We just celebrated Independence Day here in the US, and in addition to an extraordinary amount of BBQ, family time and fireworks, I had a moment to reflect on the joys and struggles of living the independent life of a solopreneur. So, in the spirit of helping others get set up more quickly, and in no particular order — here are a few practical tools I’ve found really useful when working for myself. I hope you find something useful, and let me know what tools you rely on!
1: Tech Shop
When you are an extrovert and work for yourself, it’s important to find ways to connect to a social environment. For me, Tech Shop was the perfect place. Not only does it have free WiFi, coffee and popcorn, but also the awesome energy of passionate tinkerers in a beautifully messy garage. Just be sure to bring your noise-cancelling headphones to drown out the lasers and lathes :).
Cost: $150/mo, can work out of any location
I use Breather rooms for those moments when I’ve needed to facilitate a client workshop in a more focused space. Their app makes it easy to find, reserve, extend and even unlock the room’s door. It’s also nice that they come with rights to film and take photos. This came in handy when I was recently shooting a Kickstarter video for an upcoming product launch.
Cost: ~$30–70/hour in the Bay Area
*In a few cases I have referral links for these tools — I am including them here in case anyone wants the discounts: Referral Link (get $45 credit)
My calendar is managed by an amazing assistant. She saves me many hours each week with the exhausting back-and-forth of scheduling, re-scheduling, calling, conferencing, etc. She’s so good that she regularly gets asked out on dates. The thing is, she’s an algorithm. I’ve used both X.ai and ClaraLabs.com for the past few months, and chose to use ClaraLabs so I can use my own domain and have human intervention for more complex communications.
Cost: $199/mo for Clara or free (initally) with x.ai
There are few things I despise more than the mental juggling required to join a typical conference call while on the go. Speek makes this a joy by giving attendees a url (www.speek.com/danmak for example) that takes them straight to the conference line, no matter what device they’re on. #bliss
Cost: free for basic services, $19–24/mo for all the goodies
I aced the verbal part of my SAT, but pretty much bombed math . I’ve just never enjoyed that part of my brain, so it gives me particular joy to have a team of accountants at Bench deal with my financials. I get neat and tidy profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and other spreadsheetish stuff from them each month. Plus, they are really friendly, accessible and just plain awesome.
Cost: $125/mo and up
Referral Link (free month)
Running your own business requires a lot of juggling of logistics, leads, contracts, paperwork, receipts, time-tracking, scheduling, re-scheduling, invoicing, and hopefully actually getting paid. The team at PocketSuite.io have done an amazing job of helping solopreneurs manage all of this from their seamless app, and relying primarily on messaging for pretty much everything. Plus, you get your own virtual phone number, which I use as a special client hotline.
Cost: $9.99/mo and up
Back in the day I took a lot of pride in hand-coding my own HTML. Then I started using Dreamweaver and tweaking the CSS or HTML as needed. Eventually I got to a point where I was content with tools like WordPress and Squarespace and spent more time focusing on content rather than presentation. I’ve taken that one step further a few years ago with a lovely little tool called Strikingly. It started out with the great mission of creating single, scrolling pages that were simple, elegant and functional, and has since grown into my favorite way of getting an awesome site up. It has modern, liquid, adaptive layout, video backgrounds, the ability now to have multiple pages, and a sweet WYSIWYG UI.
Cost: Free, $8/mo, or $16/mo
For starters, how can you not like a business card business that is called Moo :)? Second, Moo has awesome formats (mini luxe cards are my favorite), and plenty of well-designed templates to choose from. I love handing out a card with a “printfinity” back (each card has a different photo) that I can feel proud of.
Cost: about $35 for a set of 100 luxe mini cards
Referral Link ($7.50 credit)
Email kind of sucks because it’s so hard to tease out the good stuff from the bad stuff. Information ninja’s during my Microsoft days had convoluted Outlook rules to tame the beast, but I could never take that much time to figure it all out. I’ve used Unroll.me for a few years to make it better and take control of spam, but it was a simple system that wasn’t very smart. In walks SaneBox and takes instant control of my inbox (for Gmail users only right now). Chaos turned into order so fast it was almost comical how much quieter my inbox became. Few things have made me more productive.
Cost: $7 / $12 / $36/mo
Referral Link ($5 credit)
Most of my innovation team at Capital One used this tasty little Chrome plugin, and I was instantly hooked. It sets an awesome tone with inspirational quotes and beautiful nature scenes from around the world every time I start my day or open a new browser window. It encourages me to articulate my focus for the day, and I’ve paid the very affordable annual premium to integrate my task list from Wunderlist.