A few of Spark Collaborative's favorite things

We’re in the business of making sh@# happen so, naturally, we like testing out cool new gadgets, templates, software and other resources.  After lots of testing, these are some tried and true favorites…so maybe that’s a good place for you to begin. [Note: some of these include affiliate links so we’d appreciate the clicks if you like them too.]

For Your Online Office:

We host our websites with Dreamhost.  Why?  Because it’s a trusted platform and plays nice with WordPress (the best website platform for small businesses).  FYI DO NOT use GoDaddy for your web host.  Save yourself the headache and wallet drain!

We use Gmail (Google Business Apps) to manage our email.

We also love this cool tool (free and paid versions available) called Boomerang for Gmail, that let’s us schedule emails for later AND it let’s you temporarily clear an email out of your box to return later as new.  This is the perfect reminder and we use it ALL.THE.TIME. Take charge of your email.

A mobile office, for us, means having a lot of things in ‘the cloud’ – but every small business will benefit from having your files synced on any computer you use, automatically.  Whew, one less thing to worry about.  Toss out the flash drives and jump into a Dropbox.

 

For Marketing & Social Media:

Mailchimp is hands down our favorite email subscription platform.  It’s affordable, easy to create beautiful emails (with personality) and stocked with features  like analytics, segmentation and auto-responders to make the absolute most out of this marketing tactic.

Hootsuite is our go-to dashboard for managing Twitter, because we like the ease of use in scheduling tweets, editing ReTweets, tracking click-throughs, etc.  This one just feels better than the other dashboards we’ve tried (and, really, that’s what matters).

Sometimes you have massively long or ugly links that make your eyeballs hurt just looking at them.  That’s where Bit.ly comes in.  Create short, pretty links to share all over the damn place.  I like that it keeps all your links in an archive, so if you have something you use often, it’s easy to search and use the same link over and over again.  I also appreciate the ability to write a custom title and description for your links.

For Time Tracking, Billing + Accounting:

Freshbooks is our preferred method of invoicing, and the baseline for accounting.  We found that Quickbooks was too cumbersome for our small business – the time and financial investment didn’t make sense.  Freshbooks gets us paid quickly, with easy online payments and recurring invoices for our favorite 😉 clients.  They also offer a free invoice generator to get you started.

To track our P&L and get ready for tax time, we use Outright.

 

For General Biz Stuff:

Oh, Moo.  If Spark were a printing company we would want to be Moo.  It’s true that they have the most adorable branding – one look at their website and you’ll be in design heaven.  And sign up for the Moosletter if you want to be guaranteed a smile a week.  Once you go Moo, you never go back.  The quality of their printing is second to none, and you will undoubtedly have a good day when your products arrive.  Really, they are THAT fantastic.

 

For Good Reading + Personal Development:

Get Clients Now – A simple, action oriented approach to Sales.  I had this book a long time before I ever read it.  I simply didn’t want to “do sales.” So, first I had to get over that hurdle, but once I did I loved this book!  Now, we use it as a guide in our quarterly Mastermind groups.

Secrets of Six Figure Women – Realizing I was a chronic under-earner was a huge turning point for me.  And learning the ‘secrets’ gave me hope and confidence to stop defaulting to low paying jobs and really push to make my own business a success.

The 4 Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss makes me laugh – he’s so cocky but totally right.  I’m not exactly on board with outsourcing to India but I did become a lot more efficient with my own daily work habits + I built a team (of Americans) to help me grow and become a resource that could do anything for our clients.

The Big Leap – A lot of words in my vocabulary these days can be attributed to this book – the biggest one?  Upper limiting.  It’s a form of self sabotage and this book helped me identify when I (and anyone else in my life) am doing just that.