7 Tools We Use for Productivity as a Small Biz
Over the years we've tested out tons of different tools that are designed to up our working game and make things more systematized, clear, or just plain easier. Of course, not everything is created equal and there have definitely been tools we've had high hopes for that ended up being real stinkers and others that initially flew under the radar, but have come to be the workhorses we depend on.
So, here are the 7 tools that we love and which we depend on to make our business better each and every day. And it should be noted that, with the exception of Dubsado, we aren't affiliated with any of these suggestions; they're just genuinely that great that we wanted to share them.
Grammarly, as the creators put it, is a free writing assistant that will automatically proofread your writing for problems with grammar and spelling (and technically plagiarism too, although to be perfectly up front, we haven't found a use for that part just yet).
You may be thinking, ok, but most things already have some kind of spelling and grammar check built into them, but Grammarly is on a whole other level. It checks your writing against some 250 grammar rules, corrects punctuation, and has an AI heart that will look at an entire sentence or paragraph for context before it offers up corrections, meaning it will catch things other services won't.
Like when you unintentionally misspell a word like "very" as "vary", but it's still technically a word so your regular spell check doesn't catch it. Grammarly will have your back here.
Plus, you can set your preferred regional language so you don't end up with pesky suggestions to change words like "colour" to "color" if you're not living in the US.
If writing feels alien to you or isn't necessarily your strong suit, then you can also consider upgrading to a paid, premium account, which will watch for style and tone deviations, and make suggestions to correct them too, so your formal letter doesn't end up reading informal by mistake.
Grammarly gets installed as an extension on your browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge are currently supported), or you can download the app for IOS or Android, and it works with most sites (Gmail, Outlook, Google Docs, LinkedIn, etc).
If there is one thing on this list you try, we suggest it be Grammarly, because it's seriously made our lives that much better.
Asana is a work and project management platform that will help you organize all of your team's projects, daily tasks, and goals into actionable to-do lists, so you don't have to feel stressed anymore wondering who is working on what and when they'll be done.
In just a few seconds, you can create a task, assign it to someone, give them a due date, upload any documents they'd need right into that task, leave them notes about what you want them to do, and build in a workflow so that, when they're done with their part, all they need to do is mark their task complete and the next person will be notified that it's their turn to contribute.
Even if you're a solopreneur and don't need to assign tasks, Asana is a wonderful option because it helps you break down those really big projects into small achievable goals... and ticking off "complete" is incredibly satisfying and confidence boosting.
There are lots of different ways to view your tasks as well, so if you prefer to see everything as one big list or charted out on a calendar or posted to a board like a bunch of sticky notes, they've got you covered.
The basic platform is free to use (and that's what we're on), but there is also a premium upgrade option that gives you access to more features like a Gantt chart-like timeline view, greater customization, and advanced searching and reporting.
That said, we upgraded for a while because the premium version allows you to set date ranges for projects instead of just due dates, but quickly switched back to the free version because we didn't find the added features that useful for what we're doing.
If you've been looking for something that will help you stay organized and on top of things, then definitely check out Asana.
GOOGLE DOCS & SHEETS
This might seem like a duh statement, but we seriously end up using Google Docs and Sheets to help us get most things done.
Sure, the Microsoft versions are going to have a lot more capability built into them and, if you're doing some super complicated equations or some serious document formatting then, by all means, use Excel or Word. But, if all your doing is using the grids in Excel to organize lists and information or Word to type out drafts for blog posts, then consider testing out the Google counterparts.
Firstly, any Google Docs or Sheets you create will be saved onto your Google Drive, meaning you'll have access to them wherever you go (provided there's an internet connection).
You can also share them with the click of a button, adjust permissions, add comments, have multiple people editing them simultaneously (collaboration, baby), and add in a whole host of integrations that make the possibilities for these platforms endless.
Like, did you know that there's an integration for Sheets that allows you to assign due dates for things and have email reminders sent to you when those due dates approach?
Just type Sheets or Docs into Zapier and you'll see just how many things you can do with these platforms. They're definitely evolving the way we work.
CoSchedule is what we use to schedule posts across all of our social platforms. You can link up all of your accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc) and then start creating your posts within the platform so you can easily push those posts to multiple places with just the click of a button.
By using a social scheduling platform, you can set your social calendar in advance, with greater ease and in less time, and then move onto other pressing tasks knowing your audiences are still being looked after.
We like CoSchedule because it displays everything on a calendar style view, making it easy to see where gaps or duplications are. There are also built-in features you can activate, like ReQue, which will automatically use previous posts to fill in days where you just don't have time to plan out new content and options that will help you build campaigns, newsletters, or articles.
If you're in need of analytics, it's got you covered there too, offering up separate, detailed reports for any social account that you have linked to it.
Unfortunately, unlike the rest of the tools we've listed here so far, there is no free option, but they do let you trial it before you have to make any kind of commitment.
Slack is basically just a chat client and, because our team isn't generally working in the same room (or the same part of the city), we use it when we need to talk to each other throughout the day.
The basic version is free and it allows you to create what it calls channels so you can organize your conversations by project or topic or whatever you please. You can also just send private direct messages to teammates, which is what we end up using it for most of the time because, realistically, there's only 3 of us.
You can upload documents, integrate it with a number of other platforms (like Asana), get it to remind you to do things, and create side thread conversations within a conversation so your notes are contained in one easily reviewable place.
While we use Slack fairly simply, it's ability to sort, index, and organize your conversations is what makes this program a real powerhouse. With these capabilities, anyone on your team can do a quick search through a channel to see what the history of a project was or whether a fix was ever found for a problem, without having to bug another living soul to get answers.
You can manage leads, create invoices, issue quotes and contracts, communicate with clients, build feedback forms or surveys, book appointments, collect payment, keep track of your accounting, and build workflows that allow you to automate your client process, all in one place!
No, like for real. It will actually look after all of that for you.
It also has a client portal that looks beautiful (in comparison to 17Hats, the management software we used to use) and which gives your client access to all the particulars of their project, whether it be the initial quote, the contract, or the mockups they need to review. And having a platform that makes things super duper easy for your client and which enables clear communication is a huge win when you're running a business.
Now, full disclosure, we are an affiliate of Dubsado, so if you click on the link above and sign up, we do see a small percentage of that. There's no free version, but there is a trial and the full cost per year, at $350, is more than reasonable considering how much time it saves you while making you look ultra professional.
Our last tool recommendation is Calendly and our sister company, Salt Design Co., uses it to schedule client calls.
Instead of all of that back and forth that trying to schedule something through email usually involves (especially when you're coordinating between multiple people), Calendly allows you to share a link that lets others view all the dates and times you're available and book in something that works for them as well.
You can set up rules around your availability preferences to make sure you never show up as available during, say, lunch, and you can edit your availability before you send an invite if there are specific days you want to keep clear.
Once someone has booked in an appointment with you, Calendly will also ensure this information gets placed in everyone's calendars so no one forgets.
With their basic plan starting at $0, it's definitely worth checking out.
You now have a bunch of new tools to try out and we hope they're every bit as helpful to you, as you build your business, as they have been for us!