As business owners, we all wear many hats. Designer, bookkeeper, social media manager, marketer, email manager. The list goes on.
It can often get overwhelming.
The best way I’ve found to maintain sanity and keep things running smoothly, is to use systems. I have a system for just about every portion of my business from client design process, to invoicing, to content creation.
In order to stick with those systems and processes, I use programs designed for those specific tasks. So I’ve put a list together of which programs I use that help keep this business running.
I love Asana. I’m a list-making freak, so it makes sense that I would have a love-affair with this program. Asana is a project management system—essentially, a giant to-do list machine.
But Asana has other great features like:
You can assign tasks to other members of your team.
You can assign due dates
You can create subtasks, add notes, and use tags.
Asana is great for staying organized, creating and maintaining a content calendar, client workflow process, and keeping track of all your business ideas.
I use the Free version and have rarely found myself needing any features only offered in the paid version.
G Suite, also known as the google suite, consists of many features such as Gmail, the G Drive, google docs, google sheets, google hangouts, etc.
I use this program for many facets of my business:
Questionnaires & client assignments
Sharing files with clients
Writing & Editing blog posts
I love that I can access the G suite from all my devices—iPhone, iPad, Macbook and iMac. I can also share files with my husband, content editor and clients.
I only pay $5 per month for my custom business email address. Have a look at G Suite options!
17hats and Dubsado
OK this one is a bit complicated. I’ve been using 17hats for the past 1.5 years and overall, I’ve been really happy with it. I use it for contracts, time tracking, invoicing, and bookkeeping. It can also be used for project management, lead tracking/generating, etc. I just don’t utilize those features as much.
I can accept payments directly through 17hats, including online payments through a third-party vendor. The invoicing process is simple, and the templates for emails, contracts and invoices are all super helpful and easy to use.
Overall, I would recommend 17hats for anyone starting out in their business.
The complicated portion is that I’m currently in the process of switching over to Dubsado. So while I can’t exactly “recommend” Dubsado just yet, I thought it was worth sharing since I found it worthy enough to switch to.
I’m mainly switching for 3 big reasons:
Dubsado offers client portals. I can house all my client’s files—invoices, contracts, questionnaires, etc.—in one place for them to repeatedly refer back to. This one is big for me.
The user interface is more aligned with my design aesthetic and it’s more customizable so my clients are getting a more consistent experience across the board.
I like the invoicing and bookkeeping features better in Dubsado. They use charts and graphs to track income & expenses. :)
Hopefully once I’ve fully switched over I’ll be able to provide a more in depth post about how I like it! But for now, you can have a look around here.
SmarterQueue is a Social Media scheduling platform. If you’ve heard of programs like Meet Edgar, it’s very similar. It’s main feature is that you can re-queue items that are considered “evergreen”. This whole concept of recycling content was the main reason I started using SmarterQueue.
Posts like quotes or my blog posts are items that will never be outdated for my audience. So I was able to plug in hundreds of quotes and have them cycle through 3-4x each. I was able to set up almost an entire year’s worth of quotes in a matter of hours. Same goes for blog posts. Once I schedule a social post about one of my blog posts, I’m able to set it up to recycle multiple times without me having to create a new social post every single time.
The other thing I love about SQ is it uses categories. You set up whichever categories (or topics) you plan to post. For instance, my categories are Inspiration, education, behind the scenes, blog posts, outside articles, and quotes. You can assign certain categories to different social platforms—for instance, I only use 3 categories on Instagram, but all 6 on Facebook.
Once you’ve created categories, you set up a schedule for the platforms. Inspiration on Mondays, behind the scenes on Wednesdays, and so on. Then you create posts and plop them into a category.
It took a little bit of time on the front end to set everything up, but it’s saved me a ton of time and stress ever since.
In the spirit of full transparency, my biggest frustration with the platform is it doesn’t have a calendar view, which can sometimes make it hard to view your overall content for the week/month ahead.
I have the most basic subscription and I pay $20/month. You can click here for an extended, 30-day free trial.
For a more basic social media scheduler, I suggest Buffer.
I no longer use Buffer, but I am still a huge advocate for it. To be honest, if Buffer had the same capabilities as SmarterQueue, I would’ve stuck with it. I love the interface and simple usability of Buffer, but it just didn’t have all the features I really needed to streamline my social media scheduling process.
If you’re only running one or two social platforms, I definitely suggest Buffer. It also has a free version and their business plan is only $109 per year! You can’t beat that.
Convertkit is an email marketing system. It’s similar to Mailchimp but better, IMHO. I tried MailChimp, but was so overwhelmed by its complexity, and terrible interface, that I switched to CK and LOVE it! It's designed really well, and makes creating campaigns, courses, and broadcasts so simple.
Simple is kind of their motto at ConvertKit because they believe simple emails get better read rates than busy, over-designed emails. So they’ve strategically designed the program to utilize that simplicity.
The program was created by entrepreneurs, which means they understand the needs and wants of people like us because they are people like us.
I use ConvertKit for things like email marketing, creating opt ins, and creating an email course (more details on that coming very soon, EEK!). I highly recommend it—it’s $29/month.
Squarespace is the only website platform I recommend. I’ve used others like Weebly and Wix, but Squarespace is the most robust while still maintaining simple user ability. It’s easy enough for anyone to figure out, but has capabilities to create a completely custom site.
If you know the basics, you can likely figure out how to setup a Squarespace site. But if you know code and are a designer, you can take a basic template and create a super unique and custom website. It’s the perfect platform for anyone.
And it’s affordable at $216/year for their business plan. Browse around their site here.
Adobe Creative Cloud
InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Lightroom. Those might as well be the names of my children, I love them so. It’s no exaggeration for me to say I absolutely, 100% could not do my job without these programs.
What I love so much about Adobe is that they design each and every program with intention. Each program has a different skillset and capability. But, if I only had one of the first 3 programs, I could somehow still manage to create everything I needed. It would make it more difficult, but it could be done nonetheless.
But when you use the programs as they were intended to be used—each for a particular function—they work beautifully and seamlessly together.
Here’s how the programs are intended to be used:
Indesign: Page layouts. Perfect for multi-page documents or books.
Illustrator: Illustrations, logos, vector format graphics.
Photoshop: Photo editing or photo-based graphics
Lightroom: Batch photo editing (great for photographers!)
I pay $50/month. Click here to view your options.
Also, rumor has it they’re offering a $10 discount on black Friday. That’s a fantastic deal, if you ask me!
Apple iCloud storage
I have a laptop and a desktop computer. When I first launched my business, I was worried how it would work using 2 computers. I was worried about files getting lost, or forgetting to transfer a file from my desktop to my laptop if I was traveling I’d end up somewhere without a file I needed. Blah, blah, blah.
Then I discovered iCloud storage.
I know, there are items like Dropbox and Google Drive, but this seemed different. For one, it’s only $3 a month for 200GB, but it’s also right in my finder window. On both computers and my iPhone and iPad. No downloading required. If I drop something into the file on one computer, it’s automatically on the other devices. It’s so seamless I never have to worry about losing a file. Plus it’s secure and provides an online backup.
This is my go-to source for graphics and fonts. It’s a site where other designers can sell their creations (vector graphics, fonts, patterns, icons, etc.). It’s much more affordable than large stock sites like iStock, and I love that I’m supporting other entrepreneurs like myself.
I find they have the most creative, unique items compared to other graphic websites.
Also, a little side tip: You can sign up for their weekly emails and they’ll send you 6 free downloads every Monday. Perfect for beginner designers who want to build a resources base without much cost.
Hopefully you found this post helpful, and you’ll give some of these programs a try.
A few of the programs may be offering Black Friday Deals, so be sure to check them out before next week!
There’s also a new resources page on my website so you can access these programs (and more) anytime. There’s also discounts offered, so head over there and have a look.
*Yes, a few of the links above are affiliate links, but I only recommend products I have personal experience with and have found helpful.