Software to manage a small business

I run a small consultancy business called Cloud CMO. I help multiple clients in growth and change companies to manage their marketing strategy.

Naturally, I want to spend more time helping people and less time on admin. To that end, over the past few years I have tested a number of software tools to help me manage my time.

I thought it might be useful to share what I use in case it is useful to other people. YMMV of course, but these all work great for me.

Best for storing & syncing – Dropbox

There are plenty of cloud storage options nowadays, but Dropbox remains the best option. It’s rock-solid reliable, cross platform and quick. I pay for the 1TB option and am happy to do so

Best for presenting – Keynote

PowerPoint is the universal standard still, but Keynote wins out for being that bit more pretty and how well it works across Mac, iPad and iPhone. The recent addition of Keynote Live, which allows remote presenting is a real bonus.

Best to-do list – 2Do

It’s no exaggeration to say that the Getting Things Done methodology changed the way I work forever. Amazing and very much recommended. I tried loads of software tools to implement this. Omnifocus is too complex for my taste, and Things broke my heart by never being updated. The new king is 2Do, which is powerful, flexible and easy to use.

Best for taking notes – Evernote

I have a love and hate relationship with Evernote. It’s unwieldy and has far too much clutter, but it’s fantastic for taking notes and preparing for meetings. I have a folder per client and routinely write up thoughts, records and ideas. Plus it;’s easy to dump in any related documents whether PDFs or Office files.

Best for keeping track of status – Trello

I use Trello to keep a record of business development pipeline. Lists of cold, warm and hot leads. It’s very simple, free and flexible software for many purposes.

Best for creative and strategic writing – Ulysses

Evernote is for notes, but Ulysses is for writing. Whether it’s creative copy, a strategy document or a full-blown book, Ulysses offers a distraction-free, backed-up environment for keeping track of everything. It also allows simple export to WordPress, Word and PDF amongst others. You have to get used to Markdown, but it’s really not hard and – once you see the flexibility it brings – it’s kinda awesome

Best email client on iOS – Spark

There are a few good options out there now – Outlook is great, but I’ve found Spark to be the most usable. The killer feature is reliable snoozing – the ability to easily hide email you’re not working on and have it automatically re-appear at a time of your choosing. This helps enormously in managing multiple projects or clients. With a single swipe, I can make that message disappear from view safe in the knowledge it’ll reappear just before the meeting.

Best for collaboration – Google Docs

Google Docs remains the champ in real-time multi-user editing of documents. It’s wonderful for keeping a single master copy of whatever you’re working on and has pretty flexible options for who can change what. One thing it’s terrible at, still, is tables on iOS. To this end, Pages still has a role to play.

Best for password management – 1Password

If you haven’t got a password manager, then – sheesh – you really, really should. 1password is simply awesome software that lets you generate, maintain and easily enter unique, uncrackable passwords for every service you use. Worth every penny and regularly updated with new features.

Best ‘read later’ software – Pocket

The key to time management is to help your brain not get distracted. To that end, whenever I see an article I want to read, I simple right-click and add it to Pocket instead. Then, when I do want to indulge in a bit of reading, I have a readymade list of saved articles at my disposal with all the ads and graphics stripped out leaving just the clean text.

Best for RSS – Reeder

I still mourn the much-missed Google Reeder, but Reeder remains a fantastic feed reading client. Perfect for keeping track of news and infrequently-updated sources. I use Feedly to manage the actual list of feeds.

Best for Podcasts – Overcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts and have found Overcast to be the most useful. As well as having good chapter support, it also has smart speed (to speed up without affecting pitch) and voice boost for greater clarity. The playlists are fiddly at first, but a real power addition.

Best for PDF editing and annotating – PDF Expert

Such a powerful tool. Whenever I get documents for pre-reading, I fire up PDF Expert, which allows me to easily annotate (highlight, add text) or even edit (redact, change copy). I then save the updated document in Evernote for easy recall in the meeting.

Best for dodgy wifi – Express VPN

I don’t trust the ropey wifi that you get in coffee shops, so I always switch on my VPN to protect myself from unsavoury types. Express VPN is reliable and works well wherever you are.

Best for quick sharing – Dropshare

A little bit fiddly (but quite satisfying) to set up, Dropshare is perfect for when you have a document you want to quickly send a link for. Faster and easier than Dropbox for this purpose, Dropshare puts your file in AWS and generates a shareable link on the fly.

Do let me know what you think and ideas for anything you think I might try.