by GoDaddy, is the bookkeeping software I use for my side business and I love it because it’s so easy to use. It hooks into my PayPal, bank accounts and credit cards and then auto categorizes the revenue and expense items. This information is helpful for both understanding my cash flow and for taxes. You do have to tell Outright how to categorize each item, but then it learns it going forward. So if you’re paying CallRail every month, you just label is as a “tools and software” expense and then it gets this label every month automatically.
WuFoo is a very simple, but robust (I love that word) tool for adding forms to your website. I use it to capture leads on my website and I use it on many of my client’s websites. It lets you easily control what fields of information you need and what happens after the form is submitted i.e. redirect to a thank you page so you can track leads and send an email notification so you can follow up immediately. Also, adding the form to your website is copy and paste easy. WuFoo also lets you securely except payment via the forms…this isn’t something I’ve tested yet, but probably will soon.
I just started using this tool as I write this, but it’s so cool, I need to include it on this list. The reason I started using it is because Cyfe doesn’t integrate with CallRail. As a result, in order to add phone data to my client dashboards, I needed to set up “zaps” to push the CallRail data into Cyfe. So what Zapier does is — via APIs — let you easily create communication between 2 more tools/software. So in my case, when a call is tracked in CallRail, push this data to Cyfe. The possibilities of automation are endless with this tool.
I wrote about Rebump in more detail here, but in a nutshell, this tool helps make follow up much easier. It enables you to automatically follow up on emails that haven’t received a response. It’s made me much more efficient and ultimately more effective with my new business efforts.
Even though I actively use Rebump, I also use FollowUpThen because there is a subtle difference between the two tools. I use Rebump to follow up on emails in a slightly more aggressive way whereas I use FollowUpThen to remind me to personally follow up with someone in 3/5/7 (or whatever) days. For example, I get a verbal yes from a prospective new client and I send them the payment link. I’ll use FollowUpThen to remind me to follow up with them in 5-7 days instead of using Rebump which sends multiple follow ups in sequence. I also use this tool to “snooze” emails that I don’t need to reply to immediately.
Google Drive is basically a folder you have “in the cloud” and in this folder you can store files, documents and spreadsheets. But what makes it magical is that you share access with other people so you’re all working off just one version of a particular file. As a sidepreneur, if you don’t have a virtual assistant type person working with you, you eventually will…and when that happens, you’re going to want to share files with them. I’ve found Google Drive to make this process very simple! It also gives you somewhere secure to store all your files that you can access from wherever you are.
I felt like I had to include Gmail in my list of tools because it’s what I use everyday, multiple times throughout the day, to communicate with my clients. If you don’t know what Gmail is, it’s Google’s easy-to-use email app that you can access via desktop or phone. I also like that there are a lot of “plugins” for Gmail — for example, Rebump and FollowUpThen integrate directly into it. I also use Gmail as my to-do list because when I think of things I need to do for my side business, I’ll email myself, star the message and then make it read so it’s not staring me in the face…and then I just look through my starred messages when I want to get things done.
What about you?
Thanks for reading! And now it’s your turn…which tools do you love for running or growing your side business? I’d love to hear from you!