Going it Alone, Part 3 – Tools for the Job

Now you’ve got all the gear, you might find yourself scrabbling for ideas to make sure you get the best out of it. We certainly did at first – and it took more than a few hours of research to find the solutions that worked for us.

What Tools Do I Need?

As with the kit list from Part 2, this will vary with the nature of your work. For the purpose of this blog, we’re looking at what those in more creative roles might require – although much of the advice will (hopefully!) apply across industries.

Organisational Tools

Literacy with Microsoft products is almost as much a pre-requisite of professional life as understanding the concept of smart casual attire (okay, bad example…) Luckily, the latest iteration of Office 365 is far simpler to fathom than which shade of chino is acceptable for prospect meetings.

Aside from the usual suspects (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint), OneDrive is a handy and reliable means of accessing files from any device that comes as part of the deal, while Teams – a new project management tool – really comes into its own when working with large groups of stakeholders. Throw in an ever-improving suite of mobile apps and there’s a lot to be said for the 365 package.

Of course, if you’re not a fan of the Microsoft juggernaut, Apple products come with their own equivalent of the basics (Mail, Pages, Numbers, Keynote) and there are plenty of file sharing alternatives out there, including old favourite Dropbox. Project management tools are rapidly on the rise now too. We’re big fans of Trello – which is great for those starting out small and, to our minds anyway, a little more user-friendly than Teams.

Creative Tools

When it comes to creative tools, the Adobe suite has long been the benchmark. Membership of Creative Cloud offers access to as many (or as few) applications as required – all of which are powerful and intuitive enough to handle even the most intricate projects.

Mobile apps for each of the main applications are also available – great for content creation on the move – and Adobe virgins can quickly get up to speed with built-in tutorials that are easy to follow and great fun for those keen on learning new skills.

Of course, as with all good resources, the Adobe suite doesn’t come cheap. For more basic photo and video editing, mobile tools like VSCO are a great solution (and much kinder on the wallet!)

Analytics Tools

The ability to demonstrate tangible results is an essential part of retaining existing clients and pitching to new prospects. Whatever your industry, chances are there will be hundreds of tools out there claiming to be the best thing since sliced bread. Unsurprisingly, the digital world is prime amongst those, with a multitude of options available.

The best advice we can offer is to take advantage of any free trial periods on offer to explore which solutions work best for you (and delay forking out for membership in the process!) After much deliberation, we eventually plumped for Sprout Social based on ease of use, value for money and scalability.

In Summary…

As with so many elements of starting a business, the best approach here is undoubtedly to experiment with as many options as possible in the time you can afford to spare. And don’t forget to include annual / monthly subscription fees in your budget, as they very quickly start to add up…

Stay tuned for Part 4, where we’ll take a look at what elements of running a business you might want to consider outsourcing.

And if you missed it, catch up on Part 2 right here.