Life as a web developer is a changing one - all the time. The online tools I used a couple of years ago might not be around anymore. Other tools, like the Adobe Photoshop, are tried and true. They stay with me year after year. I’d like to share some of the online tools I currently use in my business.
Ringcentral - Team communications and tasks
Ringcentral Video is the newest addition to my online toolbox. Ringcentral Video, formerly known as Glip, is a tool for team collaboration and communications. It’s based on a chat interface, with the possibility to set up different teams (streams) to keep conversations clean. You can add people from your own company, or add as many guests as you want. Ringcentral Video has recently been chosen as the collaboration tool for the Joomla project, so that’s where I heard about it.
I used Slack for a while, which is also a great tool. When I discovered Ringcentral Video, I realized that what I was missing in Slack: Tasks. The addition of tasks into the workflow in Ringcentral Video has been really liberating. I use Ringcentral Video with developers and designers that I work with. Having tasks in the same interface as the communication is very handy, and Ringcentral Video makes it incredibly easy to add tasks from within conversations.
Tave - lead tracking and quotes
Tave is actually a photography studio management tool. As I also work as a photographer, I found this gem of a tool not long ago. I’ve used a few different tools to capture leads from my website. Tave is a great tool for this, and makes it very easy for me to follow up on leads and send them quotes. Depending on what contact form they have used and the choices they make, I can automatically send them questionnaires or other types of communication. Then I can follow up with a job quote, based on templates I’ve set up beforehand. This saves a lot of time, particularly for smaller jobs like portraits or headshots. I also use it for creating quotes for web projects. Huge time-saver!
Hootsuite - social media management
Hootsuite makes it easy to monitor several social media accounts in one place. I can post to several accounts simultaneously. For instance, I can send the same message to my Facebook page and to Twitter at the same time. I can also schedule the messages to go out at a specific time, or have Hootsuite auto schedule them. You can specify what days and times (from/to) you want to auto schedule to work with, and how many messages should be scheduled per day. This is a good way to spread out your messages over time, or to make sure a blog post gets noticed in the days or weeks after publication.
Basecamp - project management
I’ve used Basecamp for years now. It’s a project management tool that works very well for both smaller and larger teams. I’ve recently downgraded to a smaller account with them, as Glip has taken over some of the projects I used to have in Basecamp. There are some projects that fit the Basecamp workflow better, so I keep it around for now. I particularly like the project templates in Basecamp. For instance, I’m working on a small publication for an organization which is published four times a year. We are 6–7 people working on the publication, and there are recurring tasks each time. I’ve set up a template for this project. When it’s time for a new edition, I set up a new project with only a few clicks, complete with tasks, templates for texts, milestones and more.
Gmail for work
I’ve used Gmail for years for my private email. Last year, I migrated all of my business accounts over to Gmail for Business. Now, everything is in one interface. This has been a huge time-saver. Using filters and labels, I’m able to integrate with Zapier (see below) to automate a lot of tasks that took too much time before. Spam has become almost a non-issue, something that was a huge pain before. If you haven’t already, switch to Gmail.
Zapier - automation
Zapier is an online automation tol that connects hundreds of services with so-called zaps. These are small scripts that you set up in an easy-to-use interface. Using zaps, you can do things like search for emails with certain labels in Gmail and save attachments to Dropbox. I use this to save invoices from various vendors in my Dropbox. Makes things a lot easier when it’s time to do my accounting. Before, I needed to dig through my email a lot, or make sure I always remembered to save the attachment when it arrived. Now, it all works automatically. I also use Zapier to post new Facebook posts on Twitter, to save Stripe transactions in a Google Spredsheet and more.
Harvest - time tracking
Harvest is a time tracking app that also features invoicing. I only use the time tracking part of it, as I already use another online tool for invoicing (a Norwegian tool). I used Tick before, but I really like the Harvest interface. The reports are great and have saved a lot of time for me when it comes to invoicing my hours. Harvest also integrates well with Glip, so I can actually track time directly from tasks in Glip.
Harvest has a few different billing plans, and for me, it turned out at about half price of what I paid for Tick. In addition, the Harvest iPhone app is great - I use it to track time, but also to track expenses when I'm out of the office. It's very handy that you can also take a picture of receipts and attach them to the expense record.
Harvest Forecast is a companion app to Harvest, made by the same team. Forecast lets you map out your plans and see them easily in Forecast. Know how busy or available your team is at a glance. You can add key dates (milestones) as you push projects forward. You can easily see if the project will go over budget, if the estimates are close to the actuals and more. I use this tool to map out my hours for various projects over time. That way, I at least have a general idea of my capacity at any given time.
Cyfe - dashboards
Cyfe is an all-in-one business dashboard app that helps you easily monitor all your business data from one place. I’ve set up several dashboards, one for each area of my business. I can monitor data from Google Analytics like traffic, conversions, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Stripe transactions, and even search directly in my MySQL databases to pull data into tables and graphs. I’ve done this for a Joomla site where I monitor the amount of new articles in a graph. I have also set up a connection to Harvest, so I can see my logged hours easily in a graph. There are a lot of pre-built widgets that let you set up monitoring easily. There are several examples on the Cyfe blog on how to do this, as well as on how to build more complex setups. I had some trouble setting up the MySQL dashboard, and the Cyfe guys helped me every step of the way by responding really quickly by email. Great customer service! Using a dashboard like Cyfe is great if you want to avoid logging into several different tools to check the status of your business.
What do you use?
These are some of the tools I use nowadays. Let me know in the comments below what tools you like and use.