Starting a business is scary – anyone who’s ever started one will tell you that. Myself included.
When I made the BIG decision in 2011 to jump from successful business executive (with a big salary) to business owner, I was petrified. While I was confident in my experience, knowledge, and skills, starting an online virtual business was an entirely different game than the one I’d been playing. Lucky for me, I was quick to find the many business tools that would set me on the path to success!
Fast forward seven years and VirTasktic, the little one-gal shop that I started so I could share my expertise and skills with small businesses and entrepreneurs everywhere, is now a very successful (and profitable) business. We now have four employees, a number of highly skilled 1099 contractors and dozens of clients.
And here is what I am most proud of: we grew this business 100% off referrals – not a dime spent in marketing. That’s right – our clients love us, and they tell other business owners they see struggling that we are the people that can finally help them.
Not many companies can say that, but we can. And while as a collective team we have put in a ton of hours, sweat, tears, and a little blood – mostly paper cuts and one accident with a stapler! -, there is no way we could have achieved the success we have found without using smart business tools that allow us to automate processes, collaborate and communicate effectively, and run an efficient business.
6 Business Tools We Invested in that Really Paid Off
What’s great about the tools we are using is that any small business owner has access to them. Oh…and, some of them, are even FREE! (what small business owner doesn’t like that??!!) So let’s get to it. Here are the tools that we rely on at VirTasktic to both run our business and the businesses of the many clients we serve.
Asana is a project management tool that we have been using since almost the beginning. It allows us to seamlessly manage the many client projects and tasks that we have – we are talking hundreds! – with our team members to ensure we never miss a deadline and delivery.
With features that allow us to assign due dates, communicate directly in the task, attach files, create sub-tasks, task dependencies, and even track time, it is definitely an anchor tool in our business. And because our clients can email tasks directly into the system, we don’t waste a whole lot of time going back and forth with emails. Talk about a huge time-saver!
Ohhh…and there are unicorns. Who doesn’t like seeing a unicorn fly across their screen when they’ve completed a task?
Here’s the other thing about Asana. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m not easily impressed, and I don’t hand out compliments haphazardly. But Asana and their team just blow me away! Their dedication to building a tool that works for small businesses is evident in the many improvements they’ve made over the years, and keep making, that continue to improve this already awesome project management tool.
(*disclaimer – I do NOT work for Asana, and they did not pay me any money to write that! They are truly just that good!)
Remember earlier in the article when I mentioned that we built VirTasktic solely on referrals and never spent a dime in marketing. It’s entirely true – until about two months ago when we decided that we are ready to come out of our shell and tell the whole world that we are here and ready to help!
So we needed to find the best tool to help get us started. Because of the nature of what we do, we have experience using a number of different CRM (customer relationship management) and email marketing tools. MailChimp, Aweber, HubSpot, MyEmma, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, Get Response and Infusionsoft. We use them all.
When it came time to decide which tool we’d invest in, for us the answer was easy: Infusionsoft. While it’s not perfect and it is more expensive than many of the other solutions, it’s functionality far exceeds the other tools we’ve used. From simple contact management to advanced automated sales campaigns and eCommerce functionality- this one tool can replace 3 or 4 for many businesses AND save you tons of time.
We do a LOT of writing and blog management for clients at VirTasktic. So, for us, WordPress is a no-brainer. As a business, regardless of size, you have to have a website. So why not use a tool that gives you amazing functionality, ease of use, and is easy to maintain and update?
Sure there are a ton of DIY sites (Wix, Weebly, etc) that might be appealing to small businesses, but time and time again we’ve found that clients that start down that path at some point make a move to WordPress. Especially if you need to integrate your site with the other tools you are using like we do.
Like I said….it’s a no-brainer.
Getting paid is SO fun! Accounting…well, in my opinion, not so much.
It is, however, essential for every real business and an area that you want to be smart about when choosing your software. For us, it’s QuickBooks Online.
When looking at accounting software, we considered two major things: how to most easily import our contractor’s time on client tasks and how to make it simple for customers to pay us. As a final consideration, we had to look at what tool would handle all the ‘businessy’ stuff like taxes, reconciling bank accounts, etc. The one tool we found that fit the bill for all was QuickBooks.
Our employees and contractors can track their time on client tasks in Asana using Harvest, and it integrates directly with QuickBooks so we can apply it to customer invoices. This saves us a ton of time not having to reenter our contractor’s time, or client invoices, from other systems.
Once our customized invoices are created, they are emailed directly to clients with a quick link to make payment thanks to QuickBook’s easy invoicing and payment functionality. They tout on their website that you will get paid 2X faster, and that’s no joke! Our average customer pay time is three days!
And all that ‘businessy’ stuff I mentioned earlier, well, they make that a whole lot less frightening, too! Our bank and credit card transactions are automatically imported and matched up to the corresponding bills or expenses – all of which are put into the correct accounts without us having to fuss over it.
QuickBooks is one tool that really adds to our bottom line – in both dollars and time!
Need help running your #smallbiz? Take a look at these tools: @Asana @Infusionsoft @Quickbooks… & more! Click to tweet
Like I said earlier, we write a lot of content and do a lot of blogging and social media management here at VirTasktic. With the introduction of our new content marketing packages, we really needed to find an all-in-one solution for editorial and social media management.
We’ve only been using this tool for 6 months or so, but it has quickly become an essential for us. It streamlines the entire blogging and social promotion process by allowing us to upload content directly to WordPress via Word or Google Drive. In just a few clicks we’ve added content, set the author and categories and have new content published.
It also has amazing social sharing functionality. We link all of our social media accounts to CoSchedule and use a custom promotion template to schedule content and custom images right from the WordPress editing screen. It also tracks all of your blog content and allows you to easily promote older content in the click of a button. Add in analytics to see what content is performing best, and this is easily the best tool around for social that we’ve found.
And I haven’t even mentioned the amazing calendar that makes it easy for us to maintain editorial calendars and strategically think about content and promotion. At only $39/month, our investment in this tool pays off over and over.
About a month ago I got an Appsumo email on a special for this cool new image creation tool that claimed to help you double social engagement. First of all, if you don’t know what AppSumo is, go there now and sign up for their newsletter! As they mention on their website, “They promote great products to help you kick ass at work” – and that’s exactly what they do!
The tool they were promoting was Stencil. We weren’t in the market for a new graphics tool (we were using Canva to create many of our images), but it was an awesome deal, so I figured what the hell. Oh wow…. best decision I’ve made in a while! This graphics tool is a gem, and it has cut our time in half creating graphics!
Beyond having a ton of free graphics, quotes, and templates to choose from, Stencil gives you the ability to instantly change the size of your image to whatever social platform you need it for. One click and a couple of small tweaks and that Facebook post image is now ready for Twitter. Stencil is fantastic and may go down as our deal of the year!
Stencil is fantastic and may go down as our deal of the year!
There are a few other business tools we use throughout the day: Gmail, Skype, LeadPages and Slack – all of which have a positive impact on our business. But the six tools we mentioned above are truly essential in making us as successful as we are!
Looking to add new business tools to your business?
Here’s our advice for those looking for business solutions: be wise about finding the right tools that fit your needs. If a tool requires too much of your time to learn how to use it or implement it into your business – it might not be the right fit. If a tool only does 50% of what you need it to do – it might not be the right fit.
There are hundreds of software tools and apps built for every business function, but some are superior to others. So, do your due diligence to research what is available and what will work best.
Got questions about the tools we are using or something you are thinking about using in your business? Ask us in the comment section below and we will be happy to share our thoughts and experience!