Apps for running a business
The apps and services I use to run my business.
I’m regularly asked for app recommendations, so I’ve prepared a list of services I use. This is by no means a comprehensive guide to these different services, and they won’t necessarily be the right choice for you, but it’s a start.
I’ve kept the list focused on business services, so this doesn’t include more technical things I use to do my day job.
Some of the links are affiliate links, so I may receive a commission if you signup after using my link.
After a few years with a US-based accounting company, I switched to FreeAgent a few years ago. It’s been totally worth it thanks to their understanding of the UK tax system and other features like Open Banking.
I use a Mac, but to believe Macs are unsusceptible to viruses and malware could be a costly mistake. I use a mix of Sophos and AVG, along with Malwarebytes.
I’ve tried handling backups in a few ways over the years. First, through Time Machine, then a NAS (Network Attached Storage: a personal Dropbox of sorts), and most recently, through online backup services.
I recently moved to BackBlaze.
There are lots of startup banks, and I wrote about my experience of choosing a business bank account recently. I’d recommend following those steps and researching others’ experiences – some banks have a pretty poor reputation despite their flashy branding.
For contract signing, I use Adobe Sign. Adobe offers this as a standalone service, but it’s also part of Acrobat. My subscription is covered through my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription – it’s very handy.
File Management #
I use Dropbox for file management, file sharing with clients and syncing files between computers. I much prefer the interface to Google Drive, but I’ve also considered moving to Sync as it’s more privacy-focused.
It’s no secret that I recommend Jack for insurance. Quick responses to queries and transparent about what is/isn’t included in policies – I’d recommend checking them out.
Mailing Lists #
I used Mailchimp for years and used ConvertKit for a while. In December 2020, I moved all my mailing lists to Buttondown – I haven’t looked back. It’s privacy-focused, easy to author and customise with CSS.
Payment Processing #
For selling anything online, I tend to use Gumroad or PayHip – see this comparison of the two services.
Last year, I switched to using Notion as my main note-taking/task tracking app. The notes have infinite depth, like a Wiki, and they’re incredibly flexible. I no longer rely on a mishmash of services to handle what I need – it’s well worth checking out.
The other app I recommend is Station. This is great for bundling lots of tabs/apps into a single screen, making it easy to hide distractions without closing them.
One of my favourite apps to bring into Station is Noisli. It’s a white-noise generator that lets you create a mix of sounds – great for blocking out external noises.
I don’t need to schedule meetings that often, but I use Calendly when I do. It’s great for booking consultations, too – it can take payment at the point of booking and automatically send reminders, too.
As a web designer, I have to generate a lot of passwords. Clients also need to share passwords with me, so I’ve used a range of apps. Many have quite clunky interfaces, which is particularly noticeable if you’re not already in their system.
Time Tracking #
Like a lot of accounting software, FreeAgent offers a time tracking tool, so I use this to track time on projects. It’s useful to see how projects are getting on and whether they’re going to be delivered on budget.
There are lots of standalone tools that offer this, but accounting software integration is particularly useful.
There are lots of services I could recommend for websites, but I’ll keep this to hosting and analytics.
For hosting, I generally recommend Guru. They’re reliable, sites perform well, and their technical support is both fast and knowledge.
They’re also reasonably priced. A rare combination.
For website analytics, I switched to Fathom last year. This is a privacy-focused analytics company from Paul Jarvis, and it’s a simple way to move more data away from Google.
Plans start at $14/month, which works out well if you have multiple sites. In some cases, using Fathom may remove the need for a cookie banner altogether.
Notable Omissions #
Retainers are seen as the holy grail of freelance work, but if they’re not set up correctly they’re more trouble than they’re worth.Read
The self–employed pension problem
The government’s pension-awareness campaign for freelancers won’t solve the problem.Read
Five years of freelancing: 20 practical tips
In 2018, I marked five years of being a freelance web designer. Here’s what I’ve learnt along the way.Read