My Favourite Business Apps & Websites
As a professional photographer, there are many aps and websites that I use for my business that would not normally be relevant to other small businesses so for the purpose of being inclusive, I will be omitting the photo-editing apps (I’ve actually got a whole post dedicated to those!) & photographer-specific websites, and sticking to the must-haves and business-specific programs. Without further ado, I present my favourite business apps and websites.
Visual Budget (8$ after tax)
This app has allowed me to easily keep track of my expenses and income on the go, and correctly file my own taxes. As a sole proprietor, it can be difficult to run a one-woman-show and still get every thing done properly, and completed on time. With a few business courses under my belt, I had the knowledge to do it, but lacked the resources to keep track of everything easily and anywhere. While my excel spreadsheets are elaborately detailed with drop-down menus, sortable columns, and complete with formulas, they don’t allow for on-the-fly updates while away from my computer. Visual Budget allows me to input the data no matter where I am (even without Internet access), and I can export at any time (with Internet connection) as a spreadsheet and/or PDF document, easily printable for your bookkeeper and/or accountant. You have the option to create as many categories and sub-categories as you wish, identify different methods of payment and income, and can even attach images to each entry. I typically capture either a snap of the receipt or of the item I purchased as a reminder for frequent/duplicate purchases (ex: promo cards, office supplies, backdrops). The app also offers the opportunity to add accounts, so you can have one for business and another for your personal budget. Visual Budget has saved me a boatload of time, effort and money. Absolutely the best 8$ I have ever spent!
They offer a free trial so there’s no excuse to not give it a go!
Update: I’ve started using this app (different account within the app) for my wedding budget and expenses (past, present & future) and it’s been a life-saver!
Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc. ($0)
These business apps might be obvious, but I couldn’t not mention them. They are business must-haves, or at least the Facebook and Instagram ones are! Of course it depends on where your target audience spends their time, but for the most part, those are your two big ones. Plus Google+ because it allows you to place yourself on the map (quite literally) in addition to monitoring reviews when you have a business page. While these may be more on the marketing side of things, they are a true assest to any small business, and thus have made it onto the the list of my favourite business apps. I classified them as an app for this blog post even though they have matching websites because the apps truly make a difference for business operations on the go, especially the Facebook Pages app (stay off of Facebook, all while running your business page and answering messages) and Instagram (you can only add visuals from mobile).
Later, Planoly & IFTTT (from $0)
To continue off the apps above, as obvious as they are, are very important. With these two apps (that have corresponding websites), you can automate much of your content. With the IFTTT app, you can have your content from one platform automatically post the same thing on another, or tweak it slightly. With the Later & Planoly apps, you can plan content out in advance and set them to automatically notify you to post. These apps go hand in hand, and I would have no time for social media without them! It can be tricky to get everything done in your business on the go, or at all sometimes, so planning in advance and making certain aspects automated can be the best big step you take for your business.
This might seem like an off-track ‘for business’ app, but there are TONS of business oriented groups on Meetup, and it is a great resource for finding great networking opportunities while on the go. You can set the search to ‘home town’ or if you are travelling you can set it to search locally where you are staying. There is a website counterpart that has many additional features, but I highly recommend the app for the business owner who loves to mingle and meet new people, and shamelessly promote themselves.
MailChimp (sometimes we need to create our newsletters on-the-go), WordPress (for those need-to-change-now things, and a great option to draft your blog posts on-the-go, FontCandy (for making promo posts with photos), Square Register (to process transactions on-the-go), and MAIL (for obvious reasons!).
Monitor Backlinks (from $25/month) [coupon below]
I don’t even know where to start on this one; so much information! (In a great way!)This website isn’t exactly made for the not-so-tech-savvy individuals. The amount of information available can be overwhelming at first, but oh-so-useful if interpreted and used correctly. The thing I love about this tool is that you can use it for more than one domain name, and for someone like me who has many websites myself and takes care of SEO for many other small businesses’ websites, this comes in handy. The majority of my visits to this site are to monitor my backlinks (surprise, surprise!) because of the fantastic extra details they include along with the actual referring URL. Otherwise you might as well use the free tool that is Google Analytics (more on that below) since it only shows the site, not the referring page nor landing page. The spreadsheet view makes everything clear and consice, showing whether the link is a follow or no-follow, how many other outgoing links are on the referring page, the value of the website sending you visitors, among other relevant details. You can even disavow the not-so-good websites, which means prevent their bad rating from affecting your site, and not count their visitors towards your Alexa ranking (more on that below). The best part? Most of this is emailed directly to me, so I don’t have to visit the website every day. I’ve actually saved a past client by being able to let them know their website was down since my previously logged backlink was marked as ‘not found’ (turns out they accidentally deleted the page trying to add new testimonials!). The site also allows you to monitor competitors too (their keywords, backlinks, and SEO rantings) to see how you can improve yours (take inspiration, don’t copy). In terms of a paid subscription, yes it’s on the expensive side of things, but would you rather be throwing all kinds of money at different marketing venues not knowing what’s working, or put your money where their mouths are..?
Tell them The SEO Squirrel sent you by using the coupon code (MB2MF4EPKN), and they will set you up with a 3 month term for the price of 1! I strongly suggest that you check it out, see how the information can help your business, and reap the benefits of being able to evaluate your online marketing efforts!
Find it too complicated? Send me a message and we can make sure this feature is included as part of your website management service.
Alexa (from $10/month for 1 domain)
Full disclosure; I don’t actually pay to use Alexa. I was lucky to have been granfathered in to their old free plan that allowed me to edit my business data in their system, without access to the full spectrum of tools available. If I wern’t using Monitor Backlinks, I would very likely be using Alexa and the available tools. The most interesting part of Alexa is that they have the world-wide ranking for every single site internationally, and nationally. I use this number for vetting my marketing efforts and where I am willing to pay for ads. Obviously the website has to offer information to its visitors that is relevant to my business, but the power of the link for SEO purposes is almost directly related to the Alexa ranking (the smaller the better, which means the higher up on the list of results). It’s also nice to see all the specs about your website and visitors. Get the free trial and see what you’re missing.
Google Analytics ($0)
I use Google Analytics to see what visitors are actually doing once they get to my website. Sure, it gies me an idea of what people searched beforehand if I am paying for ads, and what websites they are being redirected from, but it’s not detailed enough to do anything about it except keep investing in the ones that send the most visitors that actually intereact with the website. THAT is the true benefit of Google Analytics. You get to analyse what your visitors are actually doing. Do they exit right after seeing the pricing page? Do they browse the galleries and then leave because you are missing a call-to-action? Etc. Important business things that we often forget about. If you don’t have an account, go make one. It’s free! Then go get the deeper details of those referrals in your Monitor Backlinks account, and get your referrals working for you!
Compare a few programs and decide what works best for you and your business, and don’t be afraid to make the investment in your online business presence.
I would love to hear about YOUR favourite business apps and websites! Comment below and tell me all about it!