I’m often asked what my favourite apps are for helping me run my business. I love my iPad and my smartphone and you’ll usually see me holding one or the other. It’s been quite tough to come up with my top 5 though so I may have to cheat a bit!
My favourite apps usually fit in with my favourite tool, Google business apps, too – although that’s probably another topic on its own. Here are the ones I use most often on my mobile devices aswell as online.
I couldn’t run my business without this project management system. I have the app on my iPad and I have a Google Chrome browser extension that integrates with my email. The online version of my tasks is synced continuously with that on my mobile or iPad and I can see instantly what I have to do next and log time against tasks as I’m working.
As emails come in they can be instantly converted in to a task, right from inside Gmail:
I can then have my iPad beside me and work through my task lists, starting and stopping the timer as I go.
Teamwork also has built in helpdesk software called Teamwork Desk. Any emails that come to our support@ email address, that any of the team can answer, can be added straight in to the project system as tasks too. It’s really becoming the workhorse behind keeping my business running
Teamwork is free for two projects, with any number of users and then there’s a monthly subscription once you have more projects. It can be bent to your will a little bit as you start out by using task lists for each client, instead of projects. But if you want to do your client billing simply and easily then it’s better to have the paid versions. It’s not an expensive tool and it can grow with you.
I really like this online address book and basic CRM. As you add people you know, and their email address, then Fullcontact goes off to do a search of what else is known about this person from their social media profiles, which helps you complete the rest of your address book and brings in all their social media activity. I have the app on my iPad and also as a Chrome extension in Google mail. When I get an email from someone their profile is brought up alongside, along with any notes I’ve made about them. Addresses are synced with my Google contacts and from there with my phone address book. You can tag people with any label so it’s easy to make your own sales pipeline or keep a record of who has bought what from you. These labels are about to get even greater functionality and be able to sync with Google groups of contacts. I’ve got this feeding in to my email system, ActiveCampaign so I can easily batch email people who have bought certain services from me, or who I think may be interested in a new service.
This is what the app looks like inside Gmail, as a bar at the side.
3. Office 365
I have a subscription to Office 365 Business which is £7 per user per month to have installed versions of all products aswell as access to the online versions. I also have the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps on my iPad. Used in conjunction with Dropbox, another essential app, then I can open and create documents in Word or PowerPoint when I’m out and about and they’re synced ready when I get back to my desk. Handy when at conferences or meetings when I just take my iPad and keyboard with me. I can also open documents that clients have sent me by email even when I’m not at my desk.
This is another app that I have everywhere, on my iPad, my phone and online. This too has a chrome extension so I can take clips and information when I’m browsing online. I use this as one great big filing notebook. I’ve got notebooks for different topics. For example I often hunt for how to write certain spreadsheet macros and can often find bits of the code I’m looking for online. I then file it all away in my own library of useful information and it’s easy to search it again later. I use this in conjunction with my livescribe pen, another favourite gadget – and if I do write notes when I’m away from my desk then they also get converted to text and stored in Evernote until I want to use them. I could probably write another whole article on the Livescribe pen. Everyone needs one!
5. Oh no, I’ve come to the last one and I can’t choose. So I’m just going to list the other apps that I use regularly such as Facebook (only for my business pages obviously), LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest, which I often dip in to whilst on the go. I use Skype on my iPad as it has a much more reliable camera and microphone than my PC. For quick graphics I use Canva a lot for creating social media headers and images and the iPad app is fun to play with and also see designs I’ve done online.
Another app that isn’t yet available in a mobile version but which I think is fantastic for Gmail is ActiveInbox. Although I use Teamwork for managing tasks, if you work alone then this is a super alternative. I use it to empty my inbox of distracting emails so that I only see them when I need to. As emails come in you can assign a date to them that’s when you’re going to action it or when you’re going to wait on it until, i.e. if you’ve sent an email to someone and you’re waiting for them to respond. They then are hidden from your inbox view until that time, when they magically appear again to remind you to do something. You can also tag them with a project so you can sort your emails quickly in project views. If you’ve read David Allen’s Getting Things Done then this tool can really help you put those principles in to practice.
So what are your favourite apps? Do let me know in the comments.