There are so many things to do when you’re running an agency, especially when you’re just starting up.
While you may feel confident about offering your services to clients, there’s a mountain of admin tasks that you need to complete behind the scenes to keep your business running smoothly.
In this article, we’ve rounded up the essential admin tools and services to help you run your business more efficiently so you’ll have more time to grow your agency and win new clients.
Here are the tool categories we will be covering:
- The Complete Office Suite
- Business Email Tools
- Video Conferencing Tools
- Project Management Tools
- Appointment Scheduling Tools
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools
- Accounting and Finance Tools
- File Backup and Storage Tools
- Time Management Tools
- Password Management Tools
- Optional Marketing Tools
The Complete Office Suite
Running your social media marketing agency means you’ll need access to standard office applications including email, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. Google’s G-Suite covers all these options and more:
And as it’s cloud-based, it comes with added benefits:
Store and share files in the cloud so everyone can always have access to the latest version.
Collaborate in real time with people inside or outside of your agency to review edits and suggestions.
Access files from your computer or mobile device.
Aside from G-Suite, there’s also Microsoft Office, which you can now either purchase as the traditional desktop software or subscribe to their monthly ‘Office 365’ plan. Both include the essential office productivity apps to run your business.
Running your agency with a personal email address looks unprofessional. It’s much better to use your own domain. For example, compare firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Google’s G-Suite includes business Gmail where you get all the convenience of personal Gmail without any ads. Plus, as your business grows you can add more team members.
Video conferencing offers an alternative way of communicating with prospects and clients. Having one conference call to discuss a proposal or review performance can save a lot of time with emails passing back and forth and messages getting misinterpreted.
Zoom video conferencing lets you share your screen with attendees, so it’s ideal for walking through a presentation or demonstrating a product feature. You can also take control of another attendee’s screen to guide them through a process. Plus, you have the option to record meetings, so you don’t have to take notes.
Alternatively, Skype now offers one-to-one or group video calling, screen sharing, and call recording.
Organizing and managing tasks for you and your clients is an essential part of running your agency. Three of the best tools available to create, arrange, assign, and categorize tasks are:
Trello is the most visual way to work on projects. Its combination of boards, lists, and cards lets you organize and prioritize your projects in a flexible way. You track the flow of tasks as they move from left to right across each board.
For example, you could get an overview of all activities from sales to marketing to client campaigns:
Or manage your editorial calendar all the way from ‘Researching’ to ‘Promoting’:
You can drill into the details by adding comments, attachments, and more to each Trello card:
Asana has a few more advanced features than Trello that make it better suited to time-sensitive projects. For example, the ‘Timeline’ view allows you to check and adjust project dependencies:
It also has an excellent visual interface so you can see the status of projects with boards and lists:
[Important note] Asana is flexible regarding connections with other tools and platforms, e.g., Asana to Google Sheets integration, Asana data export to a CRM, etc. Such functionality is essential for thorough performance analysis and project data backup.
ProofHub is an all-in-one project planning software. It gives teams of all sizes a centralised workspace for task lists, workflows, discussions, Gantt charts, calendars, documents, and more.
This platform has a plethora of tools that one needs to better plan projects, and collaborate with teams and clients while keeping files and documents organized. It also includes insightful reports that help you keep an eagle eye on the overall progress.
ProofHub runs on a cloud, and everything is backed-up automatically. It also connects with popular apps for file storage, accounting, invoicing softwares, and more.
Trello, Asana, and ProofHub are also available as mobile apps so you can keep up-to-date with tasks and projects when you’re out and about.
Sending emails back and forth to schedule meetings is tiresome. But with Calendly you can share your available time slots for invitees to book a mutually convenient time.
Let Calendly know your availability preferences.
Share your Calendly links via email or embed it on your website.
Invitees pick a time, and the event is added to your calendar.
Calendly works with your existing Google, Outlook, Office 365 or iCloud calendar, and integrates with other apps like Zoom, Zapier, and Stripe.
HubSpot also has a free appointment and scheduling tool. It syncs to your Google or Office 365 calendar, so colleagues, clients, and prospects can always check your current availability and easily book a meeting:
Once it's scheduled, HubSpot automatically creates records for new contacts in its CRM (see below):
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM software records customer contact information such as email, telephone, website, and social media profiles. You can add customers’ personal preferences, activities, and news to build a complete 360-degree picture that helps manage the relationship.
HubSpot’s free CRM lets you organize, track, and nurture your clients and leads. The CRM dashboard shows the status of current deals and scheduled appointments. When you sync with Gmail or Outlook, you can capture every call, email, or meeting as it happens:
Each interaction is stored in a convenient timeline, so you don’t have to trawl through your inbox to find that elusive email conversation:
Capsule CRM provides one complete view of your customers, so there’s no need for umpteen spreadsheets and emails. You can store and manage all your business contacts – leads, customers, vendors, and more – in one place:
Capsule CRM also allows you to capture emails and attach notes, conversations, docs, and files into a contact’s history, so all their information is readily available.
Accounting and Finance Tools
Managing your business finances is essential, but rather tedious. You could opt for a manual spreadsheet and invoice system, but with so many cloud-based apps available it makes sense to use one tool to manage your accounting, invoicing, and payments.
Wave’s suite of accounting products work seamlessly together, so you can manage your business finances. You can track your income and expenses, create and send professional invoices, accept credit cards online, plus scan receipts from your phone:
Xero is an online accounting tool designed for small businesses. Log in anytime, anywhere on your desktop or mobile device to reconcile bank transactions, send invoices, create expense claims or check your current balance and cash flow:
Voted the UK's number one accounting software 2018, FreeAgent brings your finances together – from invoices and expenses to VAT, payroll, and even the dreaded tax return filing:
(Note: FreeAgent also has a US accounting solution.)
File Backup and Storage Tools
Nowadays, most computers include enough storage space to accommodate all your files, including large photo and video libraries. But it’s not wise to rely on built-in storage alone, as these stats reveal:
140,000 hard drives crash in the US every week
31% of PC users have lost all of their files due to events beyond their control
60% of companies that lose their data will shut down with 6 months of the disaster
The computer industry’s infamous backup rule of three, also known as the Backup 3-2-1 Rule, suggests you need off-site backup storage, plus backups to different media types, plus multiple copies of everything you want to protect:
3 copies of everything - e.g. 1 Primary + 2 Secondary Backups
2 different media types - e.g. External Hard Drive + CD/DVD
1 off-site backup - e.g. Online Backup
That’s why you need to back up and store your files in other places, like the Cloud.
Cloud Storage allows you to store selected files in the Cloud (i.e. online) so you can share them and access them whenever you wish. It’s an excellent way of collaborating with clients as well as keeping your files stored safely.
Consider these Cloud Storage services: Google Drive, Dropbox or Box.
An Online Backup allows you to back up all your computer files and quickly restore them if your computer is lost, stolen or malfunctions. Online Backup services usually entail loading a small application on your computer that runs continuously in the background to back up new and changed files.
Time Management Tools
Tracking time is essential when you’re working with clients. You need to know precisely how many hours you’re spending on each project activity to understand your pricing for both current and future clients better.
Toggl is the ideal time tracker for freelancers, teams, and agencies. You can break down your hours by projects, clients, and tasks to see what’s making you money, and what’s holding you back. It even has a handy tracking reminder to prompt you if you forget to start the timer.
Toggl also integrates with over 100 apps including project management tools like Trello and Asana, accounting apps like Xero and Freshbooks, plus CRM software like Salesforce and Capsule CRM.
Traqq is the best choice for organizations that take ethical employee monitoring seriously. It tracks time and monitors employee activity while respecting privacy. The tool runs in the background and provides detailed analysis of the websites and programs you spend time on, allowing you to identify common time wasters.
Alongside logging your work hours and helping you boost productivity, Traqq also creates accurate invoices that can be exported to CSV files.
Harvest lets you track time and expenses for your business so you can access essential data. It allows you to turn your billable time and expenses into professional invoices, send them to your clients, and get paid online:
Harvest also integrates with other apps so you can automatically copy invoices to QuickBooks and Xero or track time on project tasks in Asana and Trello.
Password Management Tools
The more tools and apps you use, the more passwords you need to create and remember. Using one password for all your applications is dangerous. And trying to remember multiple passwords is tricky. But a password management tool lets you store all your passwords in one secure location.
LastPass remembers all your passwords, so you don't have to. You only have to set and remember one master password to access your entire vault.
The built-in password generator creates long, randomized passwords that protect against hacking, so there’s no need to use ‘password123’ any longer. Plus, you can also safely share passwords with anyone without revealing the details.
Dashlane is another password management tool that has similar features to LastPass. It also offers online protection by scanning the web for leaked or stolen personal data and alerting you if it finds your information where it doesn't belong.
Optional Marketing Tools
Aside from essential business admin tools, your agency will need some marketing tools. Here’s a quick roundup of marketing tools and apps for you to consider.
WordPress is the most popular website solution and offers an array of themes and plugins to make your site both customizable and functional. Alternatively, you could try Squarespace and its range of award-winning templates to help create a professional website.
Email Marketing Tools
If you’re planning on sending marketing emails and newsletters to your subscribers and customers, then you’ll need to use an email marketing service provider like AWeber or MailChimp.
Social Media Management Tools
Running a social media agency means you’ll need to create, publish, monitor, and report on activities for multiple clients. Sendible was designed with agencies in mind, so you can manage each client using your unique branded solution.
Social Media Graphics Tools
Whether you're creating social media content for yourself or your clients, you’ll need to include visuals to make it stand out. Look no further than these 7 photo and video tools for creating engaging social media graphics.
If you want to run a successful agency, then you have to take care of the daily mundane operations behind the scenes. Using these tools and services you can streamline your business, so projects run like clockwork, clients get invoiced, and bills get paid on time.