Business Tools I Love and Literally Cannot Live Without

Dubsado

This is a BEAUTIFUL and FUNCTIONAL customer relationship management (CRM) system made for creative entrepreneurs, but I feel like it could be utilized across many industries. It has completely streamlined my business to make proposals, contracts, invoicing, communication, document organization, and project tracking easier than EVER. These are time consuming tasks for any business owner, and that’s not profitable time. The forms functionality is by far my favorite feature, as it allows me to automate client onboarding, request credentials, and gather content for their project. The client portal is also so helpful, as it gives the client a place to access everything we’ve worked on, without digging through a million emails.

PRODUCT TYPE
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

TRY IT
free trial with no time limit (no CC required!) to test out for up to 3 clients

$$
$35/month

I USE IT
daily…. hourly?

I am notorious for not knowing my passwords to ANYTHING. It’s a mess trying to keep up with all the logins we have to create these days and even though I try to stick to a system for password creation, every login has different requirements. Then, we’ve all been there – you go to change your password (because you forgot it) and then it says you cannot change it to a previously used password, and your sytem is gone. LastPass has virtually eliminated this problem for me. I have it installed on my computers on all browsers, my phone, and my iPad. It not only holds passwords, it automatically keeps them updates, populates fields when you need to login, lets you share them with others (with or without them actually seeing your password), and suggests secure passwords for ultimate security. They do have a free version, but I think they premium version is well worth it.

PRODUCT TYPE
Password Manager

TRY IT
free!

$$
$3/month

I USE IT
daily

Listen, everyone has their vices. Mine happens to be planners. I know it’s a weird thing to enjoy as much as I do, but my paper planner is quite literally my lifeline. I have used many, many brands over the years and always come back to Erin Condren. The quality is just far better than any other brand. 

They are pricier than what you’ll find at a craft store, but the high quality mohawk paper doesn’t bleed through when you write with colorful pens, you can personalize it, the tabs are durable and last all year, the coil doesn’t snag on the pages, and the interchangeable covers are an affordable way to change the look. I also feel that for about $1/week, it’s worth it for an organizational system that actually works to keep me on track. 

I usually end up buying a new one every six months because I just love a fresh start… and I’m a crazy person.

PRODUCT TYPE
Paper Planner

TRY IT
physical product, so no free trial

$$
About $50 

I USE IT
daily

I am always switching between various email accounts. My personal gmail, my business gsuite, my agency email, client project accounts, etc. and I  use lots of applications through the day. 

Loading all of my accounts into Shift made it SO EASY to toggle between all accounts and apps. I have my emails, Slack, Google Voice, Zoom, Dubsado, and Canva all connected. 

Tabs are so last year, my friends. 

PRODUCT TYPE
Productivity

TRY IT
free!

$$
premium options. I snagged the Advanced version on a special promotion

I USE IT

daily

Hands-down THE BEST way to host remote meetings. The video and audio are stable, clear, and the system integrates with many other apps to create easy meetings. 

With the free account you have a limit on the call length (40 minutes), but I’ve found that’s usually more than enough. I have had a few times that we’ve gone over, but it doesn’t take long to just jump back into the room again. 

PRO-TIP: When video conferencing, always wear earbuds or a headset. 

PRODUCT TYPE
Video Conferencing

TRY IT
free!

$$
premium options for calls over 40 minutes

I USE IT
several times a week

There are a lot of great social media management tools out there. Most are very good at what they do, but come at a high price. I love Loomly because it’s comprehensive, has a very clear and easy interface, allows for clients to approve posts, and offers great post ideas – and it’s affordable. The team also is very responsive and takes feature requests seriously. They have a really good blog as well where they offer free social media marketing tips – which anyone can access – even if you’re not a Loomly subscriber. I also always refer to their guide on best posting times, as they do a good job keeping it updated. (Although, each client’s audience is different so be sure to only use this as a starting point until you have some more specific data!)

PRODUCT TYPE
Social Media Management

TRY IT
free trial for 14 days

$$
starts at $25/month

I USE IT
weekly/monthly to schedule posts, daily for community engagement

So I have a confession. When I first heard about Canva, I chalked it up to being a “cheap” version of Photoshop. I. Was. So. Wrong. 

Canva is changing the game, my friends. Non-designers can use their extensive library of templates, photos, elements, icons, fonts, etc. with no prior design knowledge and create professional-looking share-worthy graphics in mere minutes. 

As a designer, who will never, ever give up on my trusty Adobe Creative Cloud suite, I still use Canva all the time for social graphics. With the premium version, you can resize your design automatically for any social network, without having to create a new document by hand with proper sizing and resolution and THEN reformat the layers. The program definitely has some limitations but I will continue to shout Canva’s praises from the rooftops for how robust the resources are (they have a whole design SCHOOL, too!) and how easy it is to use. 

Did I mention you can also access AND EDIT your designs on ANY DEVICE! Livin’ the dream over here, people. 

PRODUCT TYPE
Graphic Design

TRY IT
free version is awesome!

$$
premium version is $12.95/month to access WAY more stock photos and resources

I USE IT
daily

I was a little bit of a slow adopter of cloud storage, but once I went all in, I went HARD. A few years ago when I was a high school teacher, I made the commitment to work on getting all my lessons, documents, forms, etc. backed up online. 

Once I saw how easy and quick it was to edit these docs within Google Drive using Docs and Sheets and Slides, I never looked back. Now, quite literally everything I do is housed on Google Drive. 

PRODUCT TYPE
Cloud Storage

TRY IT
free for up to 15 GB

$$
$9.99/month for 2 TB with larger plans available

I USE IT
daily….

I’m the type of person that struggles to keep my phone’s Camera Roll cleaned out. It’s full of ugly selfies, screenshots, and things I want to actually remember. Then, of course, my phone runs out of storage and it’s decision-making time. 

Enter Google Photos. This nifty little app runs in the background and scoops up all my photos and backs them up for me! You can choose to upload full resolution images (that will take up your Google Drive storage) or upload smaller, optimized photos that have no storage limit. I’ve found that for every day phone photos, the smaller ones are JUST fine for anything I’d ever need them for. We’re not making billboards over here. 

Yes, it does backup the ugly selfies, too. I do have to periodically go in and clean out the Google Photos account, but that’s no biggie.

PRODUCT TYPE
Photo Storage

TRY IT
free

$$
nada

I USE IT
daily but passively in the background

Simple. I use this as a business phone line without getting one (read: paying for one) from my cell company. It’s available on all devices (including a desktop browser), allows for texting, and voicemails. It’s wonderful, and allows me to take calls right on my computer without holding a phone. It’s the little things. 

PRODUCT TYPE
Phone Line

TRY IT
freeeeee

$$
zero doll hairs 

I USE IT
daily…. hourly?

Okay, okay, I know. This is kind of a silly “need.” 

But I’m a big believer in professionalism. I think it’s important to “look the part” when working with clients. It is a tiny way to show that you know what you’re doing. This email signature tool makes BEAUTIFUL sigs that pop right into your emails. They even have GIF capability and dynamic options that will update with an RSS feed. Fun! 

Sidenote while we’re on the topic of email – if you have a business, do not have your email be “businessname@gmail.com!” Invest in yourself and spring for the $6/month Gsuite to be “yourname@businessname.com.”
PLEASE & THANK YOU!

PRODUCT TYPE
Email Signature Generator

TRY IT
free trial

$$
$6/month

I USE IT
daily

I’ve been working with GoDaddy since 2009 and they’ve only disappointed me a handful of times (and I believe that due to the nature of their products, any host will at some point). 

They are usually very responsive, have a great database of support articles, and their interface is very intuitive. It’s a great place to start a website. 

Right now, I am recommending (most of) my clients to start with their WordPress Managed Hosting product. 

If you get a little more traffic though (~100,000 pageviews per month), you may need to look into a more tailored solution such as DreamhostBigScoots, WP Engine

PRODUCT TYPE
Domain Registrant, Website Hosting

TRY IT
no free trial

$$
$6.99/month

I USE IT
on all new websites

For the record, I love small coffee chains too. But it’s dangerously easy to order on my app, zip through the drive through and hop along my merry way with a drink in hand. 

My drinks of choice: 
Coffee: Unsweet Ice Coffee with Cream (No Sugar)
Tea: Unsweet Ice Green Tea with No Water (No Sugar) 

Kind of boring choices though, I know haha. I don’t like hot drinks or sweet drinks, go figure. 

PRODUCT TYPE
Delicious Drinks

TRY IT
who hasn’t already?

$$
like $3?

I DRINK IT
too much