10 Online Business Apps I Can't Live Without

Since I run my business mainly online, I have a list of my go-to apps and tools that I use regularly to better organize and streamline my processes and systems.  I’ve been getting more and more questions about tools and apps preferences so I thought I would do a round-up of the online software I use as a coach and entrepreneur.  Although I do recommend doing your research to see what is the best fit for you, ultimately most apps are super similar so as long as you choose one to test it out and incorporate it, you can always switch or upgrade down the road because your needs will change.  

1. Trello | For Organization & Business Systems
Trello is like an online pin board that is visual and versatile.  Before using Trello, I would use a paper planner to write down a huge list of tasks and to-dos, and post-it notes to keep track of what I need to get done.  The problem was that I was wasting time writing and re-writing my projects and it didn’t capture everything that I needed to do.  

So, I began using Trello as a project management system, weekly/daily to-do lists, digital marketing content planner and calendar, and keep track of my business systems and CRM (yes, I even use it to keep track of my leads and who I need to follow up with).  Trello includes boards, lists, and cards that you can add due dates, delegate to team members, select files, and categorize.  I keep finding new ways to use it, and so far, am loving it! 

I'm even using it now with my VA, where we have a board to keep track of weekly and monthly to-dos, so we can keep track of what needs to get done.  It can also integrate with Slack for communication, although I haven't tested out this feature yet.  


2. Dubsado |  Invoice, Contracts, & CRM
I recently started using Dubsado for my invoice, contracts, and CRM system but I'm liking it so far!  It's nice to have a "hub" to take care of all of my "front-end" lead to clients processes, making it all simple, and adjustable to my branding and preferences.  It does take a little bit of time to set up but their customer service is AMAZING, prompt, and helpful and offers help to get you all set up.  Before this, I was using different apps to invoice, send contracts, and follow up with emails, so I like having ONE hub for everything.  It also has a feature for workflows so you can keep track of the progress on all of your different projects AND they are consistently working to improve and add various features.  

If you'd like to receive 20% your first month or YEAR of Dubsado, then use the code "shichencoaching" as a special offer!  

3. Hootsuite & Later | Social Media Scheduling
Social media marketing is essential for an online business.  I typically like to create content in bulk and use an app like Hootsuite to schedule my posts.  The free version only allows for 3 platforms, so I use it for my LinkedIn page, Facebook business page, and Facebook group. I use Later for Instagram.  What I liked about Hootsuite was its ability to schedule among multiple platforms and track analytics.  I've even used Post Planner specifically for my Facebook group, Authentic Brand Leaders, although I prefer to post directly in the platform for engagement purposes.  

4. Google Drive | For organization
I seriously don't know what I would do without Google Drive.  Google has a suite of apps that’s similar to the Microsoft one.  What I like about it most is that it features ALL kinds of apps like Google Docs (like Word) and Google Sheets (like Excel) that is shared online and collaborative in nature.   This way, I can keep everything in ONE place and share it with my team and my clients.  I recently upgraded to use the Google Business Apps for $5/month for extra storage, and it also hosts my business email address as well.  

Here's what I mainly use Google Apps for: 
Google Docs:  I keep a folder for each coaching client, and take notes of each session to keep track of what we talked about and their progress;  I also use it to write each blog post, then I can copy and paste it when it’s time to post  

Google Sheets: I use this to keep a monthly business budget, and anything else that may need Excel like qualities

Google Surveys: I use this for feedback forms, and pre-session questionnaires for my coaching calls. 

5. Loom | Screencast Videos
This is a recent find that I LOVE!  You can add it directly to your browser so you can create screencast videos quickly and effectively.  You don't have to fuss with downloading it, or uploading to a different platform like YouTube.  Once you record it, Loom hosts it and gives you a link you can share with people!  I've used it to make videos for my Virtual Assistant.  I'll just record myself doing a task and narrating it as I go along, and then share the Loom link when I'm done!  This way, I can easily show her my business processes, she has a video she can always refer to, AND we don't have to set aside meeting time to go over these things.  I've also used it for my coaching clients if it's more effective to show them something rather than type it out.  For example, I'll record a Loom video if a client wants feedback on a web site or sales page and it's easy for them to receive my response!   

6.  Convertkit | For Email Marketing
Email marketing is another important part of staying connected to prospects, fans, and clients and to provide value and share my services.  When I started my business, I used the free version of Mailchimp which is an AWESOME app to get started, but as I grew my list and had multiple free resources to offer, I made the switch to Convertkit.  

The main difference is that Mailchimp is list-based while Convertkit is subscriber based, meaning that it counts each person as one person regardless if they’re on multiple lists.  Also, Convertkit has the ability to create follow-up email sequence and drip content for courses and nurture sequences.  They're recently added automated, which is more behavior based emails, which will be a powerful way to make sure your audience is receiving relevant information.  

7. Acuity Scheduling | For appointments
I researched and tried a few different calendar scheduling apps like Calendly and even Satori, but ended up sticking with Acuity because of its comprehensive features and affordable price.  I love it because it’s beautifully designed, easy to use, and gives me the available to set my coaching hours and my clients the flexibility to schedule their appointments by type.  It also automatically syncs with Google calendar, integrates with Zoom and Convertkit, and has the ability to take payments, create questionnaires, and small agreements as well.  Their customer service is really helpful and friendly as well!  The BEST part is, that it's FREE (the emerging entrepreneur plan) if you're a Squarespace user as long as you embed the scheduler onto your site, which is a pretty awesome feature!  

8. Zoom Conferencing | For client conference calls
When I first started, I used Skype to host my coaching calls.  However, I was experiencing a lot of connectivity issues so I switched over to Zoom conferencing.  I pay about $15/month (or less if you do an annual plan) for my group coaching calls  and have the ability to record my sessions so my clients can refer back to our conversation if needed.  I’ve also used it to record video interviews as a guest, as a webinar/live call platform, and for group coaching calls because it hosts multiple people in a more reliable platform than Skype and Google Hangout.  It does offer a free version as well, but only limits your calls to 40 minutes.  

9. Adobe Illustrator | For creating graphics
Confession: I use Adobe Illustrator to create my graphics.  It’s apart of the Adobe Creative Suite and it has a been steep learning curve to use.  So, I recommend using something free and simple like Canva to create graphics if you’re getting started.  But since I already knew how to use it, I prefer to use Illustrator because I keep templates for all of my blog post images and social media graphics.    

10. Squarespace | For web site
Every online business needs a comprehensive web site as a store front.  I used Wordpress for many years during my blogging days but it got to a point where every time I updated the theme, a plug-in, or my server Blue Host, it would slow down my site or something would stop working because with Wordpress, all the parts work separately.  

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So I switched over to Squarespace and love it!  I’m not super tech savvy (although I pretend I am) so Squarespace worked much better for my skill set and needs because it includes beautifully designed, easy-to-use templates so I can use focus on creating content.  My favorite thing about it is that it's comprehensive -- I don't have to worry about hosting, and it even has great offers to integrate with gmail, acuity, and social media as well!   

So, that’s my comprehensive list of must-use apps that I use for my coaching and my business. The moral of the story is: there are a ton of free and easy to use apps that were perfect for me when I got started in business.  But as I grew and my needs were more complex, I upgraded to software that has saved me time and sanity, and I hope that this list helps you do that too!  What tools and apps do you love to use?  Let me know if the comments below, or share it with a friend! 

With joy,