I’ve been in business with my video production company, Clock Wise Productions, for over 20 years (so yes, I started it when I was in my teens 😉 ).
Needless to say, the “tools I can’t live without” have drastically changed over the years.
Gone are the days where I would crawl under my desk, twice-daily, to switch my phone service to the internet line and then wait 30 minutes for my emails to download.
Gone are the days where I would get into arguments with the local drug kingpin over the use of “his” phone booth on a street corner where I had set up office during location shoot days and needed to make phone calls to keep the show going.
Gone are the beepers with panicked 505 texts (read SOS), the Filofax, the Blackberries that didn’t synch with anything, and the printers that consistently jammed on endless paper.
Today’s tools are all digital, or allow access to digital tools (smart phones anyone?).
So, here is my list of things I can’t imagine being without, at least until the next shiny new app, platform, gadget, or tool comes my way.
Out of the ten tools listed here, there is only ONE TOOL that hasn’t changed since the day I opened my doors, June 1st 1997. If you guess correctly which one it is, I’ll give you a full hour of free video marketing advice!
Here are my 10 Tools I Can’t Live Without as Small Business Owner (with emphasis on small business owner, not video marketer, filmmaker, dog-owner, or cyclist, etc.
1. Trello is a collaboration tool, but I use it mostly to organize myself, my ideas, my time, and my tasks. I love the backgrounds, which I always keep related to the topic of my to-do-list (I use it for all areas of my life) and inspirational.
My days and tasks would be a mess without Trello. And yes, it’s also a fantastic collaboration tool. I use it with the awesome Lauren Adleman, who’s my social media manager (and theatre director) and also, to stay on track with a community project that I’m involved in. It keeps everything easy to edit, in real-time, and all in one accessible, organized place.
2. Dropbox organizes your files and keeps them not only automatically saved to the cloud, but also available on your desktop. So, even when traveling without WiFi, you’ll still have access to all your files. It also makes sharing files and folders of any size painless by sending links instead of bulky attachments.
3. QuickBooks is full-featured, yet easy to use, accounting software. It’s keeping my money-house in order, the taxman happy, and my bookkeeper and me sane. I’ve used all of its irritations since 1997, and it’s not only kept up with the times, but also with my growing needs.
4. OwnersUp is much more than a tool or an online platform. It’s where solopreneurs team up and grow faster, by setting goals, supporting each other, and being held accountable. Since I joined, my productivity has doubled.
I value both the daily task time keeping and the regular goal-setting with the online platform. As a small business owner (or solopreneur), it’s easy to get sucked into the day-to-day and forget about the bigger picture.
5. VA Staffer is a virtual assistant company that offers a huge range of services, which is one of many reasons why I love them. They have an easy on-line platform to set up tasks, and they do it very well! I mostly use them for lead prospecting on LinkedIn, client research on social media in general, video transcribing, and data entry and management.
6. Contactually is an easy to use, fun and intuitive CRM [customer relationship management] tool and it integrates with many other platforms. I love using it and it keeps me on the ball with my most important contacts.
My favorite feature is the “bucket game” that allows you to assign each contact to a ‘bucket’ and then tell the software to remind you every so often to reach out. My buckets have titles like: “active prospect”, or “long-term lead”, and, yes “fired clients”.
7. LinkedIn we all know and, probably, all have a profile (or two). For me, it’s become a great resource for many kinds of networking (finding great new talent, leads, and thought leaders).
I also use LinkedIn to connect with collaborators, verify information, and get business news to keep a pulse on what’s going on in different industries.
8. Hootsuite is a social media aggregator and, at $10 a month, you can’t beat it. You create one message, choose all the social media platforms that you want it to go to, and send it out (or schedule it, into the future!). Easy to use, fast, and reliable.
9. Thrive Themes is a plugin for WordPress sites that allows you to create beautiful designs in minutes. With it, I was able to build my website myself (with the help of a programmer and an awesome designer, Jill Fiore, of course).
These days, using Thrive, I can make a quick change, add a page, or change a layout myself: all without having to pay or enlist a professional each time.
10. iPhone! Who can live without their smart phone? My iPhone is my camera and video studio all in one (I will shoot, edit, and host, all from my phone!). Plus, I can access all the tools above from my phone, and in general, spend a lot of time on it… ;-).
What are your “I can’t do without” tools?
And, which of the above tools have I used in my business since 1997? The first person to correctly answer in the comments below will get a full hour video marketing consultation! Take a wild guess (or ready the article carefully…).