You knew in your bones you could make it on your own as a consultant or subcontractor. You were tired of using your skills as someone else’s employee, so you decided to start your own business.

Now you have mixed feelings. You’re relieved, because now you are your own boss. But perhaps you are also overwhelmed. You might have scared yourself, thinking: How do I get started? How am I going to do this? Help!

Is this you? Well, you’re lucky! Until just a few years ago, small business owners had to get it all done using Microsoft Office and QuickBooks. Now, because of the cloud, all kinds of apps exist to help you manage your business. Some of these apps are available for free, others for a low cost.

I believe small business owners should use apps that talk to each other. Having one centralized database where you can see all the details of your interactions with your clients is a great way to manage your business.  Helping small business owners achieve this is why I became a small business CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) coach!

Connecting the dots on how to get started with the right business apps as a solopreneur.
© Can Stock Photo / stevanovicigor

Build a list

Keep in mind: small business is community based. That being said, it is essential that you start tracking the people you meet at each stage of the relationship building process from day one.

Start by building a list of the people you meet while you are out there networking and talking about your business. How do you do that? You might as well start off on the right foot, by using CRM – Customer Relationship Management.

Insightly CRM is a great option for consultants.  Why? Because Insightly allows you to manage your contacts, create a sales pipeline to track your potential clients, and track your projects and tasks. And you can get started for free. Can’t beat that.

Engage your contacts

After you build your list, you need to spread the word about the services you provide. Start sending out newsletters. The best way to do that is to use an email marketing tool. Which one, you ask? I recommend you get started with MailChimp. MailChimp has a free subscription option and it integrates well with Insightly CRM.

Write some proposals

You’ve made some progress and now people are asking about your services. So you start writing proposals. How do you know if they’re reading your proposals? Are they even opening them? Here’s my recommendation: PandaDoc. It’s not free, but it’s totally worth it. With PandaDoc you can create templates for your proposals and collect the signature online. It also integrates with Insightly CRM.

Get the money

Your first client accepted your proposal. Great! Before you get started on their project, you need to get a down payment. It is time to send out your first bill.

What should you consider here? First, you need to make it easy for your clients to make a payment. Second, you want to make sure you are not being charged high processing fees. QuickBooks Invoicing app has a subscription option for independent contractors that allows you to accept bank transfers for free. And guess what? QuickBooks Online also integrates with Insightly CRM!

As your business grows, you can upgrade to a more robust subscription level of QuickBooks Online.

Track your miles and other business expenses

If you are driving around to networking events and meetings with potential clients, make sure you track your miles. You also need to keep a copy of the receipts of your business expenses, such as office supplies, coffee with potential clients, and other business purchases. You can accumulate all the receipts in a shoe box (please don’t!), or you can use Expensify. Expensify integrates with QuickBooks Online. Your CPA is going to give you brownie points when you show up with your expenses all in QuickBooks!

Connect the Dots

These five apps will help you get your business off to a great start, with very low monthly subscription fees. All these apps provide great documentation on how to get started. Do you need help integrating them? Reach out! That’s why we’re here. We will coach you through the steps to get started and how to use these apps like the pro you are!