I often get asked what software I use to keep my small-business-and-freelancer ship sailing smoothly. People tend to ask because they see that I have this swanky little laptop that never leaves my side. (Surely a person who is that attached to her computer knows computer stuff, right?)
I can’t blame them, because I tend to ask people the same thing. It’s fun to see how other people do their work.
From my own experience, and from picking the brains of everyone around me, I’ve compiled a handy list. Here’s my can’t-live-without-it software, listed in no particular order. Price ratings are on a five-$ scale.
I’ve gone from Wunderlist (I ditched it after Microsoft bought it) to Firetask (I ditched it because it got too complicated and glitchy, and I paid a ton of money for it) and finally settled on the free version of Asana. I’ve tried others briefly, including the Mac native to-do list, BusyMac’s to-do list, and more.
But none compared to Asana’s the smooth interface and multi-device sync. I use Fluid to mimic an app on my laptop, and I use the Asana app on my phone.
I used to use Sunrise calendar on my iPhone, before Microsoft bought it and killed it. I never used the Mac Calendar app on my desktop because it had too many small pain points that added up quickly. I can’t figure out why Mac can’t get their native calendar right, especially since everything else they do is really great.
I currently use BusyCal for both Mac and iPhone. And now that BusyMac has released BusyCal3, they’ve really upped their game. I also use their contacts software, which integrates with the calendar and makes you want to faint with joy if you are anything like me, by which I mean detail-oriented and interested in decreasing the number of buttons you have to press in your life. One fair warning though: this software is pricey.
ZipBooks is new to the online accounting software scene, currently dominated by Quickbooks Cloud, Freshbooks, and Xero. Full disclosure, I’m writing this column for ZipBooks, but I have no shame, since it’s a product I use regularly, and genuinely love.
If you have a small business and need to invoice clients, sync with your bank, or keep track of your expenses, but you don’t want to shell out $20 a month or more, ZipBooks is for you—because it is really, truly, free.
Price: Free (really)
It’s true. I dumped Microsoft Office for the built-in office suite from Apple. I’m a convert. I love that there isn’t a whole bunch of settings. I used to micromanage the settings in MS Word, and none of it really made my documents any better or easier to work with. Now, that I don’t do that, my documents are still easy to work with, and they’re better looking.
My slide decks are devastatingly handsome. Everyone asks me where I buy my PowerPoint templates. I give them a smile and say, this isn’t PowerPoint, silly.
I never had anything against Excel, or spreadsheets in general, but Numbers makes spreadsheets into something that are functional for people who aren’t accountants. They’re attractive, useful, and easy to read.
“I just don’t get Evernote,” say half the people I meet. Yeah, I hear you. I didn’t get it either, at first, but now I find it indispensable.
When I’m going to go give a talk at a conference, I create a notebook with Evernote. Into that notebook goes my travel arrangements, my slide deck and any other talk materials, the conference’s materials such as scheduled events, and anything else I might need. That notebook is synced to my iPhone, the web, and of course, my laptop. I can view my travel plans instantly on my phone. I can view a map. Using the free mobile version of Keynote, I can review my slide deck on my phone. It’s all in there.
Evernote is like your email program, Dropbox, and you word processor rolled into one, perfectly synced, easy-to-access program. I compose all my articles there. I take interview notes there. Each article I write is a note. Each client gets a folder. Evernote basically holds my life together.
Price: $8/month for a Premium subscription