Tools That Make Consulting Easier (And a Few More I Need)

These are the tools I use to run my business and work with clients. I’m a one-person business, so I need tools that let me manage the business side of things efficiently.

Tools for ConsultingI have now been working as an independent consultant for over 5 years. These are the tools I use to run my business and work with clients. I’m a one-person business, so I need tools that let me manage the business side of things efficiently. This list is constantly evolving, and I have a list of solutions I need as well.

Collaboration and Communication

  • Zoom: Zoom is my preferred platform for video conferencing. I have used all the other major tools (WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.), but Zoom works with the fewest technical challenges. It also includes the option for calling in on a phone rather than just VOIP, so you can get better quality audio. For $150/year, I can host unlimited high quality group video calls with up to 50 people.
  • Google Voice: I use Google Voice for my business phone number. This is a free service I can forward to my mobile and landline phones. I schedule my Google Voice number to go directly to voicemail outside of business hours .
  • Dropbox and Google Drive: I use both Dropbox and Google Drive to share files with clients, depending on the clients’ preference.

Stock Images

  • Storyblocks: Storyblocks (formerly Graphic Stock) is the source for many images for my blog posts and presentations. I use it sometimes for courses, depending on the content. It’s $99/year for unlimited downloads. I love it for backgrounds and basic images where I don’t have terribly specific needs.
  • Can Stock Photo: When I need more specific images for courses (e.g., a non-white male teacher talking to a female elementary student), I mostly use Can Stock Photo. Credits are fairly reasonably priced, and subscriptions are also an option.

Other Tools

  • Google Sheets: I use Google Spreadsheets to track my time, collect review feedback, and do light project management.
  • Remember The Milk: I manage my daily to-do list with Remember The Milk.
  • WordPress: This blog and my business website and portfolio were built with  WordPress.
  • Dreamhost: My business website and portfolio are hosted by Dreamhost. (Get 40% off by using my link.)
  • Amazon: I use Amazon Affiliate links for my book reviews. I don’t make much income this way, but $250 a year is better than nothing.
  • HelloSign: I used to digitally sign contracts with Adobe Acrobat Pro (and sometimes still do if a client sends it), but mostly I use HelloSign for digital signatures. If you don’t sign documents often, you can do 3 signatures per month for free.

What I Need

I have a few needs for software currently. If you have found a great solution for these, let me know in the comments.
Update 2017: My original text is below so you can see what I was considering in 2016, but I have decided on Wave for accounting. I’m still using Google Sheets for project management, but with an add on called ProjectSheets.

  • Basic Accounting: I have been using QuickBooks Self-Employed for tracking expenses. I like how it automatically syncs with my accounts and makes it easy to categorize transactions. Unfortunately, the program repeatedly and spontaneously insists on adding my personal accounts as well. They also recently broke their mobile app so I can no longer categorize transactions on my phone. I’ve had enough glitches in the last few months that I don’t quite trust it anymore.
    Wave is the first one on my list to evaluate because it’s free. If I can do what I need with that, I don’t need to pay for something else. Several people have recommended Freshbooks, but it’s more expensive and I don’t think I’d use many of the features. Xero and FreeAgent have also been recommended. If you have experience with any of these, I’d love to hear about it.
  • Project Management: I currently manage projects in Google Sheets. It’s fast and simple to set up, and it shares perfectly with clients. This works OK for basic projects and small teams. It’s hard to visualize what’s happening though, and I’m starting to hit the limits of what I can really do. I’m starting to investigate other options now. I used Easy Projects with a past client, and that might work. I’ve heard positive reviews for MavenLink. There are some other free and low-cost options as well.

Your Tools?

What are your must-have tools? Any suggestions for accounting or project management?
As mentioned above, I use affiliate links on my blog. Several of the links above are affiliate or referral links. If you make a purchase after clicking these links, I get a small payment. Some of these links (including the Storyblocks  and Dreamhost links) also give you a discount.

12 thoughts on “Tools That Make Consulting Easier (And a Few More I Need)

    1. I have always used a PC. It’s possible to get a Mac to work using Parallels or a similar setup, but several of the primary tools like Storyline aren’t available on Mac.

  1. Hi Christy,
    If you don’t mind answering these questions, when you say you use Amazon Affiliate links for your book reviews, do you mean you’re monetizing your website? I assume this could for any type of product on Amazon’s site. I checked out your book reviews link and I see you have links to the respective books on Amazon’s website. Do your earn money from Amazon if someone buys the book after they clicked on the link for it on your website? If so, do you need to set up a special type of account on Amazon? I buy Amazon’s Prime Annual Membership, have sold used books in the past on Amazon’s site, and have a S3 account, so I’m familiar with Amazon but not an expert.
    Thanks for any information you can share.
    On Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 9:47 AM, Experiencing E-Learning wrote:
    > Christy Tucker posted: “I have now been working as an independent > consultant for over 5 years. These are the tools I use to run my business > and work with clients. I’m a one-person business, so I need tools that let > me manage the business side of things efficiently. This list is ” >

    1. Yes, I earn a little money if someone buys a book from my links. It’s 4% or 6% of the cost of the product, so not much per book, but it adds up. I made $250 last year. Hardly a huge income, but my original goal was to make enough to go out for a nice dinner. If you work the system, you can make much more than I do. You have to set up your account as an Affiliate account.

    1. Good idea! I haven’t look at that in several years (since it was OpenProj, I think). I just signed up for the beta test of the cloud-based version. I think I am better off with something cloud-based that I can share with clients, and this might fit the bill.

  2. Good suggestions! I use Captivate as my primary development tool. I have an old version of the other Adobe products (the eLearning Suite 2.5). For my limited use of Photoshop and Acrobat Pro, the old version meets my needs. I don’t use One Note, but I know many people find it an indispensable part of their process.
    Thinking about PDFs reminded me that I didn’t add HelloSign here. That’s my tool for signing contracts, and it works great. I’ll update the post now.

  3. Thanks Christy… interesting..and nice to learn about new tech tips.
    **I love One Note -part of the MS Office Suite.. I’ve used it for event records as well as now using it to store all course correspondence and other related content for courses I’m working on as an instructional designer. I also use it to keep other important notes and records.
    **We are using Blackboard Collaborate for meetings where colleagues work remotely… I prefer the Ultra version..but it doesn’t like Word docs… it’s the basic version that will allow sharing/updating word docs in real time.
    **I love Adobe Acrobat Professional for conversion of PDF’s and word docs…
    I have used BaseCamp for collaborative team projects…and liked it. There is a free trial available.
    I loved using GoAnimate to create mini-modules ..I used the free trial option a couple times… it’s user friendly and fun.. and I loved to view the animated final products. However, they’ve recently changed the ability to access what you created without subscribing.
    iSpring.. I’m just starting to use it.. but it offers a lot of functionality by importing PowerPoints and even adding audio/video… it’s HTML5 compatible so it’s great, for example, if faculty want to create a personalized presentation for their course.
    That’s all I have for now!!

  4. My Project Stack looks like this:
    Asana/Trello for Project Management
    Slack/Skype for Communication
    Google Suite for Business Tasks and Email
    QBO for accounting
    Expensify for expense tracking
    Toggl for time tracking.

    1. I just can’t wrap my brain around the card method for project management. I can’t figure out how you create timelines with dependent tasks in those sorts of systems. Maybe you don’t?

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