I’m recently out on my own as an entrepreneur. I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea, but I am trying to get two businesses of the ground at the same time — consulting with businesses on growth and inbound marketing on the one side, and then building Credo on the other side. While it’s a virtuous cycle, it is also a lot of work as a (semi)technical solo founder and former agency consultant.
To manage the increasingly long list of product features and consulting proposals, plus upcoming work and holiday travel, I have to lean on a large number of tools. I thought writing them out here might help some other new (or experienced) entrepreneurs find some sanity and productivity in these tools.
I’m a WordPress entrepreneur. The stack is easy — WordPress.org framework, paid theme from Elegant Themes, WPengine hosting. I also use a fair few external plugins for WordPress, though I find with each one that my site slows down. I’m learning how to build these feature needs directly into the WordPress core instead of bolting on plugins.
At some point maybe we’ll migrate off WordPress, but why fix what isn’t broken?
Credo is a lead generation business. Because of that, I need easy to use and customizable lead forms that can also have other recipients. Therefore I use the paid version of Gravity Forms.
Protip — if you use Trello as well, use the Zapier Gravity Forms -> Trello integration! It requires a developer account on Gravity Forms, but it’s worth it for the automation magic.
Google Apps and Sheets
I use the paid version of Google Apps ($5/mo) so you can email me john at getcredo dot co. This also gives me access to Google Drive and therefore Docs/Sheets/Forms under the domain as well. I use Drive to store:
- Consulting agreement templates
- Consulting Proposals in folders
- Forms for consultants to fill out, and to store the answers
- Shared documents with clients
Another great use of Google Apps as a solopreneur (solo + entrepreneur) is the ability to set up multiple emails (eg email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) and have them all forward to a specific email (aka mine) so that I don’t have to manage multiple inboxes but I’m also not giving out my personal email to everyone.
I use FreshBooks for invoicing. I know there are a lot of different invoicing solutions out there, and I plan to move away from manual invoicing at some point in the future, but I like Freshbooks because:
- It’s cheap
- I can easily manage invoices from my phone while I am out and about
- They’re responsive to feedback and adding in features that their users need.
Mailchimp is my email marketing provider of choice for projects and companies. It’s robust and makes creating amazing looking emails easy, and they are always mobile-friendly.
Mailchimp became my go-to when they launched their automation features. If you’ve ever done email marketing on a large site with thousands or more of customers, you know how important lifecycle marketing is. For an additional $10 a month over my normal plan, I can set up automated email campaigns to trigger based off an action (including actions taken on my site). My favorite right now is emailing businesses 30 days after they submitted an inquiry on Credo to get their feedback on the service. There’s gold in those hills!
At some point I may outgrow Mailchimp (and go to their enterprise software Mandrill), but it’s the best for what I need right now.
Trello keeps me sane, point blank. Right now as I manage both a consulting business (I consult on growth with companies) and Cedo, I have a lot of plates in the air.
Therefore I use Trello to manage my sanity. I have boards dedicated to the consulting business (new leads, where each lead is in process, and then what each client needs), the software business (new leads, where each is in process), and the software product (features, versions, to-do’s for promotion, growth ideas for both sides of the marketplace).
The cog that makes it all work is a To Do Today list on my All Project board (the software product board) where I spend most of my time and have the tasks that I need to complete that day.
Until recently I was using Trello as Credo’s CRM because I only had one space to work from and could see both all the inquiries and their stages towards completion as well as my To Do lists (I’m a big fan of these). However, this has become unsustainable even though I had a system that worked pretty well.
I recently moved to Hubspot’s free CRM, which so far is amazing. I like it because I can see:
- Who all is assigned to the deal
- How much potential revenue is in each column, which helps me plan for the future
- All of the deals and their stages in the same view as Trello
- All of my contacts on both sides of the marketplace
So far so good
I love Medium. I love writing on Medium. In fact, I drafted this post in the Medium editor and then decided to publish it on the HireGun blog.
Medium is a wonderful tool for entrepreneurs because it:
- Builds a promotion engine for you with your followers that it emails when you publish
- It is a beautiful writing experience that encourages you to write more, and content marketing is a great way to build your business.
- You can cross-promote content that you write on other sites on Medium (just link Medium to the original so that the original ranks in Google)
Samsung Ativ 9 Ultrabook (refurbished)
Everyone gives me crap about being a PC person, but I love my Samsung Ativ 9 Ultrabook. It’s sleek, it’s powerful, and it runs a functional version of Microsoft Excel.
But seriously, I love my computer. I was a Mac guy in college and never really took to it like I hoped I would. I own an iPhone and an iPad Mini (that I loved until iOS9 borked it), but I’m PC for life for work.
Microsoft Office suite
I don’t care about Outlook (we use Google Apps at Credo), Word, or any of the other crap that Office comes with. I love Microsoft Excel and use it all the time.
Wife who is a designer
My wife is a designer and from that has a great eye for the visual. I, on the other hand, am not a visual designer though I do appreciate pretty things. She has given me so much feedback on the Credo site and helped me make it easier to use and happier to look at.
No, you can’t have her.
Boomerang is a Gmail plugin that I use to send emails back to my inbox at a certain time. I use it to follow up on leads that I send to consultant/agency partners to see how the discussions are going and see where I can help.
Another tool that people love for this is FollowupCC (paid). I’ve been using Boomerang for years though and it suits my needs well!
Finally, Clear is a To Do list for iPhone (paid app) that is simple and graphical. When I’m on the go, sometimes I need to make lists of things to remember, so Clear is my go-to for these.
To be completely transparent, Clear has become a bit less useful for me with the installation of the Trello app, because I can add Credo-specific things to Trello that way. But Clear is still my favorite.
What tools do you use as an entrepreneur to manage your workload and sanity? I’d love to hear them in the comments!