My business would be a lot more stressful if I didn't utilize tools and apps to help me keep my processes organized. I think it's helpful when freelancers share their tools and systems with others, because it helps us learn and benefit from each other. Your business could be just one tool away from working infinitely better. So I hope this post helps you find that tool!
Here are my 10 favorite business tools & apps (in no particular order)
I use Hellosign to send contracts to my clients. The contract arrives in their inbox and requires their signature, and when they've signed, it requests mine. When we've both signed, it sends us both copies of the signed contract. This eliminates the need for me to manually send my clients their contracts.
You can have a free account on Hellosign if you have a small budget, but I recommend using one of their paid plans. At this time (September 2016) they have monthly plans starting from as little as $10 USD per month, and these plans come with really cool features that the free plan doesn't have.
For example, the paid plans allow you to save your contract as a template in Hellosign so you don't have to edit and upload it every time you want to book a new client! I loooove this feature because it means that I don't have to bother opening up my contract in Word and searching through it to see where I need to make edits before sending it to my new client. I can just handle it directly in Hellosign.
If you don’t have a contract set-up already, you need to get one sorted. A contract not only clarifies everything for your client and keeps you on the same page but it keeps your business protected so you aren’t up at night! I recommend looking into a contract from The Contract Shop that you can set-up and send off in 15 minutes. Click here to take a look at their Graphic Designer Template.
Freshbooks is the most popular invoicing tool among online business owners right now, and with good reason. It's really easy to use (even for creatives who aren't tech-savvy!), it allows you to create payment plans for your clients, it allows you to customize the way your invoices look, and it also allows you to handle not only invoicing but also accounting.
You simply can't beat Freshbooks when it comes to invoicing. Don't waste your time trying lots of different invoicing tools like I did. Choose Freshbooks right away- you won't regret it.
Every freelancer and creative entrepreneur needs an email list. It's the best way of keeping in touch with potential clients and reminding them why they need your services! My favourite email marketing tool is Convertkit, every time.
I used to use Mailchimp but I switched to Convertkit because it's a lot easier to use and comes with dozens more ah-maaazing features. I've never regretted switching. Convertkit has become one of my most-used business tools, and one of the tools that has helped me boost my income.
When I was on Wordpress I used Coschedule, which I LOVED. It's a social media scheduling system that integrates into Wordpress, and it also acts as an editorial calendar. But since I moved to Squarespace, I've had to let go of Coschedule and find something to replace it. I settled on Buffer because it's simple to use and allows me to schedule pins to Pinterest, as well as schedule Twitter and Facebook posts.
05. Inbox pause
This is an add-on for gGmail that I just couldn't live it out. It adds a pause button to your inbox so your emails don't enter until you unpause it. It has literally saved my sanity! Like many freelancers, I spend hours each week answering emails, so it's really handy to be able to pause my inbox on evenings and weekends.
06. Deadline Funnel
I'm guessing you're a smart business owner, and all smart business owners have email lists. So let me ask- have you been struggling to turn subscribers into clients and customers? I used to find it really hard, so I came up with the idea of creating urgency for my subscribers to hire me.
I wanted to offer each new subscriber a special offer that would expire within 3 days of them subscribing, but I wasn't sure how to give each subscriber a unique expiring deadline, until I found Deadline Funnel.
Deadline Funnel gives each of your prospects a unique deadline on your special offer, providing them with a sense of urgency and a reason to buy ASAP.
Deadline Funnel integrates with every email marketing tool you can think of (including my favourite, Convertkit), and it is one of the best tools I use in my business.
07. Google Apps
If you're a professional business owner, you shouldn't be using an unprofessional email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. You should get yourself a pro email, like email@example.com. It's easier than you think! Just sign up for Google Apps. They have really inexpensive monthly plans that allow you to create a professional email address and still use Gmail. It's awesome!
08. Acuity Scheduling
I like to hop on Skype with potential clients before they book my services so we can make sure we're a good fit. To schedule these calls, I use Acuity Scheduling.
Here's how it works: A potential client gets in touch. I send them the link to my Acuity Scheduling page so they can schedule a consultation. They choose a date and time, fill in their details, and Acuity Scheduling emails us both a confirmation and reminder of the appointment. Simple!
Streak is CRM (client relationship management) for your inbox. I recently discussed with my Shelancers how I use it to keep track of my past, present and potential clients, but it basically allows me to create folders and processes for my clients within Gmail. It's one the tools I couldn't do business without!
I recently started using Asana and I can't believe the difference it's made to my project flow. Asana is a popular project management tool. It allows me to create a project page for each of my clients, and communicate with my client on that page. No more back-and-forth emails and lost attachments. Their mockups, feedback, project schedule and documents all go on their project page. Simple!
All these tools can seem overwhelming, but my biggest word of advice today is this: only use the tools that you really need. I find the above tools are all extremely necessary to my brand & web design business, but I don't use many more than that.
Keep the tools you use to a minimum. Invest in the tools that are going to have the biggest impact on your business.
Tell me- what is your favorite business tool or app?