7 Tools Every Small Business Must Have

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.

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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.

About the Author

Nicte Cuevas, Principal of Nicte Creative Design, empowers mission-driven businesses through strategic design & branding. Nicte has applied this when working with Adobe Spark and Twitter Business, LinkedIn Learning, Dogs on Deployment and Purina, Girl Scouts, The Houston Zoo and The Contemporary Arts Museum. Her excellence in communication design & marketing has been recognized by multiple national / international awards, including a coveted feature in Graphic Design USA's People to Watch.

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