Over the past 13 years of working online, I’ve witnessed first hand the evolution & advancement of small business technology.
When I started working online in 2009, we were still in the days of AOL Instant Messenger & MSN Instant Messenger (and, of course, the embarassing screen names for those platforms).
Most people still largely had flip-phones (though the iPhone debuted shortly before I started online) so working online meant working on a desktop or laptop PC.
I remember not being an overly technical person back then (there was a time when I actually hated computers & the internet believe it or not) so having to jump into the online world shortly after college meant having to get a crash course into the digital world.
Over a decade later, while a lot has changed the way people leverage digital technology is still mostly the same: using their tech stack to save time & money in their small business.
That said, I field a lot of questions about some of the everyday tech that I use, so I thought I’d summarize some of those apps & platforms below.
Perhaps the oldest platform of my technical stack is Google Workspace Email.
I think everyone knows it better as Gmail, but it has long been the easiest to setup, the easiest to manage and still pretty affordable (most small businesses can get by with the $12/user/month Business Standard level).
One of the biggest advantages to using Gmail, I believe, is its ability to integrate with so many other platforms (more on that below).
Included with your Google Workspace account you’ll also have Google Tasks for task management.
I honestly couldn’t function without Google Tasks — as I can quickly turn emails into future tasks for my clients.
Google Tasks is best used for simple tasks (not part of a larger project)and reminders (helpful for paying bills and sending invoices).
For larger projects that need tasks tracked & aligned for milestones I use the combination of a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) and Project Management (PM) software.
I could probably write an entirely separate 10,000 word blog post about all of the CRM’s & PM’s software platforms I’ve used in the last 13 years, but to keep it short, there are dozens — likely hundreds — of them out there in the digital wild.
CRMs are designed to help you manage every interaction a customer may have with your business: from marketing to them, to collecting contact information and lead management through small business website integrations and managing the sales opportunities that are produced from those leads.
There are specialty ones designed for specific industries like the service business platform Jobber, and more general use ones like the one I use.
I have an off-again, on-again relationship with many CRMs, but the one that come back to and use everyday is Insightly.
There are much more expensive ones out there ( like the one I first used & customized called Salesforce ), but the main reason I like Insightly is that it also has a built in Project Management module.
That means when a sale is made for a project, I can quickly convert their won opportunities in the CRM into a project (like a small business SEO project) and have all of their information pre-loaded in that project.
Having the CRM & project manager in one place consolidates things nicely for me and keeps me organized all the way through the sales & project processes.
Insightly also integrates with my Gmail account, allowing me to send & track important emails out to my clients, prospects and other contacts when I need to.
Every business has administrative needs, so that’s why I’ve been a long time user of Quickbooks Online (QBO).
The QBO platform has always been fast and easy to access, and provide an easy way to send invoices, statements and allows them to quickly pay through their payment processor.
Though this is something that I use, when it comes to finances it’s always best to consult your business accountant to help you set this up and get recommendations about what would work best for your small business.
Just as a reminder, these are just the apps & platforms that I use with Sidekick — there are most likely hundreds of alternatives for each one of these out there, so take some time (and test some out) before committing to one particular platform.
Whichever platforms you choose, they can all help you do two things: save you time & save you money — when setup & used correctly.
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