It's easier than ever to be a young, creative entrepreneur. Whether you're running a successful T-shirt company or just getting started commercializing your family's homemade soap recipe, there are new tools springing up online everyday to help you. These tools can save you time, help you be more effective, better spread your message and (most important) get you back to building beautiful products.
If you're taking your business to the next level, about to hop into entrepreneurship full-time or are just getting started, here are the top apps you need to know about.
Pinterest. Pinterest is easily one of the best places to collect inspiration and discover trends within home decor, fashion, photography and beyond. Pinterest is great for both finding and storing inspiration. Creative people can leverage these benefits to better inform their designs, new products, package design and even their marketing.
Colourlovers. Though it's often overlooked, Colourlovers—the community for all things color—is a great resource when you're at the early stages of branding or re-branding. When you're thinking about innovative ways to differentiate your business from your competition, visit Colourlovers and explore color schemes or patterns.
Dribbble. In the same vein as Colourlovers, Dribbble is a community of graphic and user-experience designers sharing their work. When you're looking for interface design, logo design or even e-mail design ideas, check out what the designers on Dribbble are doing. (Remember, that's three b's!)
Fab.com. At the end of the day, you are a business, and what better way to get insights on trends than a marketplace for popular design items? Fab.com is the go-to flash sale site for design items. Check it out to get information on which creative products are creating demand.
Pulse. Keeping up with trends starts with keeping your finger on the news. Pulse is one of the more beautiful news readers around these days. It's now available for you on your phone, tablet and in the Web. I think I open Pulse almost six to seven times a day myself.
Getting Set Up Online
PayPal. Although there are a variety of new payment options available, PayPal is the most recognized and my favorite, plug-and-play way to accept payments online. I look forward to seeing what happens with companies like Stripe, Dwolla and Google Wallet, too.
Storenvy. Storenvy, the company for which I do marketing work, allows you to create a Web store, edit your HTML and have your own Facebook store. You can use your own URL, too, for an extra $5 per month. Storenvy also has a marketplace of shoppers that can help new customers discover your work.
Pixelmator. On the Web, product photography is everything. People need to feel they connect with the product before purchasing and that's achievable through great photography. Pixelmator is a relatively cheap photography app that can help you snap great product photos without breaking the bank. Don't want to pay $15? You can always try Instagram!Google Analytics. It's great that you're marketing your business, but how do you know what's working and what's not? Google Analytics answers that question. It gives you a clear picture of where your visitors are coming from, what pages are making them convert into customers and more. It definitely should be in your toolbox.
Tumblr. Blogs make it easy to update your customers on your products, enable others to share your content and provide a great (free!) form of content marketing. Good content spreads fast, and Tumblr is one of the easiest platforms to use—it even has a built-in network to help spread your content.
Keeping Your Customers Happy
Buffer App. Most customers expect you to be on Twitter and Facebook. They also expect you to quickly respond to their questions and complaints via these services. Buffer helps you stay on top of it. Monitor tweets and shares and respond quickly, and you'll get an A+ in customer service.Mailchimp. Mailchimp is the most intuitive (and fun!) e-mail campaign system out there. Make sure you're sending at least monthly e-mails to your customers reminding them how much you love them and updating them on new product releases.
Saving TimeFlow. Running a business is time-consuming. Staying organized will keep you sane and successful. Flow is a task-management tool that makes running your business a little less painful.
Evernote. From the names of potential accountants to all of the new marketing ideas you want to try, you need a consistent place to store your thoughts. Evernote is by far the best note-taking app around. Sync your devices with it, search across every note you have, and get back to work.
InDinero. The scary side of business is managing your finances. It's not fun. Most creative people don't enjoy this part, so it's helpful when there's an app to make this a little less intimidating. InDinero is a hassle-free financial-management tool.
Growing a business takes time and effort, but these Web tools can put even the most frazzled creators on the path to success.
Find more useful Web services for small business here.
Arielle Patrice Scott starts companies with a young adult focus. She started internshipIN.com and is the current CEO of GenJuice. Scott is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.