In the early days of the COVID-19 lockdowns, there seemed to be one question on everyone’s minds: How will we stay productive amid a global pandemic?
I’m not talking about making sourdough bread or launching a personal podcast (though these are undoubtedly worthy pursuits if that’s your thing). I’m talking about the employees, entrepreneurs, and small businesses who can admittedly count themselves lucky because they still have a steady stream of work coming in.
The drive to stay productive and, hopefully, even thrive during this time is about so much more than merely surviving the crisis. Here, I’ll outline some tools I’ve discovered during lockdown that have helped up my marketing game.
Crank up communication
You’re probably already familiar with the essential tech tools needed to work from home. From hardware (standing desk, monitor, noise-canceling headphones, webcam), to software (Slack, Zoom), our team has adjusted pretty well to the work-from-home lifestyle.
No team can coordinate and work from home without excellent communication. As a digital marketing agency, we’ve always put communication front and center. Besides the usual Slack, Asana, Coschedule and Zoom, we also utilize an app called Harvest, a time-tracking tool. We track and log everything, which saves us a lot of hassle when it comes time to communicating with clients and billing them for our work. Harvest gives offers complete transparency, showing the client, by the hour (often by the minute), why certain tasks take a certain amount of time.
On a purely personal level, I’ve come to rely on Harvest for tracking my time during the lockdown. It helps me stay on top of tasks, so I know if I’m taking too long on something — perfect if you’re someone who needs a structured work-from-home routine to stay focused.
Gain new skills
Lockdown has encouraged me to take on tasks and responsibilities I once thought were out of my scope. I’m by no means an expert illustrator, graphic designer, videographer, or animator. But I’ve discovered some incredible tools in the last few months that have allowed me to do more and deliver these assets to clients in tight timelines.
With no in-house graphic designer to casually badger at the office for design help, I looked for ways to upgrade my personal skills. With Canva, I can mock up Instagram-worthy quotes or a quick infographic for a client — especially helpful for if they want something last minute. For small businesses, creating a gorgeous Instagram post in a few minutes is an essential resource.
Another incredible tool that I can’t brag enough about? Visme. Like Canva, it’s great for creating graphics, but it also allows for simple animations and videos, which our clients are increasingly asking for. Hiring an animator or videographer for a custom piece of content can be pricey. Visme lets me create professional animations (you can upload your own brand fonts, colors and images), that look like they were made by a professional studio.
Finally, there’s Moqups, a free tool I use to design landing pages before we begin building. When COVID-19 hit, we helped a telecommunications client build a custom landing page explaining how they can help their customers. This was a time-sensitive project, so mocking up the page quickly and easily was crucial. Thanks to handy tools made specifically for noobs like me, I’ve been able to create beautiful, professional-looking content landing pages, animations, graphics and more, swiftly and efficiently.
Jack up production (Yes, really!)
Teams are working with fewer people and resources, and even the best organization or design tools will only get you so far.
To improve our SEO and make sure our production schedule runs like clockwork, we employ SEMrush Marketplace. They have a resource of trusted writers, who can create custom articles that are SEO optimized.
We indicate the topic, suggest a headline, include a few notes or tips and submit a pitch. Within a week, a writer sends us an article draft. The content is highly relevant, well-researched, and professionally written, which is great for keeping our blog content up to date while improving our Google ranking and driving traffic.
Avoid feeling isolated during Covid-19
Even with all of these great resources, the transition to a home environment can leave businesses struggling to get accustomed to the change. I know I feel more productive when I can continually learn, grow and talk about professional topics with other people.
But is it just me, or is it easier to network digitally? Perhaps I’m an introvert, but I’ve been more dedicated to expanding my network than I was pre-COVID.
Since the lockdown was ordered back in March, I’ve joined Product Hunt, a website that lets users share and discover new products, as well as Indie Hackers, a place where founders can share their stories, get feedback and rely on each other for support. I also joined the Creative Tribes Slack Community, which connects entrepreneurs, marketers, and other creatives to share strategies and resources with one another.
Then there’s Phlywheel, our DIY marketing community and platform that is currently in beta. Yes, we were able to launch a product mid-pandemic (official launch on July 13), and it’s all thanks to the tools outlined above.
Sustaining a semblance of normalcy and camaraderie with discussion topics, groups, and remote happy hours on Zoom (we host ‘em every Friday!), makes me feel like I’m not alone in this. With a few handy tools, I’ve been able to ramp up production, improve my skills, keep clients happy, and even make friends along the way.
Stefani Forster is currently the Creative Director at Phlywheel, a DIY marketing platform designed to help small and medium-sized businesses who need the creative and analytical expertise of an agency, but don’t have the budgets they demand