I love a lot of the things I do during a work day, but there are some tasks I could do without. These are:
(in no particular order):
- Tracking hours
- Redundant emails
- Emailed support chains
- Over-the-phone walkthroughs
- Social networking
To slim down the time I spend on these tasks, I’ve focused a fair amount of my business analytics toward online business optimization tools specifically aimed at lessening the above. This gives me more time to focus on what I love and what I’m good at.Listed in the article are the current online business optimization tools I use on a daily basis. These tools have helped me in a ton of ways, including:
- Speeding up my workflow
- Automating redundant online tasks
- Making sure I’m charging for my time
- Streamlining communication with clients
- Ensuring that I don’t miss tasks within projects
- Speeding up my writing and email processes
- Communicating with clients
- Delegating tasks
- Automating social networking
- Sharing files with others
- Improving website speed, security and updates
- Remembering all of the tasks I need to complete
Online Business Optimization Tool for Project Management – #1: Basecamp
Basecamp is a project management tool. Through individual Basecamps I can keep track of where I left off with each project, what still needs to be done, conversations I’ve had with people, scheduling deadlines, and tasks assigned to other people.
Online Business Optimization Tool for Scheduling – #2: Calendly
Calendly is one of the newer applications I’ve been using. It simplifies scheduling phone calls with clients and people needing support. Through a simple interface I can set up the time I’m available to chat throughout the week. Through an online portal, I invite people to schedule a time to chat with me. Essentially, it’s everything I do to schedule a call with someone. To streamline the invite process, I added a signature in my email, and now I don’t have to coordinate availability, time zones or contact methods. It’s pretty nice.
At first I wasn’t sure if Calendly would take with my clients. Immediately, without my inquiry, my clients said they loved it because of the simplicity and ease of use. It saves me about an hour per day setting up and coordinating meetings. Seven more hours to go …
Online Business Optimization Tool for Support – #3: Zendesk
Zendesk wins the award for the most use I’ve ever gotten out of $2 per month. I use this tool for client communication and ticket support. Don’t let the low price fool you. This program is a beast! Giant companies use it over hundreds of support products and rightfully so. It’s plug-and-play, doesn’t require tremendous setup and is extremely intuitive and flexible.
I’ve barely nicked the surface of the Zendesk capabilities but have found a simple workflow through tracking tickets awaiting response from clients or waiting for an action on my end. It’s completely solved the problem of lost email tasks and confusing old-fashioned chain letters.
Online Business Optimization Tool for Dictation – #4: Dragon
I’m using Dragon right now. It’s a beach dictation tool… I mean, it’s a speech dictation tool. You speak, and it creates words in your document. I started using this when I realized I explain things better by talking rather than typing. With Dragon I can chat out a sketch of my blog post, email or support ticket. Later I can reread it and make a few corrections or additions by hand.
If you decide to try it out, I recommend downloading the trial version and going through the set of instructions so it becomes used to your voice. I also recommend signing up for their newsletter and waiting a week or two before you purchase it. I paid the full price for it, and about a week later I was sent a coupon for 50% off—and have received that coupon almost every week since.
Online Business Optimization Tool for Email – #5: G Suite (Formerly Google Apps for Business)
Email should not go through your website hosting provider. There’s more of a chance for downtime, security breaches and headaches setting it up to work with multiple devices. The better option for email is Google’s G Suite. At just $5 per month, you can have firstname.lastname@example.org email address and additional email aliases located at Google.
Online Business Optimization Tool for Tracking Time – #6: toggl
I use Toggl to keep track of the development and support time spent on client projects. It’s easy to use and integrates with Zendesk and Basecamp. It has a streamlined method of use through its browser-based application. I set up the task I’m working on and select the client and rate that gets billed. It’s great at creating reports and can also generate invoices.
Online Business Optimization Tool for Cloud Storage – #8: Dropbox
The primary reason I moved my work files to Dropbox was to back up client work on the cloud. Dropbox keeps a version of your files in the cloud that is synced with the files on your computer. Prior to using it, I always thought that you had to be online to access your files, which is why put it off using it. Now that I am using it, the workflow is effortless. In the event that I’m not online, I can work on my local files, and when I’m online again, my files automatically sync.
An added bonus to using Dropbox is its file-based version control. Similar to Time Machine on MacOS, every time I save a file to Dropbox, it saves an archived version in a backup area for a few months. When I accidentally overwrite something, this feature is awesome.
Online Business Optimization Tool for Hosting- #9: WP Engine
Attention WordPress Users: Part of optimizing my workflow is knowing when to pass off a task. The first decade of working online I maintained and managed my own web hosting through a low-cost hosting solution. Looking back on it, this was hardly economical (I’ll save that story for another article). Today I use WP Engine for web hosting and recommend it to all clients. The amount of time saved per month is incredible. They make sure my websites are running well and everything gets backed up daily. WP Engine also has a team making sure nothing goes wrong with my websites. In the event that I have a question, they’ve got a 24-hour support staff that is 100% WordPress savvy.
Non-WordPress Users: Check out Liquid Web. They mean business.
Online Business Optimization Tool for Newsletters – #10: AWeber
AWeber is best known for generating and distributing marketing-based newsletters. AWeber also works great for mass communication with clients. Often there’s an email I need to send to multiple people at certain times throughout the year, and this is where AWeber saves some time. I create my email, select which clients I’m reaching out to and email to broadcast. Done!
Online Business Optimization Tools for Social Scheduling – #11: Hootsuite
I’m not very big on tweeting or posting to Facebook. I love the effect it can have on business. I just don’t like to participate in real time because it takes up too much time and can be easily distracting. Hootsuite must have been invented by someone who had the same dislike for showing up every 40 minutes to Facebook as I do. Through Hootsuite I can schedule posts throughout the day and then go do something else. To anyone on the social networks, it appears as if I’ve shown up to the party on time. In extreme cases, people have built full social businesses simply based on scheduling messages throughout the day. For example, a 25-year-old makes $500,000 a year posting random facts throughout the day to his Twitter account via a scheduler (@uberfacts).
Hopefully, in reading this article, you’ve either realized you are more optimized than I am or you’ve found a few resources that could potentially open up some time in your day. If you’ve got some secrets of your own, feel free to leave a comment.
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