3 tools that helped me transform my business
Are you struggling to manage your to do list, keep projects straight, get to grips with your numbers or remember to follow up leads? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that. Several, actually. In today’s #RINSWINS, Rin looks at some of the software that has helped us grow as a business.
When I was working as a freelance copywriter it was easy enough to manage everything in my head. With the help of a couple of spreadsheets that would have made little sense to anyone else, I successfully navigated seven years of freelancing without dropping the ball (much).
But as I began the transition to setting up a copywriting agency, those spreadsheets suddenly weren’t enough. It was time to get organised. Here are a few of the tools that have helped me grow and now allow me (and my team) run the business much more efficiently.
For book keeping - Xero
What they say:
“Xero is online accounting software for small businesses. Use Xero to manage invoicing, bank reconciliation, bookkeeping and more.”
What we say:
As a writer, I am happy to admit I’m not a numbers person. Things like managing finances have always stressed me out. I struggled through a couple of self-assessment tax returns before realising that whatever an accountant cost was well worth the money for the stress it saved.
The spreadsheets I honed over the time I was a freelancer served me pretty well for the most part, but when I registered Rin Hamburgh & Co as a limited company I knew it was time for something more sophisticated. On the recommendation of a couple of trusted advisers (thank you Suzi and Andy!) I settled on Xero.
With Xero, you can link a bank account so that you can reconcile transactions easily. You can create and send quotes and invoices, upload receipts, store contacts and so much more. Especially useful is being able to see in an instant how much money is due in and how many invoices are overdue at any given time.
But the best bit for me is that you can generate all sorts of reports. The one I look at the most is the profit and loss. Before I started using Xero, I would have struggled to tell you how much income I was generating in any given period. Now I can tell you how the business is doing to the nearest penny at the touch of a button.
There are also budgeting, forecasting and cash flow tools - though I confess I never got around to figuring those out before handing over the operations side of the business to Liz. Xero is great, but I’m still pleased she’s in charge of it now!
For project management - Trello
What they say:
“Infinitely flexible. Incredibly easy to use. Great mobile apps. It’s free. Trello keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the minute details.”
What we say:
When Liz first started working with me, she researched several different types of project management software. Some of them sounded amazing but because we weren’t sure exactly what we needed, we decided to go with a free one: Trello.
Trello is a simple way of organising information using a series of virtual boards, lists and cards. I started off using it to organise my to do list. Each day of the week is a list within the board, and each task is a card. The cards can be colour coded - I’ve got green for meetings, purple for writing, red for editing and so on - and you can add a deadline too. There’s space for notes and lists within the card, not to mention attachments - you can even attach a different Trello card, list or board!
Now we use Trello for all sorts. I find it particularly useful for tracking client projects. When we secure a new contract it goes into the Current Clients board as a card in the client briefing list. From there it moves through writer briefing, writing, editing, amends, client approval and finally invoicing. We include details in the card like the project fee, which of our writers is working on it, how much their fee is, when it’s due and so on.
The best thing about Trello is that you can share boards with your team members. I can add items to Liz and Rosie’s to do lists, for example. And we can all look at the Current Clients board together during the team meeting and see each other moving things around in real time. Trello would have been a useful tool when I was working on my own but now, as a team, it’s invaluable.
PS Liz is so sold on Trello, she now uses it to manage her household to do list - and with four children, that’s a heck of a list.
For sales - Hubspot
What they say:
“Hubspot is an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.”
What we say:
I dread to think how many potential jobs I’ve lost in the past simply because I forgot to follow up on a lead or even a quote. When you get busy it’s easy to drop the ball on that stuff, especially if you don’t have a way to track who you’ve spoken to and what stage of the sales journey they’re at.
Now we’re using Hubspot, that doesn’t happen any more. Whenever someone is interested in one of our services, they go into the system. You can input individuals, companies and ‘deals’, and then create links between them. So for example you might have several individuals linked to one company or several deals linked to one individual.
The most important part of Hubspot for us is the deals board. Superficially it looks similar to a Trello board where you can organise your deals into lists. We’ve customised ours so we can track a sales journey from initial contact through sales call, sending a quote and having that quote accepted - at which point the contact moves onto the Current Clients Trello board.
Not only does Hubspot allow us to see at a glance what our sales funnel looks like, we can also add notes, set reminders to follow up leads or quotes, track emails and even get alerts when the recipient has opened that email.
All of this is ideal for me because my memory is shocking but it also means that anyone in the team can check in and see what the status of a deal is without having to ask the ‘owner’ of that deal for an update. We can also assign tasks to other team members, who will get an email when that task is due.
I won’t lie and say that transitioning into using these systems was easy. For a start, I don’t especially like change. And Liz spent a good chunk of time chatting to help desks. But having made the shift, I could never go back. There is no doubt in my mind that Rin Hamburgh & Co wouldn’t be where it is now without the systems we use - and they will only become more important as we continue to grow.
Want to read more? Try this - 5 Important Business Lessons I learned at Entrepreneurial Spark