5 Tools To Make Running Your Business Easier

In the first of what will be many productivity posts, I wanted to share with you some of the tools and software I use to run my freelance business. Since I'm working a pretty demanding full time job and keeping up with my side hustle business in my spare time, productivity and efficiency is the absolute key to being able to do both and still have a semblance of work/life balance and do all the other things I enjoy doing.

I actually don't agree with the old saying of "time is money." To me, time is actually more valuable than money, because its the one thing that you can't get back or make more of. So any sort of tool/app/software that can make my life easier, I'm all about. But what you have to be careful is going app crazy and having 157 different programs to manage. Nothing will drive you crazy faster (I speak from experience). There are versions upon versions of software that yield the same results. In the end, its really all about which program resonates best with you, your business, and your lifestyle. Here's a glimpse into what I use:

  1. Wunderlist - For those of you who use your Reminders app on your iPhones, think of Wunderlist as Reminders older and more wiser sibling. Its the same idea, you put in to-do's and assign dates for reminders. But for an entrepreneur, you need to go a bit deeper than the average to-do list. Wunderlist essentially adopts the Action Method by Behance (which I am a huge fan of and if you've never read Behance's books on productivity, you won't be disappointed!). The idea is based on the premise that all projects have three key components: 
    1. Action Steps
    2. Back-burner Items
    3. Reference Items

So lets say you are a freelance designer juggling not only multiple clients, but multiple projects within those clients. A to-do list can get rather complicated. So instead, you'll have your folder for each client. And within that folder, you'll have your projects and action items (with due dates). Within each project tab, you can create further tasks (aka back burner items) and also attach any reference items (like emails, art files, brand books) and it also has a note section. My entire life is in Wunderlist, I could literally go on for hours about it.

Price - There is a free and paid version of the software. 

2. Pancake - So if Wunderlist was a person it would be my office manager. Then that means Pancake would be my client manager. Its an online invoicing, project management, time tracking, and proposal software. Everything customer facing I do goes through Pancake. Proposals for clients gets created and sent through Pancake. If the client accepts the proposal, I can covert it into a contract in Pancake and the client can accept or reject right in their own fancy client dashboard. Of course they accept the proposal (duh), which I can then time track and invoice straight in Pancake as well. It's literally a lifesaver. No more chasing down emails. No more clients trying to pull a fast one and say they didn't see an invoice (because you see every time they view it). You hook up your Paypal or whichever way you prefer to be paid and you'll never have to wonder where you stand with money again. The best part...you pay a one time fee and you're done. No monthly fee's. Which was one of the primary reasons I bought Pancake because I am so sick and tired of monthly fees for software. Its obviously a dream for creative entrepreneurs but could easily be adapted to multiple business types. 

Price: $149 one time payment and you're done. 

3. Buffer - So there's about a dozen amazing social media tools out there right now, but I've been crushing on Buffer for a hot minute. I think its because I'm obsessed with their company culture, but I also like the UI of their platform better than Hoot Suite. I haven't yet tried Edgar yet, but I hear good things. If you're trying to build a brand, you need to have a social media tool. It will seriously save your life. Figuring out how to maximize all these social media platforms can make a girl pull her hair out. Now, I schedule about one hour every week to get all my evergreen posts done. I can view my analytics right in the app and see whats performing best and what's not. Even better, you can easily repost your most popular content with a simple click. Not to mention, their blog is full of amazing tips to not only maximize their app but social media as a whole. 

Price - Ranges from free accounts to $250/month for large businesses

4. GMAIL Canned Emails - You know how when you get a new inquiry, they ask the same questions that all your previous clients did. Well instead of typing out the same email over and over again (or finding the last one you sent like I used to and reformatting it), you can created canned emails in your Gmail settings. That way when you get an inquiry, you can just click your icon, and pick which canned email you want to send in response. Efficiency at its finest. 

Price - FREE! 

5. Dropbox - It pretty much holds the key to my castle. I hold EVERYTHING I do on Dropbox. That way I can access any file, on any device, at any time. And if you collaborate  on teams, there's no need to have versions of files as it can capture all the user's modifications. But really the best part is the file sharing. For designers and photographers, sharing files can be a huge pain because they are usually extremely large and won't send in email. With Dropbox, you can create a link for any user to view or download a file vs having to send it via email (and have it most likely bounce back). 

Price - There is a free version but for $99 a year you get 1TB of storage. 

I hope you find these platforms helpful. If you have any questions or want to know about more tools and tricks for productivity, comment below and let me know your thoughts!