Table of Contents
Hey there, all you techie business owners and entrepreneurs out there! Welcome to yet another Q&A episode of Your Sparkly Brand that’s going to take your small business tools to the next level.
We know that one of the most daunting parts of navigating the world of business software is knowing what small business tools are best suited for your business.
In this episode, we are answering your questions on choosing the right small business tools to streamline your business operations and boost your productivity.
Watch The Episode
Key Points For This Episode
- Lauren updates her proposal template with new improvements.
- Meg attends an in-person retreat hosted by her Mastermind group.
- We’re back again with another Q & Episode – talking about small business tools to build your brand
- Best email marketing platform to consider for your business.
- Where to set up your website.
- Websites to optimize your images for your website.
- How to pick a CRM.
- Must-have Google Chrome extensions within your small business tools toolbelt.
- When to consider moving from a free version of a software to a premium version.
- Small business tools for video editing.
- Best small business tools for your link in bio.
- Small businness tools we do not recommend based on our experience.
- Invoicing tools we recommend.
- Where to start with creating SOPs.
- Best social media scheduler.
Did you enjoy this episode? If so, please leave us a 5-star rating! Ratings & reviews will help this podcast grow so we can make the world a little more Sparkly!
Links We Mentioned
Dubsado CRM System: dubsado.com/?c=tassi
Siteground (Website Hosting): siteground.com/index.htm?afcode=5aad1278cf953cd3ef1ff2c326a4709d
Lauren: Hello and welcome to Your Sparkly Brand, the podcast for badass game-changing business owners who aren’t afraid to sparkle and stand out.
We’re all about fighting the status quo in marketing and branding so you can reach more people and make more money, coaches, creatives, and thought leaders. Here you’ll discover how to become magnetic AF so you can build and scale a sparkly empire. I’m Lauren Tassi, a digital marketing expert for coaches and course creators, and I’m joined by my co-host, the branding and web design queen Megan Gersch.
Megan: Hey, how’s it going?
Lauren: I’m good. How are you?
Megan: I’m doing well. What was your sparkly moment this week?
Lauren: You know what? I spent a ton of time yesterday working on a proposal, but basically like updating my proposal template, like really sort of. Making it less of just like, here’s a document and more of like, let’s put a picture in here.
Let’s change up the colors and like, just make it a little more friendly on the eyes. So it took a while, but it’s gonna be, I’m excited to use it going forward.
Megan: Oh, I love that. Love it, love it.
Lauren: Yeah. What about you?
Megan: So I just got back from a retreat that, is hosted by my mastermind group.
So this is the first time that I’ve ever gone in person to meet these amazing, amazing women. Basically, I’ve been talking with them over Zoom for like almost a year. And so to be able to get to meet them in person was just like such a treat. I had the opportunity to connect with so many of them, and I just feel so grateful to have had that opportunity.
Lauren: Oh, yay. I bet that was so fun.
Megan: Yeah, it was super, super fun. Okay, so today we are back again with another Q&A episode. So today we’re clearing the doubts and confusion about what small business tools and software are most suitable for your business. And we’re also gonna cover what to consider before choosing the different small business tools for your business.
So we’re gonna be sharing what small business tools we use in our businesses as well as what we recommend to our clients.
Lauren: We’re gonna put lots of links in the show notes so we can easily find things. Some of them may be our affiliate links, but you know how we roll. We’re not gonna be sharing anything with you that we don’t like personally use, personally endorse personally believe in.
So we’re not just trying to sell you stuff. These are just our favorite small business tools. And if you wanna use our links, great. If you don’t, that’s cool too.
Megan: All right, so let’s get into the questions. So the first question is, what is the best email marketing platform?
Lauren: Ooh, such a good one. So it really depends on what industry you’re in and where you are at in your email marketing journey.
Let’s put it that way. Are you a beginner? Do you need something that’s very beginner friendly? Or are you more advanced? Do you have a team working for you? Do you have somebody else handling things? Because that’s gonna make a difference. So let me start with like coaches and basically, anybody who’s selling a service that isn’t visually heavy.
And I always recommend Active Campaign for that. That’s what I use. I made the switch from MailChimp to Active Campaign last year and it’s just, it’s so much better, but it is not the easiest on the eyes, user friendly from the backend. But it has so much capability that anyone who has a non-visual heavy type of advertising strategy is really gonna benefit from it.
I just did a comparison for some clients. Between Convert Kit and Constant Contact and Active Campaign and for somebody in the beginner phase, they’re all about the same price. Active Campaign is definitely the more robust one. It’s you can do sms, you can do all these things, but it’s not as easy on the eyes where the other two are a little more beginner friendly.
So if you’re just starting out, those might be good ones to check out. And then the other thing I always recommend when it comes to e-commerce is Klaviyo these days if you’re serious about what you’re doing and you have plans to like really build a business, you have to use Klaviyo. It’s the best one.
I’m just getting a client started on that now. She had, was using like Shopify’s built-in platform and I was like, they have platform – that can’t be that good. So if you’re in e-commerce and you’re not using Klaviyo, it’s probably worth making the switch. What about you?
Megan: Yeah, so I’d use Flodesk and this is something that I switched to probably two years ago at this point.
And before I switched, I had Active Campaign and I was like one of those people where I was like, everybody’s talking about Flodesk. Like what is the deal? Why do I keep hearing about Flodesk? And then I like the trial and started trying it out and I was like, Oh, this is why people use Flodesk.
This is crazy. It’s such an amazing visual platform. Great for those that have you know, a creative field. And it’s just like the templates are so gorgeous. There’s just a ton of design flexibility and it really is super user-friendly as well.
Lauren: I also wanted to mention – I was talking to another client about this the other day.
It doesn’t matter what email marketing platform you’re using, if you are not actually sending emails. Cuz I had a long conversation with somebody about this and I was like, well are, but you’re not using it so it doesn’t really matter. So that’s also very important. And then I also was comparing for prospective client.
They’re using HubSpot for email marketing, which I was shocked when I looked at how much that costs for like a beginner. And so they, like, they have a split now between, some of their emails on their list is on MailChimp and the other half is on HubSpot and I just, it just seems like a huge mess.
Neither of those are good options. So spare yourself sort of this weird in-between phase and like stick with one of these like budget-friendly options that are also scalable.
Megan: Yeah, absolutely.
Lauren: Alright. So let’s talk about websites. Meg, this one’s for you. Where should I set up a website?
Megan: There are so many. There are also so many great options. Let me just say, so it really depends on your business and it depends what type of priorities you have. It also depends how much code background you have. Like how comfortable are you with getting into the CSS to customize things, right? Some of my favorites are, Showit.
This is, where I made the switch for my website. I used to be on WordPress. I’m now on. I absolutely love Showit. It gives you a ton of creative flexibility. Everything is super drag and drop. You can tilt things without it having to do any code. It’s just really a nice, Kind of crossroads between design functionality and like the perks of doing SEO on your website.
The other platform that I really love is WordPress. If you’re gonna use WordPress, I do recommend using SiteGround as your host. It’s basically like the top-rated hosting platform, for WordPress websites. It helps your website to be nice and fast, which delivers a great user experience.
I also love Squarespace. They recently made an update to their platform that’s called Fluid Engine, which basically makes it really, really easy for clients to go in and make customized designs. It’s, gives a lot more flexibility than what they had on the previous version. And lastly, if you are an e-commerce business, I recommend Shopify, which is basically just the standard.
If you are putting together any kind of robust shopping experience, lots of apps that you can tap into there and kind of make it your.
Lauren: Yeah, I have nothing to add. Only to say that I use Squarespace myself and I didn’t know about that fluid thing. I have to go check that out. Cause you can probably do some quick little updates.
And then same thing Shopify for e-commerce, there’s WooCommerce too, which isn’t a bad one. Or custom build your own. If you’re at that point in your business, you know, that can never hurt. But yeah, totally agree.
Megan: The only thing that I would say with WooCommerce is that because it uses WordPress, there’s a lot more concern there when it comes to security. So it’s one of those things where you have to be really on top of your WordPress security because WordPress is an open-source platform. And so, you don’t have that built in like, security layer, especially since you’re collecting credit card information and sensitive information and that kind of thing.
So you don’t have to worry about that if you’re going with Shopify. That’s the only other thing I would say.
Lauren: Awesome. What, are there any other website-related small business tools you recommend that aren’t just like the builders themselves?
Megan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I love using Ubersuggest as a great tool for SEO research.
It’s also a great way to see what your competitors are doing in the space to see like what they’re doing in their meta descriptions, their keywords. All of that kind of stuff.
Google Analytics is amazing. They’ve recently updated to GA4, which is basically how you can see like where your traffic is coming from on your website. Like how are they getting there? Is it from Pinterest or is it organic or is, you know, is it coming from somewhere else? I usually check my analytics about once a week.
The other two sites that I wanna call out are essentially like, sites that can help you with optimizing your images for your website.
So, the first of which is TinyPNG, which is a site where you just drag your images into the site. It helps to compress those images, which makes for faster loading times on your website. So you would drag it into TinyPNG, download the image from there.
And then I recommend uploading them to GeoImgr. So this is a site that can geotag your images. So basically, you know, if you are working on your local SEO this can be a real benefit. So, you know, I try to geotag my images within Los Angeles. It helps with that Google ranking locally.
Lauren: Awesome. I didn’t know about this last two. Those are very helpful.
Megan: Totally. So moving on to our next question. How do I pick a CRM?
Lauren: So this one is even like more niche industry, business specific than email marketing, I would say. Because it really just depends of what kind of capabilities you’re looking for, what type of, you know, automations, that kind of thing.
I use Dubsado, we did a whole episode about Dubsado, we’ll put a link to that. You can go listen, if you wanna hear about that. What do you do? Are you using anything right now?
Megan: Not really. I have like my own system of like when emails come in, I like tag them within my email and then I kind of have my own process for how I handle that.
But I don’t really need it right now. Like, I don’t get like a, I don’t have like a crazy list of folks that I’m working with and I’m not going for volume.
Lauren: Yeah, I think that’s part of it too. Dubsado is definitely not for volume, but it helps keep things aligned. And then I have recently got it set up with ClickUp on my end.
So it really just sort of trying to stop all the back and forth of me having to like, spread information and just make the information appear to other people. The other thing I will say, I am paying for this right now and I have not used it once and I’m. Quit it soon is like Pipe Drive, which is very much about like lead generation sales and like staying on top of things.
I signed up for it because it was recommended and I’ve looked at it like twice and I just don’t even use it. So I don’t recommend that one purely because I haven’t used it and I can’t vouch for it. Ooh, let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects. What are some must-have Google Chrome extensions?
Megan: I have so many Chrome extensions. If you ever look at my Chrome, it’s like literally like a row of icons across, there’s like a little tiny space for me to put in, like the actual web dress cuz I have so many. One of my favorites is the detailed SEO Chrome extension.
This is a great way to get a quick look at what’s going on with the website metadata-wise. It’s a great way to look at your competitors to see what they’re doing.
Another one that I really like to use, especially as a designer, is What Font. So basically what font, once you turn it on, you can go to any website and you can see what fonts they’re using on the website.
So, use that one quite often. Another one which kind of has like a funny name – but it’s called What Runs, which is like, kind of funny, but like, basically this is a Chrome extension that allows you to see under the hood of a website. So it’ll say like, this is built on Shopify. Here’s the theme that it uses. Here are the different add-ons that they’re using. Here’s all the plug-ins here. They’re using Ajax, like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so it really gives you like a rundown of. The exact things that a website is using, it won’t work on every single website, but for the most part, it gives you like a cool, kind of snapshot of how they are achieving some of these things on their pages.
Another great one that I like to use is called Go Full Page, which helps you to take full-page screenshots. So this is especially helpful to me as a designer because I like to show the entire homepage. This might be helpful to you if you’re trying to get, a better sense of like, you know, taking a whole screenshot of maybe one of your competitors’ sites so that way you can really analyze what they’re actually doing on their pages.
Another one that I like to use all the time is Loom. I mean, this is one that we’ve talked about on the podcast before, but basically, you can use it to create short-form instructional videos. It’s great for if you need to quickly communicate something with your team. Another one that I like to use is VidIQ.
So this is great for YouTube videos. Again, this is like very SEO heavy, gives you some ideas for keywords and that kind of thing. But it can allow you to see like what are, you know, high-competition keywords, low-competition keywords, et cetera. , Grammarly is another great one. So if you have any kind of writing, any kind of things where you need to do writing in your business, this is a great tool, especially for folks like me who I feel like I’m not like a natural born writer.
Grammarly always helps me to say like, okay, you need a comma here. You need like, you know, an extra word here. This is the better way to say that. Grammarly is gonna be your b F. last one that I will say is there’s an app called Sort for TikTok. So this has been helpful to me as a content creator.
Basically, if you go to your TikTok page and you enable the sort for TikTok, Google Chrome extension. This will reorder your videos from best performing to worse performing. So it gives you an opportunity to see your best-performing pieces of content where you can take those pieces of content and repurpose them.
You can remake them, you can post them on other platforms, it’s just a great great way to get your best performing content at the top of the. , do you have any Chrome, extensions you wanna add?
Lauren: Yeah, I have a couple I’m gonna add. And then I wanna give a few more points to some of the ones you said.
For Go Full Page. I use that one too. You use it all the time. It’s great for swipe files. Especially you see a sales page, you see a website. You could just grab that real quickly, throw it in a folder, and then later on when you’re like, oh, I need some ideas for this, you’ve got it. It’s, I think it’s easier than bookmarks.
It’s easier than anything. Any of those other options in terms of creating swipe files? Loom same a hundred percent. I don’t. I can’t run without it. It was down for like five hours a couple weeks ago, and I was literally like so frustrated because I couldn’t communicate things that I’m so used to being able to just talk about.
So I highly recommend that one. Grammarly? Yes, a thousand percent. Although I do not recommend the paid version, I only recommend the free version just because the paid version starts to do this like, editing thing, it can make your words sound less, like copy and more like academic research. So, and Al always take their suggestions with a grain of salt because sometimes you’ll be like, no, that’s not as good as the way I wrote it.
The one I use for SEO is called Keywords Everywhere. It’s not free, but it’s like you buy like, Credits and you buy like millions of credits I spend like $20 a year on it and it just like shows up in your search pages and stuff.
So it’s kind of like running in the background and I feel like it educates me even when I’m like searching for personal stuff just to see how, how people are phrasing keywords.
And then the other one I wanted to mention was work. And there might be like something better than this by now, but I just still use it.
And I have two of theirs. One is like tab manager, which obviously helps. I bet Chrome has something better like this now. But just helps organize things and be able to like close windows full of tabs instead of leaving everything open. And then they have a Tab Suspender, which like if you wanna leave the window open, you can then suspend all the tabs in the window because it just like slows me down so much.
I think partly because I have so many Chrome extensions.
Megan: That’s amazing. I was literally just asking Jerry about that yesterday, so I’m definitely gonna be looking into that because I was like, there’s gotta be a better way. I just keep closing down my browsers and everything keeps disappearing. Like there’s gotta be a better way,
Lauren: All right, so next question is, at what point in my business should I consider upgrading from free to paid versions of software?
Megan: This is a really good question. So I would say when you have time and energy to dedicate to that paid subscription is like the number one thing because you don’t wanna be paying for something and not using it.
The other thing is when you know, if you are using a tool and you’re really enjoying it, but you are outgrowing the free version, that’s a good indicator that you probably need to invest in the premium version. A lot of these small business tools too will give you like, a free version of the software so that way you can try it out before you actually commit to using it.
So that is helpful. What do you think?
Lauren: Yeah, I think it’s just sometimes thinking about like, I use this tool a lot. The paid version is offering me something more like how much time is that gonna save me? How much stress? There’s like one that I don’t use anymore cause I work with an editor now, but it’s called Speechify and you could take text and it would read it to you and you could select all these voices and stuff.
And it helped me with editing my writing because I could hear it, somebody reading it, which was so much more than just me trying to read it for the 1000000th time.
Megan: Yeah. Genius. That sounds awesome.
Lauren: I don’t recommend it anymore though. It’s not what I’m using. I would recommend to get an editor, but you could give it a try if you want.
And it, cuz I think it was like maybe $120 a year. It wasn’t the cheapest thing I’ve ever bought.
All right, so let’s talk about video editing. What small business tools do you recommend?
Megan: Okay, so for this podcast, we use Descript to edit the podcast, which is really great because you just drag in the video and it automatically transcribes the video for you.
So it gives you lots of different ways that you can use the video. And the cool thing about Descript is that you can edit video like a Word doc, and if you can just imagine what that means. So like if you highlight the first sentence of the transcription, you can just highlight it and then click delete and it will delete that part of the video.
So it’s really cool. I haven’t seen any other video editor tools like it, and it’s very, beginner-friendly if you’re looking to edit your videos.
The other video editing app that I like to use is Cap Cut. And so I use this for editing all of my TikTok videos. It’s great for mobile. I think they also just launched a desktop version of it as well.
Not sure if it’s paid or free, but the phone version is completely free. So yeah, I, it’s super easy, intuitive, you know, that’s what I recommend. What about you?
Lauren: I have nothing to recommend there. That’s Not my world. What about, a link in bio tool?
Megan: Ooh, so I love this. So I use Stan, which is basically like a funnel meets link in bio.
But the cool thing about Stan is that you can sell products. You can build your email list if you don’t wanna use any of the other email list, subscription tools. They’re actually launching an actual email sending system soon, so it’s gonna be really like the creator all in one platform.
I think that’s kind of what they’re gunning for. There are lots of different functions within the Stan platform, and we will link it in the show notes. It’s super helpful. Awesome.
Lauren: All right, so let. Spill the tea. What apps or small business tools have you used and don’t recommend?
Megan: All right, so I’ll happily go first and anyone that follows me will know that I will say Wix is absolutely, not something that I recommend.
Along with that, I would also say like any of the like, Kind of beginner friendly site builders like Google sites or GoDaddy sites. They’re just better, better options for beginners, especially since there are, more robust, better functioning options. So that’s my 2 cents.
Lauren: Yeah, I feel like when someone says, and I haven’t looked at their website yet, and they say they’re using Wix, I know what it’s gonna look like and it’s not gonna be great.
And then one out of a hundred times I’m surprised and it’s actually pretty good. But yeah, let’s stop using Wix. There’s so, like, Squarespace is so much, so much easier and it looks so much better.
Megan: I wanna add one more. And that is Weebly.
Lauren: Sorry. . it’s, it’s over.
I actually have one of our old projects, Crave Comedy is on Weebly, and they just like, I don’t know, they’re changing everything and I just wanna forward it, this business is pretty over now, but I just want it to still have a web presence and so I gotta get that figured out. I will share my thing.
I will say this is like a regret. Like I have very few business regrets, but I got a little sucked into Groove Digital. Do you know what that is?
Megan: No. I don’t know what that is.
Lauren: So at the, this is a couple years ago, at the time, it was marketed as like it, they’re building everything. It’s gonna be a one-stop solution for like, you can host courses, you can do email marketing like it’s literally all the things on one platform.
And if you buy in now you have lifetime. Everybody else is like, don’t do that. I did that. It was like $1,500. It wasn’t a big deal at the time. It’s still not a big deal, but it really is like, it’s very much a… like people recruit you and then you get in and then they get a commission.
So I do not user-friendly. I would never trust it to run my emails even years later. They have not gotten it up there. So if you see that and you’re tempted, I don’t recommend it. Stay away, use all the other small business tools we recommended. They’re not as all built-in together, but that system does not look like it’s working years later.
Megan: Yikes. All right, so let’s talk about invoicing. The next question is what invoicing software is best for me?
Lauren: So this just, again, is business dependent. I’ll share my perspectives cuz I’ve, I’ve used them all in some capacity. The first one I was successful with was FreshBooks. I think it’s really user-friendly.
It’s easy to understand if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process. I’ve also used Wave Apps, which is not as good, but free if that’s something that’s holding you back.
I recently switched to QuickBooks, which is just everything you need. You can just give it to a bookkeeper, you can just give it to your accountant and they’re like, thank you, we understand this.
What about you?
Megan: Yeah, I still use FreshBooks. It’s pretty much everything that I need. I use it for invoicing estimates, time tracking around tax time. I can just send it off to my accountant. And it’s the same thing where she’s like, thank you. Everything is just itemized and it’s lovely. So Fresh Books has been great for me.
Lauren: Okay, so let’s talk about SOPs cuz this is something I’ve been working on in my business and I know this comes up a lot. It’s one of those things that you always hear people say, like, this is what got me to the next level, was setting up SOPs. So where do we even start with this?
Megan: I love a good old-fashioned Google doc.
And sometimes I’ll use this in conjunction with Loom or unlisted YouTube videos, depending on the length of the video. But I like to keep it in Google Docs because I like to be able to update it down the line as things evolve, as things change in my business. But it’s been working pretty good so far.
How about you?
Lauren: Well, so you recently sent me Tango, which I haven’t used, but I saw one of my VAs used that’s gotta be a good one. And then my other one is like, hire a VA. There’s just, I think that’s one of those things we’re just having another brain involved in that process can really be valuable.
Absolutely. And this is my question that I added on here because as I wanted to get your answer what’s the best social media scheduler for a small business?
Megan: So most of the apps have in-app scheduling now, which is great. You know, there are pluses and minuses to every scheduler, so you just have to kind of take that with a grain of salt.
I have been using Repurpose.io, and if you follow me on social media, you know that I create a lot of social content, and so I love to use Repurpose.io because it automatically takes my Tiktoks and puts them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and also downloads them without the watermark to my Google Drive folder.
So that has been a huge time saver for my business. And then I also, so that’s like the automated part of my business, but then I also do some manual repurposing on other platforms so that way I can like really optimize, like using the in-app text and stuff like that.
I’ve also used Later.com in the past. It’s great, it’s reliable.
If you’re trying to work on your Pinterest account, Tailwind is also a great app that you can use. It has a visual scheduler so that way you can see how many pins are going out every single day. They also have like an in-app creation tool. So if you don’t wanna create the pins yourself, you can literally put in like, this is the text that I wanna put on the pins.
These are my brand colors. Like, auto-create me. 20 pins and then you just pick the ones that you like, schedule them out, add your captions, and you know, you’re good to go there. The other thing that I wanted to mention is that Canva also has in-app scheduling now. So it depends on what platforms you are trying to push your content to, but that’s another option, especially if you’re already paying for Canva.
Lauren: Not asking for a friend, can you schedule a LinkedIn post through Canva? Do you know?
Megan: I don’t know off the top of my head. I don’t know.
Lauren: I’ll check it out. Yeah,
Megan: I think you can definitely do that with Later though.
Lauren: You can – we’re – it’s – we’ll get there, but yeah, it’s my client. I’m looking for something cheap or free for the client.
And it’s more post than you get for the, the free plan.
Megan: I know there are, there are definitely solutions out there that only do LinkedIn. And so it’s just a matter, I, I just haven’t, like, I have my posts on auto posts from Repurpose right now. So like, not something that I’ve thought about in a long time.
Well, that is all the questions that we have for today on small business tools. If you have a question that you want answered on our next Q&A episode, either send us a DM on social media or email us at email@example.com. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, stay sparkly.
About The Your Sparkly Brand Podcast
Your Sparkly Brand is a podcast for badass, game-changing business owners who aren’t afraid to sparkle and stand out from competitors. We’re all about fighting the status quo in marketing and branding so you can reach more people and make more money. Coaches, creatives, and thought leaders — here you’ll discover how to become magnetic AF so you can build and scale a Sparkly Empire.
Is there a topic you’d like us to cover in an upcoming episode? Are you a business owner who wants to join us on the podcast to share your story? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Find Lauren at laurentassiagency.com or on Instagram
Connect with Megan at megangersch.com, on TikTok and Instagram