Let’s face it, running a business can be overwhelming, especially if you are wearing all the hats as a solopreneur or running a small team. Plus, if you add a family into the mix, busy can become an understatement! From experience as an entrepreneur and a homeschooling mom of three, I needed to automate and create systems to save time. After 6 years in business, I have tried and seen a lot of tools to help with more being created everyday. This is my list of 11 of my favorite tools to help you start and scale your business with ease.
11 Tools to Help You Start and Scale Your Business with Ease
Streamlining your business operations involves creating processes, procedures, and workflows for recurring business tasks, which are things that all of these great tools can help you with. When we become more efficient in the way we use our time in our business by automating the work we do, we can have more space to take on the visionary and CEO roles in our business, or more time to spend outside of our business enjoying with family and friends.
1. Project Management System
A project management system is a way for you to plan, organize, and manage different projects in your business. These might include things like your content workflows, social media marketing calendars, client tasks, and internal projects like creating products or courses, and even launches. Consider what needs to be done at each step and create tasks that can be checked off along the way. For me, this one of the essential tools to help you start and scale your business, Every business needs a project management system, and you need it set up in a way that will work for your business. Some of the best project management tools are ClickUp, Asana, Trello, and Notion.
As a newbie and someone who loves to visualize everything in one place, Trello was my go-to for the first five years of my business. It’s so easy, I started my kids on it for homeschooling and now my organization bug has rubbed off and they have created a lot of their own boards. 🙂
As my business has shifted into an OBM role, ClickUp has become my go-to tool. I recommend this for my clients who are managing larger teams. I have heard the comparison made that it’s as if Asana and Trello had a baby, you’d get ClickUp. This powerful tool allows for different views for individual users, an internal whiteboard, internal chat, internal docs, and so much more. One of my favorite features has been assigning subtasks by dates and team members.
No matter what tool you choose, you need to utilize all the features to maximize your productivity. Creating workflows, templates, and mapping out your projects is essential.
2. CRM System
A CRM is a client relationship management system. This is everything you need to deal with your entire client or customer relationship. Think lead capture, proposals, contracts, invoices, payments, communication, and more. My favorite tools to keep dealing with clients and customers can be overwhelming are Dubsado and HoneyBook. They allow everything to be automated and customized from your branding, your workflows, and your emails.
Right now, I am loving and recommend HoneyBook. It’s easy to set up and has a beautiful, simple interface that’s really client-friendly. Honeybook has a concierge service if you want to move from another platform and amazing customer service. I used Dubsado for a year and even had a coach to help set it up, but I found it difficult to navigate if you were in the middle of a workflow. However, there are people who swear by Dubsado for the customization abilities. Find one that works for you, but I am all about ease, so #TeamHoneybook! If you use my link above, you’ll save 50% off your first year with HoneyBook, which is a savings of $200!
3. Time Tracking Tool
Whether or not you have a team, it’s important to understand where your time is going. If you are working solo, consider tracking your time on different tasks so you are able to price your services accordingly. You’ll also be able to estimate how much time you need to complete different projects and, once you do hire a team member, have an idea what is an appropriate amount of time for them to spend on each task.
If you are managing a team or working as a contractor, you’ll need a time tracking tool in order to have your invoices paid. There are many time tracking tools to help you improve your time management, such as RescueTime and Toggl, Both are free to use. Look for one that integrates with your payment processor and your banking system easily. I love the ability Toggl offers to print reports and invoices as well.
4. Standard Operating Procedures
An SOP is a Standard Operation Procedure, or basically how things are done in your business. As far as tools to help you start and scale your business go, if you’re building a team or bringing on subcontractors, having your processes mapped out is essential. This ensures your team and business runs smoothly because everything will be done the same way in the same order. Team members will know where and how to access different folders, databases, templates, how to name documents so they can be found later, and more.
These are not necessarily easy to create, but they are so worth it! Include screen shots of where different drop down menus might be, embed loom videos of how things are done, and write out your instructions carefully. One tip I have found super helpful in my own business has been recording myself as I do different tasks like scheduling my social media or uploading my blog posts; then my team can replicate them.
You can create a database or hub of all of your SOPs so your team members can easily access everything they need to do their job efficiently. Consider storing these within your Project Management Tool (remember, ClickUp can store all your docs internally!), but Google Drive or Dropbox are other options.
Zapier is the go-to automation tool. It allows you to connect multiple systems and tools generally that typically wouldn’t integrate. The possibilities are endless with Zapier to streamline your business and processes.
On a personal note, I prefer to use native integrations whenever possible. However, Zapier is a lifesaver when the native integrations aren’t in place. Some more high-level connections or multi-step automations may be under the paid-only plan. It may be worth adding this one to your toolbox!
6. Email Marketing Providers
A strong ESP is one of the key tools to help you start and scale your business. Email marketing is one of the best ways to build your audience and keep in touch with your clients, customers, and leads. Social media isn’t reliable because you don’t own your social media followers in the same way you own your email subscriber list, and you also can’t send targeted content to your social followers.
When researching an email service provider, look for one that will allow you to use automations, segments, sequences, and tagging structures. These are key for nurturing your email subscribers in the best way possible by offering personalization.
Some of my favorites are ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and Mailerlite. I’ve been a fan and user of ConvertKit since almost the beginning of my business. I love that it natively integrates with a gazillion tools! ActiveCampaign is a very robust platform but is not intuitive for beginning users. Mailerlite is a great free tool for those just getting started with email marketing and I easy to use!
7. Membership Tools
Running a membership involves a lot of moving pieces and processes. Think of an online membership community platform, a membership database, a learning management software, virtual event software, content management, and a marketing platform.
You can streamline some of this using a more comprehensive membership tool, such as ThriveCart, Kajabi, Podia, or Groove.cm. You can read more about GrooveMember in my post, Sneak Peek at 4 Web Tools in Groove CRM here.
8. Course Creation Tools
Creating courses is a great way to showcase your expertise and reach more people. There are many course creation tools and platforms available that can make managing your digital courses a little easier, such as Podia, Kartra, and Groove.cm. (Sign up with Groove and get a FREE account to start!)
When I was looking for a course creation platform, I knew I wanted something with a “marketplace” so my clients and customers would be able to log in and also see my other offerings in addition to the ones they had purchased for themselves. You also want to look for a tool that gives your students a great learning experience, allows you to track their progress/analytics, lets you integrate with other systems (like your payment processor, video players, email service provider, etc), offers flexible payment options for your students, and has a responsive support team in place if you ever need to reach out to them.
I think since 2020 everyone is familiar with Zoom, but if not, know that Zoom is the top option for running online meetings with your team or with clients. You can easily set up recurring meetings and connect Zoom with your Google Calendar to keep things organized, too.
I have also used Zoom when onboarding clients and during our progress meetings to capture key information about their goals and needs. While my note-taking skills are on point, sometimes there’s nothing like having a video to refer back to, especially when those great ideas are flowing in the moment.
As you scale your business, you can use also Zoom to record webinars and workshops as well. These can be great tools for growing your business either as lead magnets or as launch tools.
The best way to quickly share a video with a team member or client? Loom! Make sure you download and install the Loom chrome extension to save yourself some time, too.
I find I use Loom all the time! When I was first starting my business, this was a great way for me to secure clients because in those sea of “Can anyone recommend someone to help me with. . . “ posts, I was able to record a quick video and send it to them. This set me apart as someone who was providing value, they saw my face and heard my voice, and immediately it created a relationship of trust. It helped me gain a lot of clients in this way when I was starting out.
More often I am using Loom to create SOP’s in my business and also to create video walkthroughs for my clients of different project integrations we may have completed so they understand the tech workings should they need to go back and do something themselves.
11. Call Scheduler
You need clients in order to have a business, so you need a call scheduler as one of the tools to help you start and scale your business. I have used many over the years, and a lot of them are free to use with options for paid features. Acuity, and Book Like a Boss have been some of my favorites. Sophisticated CRM tools like Honeybook and Dubsado have integrated call schedulers which will create a new lead and project for you once a potential client fills out a form or a request a call on your website. No need for you to do those extra steps!
I also use my call scheduler onboarding and for my current clients because we have monthly and quarterly check-in meetings to update on the status of our projects and anticipate what pieces we are working on for the next steps.
Most schedulers will allow you to select multiple appointment types. When looking for which call scheduler to choose, my must-have requirement is one that automatically adjusts the timezone for where your client is. There is nothing worse than someone not realizing they have to manually toggle for their own time zone and then you missing a call from a new lead! Another nice feature is having a call scheduler that integrates with a payment system. This way if you offer a VIP day in your business, you can have them pay half or all up front when they book the call to work with you.
When you choose tools to help you start and scale your business with ease, your business can become a lot more enjoyable. The work you do up front to create systems, processes, and workflows – and then automate them – will allow you to have more time in your business to focus on clients or to spend being the visionary in bringing yourself to the next level.
If you need support in your business with online business management or project management you can reach out to me here. We also offer tech retainer services to help you get set up with your business automations.