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Running an online business is no different from other types of business – you need the right tools for the job. In the case of the online business owner, a lot of those tools will be online ones, apps and software that help you get more done, be organised and run your business.
For me, there are three key tools I use every day – ClickUp for scheduling work, Notion to organise everything and Airtable to track everything. If you don’t know Airtable and haven’t tried it before, let’s dive in and see what it is all about.
What is Airtable?
When people ask me what Airtable is, I always say a cross between a spreadsheet and a database. It is actually a lot more but that’s the most common ways I use it.
To understand Airtable, there are five main components that you use:
- Base (1) – this is the top level, the database that contains all of the information that you are using. It is similar to a workbook in spreadsheets
- Tables (2) – each base can have multiple tables which are like worksheets in a spreadsheet software and are used to hold one type of item such as a blog post title or the cost of a course
- Views (3) – these are ways to see the data in the table and include a grid, form, calendar, gallery (for images) or even a Kanban board like Trello
- Fields (4) – these are similar to columns in spreadsheets but there are lots of different types you can use from normal text to attachments, currency, date or even dropdown options – they are one of the most powerful features of Airtable
- Record (5) – this is the same as a row in a spreadsheet and contain each piece of information
You can also check out this 12-minute intro to Airtable from the company themselves:
How to create a base
When you start using Airtable, the first thing to do is to decide what information you want to add to it and to create a base.
The first way to create a base is to start from scratch. A new base will have three records and three default fields that you can delete or amend the file type. Then you can start adding the data manually or by copying and pasting it.
Another option is to use a spreadsheet. If you have a CSV file, you can upload this to Airtable, and the information will be displayed in the same format. All the fields will default to single line text, but this can be changed as needed.
When you start using Airtable and want to make another version of an existing base, you can just copy the whole base. This also applies to tables, fields and records – all can be duplicated from the settings menus.
The fourth option is to use one of the many templates that Airtable provides to help you get started. These show just the variety of things you can do with the software and are ideal if you are a little unsure where to start. The great thing with the templates is that you can also edit them as well, add or remove fields or change formats to match what you need.
Choosing field types
For me, one of the best features of Airtable is the types of field and the various ways these can be used. This sets it apart from normal spreadsheet software like Excel or Google Sheets. Some examples of the field types include:
- Single line text – this is the default option and will contain as much text as you want in a single line
- Long text – this lets you add multiple items and put breaks between them
- Date – add the date to the field
- URL – add a URL which becomes clickable
- Currency – add the chosen currency symbol and the column will add up at the bottom
- Number – choose from normal numbers or decimal
- Single select – create a series of options and select one (these have colours!)
- Multiple select – same as single select but you can give each record more than one item
- Checkbox – one of my favourites! A simple checkbox to keep track of what is done
- Attachment – add an image, document or other file type
There are lots more fields available, but these are the ones I use the most often. You can also use an option to link to another record within the base. I don’t use this much myself yet, but I know there are lots of ways to make the most of it.
Blocks and the paid option
As things stand, the free version of Airtable is brilliant for all of my needs. But they do offer a paid upgrade that gives you access to extra features if you need them.
The free plan gives you unlimited bases and up to 1200 records per base with attachment space for base of 2GB. You can go to the basic upgrade at $12 a month and this increases records per base to 5,000 and space to 5GB.
The Pro upgrade is $24 a month and this gives you access to 50,000 records per base and 20GB. But it is also giving you access to their Blocks, additional and advanced features and the ability to custom brand your forms.
Blocks are very impressive and I have tried them myself. While I love the idea, I found I didn’t need them for my type of business with the cost involved. However, if you have a team or work in other niches to me, they may be ideal. They add a whole range of extra features known as blocks that include charts, maps, timeline features, page designer and even things like video chat that appear beside the normal base information in each base.
How I use Airtable for business
So that’s the basics of Airtable and the features that it offers. There’s loads more to explore, depending on how you want to use it, so I thought the best way to showcase what it does is to give you some examples of how I use it.
Tracking daily and weekly income
Client work is the main source of income into my business and I work with a number of clients on different projects. While the actual work is scheduled through Asana, I use Airtable to track what jobs I have done, what income I have made and how my weekly and monthly income is looking.
I have a monthly sheet where I record daily and weekly income. This includes fields for all types of income including ads, sponsored posts, affiliate income and product sales as well as my types of client work. I also have a yearly sheet where I record the overall figures for each month.
What work for who
I also have another base where I track the actual work done for each client with the data, amount and cost.
The number and currency features are handy as they add up as you go so if you are invoicing clients for work done, it is simple to see what you have done. You can also send them the downloaded CSV file of the base as a work report if needed.
Project management with Airtable
As well as simple client tracking, you can use Airtable as a full project management tool. See some examples here
I use Airtable to track a lot of stats for my Pinterest accounts and for clients too. For starters, I have a base that has details of all of my boards in it and when I last audited them and checked the keyword information.
I have a base for Tribes where I track what content has been added to what Tribes and when. This ensures I can be consistent, don’t share the same content repeatedly and can see when a Pin has gone to all Tribes.
I also use it for things like group board audits. I use a multi-select to decide to keep or check again next month depending on how they are performing.
I use Trello for my editorial calendar, but I have a database of ideas with links in a base in Airtable. Then when I decide to write a piece on this theme, I can grab all the links and drop them onto the Trello card to check out when I prepare the post.
Airtable for Social Media
As well as to organise your content, you can also use Airtable for social media marketing. Check out how!
Organising PLR content
For my food blog, I often buy PLR content to help with the recipe creation side of things. I have a Base where I organise this showing where the content is (file name), the recipe title, what type of recipe it is and other important information. This makes it easier to search through with the ‘find’ features (there’s a little looking glass icon in the top of every base for this) and search for recipes with certain ingredients.
My affiliate program base is ideal to track which programs are under which company (such as Tailwind is under ShareASale) as well as track the individual programs I am in. I include the program URL, the basic link and information about the pay-out and cookie length.
Statistics are key for success with blogging and Airtable makes it easy to record these. I have a base for weekly and for monthly stats so I can see at a view how each month is progressing and how the month compares to previous ones.
Courses and downloads
We all tend to pick up a few courses and useful downloads as we go but where to put them all? I tend to put most stuff in Google Drive, but I also have a base where I keep track of them all. That way if I want to find something, I can search easily and see what it is called then look in the Drive for it.
Bonus – Airtable for personal stuff
While there’s no doubt that 95% of what I use Airtable for relates to my business, there are also lots of personal uses for it and because it is free, why not?
Books and to read lists
I have a few (cough) books in my house and not all of them are on show – there’s not enough house! So to remember what I have and what I want to buy, I have a base for books. I organise them by the type of book then the author and put a note for ones to buy.
Basic house finances
Finally, you can easily use a template or start a blank base to keep track of your household finances. I keep it simple – what comes out and when so I can see at a glance what our basic monthly bills are and what is due to be paid when. You can also use it for budgeting, meal planning, grocery tracking and hundreds of other ways around the house!
Using Airtable for business
As you can see, I’m not joking when I say my business wouldn’t run without my three favourite tools. Airtable is the organisation behind the other two, where all relevant information is kept and saves me a lot of time adding, tracking and searching for stuff.
If you want to check it out, there’s no cost involved but plenty of reasons to try it out!
Want to know more about another favourite?
Check out my ClickUp review and see how I use another in my must-have tool kit!