There are some incredible tools out there that will completely change the way you work. The best part is, so much is available for free – which makes for a low-barrier way to get started as an entrepreneur when you have to be wearing all the hats.
Here’s a list of essentials based on tools I’ve used myself, across a whole bunch of areas:
- Content Writing
- Content Ideas
- Productivity & Project Management
- Scheduling Meetings
- Social Media
For Content Writing
Hemingway App – This is a simple web based word editor that helps you craft engaging content. It works by grading your copy’s readability and encourages you to keep copy simple. I’m using it to write this blog post right now. If you’re a fan of gamification like me, keeping the ‘errors’ out of your copy gives you a real sense of satisfaction. I used Hemingway app in corporate-land to help craft compelling business cases. Now I use it for web copy, blogs, social media posts, email marketing, you name it.
Grammarly – As a proud grammar nerd, I’d be remiss if I didn’t spruik the benefits of it. This is super helpful in picking up what other word editors can’t (Microsoft Word, I’m looking at you). It identifies every comma, apostrophe and typo you need to correct for the perfect copy. So you can speak more gooder English and that. (Yes it freaked out about that sentence, which was my attempt at grammar nerd humour). 🤓
Coschedule Headline Analyser – This fun tool can both help and hinder you. It’s helpful in that it guides you to perfect your blog title or email subject line. It hinders because again, you can spend a bit of time finessing until you get that perfect score. Gamification once again! They also provide a bunch of tips on how to create more interesting headlines. I use it for everything and in case you’re wondering, I got a score of 71 for this post’s headline. 👍🏼✅
Portent’s Content Idea Generator– For a bit of fun and if you’ve completely run out of ideas, this tool will help you come up with some… unique… content ideas. Used with a grain of salt (and in conjunction with Coschedule Headline Analyser) you can come up with some pretty appealing headlines.
For Content Ideas
Buzzsumo – Helps you identify what topics people are sharing content about. This is useful if you want to know what type of content to create that is likely to get shared. You can see how using these tools together you can create some pretty cracking content.
Answer The Public This tool completely blew my mind. Type in your topic and select your target country. It will then spit out a visual representation of the questions people have asked about that topic. It’s like Google Trends and Quora had a baby.
Quora – So, if Answer the Public is too mind-blowing for you to get started, you can take a gander through Quora. Full warning though: if you think a hashtag rabbit hole is bad on Instagram, Quora is worse. You’ll find yourself reading answers to some bizarre questions if you don’t stay on task.
Reddit – Like Quora, ‘the front page of the internet’ is useful for mining for insights. I struggle to get past the design (read as a lack thereof), but it’s great to see what people need information on.
Boomerang – this integrates with Gmail (but if you’re on Outlook or Android, there’s a version for those too) and allows you to send emails later at a time you specify (super helpful for night owls catching up on email). You can schedule follow up emails if you’ve not had a response by a certain date and time. It also allows you to track emails (but does use read receipts to do this, so your recipients need to opt in for this).
Assistant.to – another Gmail integration, this is a scheduling life saver. It enables you to suggest meeting times based on your Google Calendar availability within the email. The recipient clicks on the time that suits them and BAM 💥 it’s scheduled in your calendars. It saves all that horrible, time-wasting back and forth to work out times.
Skype – Nothing new to say about Skype. Although, something I didn’t know until recently is that you can hook yourself up with a phone number for a small fee. This is useful for businesses who don’t want to give out personal numbers or need to give out a ‘landline’ number.
Zoom – another great one for video conferencing, you set up a meeting, send out a link and everyone jumps on the call. It highlights who’s speaking at the time, so the tip for young players here is: mute your mic when you’re not speaking. Or if you’re in a crowded cafe while listening.
Appear.in – Another video conferencing option. On one particularly unlucky day across 8 people and as many time zones, we used every one of these tools (as well as Google Hangouts) 😳For this one, you create a room and invite people to join you there to chat.
For Productivity & Project Management
Teux Deux – For lovely and simple to-do lists that works on desktop and mobile, this has been my go-to for years now. The beauty of this app is it ‘gets’ a critical element of paper to do lists that other apps don’t. When you cross something off your list, you still see it at the end of the day as done (as opposed to ticking it and having it disappear). If this sense of accomplishment is important to you like it is to me, this is your new to do list app!
Asana – I’m not going to lie, it took me a couple of attempts to understand Asana. But now that I do, I’m in love with it. It’s the ultimate project management tool slash to-do list (and yes, sometimes I use it as well as Teux Deux). You can use it for working in a team as well and can assign tasks, stay on top of project milestones, see who’s done what, etc.
Trello – From brainstorming and project planning to content calendars, Trello is diverse and is only limited by your imagination. It uses the kanban format which is great for visual people. If you need a bit of help to realise the potential of a tool like this, there are plenty of templates available to inspire you.
Toggl – Tracking my time has changed me. It’s made me realise how long stuff takes to do, how often I get distracted and how infrequently I get up and walk around when I’m in the zone. I’ve got the app for Mac, which is even more powerful. It uses the Pomodoro technique which encourages me to stop, refresh, move around and then get back into it.
Evernote – I was definitely a laggard when it came to getting on board with Evernote, but now I can’t look back. I also use it to clip interesting articles and tools. I create checklists for things like recurring weekly and monthly to-do lists. It’s like a giant virtual scrapbook binder thing (without creating bazillions of browser bookmarks).
Momentum – This Chrome extension shows you a new incredible image each day and an inspiring quote. You can use to highlight your #1 goal for the day, create a small interactive to-do list, see the local weather and time. It’s a nicer way to open your browser than something like the horrid interface full of gossip and ad links.
Canva – There is no excuse for shitty looking social media post, blog graphic or flyer with tools like Canva available for free. It has a whole heap of templates so you don’t need to go hunting for images or think too hard about what looks good. They’ve done the thinking for you! There are templates ready to go for pretty much every content item you can think up. This means you’ll never have to look up dimensions for a Pinterest pin, Twitpic or Facebook cover image again.
Creative Market – This is a hub for designers to share and sell their work, and to get something unique. With everything from fonts, graphic sets, design bundles, templates and WordPress themes – it’s a great place to start for design elements. Sign up to their mailing list and you’ll get 6 freebies sent to you each week.
For Organising Meetings
Doodle – With this tool, you create a ‘poll’ with suggested meeting times which your meeting attendees then vote on. That way you can see where the majority of people’s availabilities/preferences lie. It’s kind of like the Outlook meeting scheduler, but for people who don’t share the same organisational calendar. I’ve even used this for organising large family gatherings!
Assistant.to – As mentioned above. Lives inside your Gmail and coordinates meetings between you and one other person. They’re apparently working on expanding the number of attendees which will make it even more amazing. NO MORE EMAILS BACK AND FORTH TO LOCK IN A TIME! 👏🏼
Calendly – Perfect for scheduling client calls, Calendly integrates with your calendar and allows you to set your availability. You can create multiple time frames for the call and clients can see the times in their time zone.
For Social Media
Hootsuite – Use this tool for scheduling your content across pretty much every social channel. It’s got a customisable dashboard so you can see what’s scheduled, past posts and likes. You can even keep an eye on what competitors are up to, or see what activity is associated with relevant hashtags. You can like, comment, follow all from within the dashboard. This is all available on the free version too. Bonus!
Buffer – While this is another scheduling tool that could pretty much do all the same things as Hootsuite, the main benefit of Buffer is the ability to queue content up and align with your preselected time slots and frequency. I use Buffer for curating content to share on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Planoly – One thing that is lacking in Hootsuite & Buffer when it comes to creating and curating a beautiful looking, on-brand Instagram feed is the ability to visually plan. This is where a tool like Planoly comes in. The free plan allows you to upload 30 posts a month, and you can drag and drop until your feed looks totally amazing. You can also curate others’ images for your feed based on hashtag or user searches right from within your dashboard, making it super easy to manage. Of course, if you upgrade to the paid plan like I’ve done, you get to take advantage of the fact that you can batch months of content at a time. This has been a massive time saver overall!
Phew! I’ve got a few more up my sleeve but 32 is quite enough for now.
What are your favourite tools and apps?