TECH STACK ROUNDUP: My Essential Software Platforms
Updated: Jan 11, 2022
Now, I am using the term loosely here as it typically applies to software used for web and app development, but as small online business owners, there are essential software platforms that we as Virtual Assistants, use to run, market, and nurture our businesses as well as to help our clients run theirs. Today, I'll give a brief rundown on which platforms I use to run my own business as well as the ones I use in my clients' businesses to help them with their various creative and admin tasks. So grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and check out this breakdown.
Note: This post contains some affiliate links, in which I may be compensated for purchases made or signups.
Communication & Messaging
Communication platforms like Slack & Voxer make it much easier to communicate when you are part of a team that is located in multiple locations, without having to keep track of multiple email threads. #aintnobodygottimeforthat
Voxer is my primary mode of contact during the workday as it allows me to receive text and voice-recorded messages throughout the day. Similar to a walkie-talkie. Slack is great for communicating with a team and sharing files. I like to think of it as a virtual office space, where I can see who's "in the office" at any given time, even though most of the teams I am a part of are in several different states. And of course, no strategic planning or briefings would happen without Zoom!
Cost: Free/Paid Options Available
What I use for Let Katie Do It: All 3
What my clients use: All 3
Alternatives: Google Meet & Chat
CRM Software (Client Relationship Manager)
And speaking of communication, nothing is more important than nurturing client relationships. After all, this is the part we thrive on as Virtual Assistants. My favorite platform for this is Dubsado, a robust CRM (Client Relationship Manager)platform that makes contracting, proposals, pitches, and even billing run smoothly and efficiently. I spent the first year of my business doing things the hard way, with Google Docs and Gmail as my sole platforms for creating and sending contracts and proposals. After a while, it became too much to keep track of and when I discovered Dubsado allows me to create and keep a library of these documents with all my branding on them to use at a moment's notice, I was hooked! No more reinventing the wheel every time I had to send a contract or proposal, and, the best part? No need to use 3rd party services like DocuSign to get a signature, which saves a ton on expenses each month. #winwin
Cost: $350 billed annually / free for up to 3 Clients (100% worth it!)
What I use for Let Katie Do It: Dubsado
What my clients use: Dubsado
Alternatives: Honeybook, 17Hats
As Online Service Providers, another important aspect of maintaining a good relationship with our clients is protecting their security. After all, they are entrusting us with some deeply personal information such as access to their communications like voicemails and emails or even credit cards in the case where you may be required to book travel arrangements or purchase gifts or pay bills on their behalf. This will require you to possess their passwords in order to do your job. Kind of a big deal, no? This is where platforms like LastPass come into play. LastPass allows my clients to share their various passwords for sites I'll be accessing from day to day on their behalf and share those passwords with me in a secure and encrypted way so I can get work done, without ever laying eyes on their actual passwords. Ever.
Cost: Free/ $3-4 per month per user
What I use for Let Katie Do It: LastPass
What my clients use: LastPass
Alternatives: 1Password, Dashlane
Project Management & Planning
Now, how do I manage the various tasks and projects that I work on for my clients? By using project management and planning platforms like ClickUp and Asana. Actually, I just recently made the switch from Asana to ClickUp after 2 of my clients who use the platform got me kinda hooked on it. I still use Asana to track tasks & projects for our farm(ish) life in the country. I love that I can just assign a task to Officer Husband (like taking out the trash or mucking out the chicken coop) and it will send him reminders and help us keep track of who has which chore on their to-do list. There are also alternatives to these, such as Trello, ToDoist, and Simplish.
Cost: Free/ $5-$19+ per month
What I use for Let Katie Do It: ClickUp
What my clients use: To Doist, Trello, ClickUp
Alternatives: Simplish, Asana
Of course, in between client projects & content creation, there are days when we have meetings and client calls scheduled. I used to just rely on my email, texts & my day planner and that didn't last long. If I got an email requesting an appointment and I was out running errands and didn't have my day planner on me, I was SOL until I got home to check my calendar, because yes, I have a smartphone, but I'm pretty old school and still use pen and paper to keep myself on schedule. It may or may not be in my phone, but it is ALWAYS written in my planner. Online scheduling platforms like Acuity Scheduling by Squarespace make it super easy for clients to book a call with me online, at which point it gets written in my trusty planner and I am ready to go. It also syncs to my Google Calendar and Zapier connects it to Dubsado.
Cost: Free/$15-50 per month
What I use for Let Katie Do It: Acuity Scheduling
What my clients use: Calendly
Alternatives: Schedulicity, Dubsado's Scheduler
Content Creation, Social Posting & Photo Curating and Editing
Everybody knows how much I adore Canva, my favorite online design platform for creating all of the images that I use on various social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. It's pretty much where I spend most of my time, working on creating images for various things like marketing emails, blog posts, freebies and client projects.
For curating photos to use in my Canva images, of course Canva has the built-in library but I also sometimes use Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay as a source for free stock photos. iStock is a great platform for premium images, but they are all paid to license. Which gets costly for a solopreneur.
Another great design platform is Adobe Spark as an alternative.
Now, I like to batch and schedule my content in advance because nothing stinks more than to constantly feel like you can't get ahead when it comes to having content ready to go for social media. This is where Planoly does it for me. It's free, or the paid version is affordable for a solopreneur like me. I also like that it has a grid format so I can see what my Instagram feed is going to look like before posting. This is the platform that I spend most of my time on. I create all my content in my Marketing Calendar using ClickUp, then create the images in Canva.
Planoly, Facebook Business Manager and Hootsuite are all really great platforms if you like to create all of your content for a month or even an entire quarter at once, and schedule it to post automatically. If you are not already batching your content, I highly recommend you start. It saves so much time! I am currently considering switching over to Facebook Business Manager as it will allow you to autopost carousel images, where as Planoly does not. Most of my content these days are carousel images so it may be time for a switch.
Cost: Canva- Free/ Canva Pro $120 billed annually (100% worth it)
Planoly- $88 billed annually
What I use for Let Katie Do It: Canva, Planoly
What my clients use: Canva, Hootsuite, Facebook Business Manager
Alternatives: Adobe Spark, Buffer, Monday, Sprout Social
And of course, we do have to get paid for all our hard work, right? I have been a Paypal user for many years and I still have one client that primarily uses Paypal as the sole platform for paying invoices, but Dubsado also requires use of either Square or Stripe, And so I primarily do all other business through Square. All three of them have a card reader option so if you take credit card payments in person, you can order a card reader. All of my clients are in other states so this has never been necessary for me. The fees for processing are all relatively standard, I feel like Paypal is a little higher than the others but don't quote me on that. My favorite thing about using Square is that all payments received are directly deposited to your checking account at the end of the business day so it's super convenient.
Cost: standard industry pricing for processing fees
What I use for Let Katie Do It: Square & Paypal
What my clients use: Square, Stripe
Alternatives: Venmo for Business
That's a Wrap
So, there you have it! A roundup of the most important platforms that my business would not survive without! And, if you made it this far, thanks for reading along! I know that was a lot of information. I do hope you found it helpful.
Let me know in the comments below what your tech stack looks like. Is there another platform that deserves another look or honorable mention? Do you have tips or tricks you would like to share about any of the platforms mentioned in this article? Don't be shy! Tell us about them!