It might sound counterintuitive, but now just may be the best time to start a business. Think about it: The pandemic has upended decades of conventional wisdom about where we work. And with all kinds of needs springing up to address our newfound reality, there are plenty of opportunities for businesses with the right ideas. Getting from that idea to a functioning business takes a lot of effort, and you’ll need all the help you can get. So if you’re ready to start your own business, here are the best tools for the job.
We took a few criteria into account to get to this list. First, affordability: Until you’re bringing in cash reliably, you need to keep expenses down. Second, power: You need tools that help, not hinder, right? Third, ease of use: Learning complex or overly specialized tools when you’re trying to get actual work isn’t good practice. So with that, here’s our list of the best tools for starting your own business.
G Suite for productivity apps
Email, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation are table stakes for most businesses. And while Microsoft 365 is the standard bearer, we’re giving Google’s G Suite the edge. Instead of providing layer upon layer of tools originally built decades ago, G Suite is built for the mobile era. With simple design and co-editing throughout, it’s the easiest way to check your #1 tool off your list.
Whatever you’ve got for to-dos
Speaking of that list, don’t believe the hype: Simple is best when it comes to to-do lists. Just use what’s available. If you’re on Android, that’s Google Tasks. On iOS, it’s Reminders. You can also access both from the web, and Reminders has an app for Macs. They’re not the fanciest, but they get the job done. Well, you get the job done, but… you get it.
Zoom for video chat
In 2020, (hopefully) no one needs to explain Zoom to you.
Slack for chat
Texting is fine for short conversations, but you’ll need something more powerful for the back-and-forth of longer discussions. That’s Slack. Even if you’re not ready for Slack channels, its chat is simple, fast, and fun. It’s no wonder that Slack is a mainstay of the workday for so many. Never underestimate the power of a well-timed emoji or GIF.
Dialed for voice and text
A phone number is table stakes for your business, but who wants to carry around a second phone? With Dialed, you can get a second phone number for your business that you can use with your personal phone. You get unlimited calls, texts, and picture messages to stay in contact with your customers and suppliers. But it’s more than just another phone line, with voicemail transcription, auto-reply texts, customer organization tools, and call screening. All of it comes together to make Dialed your very own executive assistant.
VPN service for privacy
With all the confidential information your business will be holding on to, your privacy is important. If your work will take you out and about—and connecting to coffee shop wi-fi—get VPN service. There are plenty of options out there, so check out our post on protecting your online privacy for guidance.
LegalZoom for legal documents
Whether it’s incorporating, protecting intellectual property, or squaring away licenses, LegalZoom has you covered. LegalZoom makes the daunting and expensive task of hiring a lawyer to handle important paperwork a thing of the past. The company gives you legal assistance with flat-fee pricing that helps you get your business started without draining your resources.
Trello for project management
When your business is doing well, there’s always the risk that something will fall through the cracks. That’s why leaning on solid project management software is critical. Trello fits the bill with easy-to-use tools managing projects large and small, across teams or just your desk. With Trello, you can organize every project into “boards” with tasks, due dates, and reminders to help keep you on track. View everything you’re working on at a glance, or dive into any project to get the detailed status—and keep things moving along.
Canva for graphics
Most startups have the need for some kind of graphic design, be it ads or flyers. But most don’t have the expertise. And even for the design-proficient, sometimes speed is more important than aesthetics. Canva gives you both. Just create an account, and you’ll have access to thousands of templates, graphics, and filters to give your business some polish.
Squarespace for websites
No matter how small your business, having a website is an instant way to establish credibility. Making and maintaining a website that functions and doesn’t look like the work of an amateur is a business unto itself. Squarespace handles the dirty work of website building. Pick from dozens of sleek design templates and start dropping in text and images. That’s it. No coding, no complicated hosting—just simple, straightforward website building that makes your business look professional.
Shopify for ecommerce
Building a website is one thing, but building an online store? That’s a whole other layer of complication. Thankfully, there’s Shopify. If you’re selling products online, Shopify is your store manager. You can take care of product selection, inventory tracking, checkout, shipping, sales tax, customer accounts—even order fulfillment—all in one place. Plus, with a whole marketplace of connected apps, you might just turn your operation into the next Amazon.
Mailchimp for email marketing
Sending an email out to customers seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world, right? The reality is that maintaining lists, designing messages, and tracking responses is a lot of heavy lifting. Enter Mailchimp. The email marketing tool helps you build, monitor, and optimize your campaigns so you can snag new customers and get repeat business from your existing ones.
FreshBooks for accounting
Managing your money is the best way to make sure you can keep doing what you love. But let’s face it, most of us aren’t equipped to handle the ins and outs of accounting. If that describes you, FreshBooks will be a breath of fresh air. The online accounting software simplifies invoicing, expensing, time tracking, and estimating so you can stay focused on your customers and your work.
Square and Stripe for payments
Little-known fact: Businesses need paying customers, and paying customers need a way to pay. Accepting those payments when you need to take credit cards was traditionally, well, a pain. Not so with Square and Stripe. The two payment processors—Square for in-person and Stripe for online—reduce the hassle of setting up merchant accounts and collecting funds. Because when a customer screams, “Take my money!” you should just take it.
Gusto for payroll and HR
For some startups, hiring someone is the mark of growth. For others, it’s necessary from the get-go. Either way, you’ve got to pay them and handle the myriad of HR concerns that go along with employees. Gusto takes the load off your plate. They’ve got tools that take the sweat out of managing payroll—along with HR, benefits, and onboarding—for full-time and freelance employees.
Now get to it
With so many tools available, starting your own business is a whole lot easier than it used to be. Just a few clicks, and you can be up and running—and ready to focus on your products and your customers.
If you’re starting your business from home—and we’re guessing you are—check out our post on creating work-life balance while you work from home.