Starting out in business is a bit of a mind boggle. There’s so many tools and resources at your disposal how do you know which ones to choose.

The problem with a lot of blogs and resource articles is they give you a list of 50 and you end up more confused than when you started.

Of course, it’s great to cover many options if you’re looking to compare the market. But what if you just want to know what you need to get started and bypass the ’20 tabs of comparisons’?

As someone who’s been there, done that and tried more programs and platforms than I’d care to admit, I can help you shorten that list.

After many false starts, I’ve managed to cull the list to those platforms that have seen me through the start up phase and growth phase.

Here’s my comprehensive list of the main tools of the trade that will get you started in business – without the overwhelm.

 

1. Google Workspace – for emails, storage and business listings

Google is the biggest search engine on the market, so it makes sense to align your business with it from the get-go. When you set up a Google account, you can then access Google Analytics, Google My Business and Google Mail. I recommend using all their services for your business. Originally, I created my emails with a Gmail account, but that looks unprofessional. I then created my business email through my web hosting, however I quickly found if my website hosting went down, so did my email. Now I’ve combined the best of both worlds with a Gmail based business email. I get the user friendly Gmail platform with the professional business email. Win-Win.

For $10 a month, I highly recommend signing up to an account as you’ll discover extra storage along with other features. I also use Google Drive for storing documents and other important files. It also means I don’t need a Dropbox account, therefore saving me money on storage devices. You can check out Google Workspace via the linked image below.

 

Google Workspace for small business

2. Siteground Hosting – for your website

I’ve tried a few hosting platforms for my websites and settled on Siteground. Their platform is designed to be user-friendly and easy to navigate, so even the least techy person has some hope of being able to manage their own website. Obviously I’m a web person, so I do know my way around a website. But the user guides Siteground have make it possible for new business owners to set up and build their own website. Their platform is based on clickable buttons and a clean dashboard, so it doesn’t look as overwhelming as others can appear. Siteground’s customer support is good and again, they don’t talk too much tech. They can be contacted via online chat (my preferred option) or by phone if needed. The additional features they include in their hosting plans means there is no ‘but wait there’s more’. With some hosting providers, they make SSL Certificates (this gives you the https:// secure lock on your site) an optional extra. Believe me, an SSL Certificate is not an optional extra. Siteground include the SSL in all their plans.

Their pricing might not be the cheapest on the market, but it’s the closest to a ‘set and forget’ hosting that I’ve come across.

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3. Dubsado

I’ve tried a few CRM platforms over the years and Dubsado is the one I’ve stuck with. The platform is easy to navigate and has a lot of features that mean you don’t need to sign up to 100 different platforms. Conveniently, you can get most of your client management tools under the one roof. Dubsado is also reasonably priced for the features and integrations on offer, so it’s another good option for business start-ups.

Dubsado will integrate with QuickBooks and now Xero – so whatever accounting platform you choose, you can have your CRM talk to it when it comes to invoicing.

I use Dubsado as the contact form on my website. So when the form is completed, it is submitted to my email as well as my Dubsado dashboard. This way I can track the progress of the enquiry as well as initiate workflows. I have set up templated and automatic email responses to improve the flow of information for myself and my potential client. A new feature is a conferencing integration which allows you to send automatic replies with Zoom, Google Meet or MS Teams links attached to them. If you’re into time saving, then that’s worth the $35p/m subscription fee right there.

Want 20% off your first month or yearly subscription? Use my link 😉 

 

4. Mailchimp or Mailerlite – for your email marketing

I’m on the fence about which one to recommend here as I use both of them. I really loved Mailchimp initially. Their free plan had enough bells and whistles to see you through a couple of years before needing to upgrade. But their free plan is rather basic now and it most likely will only see you through the first year before you’ll start to need more features. So for that reason, I’ve included Mailerlite in here too as their free plan has more of the good stuff.

Email marketing is an important aspect in any business – whether you’re ecommerce or service based. You need to be building your email list from the get-go so you can target potential customers and build an audience outside of social media. I’ve covered the reasons why you need to focus on email marketing in my blog Why relying on social media is bad for business.

 

5. QuickBooks – for your accounting and bookkeeping

I mentioned QuickBooks in my Dubsado write up because of their integrations, but I was using QuickBooks before Dubsado. I used to use a spreadsheet for my accounting back in the day when I didn’t have much to manage. If I did that now I’d literally be curled up in the foetal position somewhere! I did try Wave for a while, but that was very limited in it’s integrations, so I moved to QuickBooks. It integrates with any bank account as well as Paypal and Stripe. So you’re covered no matter which payment gateway you choose in your business. You can also share it with your accountant or simply print out the ‘Profit & Loss’ report for easy tax time accounting.

 

6. WordPress – for your website

I know I’m a little biased on this one! But, I think starting out on the right foot the first time can alleviate costly fixes down the track. Now, I’m not one of those designers who tells people they must use WordPress and it’s the only platform ever. But I will tell you that more often than not, small business owners end up with a WordPress website at some point or another. The reason being: they’ve outgrown their DIY website. I know WordPress can be scary for business start-ups which is why a lot of people look for alternatives. But I can tell you, WordPress doesn’t have to be scary. With page builders and plugins, a WordPress website can be just as ‘drag and drop’ as a Wix or SquareSpace site. If you have it professionally built from the outset, then you have an asset that you can easily build on as your business grows.

Learn more about my website platform comparisons here.

 

7. Zoom

Now, you’re most likely going to need a way to meet with potential clients and existing clients. I’m sure after the Covid saga we’re all pretty familiar with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. Now, I’ve used them all and each have their own pros and cons. But of them all, I’ve preferred Zoom for its low cost at $10 per month and ease of use. Most people have Zoom or know how to use it. I also find it easy to schedule appointments. In saying that, Google Meet is also a good option if you are using the Google Suite of products. MS Teams is my least favourite of them all as I find it clunky and unreliable. Whichever one you choose, you’ll find it a good asset for customer engagement.

 

Obviously, there are a lot more you can add, but this post isn’t about confusing you. I’m here to give you a good head start with tools you’ll still be using in 3 years time as they are capable of growing with your business.

(Note: Affiliate links appear in this blog which means I may receive a small commission if you click on a link and make a purchase.)