Are you feeling exhausted just looking at the dizzying array of online software and apps you could use as an online business owner?
There are so many options and it's hard to choose which ones will meet your goals.
Getting the right software in place can make a real difference to the amount of time you have in your week for doing what you love to do best - serving your clients.
I have been supporting and giving strategic direction to businesses online since 2006. During this time I have played with many different software solutions, and fallen into many traps along the way.
I’ve invested in software that was way above my need, or ones that were aimed at programmers and specialists rather than business owners.
I don’t want you to make those same costly mistakes, so in this article I share the top 3 common mistakes to avoid when you are choosing which software to invest in for your online business.
Mistake No.1: Choosing software that you're hard-wired to hate!
When you are choosing software for your online business, a key consideration is how your brain is wired. You will get on with some tech software tools more easily simply because your brain works that way. And that also means, they can’t make you magically able to work in a way you didn’t before.
A piece of software, or an app is just that, it is not a silver bullet that will change your world view.
If you have no natural tendency to plan, then a task management app won’t magically transform you into a planner overnight!
Are you a visual learner, or a number and data person?
This will affect what works best for you.
Some people go crazy for a spreadsheet (yes, really!!! That is so not me!)
Others need more visual layouts.
Personally, I prefer to see visual diagrams and flows where I can capture the big picture in one beautiful and often multi-coloured glory.
Being able to colour code my systems and processes is an important element for me as great design brings me huge smiles of joy and makes my day run just that little bit easier.
Trello is a hugely popular online software tool that helps with organising your tasks, using lots of “boards and cards”, but unless you like to have this open 100% of the time, it’s highly likely that you will forget what you had on your to-do list! (I speak from direct experience here!)
Post-it notes are low budget, old school, but they work every single day for me. Front of mind means things get stuff done.
I also schedule certain tasks in my calendar, including reminders to reach out to certain people, so I get a reminder to take those actions. Maybe that could work for you too.
If you are not sure how you are hard-wired, a great starting place is taking an online personality test, such as the free test hosted at 16personalities.com based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.
The area of your personality type to focus on for deciding which software will suit you, is whether you come up as a ‘J’ (Judging) or a ‘P’ (Prospecting) on the tactics scale.
- Js are planners and can struggle with changes and spontaneous decisions
- Ps prefer to go with the flow and often run a mile from a fixed plan
72% of those with the Judging trait say they are focused on and dedicated to their goals and rarely get sidetracked, compared to 21% of those with the Prospecting trait.
Remember that these tests give results based on a spectrum so it’s not an either/or. You may well sit quite central and appreciate a plan but don't always manage to get it done without a deadline or accountability.
I am an INFJ (in Myers-Briggs terminology). I think and feel deeply but love a good plan too.
And a lot of online software tools need a few of those planning genes to get the most out of them.
If you are more a “go with the flow” type of gal (the Ps in the Myers-Briggs world), then having understood the strategic overview of the capabilities of these tools, you are likely to benefit from outsourcing the day to day running to the more logical planners on the spectrum.
If you are spontaneous - stay in your flow, in your zone of genius, the sooner you invest in help with planning, the faster your business will grow and you will get that investment back and more.
Mistake No.2: Buying a designer label when you can’t pay your rent
The battle between “should I buy into the more complex piece of software now” or “start with simple then migrate later” is real!
You have maybe invested in a big name coaching program where they recommend the software they use. And you think you need that, as they sell it so well. But remember, they are a 7-figure plus business, with a team who handles all the minutiae.
My guess is, if you are anything like me, you are operating as a solo business owner, as you don’t have a huge desire to run a big corporation and become a team manager. But you do want to earn a decent living that allows you the flexibility to live the life you want.
Start by choosing the best software tools that will aid your productivity, and bring automation into your business tasks.
Your needs are very different from 7 figure businesses. They have the team and the cash flow to support and manage high end tools.
One thing is certain, your needs will change over time, and you cannot forward guess what those future needs will be.
If you take away just one thing from this article, do this
Start with the software you need today, and migrate upwards as you grow, once you have a proven business concept that is bringing in the cash flow to upgrade.
This way you will be celebrating paying for the tools rather than regretting an investment that you always feel is under utilised!
When the software you're using no longer meets your needs, you will find the company behind your new software solution makes it easy to migrate to their system as they want your business.
Just like utility bill providers will do the switch for you, online business software providers are no different. In fact their customer service is often what makes or breaks their success, so they are highly invested in making the transition smooth.
Invest in what you need today, make it work well, and gain traction with that, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket… which takes me to my next point.
Mistake No.3: Putting all your eggs in one basket
Coaches and consultants are pulled in everyday to the lure of the one stop software solution. It sounds amazing, you just have to sign up once and everything will run smoothly ever after.
Or will it?
Sadly, the case is not always, and often you are falling into mistake number 2 by investing in an all-in-one solution. There will be elements that you use right away, but others are on the dream list “of when I do X”, and several years may pass until you reach that next stage.
All that time you're paying a hefty premium for a software tool you are not getting the full benefit of, when you could have got what you needed elsewhere for a fraction of the cost.
Great business owners know that budgets are important, and you never want to be spending unnecessarily… as that will eat into your profits in a flash.
Profits will be divided up between re-investing in your business and your take-home income. The money you need to live from. Every “small” monthly expenditure soon adds up, if you aren’t careful, as the wise saying goes : ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will add up’.
A big downside to all-in-one solutions, is you are literally putting all your eggs in one basket - all the assets of your business operations are in one place. If that software goes down (it happens more often than companies admit to), then all your client access goes.
Think about this for a moment.
The software providers that offer integrated websites, course platforms, email management systems, sales pipelines, etc.
Now what happens to your business if they get hacked, and all of the above gets frozen and you have no way to reach your clients and let them know what has happened?
Panic central!!! That is NOT what you want for your business.
As a growing business, spreading your risk across several platforms means if one company’s server goes down or gets hacked, you still have an alternative method to reach your customers and let them know what is happening.
Spreading your risk across several providers is the smart option to choose in the online business world.
Be Wary of Affiliate Marketing
All in one software platforms do play a GREAT affiliate marketing game, but when you then dig down into the user reviews, that is when you get to hear the negatives and that not all is as rosy as the platforms proclaim.
Watch out for the software affiliates who may have never even paid, let alone used the software they are promoting. Why do they do this? Because great affiliate deals give 50% of the sales, which makes for a lucrative income.
Ask around your network who uses what and most importantly why, ask them which element they use the most. Do they use all the components every day? Are they at the same business stage as you are?
You will discover many coaches and consultants admit to only using a tenth of the capability of the software they have access to.
How to avoid the 3 common mistakes when choosing software for your online business:
- Create your own bespoke tech stack.
- Build slowly, one piece at a time, as the need arises.
- Backup your data, always and regularly.
- Invest in higher level solutions when you need them, not before.
This software strategy will mean that you need to connect up the elements to have things “talk to each other”, but as mentioned above, developers make this very easy.
However, if this thought sends your head spinning, then outsourcing this piece of tech support is fast and a very worthy investment that will get you moving fast, and save you spending high monthly fees for something that you are not using on the promise that it “does it all”.
Software options are changing all the time, and I recommend you talk to a tech expert who can guide you through the latest options on the market that would work for your business. If you'd like a recommendation of someone to reach out to, just send me a note with where you are at in your business and I'll connect you with one of my contacts who will suit you and meet you where you are at now.