User recommended: 18 great productivity tools for startups

by Tom Baragwanath | September 27, 2018

Let’s face it: no matter where you are in the startup cycle, you could always use an efficiency boost. Even if you’re a market leader, there’s still plenty of room to improve!

We asked a bunch of growing startups for their top recommended tools for increasing efficiency and saving time on daily tasks. They responded in droves, sharing their top tips for getting the most out of their teams and simplifying time-consuming processes.

In this article, we’ll break down these recommendations into the categories of project management, web analysis, collaboration platforms, and accounting & profit analytics, as well as presenting a range of other handy tools. We’ll also pass on some tips from startups to help save you time and effort in growing your business.

Have a read, and think about how these tools and techniques could help you and your team save time and effort from day to day. With the right tools at your disposal, you’ll spend less time on repetitive tasks and more time growing your business.

best-management-software

Project management

This is a big one. Once upon a time, managing projects was strictly a whiteboard affair (or, worse, handled with clunky, one-size-fits-all software). But there is now a huge range of intuitive project management tools to help you manage deliverables on time, every time, no matter how large your team is or complicated your projects are.

The right project management tool can help you keep track of the details, and can help simplify and automate complex tasks that can risk being a real sinkhole of time, effort, and stress. Once you and your team start using a project management tool, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without one.

Jira - Collaborate across teams (and timezones)

For Phil Hoey, Editor of Quotezone.co.uk, Jira is the best choice for project management. “We have technical and business teams spread across two offices in different countries,” says Phil. “Jira has played a critical role in helping us work collaboratively across borders and timezones.”

Even better, says Phil, is the simplicity of Jira’s pricing: “The platform’s ultra-simple pricing model also makes it very straightforward for cash-poor startups to budget for growth.” 

Bart Turczynski, Managing Editor of Zety Resume Builder, is another strong Jira advocate. “Jira takes some time (and a SCRUM master) to learn the ropes,” says Bart, “but it’s the one place where all important stuff can be planned, tracked, and measured. We also use it for content management!”

“Project management tracking software, especially basic Agile tools, are really important,” says Bart. “You don’t really see any immediate impact on your bottom line, but if set up and used right, they can become the one true source of knowledge - not to mention, they let you plan stuff, track it, and measure impact later on.”

Price: US$7 per month for 11-100 users; custom pricing for enterprises.

Trello - Share and manage all sorts of projects

“If you can’t afford Jira,” says Bart, “or you don’t need sprints to get stuff done, Trello is a solid substitute.”

Liam Solomon, Marketing Lead at Love the Sales, is also a Trello convert. “We have a lot of campaigns and technical work going on within the business,” says Liam. “Mapping out what is done and what needs to be worked on gives the directors a clear picture of the work being done throughout the week.

Trello is a really effective tool for completing tasks. For us, it’s the best task organiser out there, and also comes in a free version.”

Price: Free; paid plans starting at US$9.99 per user, per month.

Pipefy - Scalable projects for modern team structures

For Brad Smith, Founder of Codeless, Pipefy is hands down the best tool for boosting efficiency through effective project management. “Pipefy is like Trello,” says Brad, “but is better for scaling remote teams, because you can set up repeatable processes without users either accidentally messing things up or not following your instructions to a T.”

Price: Free; paid plans from US$9 per user, per month.

Asana - Give all team members visibility over projects

When it comes to project management software, simplicity is key. Sid Bharath, SAAS Marketing Consultant, had great things to say about project management tool Asana. “It’s been the best way to keep track of tasks and assign things to people without any back and forth,” says Sid.

Flixup, an exciting new social media stories platform, also uses Asana. For Adrien Caiazzo, Growth Marketing Manager, it helps to be able to pick up projects wherever they may be, then leave them for remote team members. “I can kick off a new project, leave instructions for a dev or designer, and then return to the project in two days and see exactly what's been done.”

“It lets everyone stay as involved as they need to in a given project, without losing time along the way.”

Price: Free; paid plans beginning from €9,25 per user, per month.

iMindMap - More creative planning

For a more flexible project management tool, Sarah Brown of Inspire2Aspire recommends iMindMap. “I like iMindMap because, unlike a list, you can jot things down and order them in all sorts of ways, which helps me be more creative. I use it for everything from to-do lists to strategic planning and notes for presentations.”

Get a handle on your tasks and deadlines, and take a look at some of the options out there for project management software - you won’t regret it.

Web analysis

These days, knowing your web traffic inside and out is crucial to understanding your market and your core customer base. Your web analytics can be a treasure trove of critical information.

Put this information to work with a good web analysis tool, and you’ll be able to optimise your operations and build your customer base.

Google Analytics - The classic choice for web analytics

Every webmaster knows Google Analytics. And like many analytics tools, the more time and effort you put into it, the more you discover its power and capabilities. 

Jason Quey of Growthramp had a straightforward, to-the-point reason for loving Google Analytics. Without Google Analytics,” says Jason, “I wouldn’t know what was working on my website and what wasn’t.”

SimilarWeb - Web analytics for your competitors and industry

Sam Lehane, CEO of M.Y.O, gives major props to web analysis tool SimilarWeb. “SimilarWeb is brilliant for showing where traffic comes from and goes to for your website and also competitor’s websites.”

“It's great for seeing where it may be a good idea for you to partner to grab market share, run banner ads and/or get a better sense of who your business attracts, so you can target them better.”

Web analysis doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. With helpful tools like Google Analytics and Similarweb, you’ll be able to get a deep and detailed understanding of your web traffic, and will be able to put this to good use in growing your bottom line.

Collaboration platforms

We all know the startup environment can be a chaotic place. You and your teams might be in different offices, different time zones and countries - maybe even different dimensions.

Even if you’re all in the same place and time, you still need a simple, straightforward way to collaborate. One that minimises the risk of confusion and makes it easy for every member of the team to do their best work without hassle.

A good collaboration platform can make all the difference here.

Quip - Collaboration for teams

For Katerina Tselepi, Director of Media Relations for Salesin.io, Quip is the one tool that she can’t do without. “From the moment we onboard a new client, to organising new projects, to delivering the services, Quip is, for the whole team, the #1 platform that we all use to collaborate on a daily basis. It makes the process so much easier to deal with.”

For Katerina, Quip’s integration is key. “Quip’s dashboard is one of the most clean and beautiful on the market, plus the app works perfectly on every device. This makes my job so much easier, because I don’t have to be in front of my Macbook all day.”

Price: US$30 per month for 5 users; US$10 for each additional user. 

Google Drive - Easy and free cloud file-sharing

Joseph Coulburn, Marketing & Customer Support Specialist at Better Nutritional Science Ltd, says he and his team love good old Google Drive. “It’s free, makes collaboration extremely easy, you don’t have to worry about backing up, you can see who is doing what work, and they have a platform for pretty much everything,” says Joseph.

“The reason we chose Google Drive and not something else,” says Joseph, “is that most pieces of software that you have to pay for you can get for free through Google services. Google Drive also allows anyone to easily update or find something if they’re not in the office, and helps with remote working.”

Price: Free!

Don’t let your collaboration be hindered by any obstacle, technical, inter-dimensional or otherwise. With collaboration platforms like Quip and Google Drive, you can put your team’s strengths and talents to work, no matter where you are.

Accounting & profit analytics

Come closer, and we’ll let you in on a secret. Are you ready?

Listen: doing your accounts doesn’t have to be boring. With the right accounting and profit analytics software, you can turn this complex and occasionally soul-deadening subject into something straightforward, intuitive, and - dare we say it? - maybe even fun.

Quickbooks - Save time on accounting

For Kimren Kaur, Director of Big Bowse, QuickBooks has made a massive difference. “As a small business,” says Kimren, “I need to save time and expenses, and having an accounting system without the high cost is a must. QuickBooks is available online, as a desktop version and mobile phone application, making it easy to access and use.”

Even more helpful, says Kimren, is the specific functionality QuickBooks offers. “Entering expenses is convenient,” says Kimren. “One click of a button and I take a picture of receipts and add descriptions. Reports are automatically generated, thus saving me time. Other useful reports include tax filing, saving me time and money for a chartered accountant. QuickBooks enables me to run my business easier.”

Price: Starts at £3 per month; 30-day free trial.

Xero - Automated accounting

Like Quickbooks, Xero is cloud-based. So it's available online, wherever you are in the world. Perhaps more interesting is the number of integrations and automated processes, which let you forget about many of the tedious aspects of accounting.

This caught the attention of Loan.co.uk. CEO Paul McGerrigan explains, “as a Fintech business the first question we ask with any process is ‘Can we automate it?’ That’s why our full Xero integration with Xero’s was a must.” 

For Paul, Xero has 5 big benefits:

  1. Transactions are entered once and all systems are instantly synced
  2. It gives a clear overview of our current financial position in real time.
  3. Multi User Access lets the team collaborate online from anywhere.
  4. There's nothing to install, and everything is securely backed up automatically and instantly available.
  5. Upfront business costs are reduced because version upgrades, maintenance, system administration and server failures are all managed by service provider. 

In addition to multi-purpose accounting software such as QuickBooks and Xero, you may want to consider a bespoke profit analytics tool.

Price: Begins at £10 per month. 

Fetcher - Accounting for Amazon sellers

For Jeff Webster, Co-Founder of Hunter & Gather Foods, using profit analytics tool Fetcher has been critical. “With the Amazon side of our business increasing 2500% from April 2018 to September 2018, Fetcher has taken the hassle out of understanding our net profit margin, and allows us to make strategic decisions quickly and decisively.”

“Without this tool,” says Jeff, “various reports need to be downloaded and collated, with a lot of manual work required, with the chance of human error. Fetcher lets us see our margin on each product, as well as our spend on PPC. Fetcher has been a saving grace, and has reduced at least eight hours of work a week!”

Price: Starts at US$19 per month.

If you're looking for more exceptional finance tools, look no further!

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Other tools for productivity and growth!

The world of startup software is a wild and wonderful place. On top of the suggestions above, we received a heads-up about a wide range of handy tools to solve specific issues, from outsourcing to formatting to social media scheduling.

Come with us and take a look.

Tableau - Data analytics & visualisation

For Ryan Farley, Co-Founder of LawnStarter, data analytics tool Tableau is a must for driving a broader understanding of trends within his business. “Tableau has changed our business,” says Ryan. “It gives everyone in the company access to data so that everyone understands what is going on in the business.

It makes visualisation and sharing data easy, and when everyone has access to data, revenue driving insights are inevitable.”

Price: Begins at US$70 per user, per month. 

HubSpot - Sales & marketing

Nils Herrmann, Digital Marketing Manager of Quintly, can’t get enough of marketing optimisation tool Hubspot. “Hubspot was the tool that made the biggest difference for us,” said Nils.

“Besides the many ways it helped us improve our lead qualification, it also gave us a clearer idea on our marketing efforts, and increased our overall conversion rate.” 

Price: HubSpot Marketing is free to begin; paid plans from £42 per month.

Canva - DIY designs

For Marketing Consultant Vicky Pulman, design tool Canva has made all the difference. “I’m not a designer,” says Vicky, “but as a freelance marketing consultant I have design needs. Canva provides professional looking templates that allow me to produce beautiful visuals for myself and my clients.

I appear much more professional sending out slick proposals to prospective clients rather than word documents. It is so easy to use.”

Price: Free; paid plans begin at US$12.95 per user, per month.

Upwork - Easy outsourcing

Stefan Debois, CEO of Survey Anyplace, is a big fan of outsourcing website Upwork. Why? “Because,” says Stefan, “it allows us to outsource different types of administrative and research work. Moreover, we experienced the following: before you automate a process, it’s sometimes better to have it done by a human because you can still tweak the process rather easily.

Afterwards, you have the advantage that you know exactly what to automate.”

Price: Pricing on a project-by-project basis. 

Recurpost - Social media scheduling

You don’t need us to tell you that social media is a fantastic tool for startups and their customers. However, producing marketing content for social media can be time-consuming.

For Charlotte Moore of Smoothie PR, RecurPost has been a game-changer. “As an SME with limited budget,” says Charlotte, “I use the free service from RecurPost to create lots of tweets and add them into a repeating loop, which removes the need for constant rescheduling. RecurPost has a ‘variation’ tool which allows you to quickly tweak your original tweet into lots of different versions, saving you writing everything again from scratch.”

“This provides a baseline of constant marketing and brand awareness for your business that is always up and running,” says Charlotte. “It has brought me a stream of ongoing leads that convert into clients.”

Price: Free; paid plans from US$25 per month. 

Wordable - Reformatting for WordPress

Last, but certainly not least, Alex Birkett, Growth Marketing Manager at HubSpot, has a recommended solution to a particular bugbear of his: reformatting. “Efficiency for me usually starts at eliminating wasteful or boring work,” says Alex. “What could be more annoying and boring than uploading an article you’ve written in Google docs to WordPress and needing to reformat everything?”

“It’s a couple of hours per blog post at least,” says Alex. “If you write a lot, and especially if you have a big team of writers that write a lot, you can save a lot of cumulative time using Wordable. It’s pretty simple: it lets you upload Google Docs to WordPress, fully formatted, in a few seconds. I save tons of time with it.”

Conclusion: Find the right productivity tools for your business

Boosting your startup’s efficiency and productivity is about taking a hard look at your day-to-day processes and identifying areas for improvement.

More than that, it’s about building your awareness of the range of software tools out there. With a little research, you could soon benefit from assistance with complex tasks like web analytics, project management and accounting.

If you’re anything like us, you love hearing from others in the startup game about things that have worked for them. Why not take a look at some of the tools and techniques covered in this article and see whether they might work for you and your team?

And if you're looking for finance tools, here's your guide to choosing the right one: 

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Thanks again to each of the following wonderful people for passing on their valuable recommendations and advice:

TOPICS : For startups Tips & tools

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