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.

Accounting

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.

Antivirus

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.

Backups

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.

Banks

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.

Contracts

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.

Email

I use Gmail for most of my business email needs, but I recently started using ProtonMail and I’ve been fairly impressed with that. I’m considering migrating all email over to this to reduce my dependency on big tech.

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.

Insurance

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’ve used Mailchimp for years and recently started using ConvertKit. ConvertKit isn’t cheap, but the tagging/automation systems are great – really worth checking out.

Payment Processing

For selling anything online, I tend to use Gumroad (I use it for Work Notes).

I use GoCardless to handle recurring client payments (it ties into FreeAgent nicely), and Transferwise to handle any international payments/currency conversions.

Other than that, Stripe is handy for taking payments through websites and also integrates with FreeAgent. PayPal is a solid backup, but their fees tend to be the highest.

Productivity

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.

Scheduling

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.

Security

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.

My favourite password management tool is 1Password. I use NordVPN to access the internet in public places.

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.

Website

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

How about CRM tools or proposals? I’ve never used these tools, so I can’t recommend them. I use Notion to handle projects and manually process proposals (or make them part of my contract).

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