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The Best Business Tools for Solopreneurs

As a solopreneur, I know the importance of having the best business tools for success. However, when I started my business, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. I was drowning in them, testing them, trials, and the overall cost. It was frustrating and discouraging because that was the time I should spend growing my business. This article is here to help solopreneurs looking for the best business tools.

This is what my business tool list looked like a year ago.

  • Honeybook – Photoshoot Management, including Scheduling.
  • Calendly – Scheduling everything else, like networking one-on-ones and collaborations.
  • NetHunt – CRM and email campaigns (works within Google Workspace)
  • Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) – Included Email, Calendar, Docs, Drive, Sheet, Meet, and more.
  • Social Bee – Social Media scheduling.
  • Quickbooks Online – Accounting.
  • Formaloo – Beautiful online forms.
  • ClickUp – Project Management, Goal Setting, Task List. This app is loaded.
  • Zoom – Virtual meetings.
  • Square – My preferred payment gateway, but not available everywhere.
  • Stripe – The payment gateway used more widely by applications.

The problem with having so many subscriptions with different providers is that you (the solopreneur) have to navigate as knowledge bases to learn and resolve issues and deal with as many customer service processes as possible. That’s just crazy. I have better things to do than spend my time managing seven different relationships with different providers, even when they go smoothly, which doesn’t always happen. I once spent three frustrating days trying to resolve a payroll issue with Quickbooks Online. But my biggest problem was that I had key information in silos. Nethunt was my CRM, but I had to open up a browser to access Honeybook to work on a project for a client or view project-specific notes. Two silos where communication with one client existed. Simply insane.

Business tools marketed to solopreneurs are not necessarily the best for solopreneurs.

I used at least three studio management tools before landing on Honeybook. But it didn’t take me long to realize how limiting it was because managing client projects is only one aspect of business, so I still needed a long list of other applications to take care of the rest. So I was again on the hunt for a better tool, so I looked at those marketed to photographers. Fortunately, I took a step back and gained some perspective on the situation. I found that I shouldn’t believe the hype. Business tools marketed to solopreneurs claim to do it all but don’t. Once you get under the hood (usually after your trial period ends), some functions are seriously lacking, or you’ll find their workflow doesn’t make sense to you. I had at least ten workaround processes in Honeybook, and the replacements I was testing needed other workarounds.

Mostly, I wanted simplification, unification, and the peace of mind that comes with it. So, I started using Zoho One last year.

1. Zoho One

What Is It: A business operating system with more than 40 business tools, all under one roof (so information is shared from one app to another), but they are fully developed to stand independently.

I love Zoho One because I get all my business applications under one roof. I don’t know why it’s not rated as one of the best business tools for solopreneurs, but I will put it in that category. Solopreneurs need consistency and the simplification of one subscription more any anyone.

Zoho Apps that I am using right now.

  • Zoho Email (Calendar, Bookmarks, Tasks, Notes) – Has all the same functions as a Google Workspace email but is prettier and, because it’s not a Google, more focused (in my opinion).
  • Zoho Workdrive – I use this to keep my business pdfs for easy access. I’ve also used it to deliver files to clients, including large, high resolutions images. It worked perfectly, but the best part is I can see when the client downloads their files.
  • Zoho Forms – Webforms and simple agreements like model releases.
  • Zoho CRM – Zoho CRM is a key part of my current organizational system. All of my data from other applications is synchronized to this platform, so I have a comprehensive view of every exchange with a customer or contact. I can check invoices, emails, and projects within the CRM.
  • Zoho Social – Schedules my social media posts on all my platforms, including Google, YouTube, and Pinterest. If you also post to the Facebook group if you manage one. The best feature of this application is that you can manage all your social interactions here, including responding to comments and Google Reviews. And, like nothing else I found for solopreneurs, it monitors and listens to all social channels, so you know you’re tagged on a post. Finally, like all Zoho Apps, it integrates with the CRM, so you know your most active followers. I can write a whole article just about this app. It has a free option, and the app is only $10 per month but gives you so much more than I’ve seen on other schedules.
  • Zoho Campaigns – Solid from a data analytical perspective, but it took me a while to set up a template I loved, and they recently added some new features like video embeds. Because I can see the analytics on my CRM, I decided to stick to this one vs. a more glossy application.
  • Zoho Bookings – Although it’s not as robust as Calendly (not by much), my trade-off was keeping everything under one roof. All my bookings go directly into the CRM. Like Calendly, it eliminated the email-tag game of back-and-forth correspondence, discussing availability and postponing the intake process of clients instead of getting started immediately. The best part is that I can set up different workspaces, so it handles all of my scheduling, including Network one-on-ones and client sessions.
  • Zoho Projects – This replaced Honeybook, and I can see projects within the CRM. For jobs that are a bit more complex or where I want to do time tracking, I create a project directly from Zoho CRM. I have project templates already set up for project types. I occasionally track my time to see how long it takes me to do specific tasks; this tool makes that more visible. I have a general Project that also captures time on administrative/marketing tasks.  
  • Zoho Books – Invoices. This has been great. Customers can pay via PayPal or credit card (via Stripe). I send out automatic reminders, which have greatly simplified my life.
  • Zoho Flow – This is the behind-the-scenes tool for automating things like sending prospects the necessary information.

Zoho Apps that I chose not to use.

  • Zoho Meeting – This is Zoho’s default web meeting app and comes with Zoho One, but using it may save me my Zoom subscription since it’s not widely used, I’d still have to know my way around Zoom, so why not just use Zoom.
  • Zoho Contracts – This app is great if you have complicated contracts. Mine are straightforward, so I use Zoho Forms which can capture a signature.
  • Zoho Sign – Same rationale as above. Zoho Forms is all I need right now.
  • Zoho Writer – This is the equivalent of Google Docs or MS Word, which I rarely need.
  • Zoho Sheet – This is the equivalent of Google Sheets or MS Excel. I am an Excel wiz, so I’ll stick to something I already know.
  • Zoho Notebook – This application should’ve replaced Evernote, but after trying it out, it is one of the only applications I can see rolled out before its time. It lacked too many features to make it useful or compete with Evernote.

Other apps I use.

Evernote

What is it: Evernote is a searchable database of anything you want to remember. Their elephant icon is appropriate because Evernote remembers everything you put in it. And quite unlike my brain, it is easy to retrieve stored information from it!

On the Internet — I have the Evernote extension installed in all the Browsers I use. When something is on a page I want to remember, I click the elephant icon in the toolbar at the top and save it. I can save the whole page, just the primary article on the page, a link to the page, or just a screenshot of a page section. I save shoot inspiration photos, articles, and notes about my business.

On the Go — I lose things. All. The. Time. One of my favorite uses for Evernote is snapping pictures of things I need to remember. Since it goes into Evernote, I will find it (vs. having a photo in your phone). I snap product/price information at the store to the Staples receipt showing a business expense. Whatever I know I’m going to need into Evernote.

Evernote is the virtual assistant I don’t have yet, which makes this application one of the best business tools for solopreneurs.

ClickUp

What is it: It’s marketed as the one app to replace them all, and I almost agree. It can be used as a CRM, project manager, productivity tool, and workflow.

I mostly use the free version for my business documentation, including marketing plans, social media calendars, campaigns, and brand management and development. If it has to do with business building, it’s there. My favorite tools within ClickUp are whiteboard and mind mapping; they allow me to think through workflows and marketing campaigns before implementing them. Just for these two tools, I rank Clickup at the top of the list as one of the best tools for solopreneurs.

Zoom (one of the best business tools for solopreneurs)

What is it: The most widely used video conferencing tool.

When I was a member of Google Workplace, I tried out the Google Meet video conferencing program; however, most of my contacts were already accustomed to Zoom, and they didn’t want to take the time to learn a new tool for my meetings. On the other hand, when I joined meetings hosted by others, I encountered the same problem, having to learn the basics of Zoom. This indicated that it would be best to join everyone using the same program.

Canva Pro

What Is It: Canva is a Graphic Design program to help designers and non-designers create professional-quality graphics for social media and beyond.

I love Canva because it makes it easy to design all my on-brand marketing materials and videos for social media. keeping your brand consistent makes Canva one of the best business tools for solopreneurs.

Stripe

What Is It: Stripe has quickly become the new standard in online payments.

Stripe integrates and works well with client management solutions for almost everything in our business. I don’t use the Stripe interface. Stripe was always listed as any app with payment integration, and Square was not so much. So, I closed my Square account and kept Stripe as my go-to for processing every online payment. Maintaining consistency helps make balancing the financial side of my business easier and gives my clients confidence when investing with me. Payment consistency across many subscriptions makes this one of the best business tools for solopreneurs.

I’m much happier now that my workflows are limited to only a few applications.

This is what my business tool list looks like now.

  • Zoho One
  • Evernote
  • ClickUp
  • Zoom
  • Canva Pro
  • Stripe

Zoho One is an operating system vs. an app with various functions. It has liberated my time to run my business, and dealing with one company has kept my sanity. It’s one of the best business tools for solopreneurs. They have a trial period if you want to give it a shot. But if this route is not for you, you may consider at least what you want to consolidate this year. Maybe, it’s as simple as having only one payment gateway account versus several, so all your finances are in one place. Or, perhaps you can consolidate various operations under one multi-function app. Limiting your subscriptions will help the overwhelm.

Angela Atelier is a New Jersey-based portrait and personal branding photography studio empowering women everywhere to live their best life. Contact us to schedule your complimentary consultation.

New Jersey Woman Owned Small Business

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