Our original video posted via Loom
Digital apps we love to use
Hello everyone! I thought I’d do a quick video today – kinda eat my own dog food – now I am working from home, I do it quite a lot actually and I have done probably over the last 6 years. So I thought this was a great time, considering everyone is having to work remotely and self-isolate, just to go over a couple of tools that I’ve been using for some years now, that you might actually find useful in your daily business life, and maybe even in your personal life too, just depends what you get up to!
I’m just sharing my screen here, and I’m going to go through some of these apps or websites, a lot of them tend to be both, so you can use them on your phone, your iPad or tablet, your laptop or desktop. They’re very flexible. Some of them you can use offline as well, which comes incredibly handy if you tend to lose connection.
Now, I tend to work out a lot of coffee shops, things like that and the Internet will drop, so where you have the ability to continue working on your machine when the Internet is intermittent that’s a big plus for me as well.
Let’s get straight into it, so the first thing you’re likely going to need is some sort of way of talking to a team. Your fellow colleagues perhaps, or even your clients, maybe 1-2-1’s things like that. Zoom is a great tool.
There is another one called TeamViewer and there was some news about that lately and there was a reason not to use it. I’m sure if you Google you might find out.
But Zoom is great, you can have group chat’s on this, the format of the app as well when you’re actually discussing as a group – you can see on here this slider – it will highlight who is talking, you can choose to have your video on or off but still have audio.
It’s great especially if you’re doing a workshop or working through something with a colleague, you can share your screen, so they can see what’s on your screen as well as see your face. It’s a great way to know that people are actually listening, to see them and see body language and tone of voice, things like that. Zoom, you will have to download some software to use this but it’s really handy.
Something that I’ve used for quite some years now is Slack. It is like an internal messaging app and – now, I can’t show you mine because there are client discussions on there as well as internal discussions – but, what you can do is, have private 1-2-1 chat’s with an individual, so say if you needed to message your boss about something like annual leave, you can do that You can see when people are online or not online, just the same as a Chat.
You can also see what’s called Channels, you may have a channel for maybe a particular project that you work on, for us everything is project-based, you can give it any kind of name. You can use hashtags and emoticons (emoji’s), you can add animated GIFs in there.
And what I find really great about Slack is not just the fact that it’s instant and you can be in the discussion as much or as little as you wish to be – there are some screenshots here of what it looks like, so here are the Channels, they’ve got a good search facility, you can “like” someone’s post without necessarily having to respond to it, to say that you’ve acknowledged it.
We’ve used this for stand-ups for Agile, in teams as well, so it’s great for that, so if everyone just wants to jump on in the morning, say what they’re going to get on with and jump back off again and get on with their work, it’s fine.
It has some really great integrations, so if you’re really really fancy and techy, you can get it to turn your kettle on! Maybe? But what we found is, for example, if a client had viewed a document in Google Drive, it will send us a notification and we can all go, “wahoo!”.
Can not recommend Slack enough!
GSuite for business emails
Now, of course, emails, we use GSuite, a lot of people already have Gmail accounts already, but for business, we use GSuite, because that means we can still use our domain name.
So, if as a small business you’re still using [email protected]
gmail.com for example, you might want to consider paying, literally a few dollars a month, to have a mailbox and you still get the same amount of Gigabytes for storage, for the Drive and for the emails, from GSuite.
This means you can still get that domain name at the end, so we have [email protected], [email protected] etc. and you still get all the same amazing features you get with all of the GSuite if you were or were not paying for it. So cannot recommend that enough as well!
If you do a lot of project management or looking to schedule work in, Asana is really great. Don’t be too overwhelmed by all the features, there are some really fun features in there like if you tick off some many TODO’s, a unicorn will fly across the screen! I mean, it’s really canny for little things like that.
But you do have different views, so if you prefer a List view you can have that – this one is currently showing you a timeline, a typical sort of Gantt chart style – you can choose to add particular people to a project, or not! You can assign them to work like this and they can tick those off. You can put due dates on things, you can prioritise them, colour-code them, you can put sub-tasks in… it’s incredibly flexible!
Now, I’ve been on the free version and the paid version, so that we can include Clients on this and they can use it as much or as little as they like. It’s a great way for them to see, what we’ve got on our plate and on the board and how often things are making progress and where they are at. I think it’s great for them to see, where things are going with their particular project. Or they can just not! It might be better more for internal use (for us).
There are paid plans with these things (software) because they are so powerful, and again, you can have so many integrations; you can have it email you when Tasks have been replied to and comments made on them, things like that. So it’s worth checking out and obviously, a lot of them have free trials as well.
Now for us, tracking and managing your time is always a big thing, even if a Client may not know, or want to know how much time we spent on something, we certainly do internally! Because it helps us understand where the costs and time is going, and that might be important for you, again, if you’re a small business.
Like, “how much of my time this week did I spend on social media posts?” or “on that blog post?” or “how many meetings am I doing?”, the thing’s like that.
Again, it is very, very flexible, what you can essentially do is, set up a Client (which could just be you) or a Customer, and maybe if you do service-based or project-based work, it’s probably good for that if you want to time yourself. But sometimes it’s just nice to know where the figures are, how time are you really spending on things?
You can set budgeted times on those (tasks), so for example, “I want to allocate 4 hours a month to writing a blog post” and then you press the little Play button to start the timer, and then press Stop when you’re finished. You can have it running in your browser, you can have it on your phone, so you can just tap on/off it all the time.
They have very good free trials and Starter packs for very, very small businesses on low budgets. Then if you do expand and grow, you can start to look at adding Teams and pull off reports – so if you want to know what your team are up to and you have them tracking time on different work, then that’s a good way to manage that as well.
Online business banking
If you’re having to go online more now and be more Internet-based with your day-to-day running of things – literally I do everything online I don’t have any paper, really at all, unless people send me it, even then it gets scanned in and put away – so we use a lot of tools for Accounting like Xero and FreeAgent, and more often than not we always have an online bank account.
I’ve been with Monzo (personal) for a long time. They’ve only literally just started introducing business bank accounts. Monzo is great for personal (banking) but Starling for business banking … we’ve had a few business bank accounts and honestly Starling has been the best.
It is so quick and easy to set up – just the same as Monzo was – and there is no rates, no charges every month just for having the account exist. We are finding payments in and out are instant, absolutely instantaneous. Even hooking this up to our Xero accounting software, I’m seeing (transactions) immediately – sorry Natwest but you were taking 4 days and that’s just not good enough, and they wouldn’t let me into my own account either, which is a whole different story!
You get a cute little card, this is what the app looks like with your balance, you can see your “ins and outs” as you’d expect. You get this thing called “Spaces” – in Monzo, it’s called “Pots” – and essentially you’re putting a little pot to the side, you can put some money in, so, as a small business again, I would put in my Payroll and Dividends in there, if I’ve got to pay for a Contractor, I will create a little pot for them, put their money in there and it’s to the side and budgeted for. And what I see on that big number is what I’ve got in.
Can not recommend these guys highly enough, it’s so smooth, honestly, you get set up in a couple of days and we found with some of the big high street banks it was taking ages, weeks, to sort things out, so definitely check them out.
Another app I’ve been using for some years now is Moneybox. As you may know (at the time of making the video) for savings you’re not getting a very good rate on your savings at the minute, so again, if you’re kinda good at your money management – or need to be for business! – you might consider investing instead, such as Stocks & Shares ISAs, because there is a good chance you’ll get a good rate.
Now obviously, at the minute, the market is not great (thanks Coronavirus!) but then again, they’re cheap to buy! So what this does is, you hook it up to your bank – again, if you’re with Monzo or somewhere like that, it’s very easy to set up, with just a few taps on your apps and that’s it, you’re away!
What it does is, it rounds up your spending and pops it into the pot, so here is the example, you’ve spent £2.40 on your coffee, we’re gonna round that up to £3.00, so 60pence goes into your (Moneybox) savings pot. Honestly, I’ve saved up hundreds of pounds, just from pennies, like that (method).
You can choose to pay a regular payment or drop in a quick payment if you’re feeling flush. it’s all managed, it gives you a good way of managing the breakdown of where your money is allocated – do you want to do it cautiously, or do you want to be quite risky? Obviously, when the markets go back up, this figure would go back up, would fly-up, literally! I’ve had some interest rates of 10% at times, it’s been really good.
It’s a nice quick way of saving money and again it’s really painless if you’re hooking it up to your business accounts or even your personal accounts for saving.
Another thing you might want to do if you’re self-isolating is skilling-up! I’ve used quite a lot of online training tools – mostly for Web – but LinkedIn Learning is really good, it’s got a broad spectrum. What it used to be called is Lynda.com so you might know it from that, they got bought out by LinkedIn, so there is a lot of business courses on here.
So if you wanted to learn more about a particular software, or you want to think about strategies, or how to become a better leader, they’ve got all sorts of different learning topics. You know if you fancy your hand at some Photoshop, there are some things on there, too!
Talking about accounts and money management and project management, there are loads on there and honestly, I think it’s worth it for the cost. For the cost of the monthly payment, it’s classed as a Premium account on LinkedIn.com so you get the best of both.
Rather than paying Linkedin one fee and then paying for the Learning, you pay something like £49 a month and you can have unlimited access, but you also get the Premium LinkedIn which means – depending on which package you pick – you can see who has viewed your Profile, you can send messages to people you aren’t connected with if you need to generate sales.
Definitely check that out, it’s worth skilling-up if you’re going to have a lot of down-time.
And finally, you need some entertainment in your life! So you can’t go wrong with Spotify, I’m sure you’ve probably heard of it by now, but you can also use your iTunes, Google Play store, Podcasts. I find it great if you do a lot of driving as I do, I am always listening to audiobooks and podcasts because I don’t always get to sit down and read.
But yeah, Premium on Spotify, we have a shared family account because you can share the access at home – ssh don’t tell Spotify! haha, j/k – some phone companies like Vodafone offer Spotify for free as part of a package so it might be worth checkout out what deals there is.
It’s quite a small amount (of money) and you can have your music in your pocket or you laptop, you can create Playlists – sadly they don’t have any screen captures of what it looks like – so I might be able to skip over to what mine looks like now, but yeah [laughs] we have loads of random playlists on here, I’ve got all my Hard House, I’ve got my daughter’s songs and we can play these in the car, y’know if you’re out and about.
You can create different playlists; different people have created playlists (which you can add to your account or download), you’ve got radio stations on here, honestly, you cannot get bored! We used to have this on in the office and have people pick a playlist for the day, so you might have a day of Disney, you might have a day of Hard Metal you never know, but it is a good laugh and we can switch it on/off for each other as well, so we can play some daft music through the other persons’ speakers, it’s hilarious!
It’s handy, you can go offline, so you can save all these (playlists), you can download them, you can see the little arrows and play your music while you’re out and about, or camping out in coffee shops, things like that.
So I hope that’s a canny little round-up for what tools and apps you can use and be on-the-go and have it on your phone and be a little more connected, you don’t have to feel so isolated. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.