Owning a small business is not easy! In honor of small business week, we wanted to share some things we have learned along the way. Nicte Creative Design will turn 7 in June and in that entrepreneurial journey, we’ve learned quite a few lessons. One of them, is using the right tools to help you manage your business. We’ve used several different tools over the course of the years and these 7 Tools Every Small Business Must Have. They NEVER let us down and have been crucial to our growth.
7 Tools Every Small Business Must Have
Managing a small business can be a challenge. Between marketing your own services, doing essential business stuff to working on your client work. That can be a lot to handle for a small team or even a team of one! In order to balance all the aspects of a business, we need to find a balance between them all and work smarter not harder. Having the right tools can help streamline your business and cut down on task management time — helping you save money. So here are our must have tools to date.
1. A Reliable Website Host
In our ever-growing digital world, almost every business has a website now. Working with a reliable host and domain provider is crucial to a business. Your website should essentially work for you while you sleep. Our business has used ICDSOFT.com for hosting/domain services since 2005! Their customer service is amazing and in all these years they have never let us down. Not to mention their pricing is excellent and navigating their system is far easier than others we have used.
2. Content Management System (CMS)
Not every business will have a website designer on staff. So having a website that is easy to update is crucial. While we can design and code our own site, we found it so beneficial to use a self-hosted site using WordPress as our CMS. We designed and coded our theme and once that was done, we handle the updates on our self-hosted WordPress. While there is a learning curve, we always provide our clients with exclusive training on how to manage their website when we finish. You can always buy a pre-built theme, but even then, sometimes you will encounter customization challenges. So, make sure you do your research first on what you need your website to do before you buy a theme.
3. Getting Paid & Accounting
This has been a HUGE pain point for us over the years. We’ve used several different software and none of them aligned with our needs. They either required a lot of manual data entry or they became way to complicated to close out a paid invoice… until we discovered FreshBooks! Using Freshbooks.com has been a game changer for our business! It automatically imports your expenses, helps you categorize them, keeps digital receipts, and makes it easy to share with your accountant. Not to mention their whole process is green — HUGE WIN. But that’s not all. Our favorite feature is the customized invoicing system and payment reminders our clients get. This software alone, has improved our accounting/invoicing system by 100%. And because of that, Freshbooks is one of our favorite on our list of every tools a small business must have.
4. Building an Email List
Email marketing is something we didn’t embrace until a few years ago. And it wasn’t because we didn’t want to. It was lack of knowledge. We love MailChimp because it’s easy to use, automate and DESIGN custom branded themes. And while we are still growing (and learning), we’ve been able to grow our list to over 300 people, some of which have turned into valuable partnerships and customers. Building an email list has helped us build more of a personal connection with those in our inner community. Our focus hasn’t been to sale sale sale. It’s been nurture nurture nurture.
5. Design Software
We know not every business owner is a designer or may have a pro designer on staff. But having an established brand by a designer is crucial to creating a cohesive and recognizable brand. We personally use Adobe Illustrator, Indesign and Photoshop to create most of our content. But we also love using Adobe Express (formerly Adobe Spark) when we are on the go and even for our clients! Adobe Express is the perfect tool for any small business because it lets you design graphics in all formats through their mobile or browser app. When it comes to our clients who need to manage their own social media graphics, we always use Adobe Express! Their premium version allows you to create custom branded templates so we are able to design these for our clients and neither of us worry about the designs loosing integrity.
6. Social Media Management
There are so many options out there to manage your social media that it can get overwhelming. Price point is an important factor for a small business, especially if you are starting off. But we’ve found two tools we love that are very affordable!
If you haven’t noticed, we love showing up daily on Instagram with tips ranging from design, branding, color, typography and they business journey. Planning valuable content and organizing our feed through our specific layout was a big headache. And also time consuming. We’ve used Plannthat for several months and we LOVE it! It’s been a HUGE game changer for our Instagram strategy! There is no more headache in our content process and we are able to visualize the color continuity of our feed. You can create custom hashtags, Plann your content months in advance, see your metrics, and even take a sneaky peak at your competitors insight!
For the rest of our social management, we love using Buffer. It makes our planning and sharing so much easier — especially during a campaign launch or even sharing a blog post like this one. If you use AdobeSpark to create your graphics, you can easily resize them to fit all social media dimensions at the click of a button. Place those graphics in your Buffer feed and tada! You can now focus on engaging with your audience.
No matter who you use, don’t forget how important it is to maintain consistency across your platforms. You can learn more about our 5 Common Design Mistakes on Social Media here.
7. Editing Photos on the Go
If you are like us, we’re either out exploring (hello business & motherhood), traveling or on business meetings. And you probably find some amazing photos to share for your social platforms along the way. Having well lit photos is so important! You can have an amazing message behind the image (or graphic) but if the visuals are poor, people will scroll right through. A ColorStory is our go to photo editing app. It’s helped us maintain a consistent look through out our feed. Keeping the tone and lighting of your photos consistent is crucial to building brand recognition! If you are going for moody tones because it aligns with your brand, then keep it that way. Don’t sprinkle in sparkles and confetti here. It would just create confusion. Remember you want people to recognize your brand in our busy social media world.
We hope that these 7 Tools Every Small Business Must Have was helpful to you! They certainly have for us. And if you have any other tools you’d like to share with us, please let us know in the comments.