This is a collection of apps and software that consultants, contractors and coaches might find useful in running their business.
This is my current favourite task management / time management app. If you are a fan of “timeblocking” to get things done, you might find it useful, too. First, add all your tasks (allocated to different projects or areas of your life). You can colour code your projects, too.
You set a deadline, a time duration that you think the task will take to complete. Optionally, also a time frame for start/finish. You also set when you would like to do each task (as in what time map)
Optionally, you also set up time maps (again, think time-blocking) of your week, so you could designate Mondays – Wednesday office hours to a specific project, Thursdays to admin, Friday to marketing and Saturday morning to domestic things.
After doing the above, the really clever thing is that Skedpal will then arrange your weekly tasks depending on what deadlines and timeblocks you have assigned into your SkedPal schedule.
If you have got too many deadlines, SkedPal will flag what it cannot assign. It only goes up to 3 weeks ahead for the daily scheduling (on a rolling basis). It would be better if it was 4-5 weeks or a calendar month. However, you can manually set tasks in skedpal beyond the 3-week horizon.
It will sync up with your calendar, so that it will not schedule tasks when you have fixed appointments.
You can also override things and set tasks to be done at a specific time.
Skedpal costs $9.95 per month if you sign up for the year. There is no free plan.
If you like lists, then this is the app for you because it is literally lists of lists. You have project boards and cards within each board, arranged in lists. Each card represents a task. You can add deadlines, colour-codes and attachments. It is possible to drag and drop the cards between lists, boards and even re-order them within lists; For some reason, dragging those cards around the screen is very pleasing. Trello also lends itself particularly well to the kind of organisation that involves sequencing and discrete stages.
Trello integrates with an impressive number other apps, that are too numerous to mention.
I have only used the free version, which still has unlimited personal boards, unlimited cards, unlimited lists and the ability to attach files up to 10MB, 10 team boards. The paid version includes more storage (for attachments), unlimited team boards, more facility to arrange boards, team board templates, power ups.
Business class is $9.99 per month if you sign up for a year but there is also a free plan and an enterprise version.
The note-making app. It synchronises across desktop, tablet and mobile and you can use it to make and organise your notes on everything from work to your home-life.
You can also use a stylus – although I prefer not to.
You can have several notebooks and assign each one a colour-code. You can also colour-code individual sections within each notebook a bit like having different coloured subject dividers in a physical folder. You can drop notes anywhere on the page and move them around. You can also use icons or tags (think bullet journalling, only electronically) in these notes.
You can send links directly to OneNote and you can email OneNote pages.
You can format text (similar to Word) but the formatting capabilities are more limited.
The interface is familiar to anyone who has ever used a Microsoft Office product and it integrates with Outlook so you can track “to do” items along with accompanying information.
It is particularly suitable if you are already using Microsoft products. With that said, OneNote is now free across all platforms and it can be used as a standalone produce.
The use of Zoom’s audio-video conferencing app has rocketed since March. You can also share your screen and a whiteboard (which you can use a stylus or type on).
There are dozens of specific settings to control whether people are muted or not, whether they can share screens, join the meeting or are held in a waiting room or can join the meeting before the host. You can change your background for those occasions when you don’t want to project your background.
It is also possible to set up a second camera. I’ve used this app to project my “real life” whiteboard. It would also work well for demonstrations and product promotions.
It is the second camera function that gives it the slight edge over its competition.
The paid (Pro) version has a 24hour meeting (the free version meeting limit is 40 minutes) for up to 100 participants. The business tier includes 300 participants, vanity URLs and company branding. There is also an enterprise version. Extras such as virtual conference rooms, webinar settings, voip phone and audio plans have an additional cost.
Canva helps you to create gorgeous graphics even if you are design-challenged.
The free version is fantastic. There are templates and designs for everything from posters to social media graphics to brochures.
Upload your own photos and design anything from posters to social media graphics (you can define custom sizes). It is really easy to learn and it is much more intuitive than most graphic design software.
The pro version allows you to arrange things in folders and save things like logos, brand colours and upload fonts, resize your design and make custom templates and have transparent images. There are also a lot more free templates and literally millions of premium stock images. You can also set download quality and make animated gifs with the pro version
The only thing I wish it would let you do is arrange your uploaded photographs in some way.
The free plan is perfectly adequate for casual and occasional use. The pro version is £8.99 per month, billed annually and there is also an enterprise version.
6) WordPress mobile app
With the WordPress mobile app for self-hosted websites, you can write, edit and publish posts from your phone. You can link more than one domain to the app.
There is a “no distraction” writing option. You can also take and upload photos, video and manage and reply to comments. You can manage and install plugins but you won’t be able to actually access a plugin’s settings or otherwise configure it. Unfortunately, you cannot install a new theme but you are able to switch between themes that are already installed. The app works with the block editor. In short, you can’t completely manage your WordPress website using the app and it is a bit fiddly to write a blog post on a mobile phone but it is fine for quick edits or in an emergency. It might also be useful for drafting posts offline and then publishing them once you are reconnected to the internet.
The WordPress app is free.
7) Time and Chaos
This is CRM software for managing your contacts, tasks, projects and calendar. You can use it as a customer database and link tasks and reminders to each customer. It is possible to group contacts together if that’s helpful, categorise contacts and also link two or more related contacts together. If needed, you can define custom fields to meet your particular business requirements.
Each client record also has a notes tab.
It is possible to drag and drop files and folders to individual records to enable you keep everything related to that customer in one place. Additionally, if you sign up for “Intellect” you can synchronise your email so that all communications for a customer are attached to their record.
As I mentioned, it is possible to link tasks to customers. Among other things, you can assign priorites, groups and colours to each task; plus you can add notes (with date-stamps if required) and also mark tasks as completed. This means that you can see a list of previous and upcoming tasks, like an activity log for each client.
The project function works with similar logic to tasks in terms of linking contacts, groups etc and is a way of creating a mini database within time and chaos.
The best bit for those that work “on the go” or from multiple locations is that there is both a desktop software and a cloud service and they sync up so that you can access the data from anywhere but also work on your laptop without an internet connection. I find this particularly handy for working on-site where it isn’t possible to get a mobile data signal and it isn’t always possible to hook into their onsite wifi.
It doesn’t sync directly with Outlook or Google but you can purchase Companion Link from a separate company that will keep Time and Chaos in sync with either.
If social media is part of your business or marketing, then Hootsuite can help you to coordinate, manage and post to several social media platforms.
It allows scheduled posting to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.
You can set up different streams for your social media to make things far easier to visualise and follow.
However, know that Facebook prioritises posts made directly in its own platform over posts made on third-party platforms such as Hootsuite, and extras such as reporting or custom short links cost more.
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This is perfect for freelancers, consultants and those working in the “gig economy”
It is particularly suitable for those who work on a “project by project” basis, as opposed to recurring work.
You enter in your clients, projects, deadlines and time estimations. You also tell Cushion how many hours you have to allocate to work and which days are your workdays.
The app tells you the timeframe of when a project is estimated to finish but more than that, it shows you a visual overview of your calendar so that you can see when your busiest times are, when you are overbooked, and when you are available to start a new project. It doesn’t show you times of day – it isn’t a diary in that sense.
However, it does sync with your calendar and can also be used to track the time taken for each project. Cushion will handle client billing (it can pull the time tracking information to help with this) and card payments (for an extra fee) and expense tracking (you can allocate expenses to a particular project). You can chase up payments and forecast your income. You can also put in your financial goals in and it will track how close you are and what you need to bill to reach your target.
Cushions greatest strengths lies in its visual layout and reporting across, scheduling, budgeting and invoicing. It also integrates with Harvest, Freshbooks, FreeAgent and Xero
There are 3 tiers of pricing, starting from $8 per month (you get 2 months free if you sign up for the year). There is no free plan.
Xero is online Accounting software with a particularly satisfying bank reconciliation function which is one of its unique strengths.
Being accounting software, Xero will handle all of your accounting/bookkeeping requirements. It can be used for all your invoicing, expenses, purchases and payroll, as well as your VAT and EC sales lists (or US, AUS or NZ equivalents). As is standard for online accounting software, you can set up regular sales invoices to be emailed to customers and clients and also send out regular statements.
You can have your bank transactions feed into Xero automatically – this is not unique; however the way you subsequently deal with the transactions once they are in Xero is unique. You create bank transactions in Xero based on the imported transaction. Xero remembers previous transactions and will attempt to anticipate what you will want to do with similar transactions. You can also specify “rules” for how Xero should handle certain transactions.
It will also integrate with a wide range of apps including eCommerce, CRM, inventory, time-tracking and reporting tools
On the downside, the payroll functionality is particularly cumbersome, there are limitations on reporting limitations especially for payroll, the way it handles payments on account (for both customers and suppliers) is a little clunky, as is some aspects of VAT.
Xero starts at £10 per month (this option is only suitable for businesses with very low transaction numbers); the main offering is £24 per month and multicurrency is £30 per month. Payroll, expenses, CIS and projects are also extra.
ReceiptBank – OCR software for purchase invoices and receipts
ToDoIst – Productivity app
Tweetdeck (now owned by Twitter) – for managing your Twitter account
Slack – team collaboration
Capsule – CRM