Kicking off my consultancy, Fractal, a few months ago I was spoilt by the range of tools available to automate my business.
Now that I’ve settled on my tool stack, I thought I’d take the time to share the different tools I’m using, why I’m using them, and how they stack up. So without any further delay here are the seven apps I’d happily recommend to anyone starting a micro-agency or consultancy.
Google Apps – This isn’t so much a recommendation as a rule. If you’re starting an agency then get on Google apps. You get all of Google’s cloud power, Gmail and an office suite that is fast becoming a viable alternative to Microsoft Office. I’m not hating on Microsoft here, I’m typing this on a Surface Pro, but Google has left Office 360 in the dust when it comes to the cloud.
Yesware – I’d never heard of this little app before I read a blog post suggesting it as an alternative to Hubspot for email tracking and calendar booking. I’ll be honest, it is not as good as Hubspot, but it’s way cheaper. Basically, Yesware allows you to do a few cool things with your email. You can track emails, send reminders to follow-up email (including those that you have sent) and you can send links that allow people to book meetings directly into your calendar. Yesware also integrates nicely into third-party tools like Pipedrive.
Pipedrive – Pipedrive does two things really well, it integrates with third-party tools so you don’t have enter the same data more than once, and it has an easy to use interface. I don’t often log into Pipedrive but I love that when I do most of what is in there is updated, and with the Google integration I’ve been reminded of my tasks anyway.
Proposify – Preparing proposals not only takes a long time but, of course, you’re not being paid to do them. Proposify is great for storing simple proposals and replicating data for similar work. Proposify has been designed by agency people so it is really geared towards closing that deal. The addition of e-signatures, email tracking, follow-up emails, connections to third-party tools like Pipedrive and Harvest is brilliant and the new stripe integration is amazing for cash flow.
Harvest – Harvest is my go-to tool for time tracking. The chrome extension and app make this simple and with the integration, with Proposify, you don’t need to re-enter client details. For me, the winning feature is Harvest invoicing. Harvest invoices are simple to create, integrate with stripe and the recurring invoice feature is a real time saver.
Stripe – Before stripe SMBs had to set-up ridiculously convoluted bank account payment gateways or go with the amateurish looking PayPal. Stripe is super easy to set-up, clears payment faster than most of the alternative but most importantly integrated with almost every online app. To be honest, with the market power Stripe has most tool integrate with Stripe now.
Xero – The king of cloud-based accounting and bookkeeping. Much like Google apps I’ve not met a startup not using Xero. While Intuit (with Quickbooks) has responded well, MYOB in Australia has struggled against their New Zealand Neighbour. The thing I like best about Xero is that it is a great filter of accountants. If they don’t use Xero then they are probably not ready to adapt to your new business
Summary – You’ve probably already worked out the theme here, integration. Each of these tools integrates with at least one other tool in this list. I’m too busy to enter data twice, let alone five times. So when I’m looking for tools, I look at with whom they integrate first. Far too often I find a great tool that seems to think it is so wonderful that I’ll be willing to cut and paste my data from one tool to another. Sorry – time is money and in this API let economy if you don’t integrate then you’d better already have a monopoly.