Self-employed success involves more than being a great developer or having groundbreaking design skills, a nose for e-commerce or a wonderful way with words. All the above help, of course, but starting your own business isn’t just about spending your days doing what you love.
Help is at hand, however, and not just in the form of hot brown beverages. There are plenty of tools out there that can help take the weight off your shoulders and help you concentrate on what you do best: coming up with great ideas and putting them into practice. Here’s what you need to do to avoid ending up knee-deep in customer queries and irate emails from your accountant.
Tools to Keep Things Running Smoothly
Accounting, admin, invoices, chasing invoices, liaising with clients, following up on leads, chasing invoices, drafting proposals… Did I mention chasing invoices? Those are just some of the tasks that you are going to have to find a way to fit into your day-to-day business routine. And let’s face it, most of us don’t start out with enough resources to hire someone to take care of the boring stuff.
In 2019, communicating with clients and team members should not involve constant back-and-forth emailing. Tools such as Basecamp, Trello or Slack help you keep tabs of ongoing projects, set deadlines and communicate efficiently from your desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. Always check beforehand that your client is happy using your preferred collaboration tool – obliging someone to adopt a platform they’re not familiar with is a recipe for confusion and ultimately wasted time, especially if they’re not particularly tech-savvy. But once you’ve got the ball rolling, collaborative software is a great way to keep all your communications in one place.
Tools to Keep Your Customers Happy
Many factors will impact the success of your fledgling business, but the most important one is undoubtedly your clients. Winning over new customers can be a long and costly operation, and maintaining that relationship once you’ve reeled them in is every bit as important. You may think that CRM (or customer management software) is only for the big guys, but the truth is, there are plenty of low-cost, user-friendly solutions out there that are specifically aimed at small businesses and freelancers.
While CRM is a great step towards great customer relations, it’s always worth going one step further. Why not add a chatbot to your website or set up an integrated Facebook Messenger bot that can help you manage orders, greet clients and handle simple customer queries? According to recent research, 53% of consumers are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via chat, so you’re basically looking at a win-win situation.
Something to Take Notes With
There are people out there who still choose to carry around a notebook and pen, and who can blame them? There’s a lot to be said about having something at hand to jot down those unexpected late-night brainwaves.
But it’s worth taking some time to check out the many apps out there that can help you boost your productivity by feeding those doodles directly into your workflow. While there are smartpens out there that claim to be able to do that, my opinion is that the tech isn’t quite there yet. While we’re waiting, tools such as the ubiquitous Evernote enable you to jot down notes, jazz them up with photos and images, create tasks, set reminders and share the result with team members and colleagues.
A Helping Hand with Your Social Media
Some of us can’t stay away from it, others log in once a month to see what their cousin in Australia is up to. Whatever your attitude to social media happens to be, the truth is, once your business is up and running, it’s likely to become a big part of your working life. Digital consumers spend around 2.5 hours per day on social networks and social messaging. An active social media presence can help you expand your network, increase your brand awareness, reach new audiences and learn more about your customers. The problem is, creating captivating content, getting it out there and maintaining an active community can be a major drain on your time and resources.
Social media management software such as Hootsuite, Buffer or TweetDeck can help you schedule your posts ahead of time and maintain a steady presence throughout the week. Some tools offer analytics that can enable you to find out which posts are making your audience tick and adapt your content accordingly.
So there you have it. Starting out on your freelance journey can be an exciting and challenging time, but there’s a wide array of tools out there that can help you with the “challenging” part. Take the time to try out different tools (most offer up to a month-long free trial) and find out which ones are the most likely to steer you towards success.