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Today I’m sharing with you the tools and apps I consider absolutely essential to running my business. As the online business world expands, gone are the days of the Rolodex, giant filing cabinets, and fax machines. Most of us spend our days on a computer or smartphone - working from home, in a coffee shop, a library, or anywhere with Wi-Fi. Thankfully, there are so many tools and apps out there to make life easier for virtual entrepreneurs! All of the apps below are made to help make your life as a virtual boss babe more efficient, more productive, and - most importantly - more profitable!
1 - Tailwind
Obviously, as a Pinterest Manager, the first tool on my list is going to be Tailwind. I use it every day - whether that’s for my own Pinterest scheduling or scheduling for a client. It’s an easy to use, Pinterest-approved scheduling tool that’s wildly popular - with good reason!
Instead of spending valuable time finding and pinning good quality content each day, you can pre-schedule a week’s worth (or a month, two months, etc) of content at once and have the posts go out automatically at the best times of day when your audience is most active and likely to see them.
I recommend using Tailwind on a laptop or desktop computer, as it’s not very mobile friendly. There is an app for Apple devices, but as an Android user, I’ve never used it and can’t comment on how it works.
2 - Trello
Trello was the first task management app I ever tried. It took a while for me to really get into it, but once I did, I was HOOKED! There’s not much this awesome little app can’t do.
Your items, or “cards”, are grouped into categories called “lists”, which in turn live on “boards”. You can keep these boards private, or share them with your team to keep your entire business organized. Within a card, you can add a description, attach a document or photo, create a checklist, color-code it with labels, and even set a due date. If that’s not enough for you, you can even add “power-ups” to give you more options. I use the Google Drive power-up which allows me to attach Drive folders, sheets, or documents; the Calendar power-up which allows you to see your tasks on a calendar based on their due dates, and the Evernote power-up which allows me to attach notes through Evernote.
In the free version of Trello, you’re only allowed one power-up per board. I have Trello Gold, which means I can have up to 3 power-ups per board, and then there’s Business Class which allows for even more.
Trello is available as a web-based application as well as a mobile app, and both are equally functional and awesome.
Note: I highly recommend this Trello for Business course by Boss Project (formerly Think Creative Collective). It’s only $29, and comes with OODLES of amazing board templates. This course is what really got me going on Trello and helped me organize my business. This isn’t an affiliate link - I really just love the course!
Anyone who knows me also knows that I’m OBSESSED with lists. I make checklists for everything! So imagine my excitement when I stumbled across Asana - an app that takes checklists to the next level.
I use Asana to organize and manage my workflows, my daily to-do lists, and my client tasks. In the future, I also hope to use it to organize the tasks that I want to outsource and collaborate with teammates.
The free version of Asana has two main formats you can use for “Projects” - either a checklist or a “board” with lists and cards - much like Trello. There’s also a super handy area called “My Tasks”. This pulls in every task assigned to you across all of your projects and keeps them in a central location. The default view for this area is the order in which you entered the tasks. You can also customize the view by adding a sort field like date, assignee, or priority. I use the priority view - separating tasks into “Today”, “Upcoming”, or “Later”. This helps me focus on what I really need to get done during the workday, but also not lose track of tasks that need to be completed in the future.
Within each task, you can:
Add a due date
Write a description
Add tags to further categorize each task
Set a recurrence schedule - this makes it much easier to keep track of repeating tasks, like recording monthly analytics or even picking up dry-cleaning each week.
Add an attachment
and SO MUCH MORE!
Asana is available both as an app and on desktop - both platforms have great functionality.
The free version of Asana is fairly robust and is probably enough for most small business teams with 15 or less team members. There are a few nice additions to the paid version like the ability to view your projects on a timeline, task dependencies, and project start dates - but it comes at a bit of a higher price point, starting at $375 USD/year.
If you’re looking for a simple way to create well-made graphics for your business (or personal life!), Canva is your program!
While it’s not appropriate for more professional applications (like graphic designers), Canva is an incredibly versatile, useful program for the general user.
You can create basic graphics for your website, social media, lead magnets, and more.
Canva has a variety of preset sizes for you to use - Facebook covers, Instagram posts, blog headers, Pinterest pin graphics, business cards, They also have many different templates for each preset size. Some of the templates are free, but some include elements that you have to pay for.
The free version of Canva is pretty robust, and is all most small businesses will need. It allows you to save your brand assets like colors, logos, and fonts, and share your designs with up to 10 team members.
The paid version is fairly inexpensive (approximately $13/month, or $120/year), making it a great option for businesses that create graphics for other people - social media managers, VAs, etc. It allows you to save several sets of brand colors, upload your own fonts, and create unlimited folders to keep your graphics organized.
Canva is available both on desktop and as a mobile app, but the mobile app is lacking in many of the features that make Canva great. It’s great in a pinch, but you should definitely still plan to do the bulk of your designing on a computer. They are continually improving the app by adding new features - so hopefully it’s on its way to being great!
5 - Acuity
Most of us are familiar with the struggle of trying to set up a meeting with a client or biz bestie - figuring out a day that works for both of you, a time, and (probably worst of all) trying to figure it all out across several timezones.
That’s where Acuity comes in - you send the link to your calendar, the other party selects the date and time that works for them, and you’re ready to go! How easy is that?
Acuity is a great tool for any business that sets appointments or meetings with clients. You set up a your calendar with multiple appointment types, and set available times or scheduling limits for each type of appointment. Some pricing tiers even allow for multiple calendars - meaning you can have a calendar for each of your staff or locations. You can set up an intake form questionnaire for clients to fill out, set up customized emails for appointment confirmation, rescheduling requests and appointment reminders, and you can even accept payments right within the scheduler - perfect for people who don’t have a website or don’t want to require an extra step in the process.
Acuity also integrates with several other programs and apps, like accounting programs (Freshbooks, Quickbooks, Xero), email marketing apps (MailChimp, ConvertKit), Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, CRM programs, Video Conferencing apps, and so, so many more.
It also syncs with the calendar apps you’re already using - Google Calendar, iCloud, and Outlook are supported for two-way syncing. Two-way syncing means that not only do your appointments booked from Acuity show up in your Google Calendar, but events booked into your Google Calendar will also be blocked off as “busy” in your Acuity calendar. This is super handy and ensures that you’ll never double-book yourself.
The free version of Acuity is pretty basic - you can use the scheduling features, but that’s about it. It doesn’t have any of the timezone, email, or customization features included - which are really the best part of Acuity. The Emerging Entrepreneur package is just $15/month, and gives you 1 calendar and most of the features you need.
*Important note for Squarespace users - your Squarespace subscription comes with a FREE Emerging Entrepreneur subscription to Acuity!*
The Growing Business ($25) and Powerhouse Player ($50) subscriptions offer more calendars and locations (6 and 36 calendars, respectively), as well as a few other extra features. For most small businesses, the Emerging Entrepreneur package is sufficient!
Acuity is available as a desktop program as well as an app. The app works well but isn’t as robust as the desktop program - so if you’re making big changes or updates to your account, I suggest using a computer. But if you just need to check your schedule or update your availability, the app is perfect.
6 - Planoly
This list wouldn’t be complete without my favourite Instagram scheduler.
Being successful on Instagram relies heavily on consistency - posting regularly, responding to comments, interacting with followers, etc. Planoly helps you plan your instagram posts in advance so you’re never left scrambling at the last minute for something to post.
My absolute favourite feature is that I can access and use Planoly on both my laptop and on mobile. When I’m planning out a week’s worth of content, I don’t want to have to type out all of those captions on my phone. Being able to switch over to my laptop and quickly hammer out a few captions is so handy. I also love that I can see my “grid”, or a preview of how my profile would look with potential posts. This helps me keep a consistent theme, and double check that I’m not accidentally posting the same thing twice. With Instagram being such a visually driven platform, consistency is so important. That doesn’t mean all your posts have to look identical - it can be as simple as using the same fonts, same colors, and the same filter for your photos.
I try to plan out my instagram posts in advance - I’ll get everything written, ready, and scheduled to post on the Saturday before, and that way, I don’t need to worry about what to post during the week. Planoly has the option for auto-posting, but auto-posting doesn’t allow you to use hashtags (to my knowledge), so it’s just not worth it for me right now.
The free version of Planoly is pretty limited. You can only upload 30 items per month, and deleted items count towards your limit. You can only see 1 month of analytics as well.
The Solo plan is $7/month (annually, or $9 billed month-to-month), and has a little more leeway. You have unlimited grid and story uploads, as well as the ability to upload videos and GIFs. You can see a full year of analytics as well. The main difference between the Solo plan and the other plans are the number of instagram accounts and users that you can have. If it’s just you running your own account, the Solo plan is all you need! The Duo plan ($180/year or $19/month) allows 2 accounts and 2 users (as well as 3 years of analytics), the Squad plan ($948/year or $99/month) allows 5 accounts and 5 users, and the Team plan ($1908/year or $199/month) can manage 10 accounts and 10 users. Needless to say, I think the Team and Squad plans are really only for Social Media Managers.
Planoly is available as an app and as a desktop program. As I mentioned earlier, I really like using the desktop program to type up my captions. The ability to use this app on a desktop was my deciding factor between Planoly and other scheduling apps.
I hope this post helped you find at least one new app - and that your phone isn’t running out of space due to all the new things you downloaded!