The Lightbulb Podcast

Join Guernsey girl, Martine, for a weekly creative chat where she shares resources, actionable ideas and the occasional knowledge bomb (!) This podcast is for artists, makers and creative business owners interested in marketing, social media, business and technology. The Lightbulb Podcast is available to download and subscribe to in iTunes and other podcast directories.
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Oct 1, 2016

The one where I share 5 essential tools for small business owners.

Please note, the text that follows is a transcript (virtually word for word). It’s how I speak, not how I write, so (ahem…) the English isn’t brilliant! Thanks for understanding.

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to episode 19 of the Creative Me podcast. You didn’t have an episode from me last week. I took a week off after the last, lengthy, but value-packed, episode. It was a pleasure to interview the fabulous Frank of WorkFlowy fame. I hope you’ve had a chance to listen to that episode. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

5 Essential Tools for Small Business Owners

Today’s episode is also value-packed. I have 5 essential tools for small business owners to share with you. These are all tools I use so I can talk about them with a degree of authority. I highly rate all of the tools I’m sharing with you in today’s episode. Some of them will be useful even if you’re not a small business owner, so keep listening.


The first tool I’m going to share is relatively new to me, but over the past few weeks, I’ve had great success with it. The tool is called Trello.

Trello has been around for some years, and I feel slightly disloyal mentioning Trello given that it is considered to be a productivity tool and I spent quite a while in the last episode extolling the virtues of WorkFlowy! Now, can I just say, I still love Workflowy, just in case Frank’s listening. I’m not using Trello as an outlining tool, I’m using it for something completely different. Before I explain that, let me tell you what Trello is.

Trello is essentially a bunch of different boards; I’m thinking of boards in the Pinterest sense of the word. What you do is on each board, you can create lists, and each list is comprised of cards. From a productivity perspective, each board looks a bit like a Kanban board. You can do Kanban within WorkFlowy too actually.

You might have a list called “To do” and then another list called “doing” and then a third list called “done” and gradually you move tasks from left to right. Trello’s quite difficult to explain verbally. I think the best thing for you to do is check it out to get a sense of it yourself. It’s a free tool. There is a paid upgrade, but the paid upgrade doesn’t give you that much extra, so like WorkFlowy, the free option is spot-on.

How I Use Trello

I’m using Trello to handle client tasks. I create a board for each client, and I give the client access. Then, I map out all of the elements of the project I’m working on for them. I tend to have a to do, doing, done and then an important documents list. Within each card, you can have things like checklists, links, images, Google Docs, all that sort of thing. By giving my clients access to their particular Trello board, they can not only see the progress I’m making but chat with me as well on each card, on each task.

This has worked well with several clients recently. It’s a bit tricky if the client doesn’t already use Trello, but that being said, my last client didn’t use Trello but now does because she thought it was quite a fabulous tool.

One of the benefits of handling client communication via an app like Trello is you keep it out of your email inbox. You can, of course, set up notifications. There are apps for your devices for Trello as well. It’s a really interesting tool to use as a client portal.

It also has potential for content and social media scheduling.

Free Agent

Keeping track of your expenses and the time you spend working for clients is all really important stuff. So you need a decent accounts app to handle that for you. I have recently started using FreeAgent. Historically, I’ve always used KashFlow; it’s great, and it met my needs. They have put their prices up recently so it prompted me to look around at other products, just in case I could find something better. And I am pretty sure I did!

I do still rate KashFlow, but FreeAgent seems to do everything KashFlow did for me and more. It has a far more user-friendly, jargon-free interface. I’ve just started using it. I finished my free trial, and I’ve signed up for to pay monthly for it.  It’s $10 a month. I think that increases after 6 months.

I find accounting, oh, and invoicing and all that stuff just a headache. FreeAgent seems to make it fun, and that’s saying something. If you’re looking for a small business accounts type package, I would say FreeAgent is worth a look. Do the 1-month free trial. See what you think. It’s particularly good for freelancers who need to track their time and charge that on to clients.

Google Apps for Business

My next must-have tool for small business owners and freelancers would be Google Apps for Business. I’m a massive fan of using Google Docs in particular and Google Drive to share and collaborate on documents with both business partners and clients. Also, you can have an email associated with your domain, so for example, my email address is, and that’s based on a Gmail account, but I’ve attached it to my domain. It just looks so much more professional for a small business owner.

Inbox by Gmail

On the subject of emails, my next essential tool, number 4, for small business owners is the app Inbox by Gmail.

It is a Google product, linked directly to Gmail. It’s so much easier to manage when you use Inbox by Gmail. The best feature of this app for me is the ability to snooze, or rather delay the receipt, of emails, and this means that inbox zero is easier to achieve. Inbox Zero for me is nirvana, so a big fan of Inbox by Gmail.


My fifth and final essential tool for small business owners is the email service provider ConvertKit. There are lots of different options for email marketing. MailChimp was my first, and it is a really good starting point. You start for free with MailChimp and then once you reach a certain point, you have to start paying. One of the downsides of MailChimp is that you’ve got no way to tag subscribers relating to their interests. You have to segment them. Once they’re segmented, it’s my understanding that you get charged for them all over again, and that just doesn’t make sense.

ConvertKit is intuitive and has some amazing automation that just make life a lot easier. ConvertKit is a paid service, but I very much see it as an investment in my business.

Wrap Up

That’s it from me for today. Those are your 5 essential tools for small business owners. I hope you found that interesting. I’d love to hear what your 5 essential tools are. Are you using different apps to me? Please let me know. I would love to explore other options. Until next time, thanks for tuning in. I hope you’ll tune in next week.