Are you like me and get a big kick out of having the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, and Crock Pot all doing their thing at the same time? It’s like having a bunch of servants working for you and you can just focus on adding real, creative value to the home and family!
That’s what it’s like with business and online tools.
It’s not possible to run a business today without using online tools. Try, but it won’t last very long. And why would you want to? There are so many amazing tools available for saving time and energy.
But it can be overwhelming to try and sort through the thousands (millions!) of tools and systems out there and figure out what might be right for you. So, I thought I’d share six of my favorites. They make my life SO much easier and I hope they do the same for you.
I have fallen in love with Acuity. There are a lot of great scheduling programs out there and I’ve used a handful of them, but Acuity really has me for the wide array of things you can do:
- Completely customize your available days and times
- Customize your client scheduling page and display it on a page on your website
- Customize amount and content of reminder emails
- Synchronize with your Outlook.com, Exchange, Office365, iCloud, or Google calendar
- Create intake forms for customers to complete at time of booking
- Require your customers to pay at time of booking
- Create appointment packages so that a client can pay for multiple sessions and apply the credit to future bookings
- Create gift certificates
- Integrate with other programs (i.e. automatically create an invoice in Quickbooks or Freshbooks when an appointment is made).
Acuity has a free version, but I don’t recommend it. It excludes automatic email reminders, which is one of the main benefits of a scheduling system anyway. Their solo package with everything you need (except text message reminders) begins at $10/month.
I do have an affiliate relationship with Acuity, so I do get a little something if you sign up using this link: https://acuityscheduling.com/?kw=YToxMzEwODMzMg%3D%3D
Dropbox is like a humongous filing cabinet in “the cloud” (meaning, stored on the Internet.) It’s an amazing tool for storing, sharing, and receiving files.
When you create a Dropbox, you place files into a special folder on your computer and it synchronizes them to your online Dropbox folder.
The greatest benefit of this type of setup, called “cloud storage” is that you have access to your files from wherever you are. You can pull up a chart from a tablet during a client meeting or on your smartphone on the go.
The other huge benefit of Dropbox is the option to share a folder or an individual file. You can easily share a folder within your Dropbox with someone else, so that you both can add, edit, or remove files. That folder will continue to synchronize between both parties.
Want to share a large file without emailing it? Just right-click on it and get a special link you email to a friend. Your friend clicks on the link and they can download the file they need. You can also request that someone send you a file (and they don’t have to have their own Dropbox account), if, for example, it’s too large to send by email.
Most importantly, Dropbox files are encrypted as soon as you place them into your Dropbox folder. They are also encrypted as they are being synchronized. There are a few extra things that you can do to make your Dropbox even more secure. If you want your Dropbox to be officially HIPAA compliant, you’ll need a Dropbox Business account, which starts at $8.25/month (and you get a TON of storage space – 1terabyte (1,000,000 megabytes)!
Close your eyes and imagine a huge whiteboard with columns for each of your focuses in life, or your various to-do lists, or your weekly schedule, or shopping lists, or what to wear for the week, or places to travel, or Christmas lists. You get the idea.
Then, in each column are a bunch of sticky notes with lots of details about all the things under that category. That’s what Trello is. It’s like a having a huge whiteboard (or a dozen huge whiteboards) on your computer, tablet, and smartphone. It’s a fantastic tool for making lists and keeping track of lots of lists and tasks. You can share a “board” with other people and and attach files and images directly from your Dropbox. Most people don’t need more than the free version.
CamScanner is a scanner app for your smartphone (using the phone’s built-in camera). I snap a scan of a client’s chart at every appointment using CamScanner, then I use the built-in markup tool to black out the client’s name, and I upload it to my Dropbox straight from the CamScanner app. And I ask all of my long-distance clients to use a scanner app so they can quickly and easily send me a scan of their chart prior to our appointment. There are other smartphone scanner apps, too — I’ve just always used CamScanner and I love it.
The free version works great — you’ll just have ads and CamScanner watermarks. To avoid this, it’s $1.99.
Staying in front of clients can be challenging. It can also be exhausting when you’re repeatedly saying the same thing to clients over and over again. Sending semi-annual policy updates and reminders or quarterly newsletters out to all of your clients is a great way to stay engaged.
This is also a great tool for bringing in new clients. When new people inquire about your center or your services, you can (with permission) add them to your email list.
Regular, informative, and engaging emails remind clients (and potential clients) of your presence and may jump-start them into making an appointment or telling someone else about the amazing service you provide!
Make sure you take some time to define your audience and understand what they want to hear and read about, so that they can’t wait to open your emails.
Mailchimp stores your email list, offers templates for designing professional-looking emails, sends everything out for you, and automatically handles unsubscribe requests. Mailchimp is free for most needs.
Cool images and great design get attention. Have you been faced with needing to put together a brochure, Facebook post, flyer, poster, letterhead, or business card but you’re not a designer by nature? Neither am I. Luckily, we don’t have to be, with tools like Canva.
Using Canva, creating a Facebook image is as easy as grabbing a beautiful, pre-designed template and changing the text to something like “FREE Intro Session!” (or you can upload your own image and drop colored text on top). Here’s a quick video on how to create a great looking Facebook post in just eight minutes!: http://buff.ly/2mNfQyU
There are thousands of graphics, images, lines, frames, fonts, and backgrounds to choose from. And they have tons of tutorials and Advanced Tips. PicMonkey is another great photo editing tool, though I haven’t used it as much as I’ve used Canva. Both apps are free for basic use.
What tools do you love? What apps make running your business way easier?