1. Trello FREE

After researching several business tools to help with my various projects - none of them even came close to Trello.

My goal was to find something that I could use to monitor the progress of multiple projects easily. Here are two of the other tools I looked at:

Pipedrive: Too focused towards sales and you had to pay for it. WorkFlowMax: I thought I would try this one because I use Xero, but I found it many times more complicated to use and the templated workflow structure is too restrictive.

The most wonderful aspect of Trello in my opinion, is that you can scale it to be as complicated as you need it to be.

For the more intense project, you can utilise such features as:

  • Labels
  • Deadlines
  • Checklists

...and more! However, if you just need a nice way to visualise the status of your project and different tasks then it can be as simple as 'drag and drop'. This is nice to share with clients who won't get overwhelmed by a page full of links and tools.

I like to keep a couple of private boards that show me the stage of each project. (i.e. 'Kick-off meeting', 'Waiting for approval on designs', 'Development', 'Revisions', 'Billing', etc).

I then have a more detailed board that I share with the client to keep track of anything we are waiting on. Excellent for providing visual clarity.

You may also want to share a board with a supplier if there are several tasks that you need to monitor.

2. Xero ~$30 per month

Accounting made easy - this organises my freelance billing into 3 simple steps:
- Add billable items to an invoice as I go (you pretty much turn this into your timesheet). - Send the invoice at the end of the month. - Record any expenses in the 'expenses' section.

This tool has also revolutionised my tax return - everything I need is organised into this tool... and it's on the cloud so it's backed up and I can access it anywhere!

3. GoogleDrive FREE

GoogleDrive has just kept getting better and better. For most simple spreadsheet requirements the Google Spreadsheets are more than capable.

It's very nice to keep your business documents (charts, spreadsheets, word processing and images) all bundled together in a shared folder. Here are just a couple of uses that I found so far:

  • Charts: Mocking up websites and flowcharts.
  • Spreadsheets: Simple BI calculations and budgeting.
  • Documets: JSON format examples and other important bites of information.

Depending on your profession, you will almost definitely need to branch into other software that will meet your specific needs... However, I can guarantee that if you use these 3 tools correctly, you will have a core to your business that is easy to maintain and very friendly to the lazy startup owner.