What do we use?

When you are new to running your own business, you need systems to take care of all sorts of things, and the choice can be confusing.

As a guide, here’s what I use. That doesn’t mean its right for you, but it might help with somewhere to start.

Booking and billing client appointments

If you have an business that relies on booking one on one appointments, or even running group sessions with clients, handling and billing those appointments can become an administrative pain. The answer is an online appointment diary that allows clients to book appointments or sign in to group sessions you already have scheduled. I use Acuity Scheduling for my personal coaching clients. Acuity Scheduling handles the billing too. You can set it up so the client pays for the appointment as part of the booking process, or set up the ability to buy a series of appointments (ideal if you are running weekly or monthly sessions) either up-front or as a recurring bill. It syncs to apple, gmail or outlook calendars too, so it always knows when you are already busy doing other things. Here’s the screen I use to book an initial free appointment with Acuity.

A Great Accounting System is Vital as Your Business Grows

Choosing an accounting package isn’t easy. There are lots of alternatives available. Ask other people for recommendations, and it becomes no clearer. Everyone has their own favourite. Which one is right? well, it all depends on your requirements. My choice is Xero. Its cloud based, so lends itself to outsourcing my book-keeping. It works on mobile, so entering expense receipts while travelling is easy. It has a great ecosystem of other applications so integrating my accounting system will never be a problem. You can check out the selection process I went through here

What About Web Design?

Web design can be expensive, but until you get a good idea of what you want you can pull something together yourself quite easily. You will need a web hosting service for your website, once you have this you can easily buy a domain name (your URL) and install a copy of WordPress. The good news – WordPress is free. Most good web hosts will have a facility to do a one click install of WordPress so there’s no need to download it. Once you have your site activated you select a WordPress theme that will give you the right look and feel for your business, install it, and start loading your content.

WordPress Theme: Divi from Elegant Themes

There are plenty of free WordPress themes, but few will do exactly what you want. For more flexibility and functionality its worth buying a premium theme. This site, and most of the others that I run use the Divi theme from Elegant themes. I love Divi because it allows you to customise just about anything on your site, and still be able to build web pages very easily and quickly.

For one relatively small payment you get unlimited access to all the themes and plugins Elegant Themes produce.

Web Hosting

All my websites are hosted through 1&1 internet. Personally I’ve never had any problems, and always found the support great when I’ve needed it. They have a very easy to use one click install for WordPress that can have a basic site up and running in minutes. They also offer to manage your WordPress for you for a fee, although personally I think managing WordPress is so straightforward, and you don’t need to be the least bit techie, that paying for this service is a waste of money.

Choosing a web host isn’t simple. There are lots of alternatives out there, and lots of people recommending just to earn affiliate commissions. You will find good and bad reports for every company that supplies hosting. None of them are perfect.

I’ve used 1&1 for over 5 years now, and I have no reason to regret that decision or to change host

E Mail Marketing

Sooner or later you will want to contact your customers by E mail to deliver a newsletter or let them know about a promotion. There are a few products that help you do this. Two leading providers are Aweber and Mailchimp. I use both, and both are good options. I use Aweber  for business, and the free version of Mailchimp for the sports club that I’m a trustee of. Both of these will give good results, There are constant arguments about which is best, there are pros and cons of each. Both vendors make regular upgrades and keep introducing new functionality so theres no real downside of choosing one rather than the other.

However if at any point you want to promote products sold through a third party (and you may well decide that this is the best way to handle sales of your own digital products) Aweber is the one to go for. Changing provider is a pain, so if in doubt go for Aweber