Perhaps you’ve been reading organizing tools of the trade and discovered that fabulous list of professional organizers’ must-haves for hands-on client sessions. But did you know that there’s a super-duper comprehensive doozy of a list included in my New Organizers’ Essentials Kit? And, did you know that most professional organizers have at least a few secret ingredients used behind the scenes in their digital toolboxes?
One of the most important tools is a complete set of forms – from a business start-up checklist to client assessment forms to a social media marketing calendar – 80+ pages of everything I wish I had when I started my business. The New Organizers’ Essentials Kit is your shortcut to success. Below, I’ve assembled a list of useful tools for your digital toolbox.
Writing + Editing
Style Guides: A style guide helps you write in a consistent style; spelling, punctuation, capitalization, citations, etc. Consistency is critical in your branding. You may subscribe to a style guide online, but they aren’t as robust compared to the paid versions. I recommend one of the following: The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, or The MLA (Modern Languages Association) Handbook. Need help with caPitAliZatiOn? Check out Capitalize My Title.
Editing: Don’t rely on your word processing software to catch all your typos, spelling, and grammar mistakes. (Yew can sea eye knead a human editor two.) Online proof-readers and editors can be helpful as well. I suggest Grammarly, ProWritingAid, or Scribbr. Grammarly and ProWritingAid focus on general subjects and allow you to do limited editing for free. On the other hand, Scribbr is more for knowledge-based articles (or books) and does not offer free services. All three editors offer plagiarism checks with their paid plans.
Plagiarism Checker: Always check your work for plagiarism. Sometimes you can inadvertently plagiarize someone. If using a free plagiarism checker, use several different ones as they all use different algorithms to find copied text. Quetext offers “deep search” technology in its paid version.
Readability: Whether you create a blog post or an article printed on paper, write for the reader first. You want readers to understand your ideas and interact with your content, so your text must be readable. Word choice, sentence structure and length, among other things, contribute to readability. The Writer’s Diet, Readability, and Grammarly give a readability score and provide suggestions for improvements.
Citation Assistant: Providing citations (references, bibliography) in footnotes or endnotes shows you have done your research. A citation assistant ensures you use correct and consistent formatting each time, whether you are referencing a website, book, scientific journal, or YouTube video. I recommend Cite4Me, Citation Machine, or EasyBib.
Website Host: You can have a self-hosted website (your designer hosts your website on their server), or the website company hosts your website on its servers (called a site hosted website). WordPress.org is self-hosted. WordPress.com is site-hosted. With self-hosting, you are responsible for all of the security updates, theme updates, etc. With site-hosted, the website company takes care of all of the security updates. Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace are other examples of site-hosted website platforms.
Themes: Websites are built with a theme template. This ensures a consistent design throughout. You can modify the template to suit your business. It is the least expensive option, and there are limits to the design modifications. A custom theme created by a website designer is more costly but bespoke to your business.
Plugins: These are bits of software add-ons to your website to improve functionality. They include automated site-backups, security updating, hacking warnings and prevention, analytics, newsletter integration, custom error messages, store integrations, etc.
E-commerce: If you’re selling products on your website or require clients to pay a booking fee, you will need a way to accept payments. SendOwl and E-junkie are great for selling downloadable digital products. PayPal and Stripe allow you to collect payments for just about anything. Whichever e-commerce solution you choose, make sure it integrates with your website, newsletter, and customer relationship manager (CRM) software to track sales.
Technology – Security
Computer Backup: Did you know that over 90% of businesses file for bankruptcy after a catastrophic data failure. You need both a cloud backup service (iDrive, Backblaze, Carbonite) and an external hard drive. Make sure you can access your backup and re-install your system from a backup.
Password Management: It is essential to have unique, strong passwords for account security. With so many passwords to remember these days, a password manager such as 1Password, Keeper, or LastPass is one of the most important tools to put in your digital toolbox. Store your passwords, secure notes, software licenses, answers to those pesky security questions, and more. You can even sync across devices, so your passwords will be available whenever you need them.
File Storing + Sharing: You’ll need somewhere to store files so you can easily share them with clients and colleagues. Some of the more popular file storage and sharing systems include Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, and OneDrive. Whichever you choose, keep your personal and business files separated. Note to Mac users: iCloud drive is excellent for storage but has limited sharing options.
Other Tech Tools: Keep your computer and digital data protected with firewalls, anti-phishing, anti-spam, and anti-virus programs. If you aren’t knowledgeable about such things, reach out to a tech specialist.
Technology – Business Management
To-Do List: There are so many different apps available I can’t name them all – nor can I provide a recommendation. The app should have a reminder system, integrate with your calendar, and sync across your devices. If you are working with a team, look for an app that allows you to share lists with other people. If you use Google (Gmail, Drive, etc.), then Google Tasks might work best for you. PC and Windows users might prefer Microsoft’s Outlook Task Manager. You should pick one that has an intuitive (to you) user interface. The easier it is for you to use, the more you will use it.
Scheduling: With scheduling apps, it is much easier for you to book meetings with clients, suppliers, and colleagues. Doodle is popular, and the free plan has lots of features. Calendly is also free and integrates nicely with WordPress websites. You could also try TimeTrade or WhenisGood.
Electronic Signatures: As we move more and more to a digital world, the ability to collect electronic and digital signatures becomes more important. These services help streamline the process:
Scanning + Sending Documents: People on the move need to scan, save, and send documents from wherever they are. Both Adobe Scan and Microsoft Office Lens are Android and iOS compatible. Their free features allow you to take photos of documents, business cards, and whiteboards and convert them into readable and searchable pdf documents. Their text conversion isn’t always perfect, but it is better than re-typing everything! With the paid upgrades, you can transform your scans into editable (e.g., Word) documents.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): CRM software gathers all of your client profile information in one spot to provide insight into customer behavior. A CRM system can help you convert prospects to paying clients, track invoicing and payments, improve client follow-up, etc. There are many CRM systems available with different features and price points. Organizing colleague Amy Payne of Lasting Order has a great free checklist to help you choose the right customer relationship management (CRM) system for your needs.
Project Management: Using project management software can help you plan your work more efficiently, keep your team members working effectively, meet deadlines, and budget better. Check out these free and low-cost options:
- Asana: free for unlimited projects, up to 15 team members.
- Basecamp (Personal): free for three projects at any one time, up to 20 team members.
- Notion: free team workspace for up to 5 team members includes project management, to-do lists, team document storage.
- Trello: free for up to 10 projects, unlimited team members.
Screen Sharing: There may be occasions where you need to share your screen with one client or your entire team. Screen Sharing (Mac) and Remote Desktop (PC) are included on newer computers. They are great for sharing screens with one other person. Most video conference systems, such as Zoom, MS Teams, WebEx, and GoToMeeting, have unlimited free meetings but a limited number of participants or a maximum meeting length. Upgrade to their paid versions for more features.
Mind Mapping: A mind map is a drawing where words representing concepts are linked together and arranged around a central idea. Mind maps can help you organize your thoughts. Creately, Lucidchart, MindMeister, and MindMup, offer free accounts. Their paid versions have more features.
Marketing + Branding
Graphics: To create graphics for social media posts or an infographic for a blog post, PicMonkey and Canva are easy to use. PicMonkey has a 7-day free trial, while Canva is free forever with basic templates that will suit most needs.
Images: You will need quality royalty-free images that you can safely use for your website, advertising, and blog posts. You can download up to 10 images per day from rawpixel’s free collection. With their monthly paid plan, you can download an unlimited number of pictures from their premium collection. Haute Stock will send you a sample collection of their photos for free, and then you must pay a membership fee. With iStockphoto, you purchase a package of credits and use the credits to purchase the images (photos, drawings, videos) you need, whenever you need them.
Typography: Not all typefaces work well in a variety of situations. Some only work well in print, others better on websites or slides. Email systems and e-newsletters only support a small number of fonts. Choose easy-to-read typefaces for your website and marketing collateral. Keep a “safe” typeface in mind to use when you cannot use your primary fonts. DesignLab has a great article on choosing the right font for your design. You can also look at FontPair and Fontjoy for ideas.
Colors: The website color-hex can help you pick shades (darker) and tints (lighter) related to the colors in your logo, brand, or website. The site will also automatically pick out coordinating colors so you can create striking marketing collateral and presentations. Feed your color choices into a palette on the coolors website to find out how visible your colors are in a presentation or how they will look to anyone with color vision deficiencies.
Social Media Scheduler: You need to engage + interact with your followers on social media. Save time and schedule social media posts with Hootsuite or Buffer, which can post to almost any social media feed. Later posts only to Instagram, but users can create links to a landing page from their Instagram posts using their Link-in-bio system. Tailwind (paid) posts specifically to Pinterest and Instagram.
Recording: If you want to start creating video or audio recordings, you’ll need editing software. Check out Screenflow (Mac only), Camtasia, and Loom. Descript does screen recording and editing. And Descript will also provide an editable audio transcription so you can like, um, um, delete like, uh, the filler words in the final audio version.
List Building: List building is growing your mailing list by collecting client contact information. Newsletter systems can do this for you. You can collect data via your website and at your seminars and webinars too. Your CRM, newsletter, website, and webinar systems should integrate to make client information collection more manageable.
Newsletters: MailChimp (free up to 2000 subscribers) and AWeber (free for up to 500 subscribers) offer the most features in their free plans and even more in their paid plans. Constant Contact and MadMimi offer low-cost paid plans.
Landing Pages: A landing page is a standalone web page created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign. A visitor “lands” on that page after they click on a link in an email, ad, or social media post. You can create landing pages on your website or through your e-newsletter provider. Make sure you can track analytics, so you know who is clicking, landing, and buying to hone your marketing and sales techniques.
In conclusion, I’d like to remind you that despite this lengthy list, it’s not all about your digital toolbox. Like other successful professional organizers, I’ve invested time, energy, and money in assembling my very own dream team. Every business owner’s dream team will be different. While some like to do everything themselves, others will outsource tasks based on their skills, needs, and budget. Here are a few members that might be on your dream team: