I’m always on the lookout for ways to work smarter and not harder. Of course, I carried this philosophy into my business, which proved to be especially helpful because of how many new hats I had to learn how to wear.
When I started Wander Design Co., I went in fully committed to my new venture. I defined my target market, I sculpted my brand identity to attract said market, and I made my business look as legitimate as possible. To me, that was the easy part. Everything after that is where things got hard.
When starting a new business, you have to get the word out. And saying is easier than doing. Besides a long list of IPA’s (income producing activities), you have to actually manage your business. The neverending list of a business owner is exhausting.
After many months of figuring things out, trial after trial, and error after error, I found a number of applications that proved to be extremely valuable to my hustle. These business tools have helped my business stay organized, productive, strategic, and enhanced its professionalism.
Today, I’m sharing my favorites with you. Learn how you too can improve your business by adding in some of these tools to your process below.
My Favorite Free Business Tools
Avast Passwords is a free password and credit card information manager for your computer. I have it integrated in my Google Chrome browser, so it’s been a breeze logging into any site with a click of a button!
Let me tell you, I have A LOT of accounts with countless websites, on top of needing my clients’ credentials for certain sites. I really feel as if I’m working smarter and not harder in my process thanks to Avast.
And if something seems fishy to Avast, it will ask you for your master password (the one I use to log into my laptop).
Unum is a free Instagram content planner app. I’ve tried a few others, but what made me a fan of Unum is its gorgeous user interface design and it’s easy to use.
Unum also lets you store hashtags based on category. I have three categories saved: business, adventure, and design. Within each category, I have hashtags saved that pertains to their category. It makes it so easy to copy and paste depending on the type of post I create!
Trello is a free project management app. I started using Trello even before starting a business, just to keep personal agendas, recipes, grocery lists, and so on.
What makes Trello one of the most powerful tools I use for my business is that it allows me to invite others as team members, like my clients or outsourced help.
I can create different teams, and for those teams I can create different boards. In each board I can manage client projects and invite clients so they can stay organized and up to date, especially if I need anything from them to execute their projects.
There are unlimited ways to utilize Trello for business and personal projects. I highly recommend diving into the deep rabbit hole of training videos that are available online!
My Favorite Paid Business Tools
Dubsado is a client management system and in my biased opinion, the best one in its market.
With Dubsado, you can integrate a lot of other tools you are probably already using for your business, like Paypal, Stripe, Gmail, Google Calendar, Zapier, Quickbooks, and so on.
It’s basically the base camp for a lot of these business tools so you can make everything working together seamlessly and provide the most pleasant client experience.
I use Dubsado to handle everything in my process from the client lead to project completion. That includes sign-up forms, automated canned emails, proposals, contracts, invoicing, time tracking, client portals, emailing, sharing and hosting PDFs, bookkeeping, monthly reports, workflows, and the list goes on.
Now, I know it’s overwhelming to have to switch or even begin to use a CMS, but Dubsado’s customer service team is top of the line. They have always responded to me within the day and even offered to do certain things for me.
I signed up with Dubsado when it was a baby in the market, so I’ve witnessed a lot of growth. Every few weeks I get emails on what’s new, and every time it’s excited me. Soon enough they will be providing their own scheduling tool, which I am hoping will replace the scheduling tool I have to outsource. And the most exciting update I am waiting for is the Dubsado app for iPhone!
Quickbooks is a bookkeeping tool that has different packages for people in different stages of their business. I like to use the self-employed package because it records my mileage on the app for iPhone.
I used to also use Quickbooks for invoicing until I hopped on the Dubsado train. But for those that are only interested in Quickbooks, I have to say the invoicing aspect is excellent.
The interface is super easy to use. One of the biggest reasons I stay on top of categorizing profits and expenses is because of the iPhone app.
If you’re looking for the simplest way to bookkeep, try Quickbooks!
Adobe Creative Cloud is what’s made me a graphic designer. I live and breathe (and possibily sweat) Adobe. As a graphic designer, I spend most of my time using Illustrator, then InDesign, then Photoshop. Every. Single. Day.
If I am allowed to throw out guesstimated statistics, I’d say I use the following Adobe programs in these percentages: Illustrator 80%, InDesign 10%, Lightroom 6%, Photoshop 3%, and for the last 1% I use Premiere, After Effects, and Dreamweaver.
And outside of those ‘stats’, I use Acrobat for PDF viewing, filling, and signing.
As for the Creative Cloud part of Adobe, I think there’s no discussion. You get the latest and greatest of Adobe with constant updates on their programs provided free to you as a member. I love staying up to date with new feature releases thanks to their constant output of updated training videos and Adobe Evangelists.
Google Suite is a collection of Google services specific for business. The thing about G Suite that I can’t believe isn’t common entrepreneurial knowledge is that for $5 a month, you get a domain email address.
What does that mean? It means as the owner of www.wanderdesign.co, I pay $5 a month to have a Gmail account with email@example.com as my business email.
Moreover, with this business email account, I get 30 gigabytes of storage on Google Drive. That’s 20G more than a personal account!
Regardless of what your business is, if you own a domain and don’t have a business email, you MUST sign up for this awesome service. Because who’s going to take your business as seriously as you want them to if you have an @gmail.com account?
Lastly, Convertkit is an email marketing platform for businesses. I went down the free MailChimp route for a while and reluctantly signed up for a free trial for Convertkit since everyone kept raving about it.
Well, I drank the punch and now I’m hooked. It’s way easier to use and I somehow feel more productive thanks to the way Convertkit is strategically set up for their customers’ success.
I’m looking forward to optimizing Convertkit for my email marketing, and with so many tutorials from Convertkit and other business owners, I feel well taken care of.
And there you have it. I can’t say enough about how much these tools have made my business easier (or should I say, a little less hard), and also provided more value to my clients.
With staying organized and productive, I’m saving my clients from spending more time than necessary finding old invoices and files, and saving them money by optimizing the time they have booked me for.
I hope you too will find some, if not all, of these tools so helpful for your venture that they become staples in your process.
I am interested in trying a few other tools, and perhaps I will review them later. If you have any business tools you’d like to add to this list, let me know by comments below!
*Some of these links are affiliates which means I would be earning a small commission. I would never suggest a tool or service I do not genuinely support, so rest assured I am giving my full recommendation for said items.