5 Digital Tools you need to have in your business – as a small business owner

Abigail K, Women’s Portrait Photographer 
As a professional photographer and closet tech geek who specialises in personal branding, I’ve become intimately familiar with and knowledgeable about a myriad of online tools that can make running a business as a solopreneur easier in order to save time, money and energy. As solopreneurs, we’re often required to wear multiple hats at multiple times of the average day, and without making use of well considered and executed processes and systems, we run the risk of losing income due to opportunities missed, tarnishing our reputation due to inefficient workflows, and ultimately burn out due to anxiety induced juggling of endless to-do lists.
Having recently launched an online 12 Step, 12 week Personal Brand Roadmap, I’ve delved deeper into the world of online tools than ever before. Step 9 of the Personal Brand Intensive (PBI) is all about clarifying and setting up the processes and systems needed in the business to keep it running as effectively and as lean as possible, so that the business owner can keep their focus and energy on growing their personal brand.
3 Steps to helping you decide on your digital tools
1. Define your processes
Before digging into which systems and tools to use for your business, you first have to identify which processes exist in your business to ensure that you can deliver on the promise you make to your audience. Every business is different so it’s critical that a small business owner takes the time to define their own processes. It’s important the list the processes that currently exist AND the processes you’d like to exist in your business. Each processes will be made up of activity sets or smaller tasks that need to be completed in a sequential order for that process to flow smoothly from beginning to end. So decide on the top level process, and then beneath each item, list the set of activities that must be ticked off to move through the different stages of that process. Examples of broad category processes would be Tasks and Projects, Finance, Client Management, Marketing and Sales.
2. Categorise by AODS
Having clearly defined those processes that exist in your as well as the ones you’d like to have, you then need to categorise those processes according to the AODS principle – Automate, Outsource, Delegate, Self. Always start with automate because will always be the most efficient and cost effective approach to running your processes. Setting up your automations well the first time, will ensure that they repeatedly save you time, money and energy – every time an automation is executed. Once you’ve identified which processes can be automated, then move on to those processes that can be Outsourced or Delegated. Outsourcing would entail hiring an external contractor who would execute the tasks and invoice according to a specific project or on a retainer basis. An example would be hiring an independent Virtual Assistant. Other than outsourcing, you might also consider delegating to other team members, if you have them.
Then finally, the processes and tasks that are left over, are the ones that you, the business owner, is required to complete yourself.
3. Decide on your tools
Now that you know what needs to be done and who needs to do them, you can turn your focus onto which tools you can use for the automated processes and tasks. A google search will yield you an overwhelming array of choices, each with their own merits. I can tell you from personal experience that researching these systems is a dedication in itself and will cost you weeks of your life to fully explore. Ultimately, every choice is subjective and the appropriateness of the choice will depend on each individual’s business model.
Making an informed choice is necessary though to ensure that the long term return on investment keeps growing as your business does. I judged the digital tools I investigated according to the following criteria: Easy to set up, intuitive to use, scalable, aesthetically pleasing and well-priced.
Each business owner will have to decide which digital tools work best for them, and it may mean trying a few out before deciding the final collection to build out your digital toolbox.
Personally, these are the ones I landed on:
  • Task & Project Management: Insightly
  • Client Relationship Management: Insightly
  • Billing & Bookkeeping: Sage One
  • Content Management: VSCO (phone photo editing), Videoshop (phone video editing), Canva (graphics), Google Drive Storage
  • Newsletters: Mailerlite
  • Social Media Scheduling: Zoho Social
  • Sales: PayPal and Payfast
COVID 19 has actually done us small business owners a huge favour by ‘normalising’ more online business activities which not only makes our businesses more efficient, but also more scalable.

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