10 tools I rely on to run my business & which will help yours to run smoothly

I am a complete systems geek and love finding tools and apps that help me to run my business as smoothly as possible.  Here are 10 of them that I really couldn't manage without - well I'm sure I could but I would be in a world of chaos and my business would be an unorganised mess!  So here goes.  The headings are all links by the way to the relevant website and if any of them are affiliate links, I've said so below.

Oh and I haven't included Squarespace as that's a given - I literally wouldn't be running my business without it!


1.  G Suite

G Suite is the tool to set up a professional and branded email address for your business.  It costs £3.30 per month per user (for a G Suite basic business account) and allows you to have an email address with your domain name in it, such as hello@louisemaidment.co.uk, rather than having something like louisemaidmentcreative@gmail.com.  

It’s pretty straight forward to set up and really reliable  to use when you’re up and running.  Because it's done through a Google account it is also very quick to set up in whichever email app you use on your phone or computer.

There's a 14 day free trial when you sign up.

2.  Google Drive

Sticking with Google for a moment, I use Google Drive to store and organise all of my files and folders.  You can sync it with your computer if you want to and there’s also a phone app so that you can really access your files anywhere.  It also makes sharing files very simple which is great for linking to freebies from emails.  When my Squarespace web design clients need to provide me with their images and web copy, this is done via upload to a shared Google Drive folder.

If you sign up for a G Suite Basic account you get 30gb of Google Drive storage (if you have a non business Google account you get 15gb of storage free).  If you need more you can pay another $5 per month for unlimited storage.

3.  Tide Banking

My business bank account is with Tide and I think it’s an amazing bank!  Tide is available in the UK only and the whole experience is like nothing else when it comes to banking!

When I opened my account it was via the Tide iphone app and literally took 5 minutes.  My debit card arrived within a couple of days.  Honestly, it was a revelation!  

Tide is specifically designed for small businesses and the charges are almost non existent  There are no monthly fees and you just pay 20p per bank transfer and £1 per ATM withdrawal.  It is very transparent and straightforward.

The app is amazing too.  Your transactions show up almost instantly and you can categorize them to see how you are spending your money.  You can also use the app to raise invoices if you want to.

Tide is still pretty new but it is revolutionising banking for small businesses as far as I’m concerned.  They actually care and if you need to ask a question you can send a message from the app and they actually respond within a few hours.  Can you imagine a high street bank doing that?!

4. Xero

Following on from enthusiasm for my bank account, is Xero which I have started using as my accounting software.  I have opted for the Starter plan which is £10 + VAT per month.  There are limits on the amount of bank transactions you can reconcile each month with this plan and the amount of invoices you can raise from Xero (just 5 with the Starter plan).  However, I don’t use Xero for invoicing so this shouldn’t be a problem for me.  The next plan up is a bit of a leap to £22 + VAT per month but this is their Standard plan and you don’t get the limits of the Starter plan.

Xero certainly isn’t the cheapest but I have tried a few (Quickbooks, Freeagent, Wave) and for me it gives me the fewest headaches.  It also integrates with Tide which is a big help and I can easily connect Paypal as a bank feed too.  

There’s a 30 day free trial which gives a really good amount of time to see if Xero works for you.   Most of the accounting software providers have a free trial so it’s best to sign up for a couple and see which you get on best with.  

I should add that Wave Accounting is a completely free option and one that I thought I’d get on fine with.  But not only could I not integrate Tide (which is no criticism of Wave - Tide has very few integrations at the moment) but I found it a bit glitchy when I connected Paypal.  I really wanted Wave to work for me as I’m all for paying £0 if possible, but it was just a bit of a pain.  It’s definitely worth trying though!  The website is www.waveapps.com.

5. Adobe Creative Cloud

I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop a lot so for me it's a no brainer to sign up for Creative Cloud.  There are various monthly subscription packages available and I pay just over £30 per month for mine.  Again, it’s not the cheapest but is a must for me.


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6. Asana

Asana is a fantastic project management tool which I use to organise the different aspects of my business.  And it’s free which is always a bonus!  Essentially you can create projects (so one of mine is called Louise Maidment Creative) and then within each project you have boards or lists (whichever you prefer) for the different parts of that project.  So within my Louise Maidment Creative project I have boards called Website, Email Marketing, Blog Posts, Content Creation, General To-Do.  Under those board headings I then list all of the various tasks I need to do.  You can assign the task to different users (but there’s only one of me so that’s always me!) and set due dates/times.  If you mark a task as completed before the due date a unicorn flies across the screen.  Honestly, what more do you need to keep you motivated?!

Asana is pretty visual so you’re best off having a play with it.

7. Mailerlite

Mailerlite is my email marketing software provider -  so think Mailchimp et al - it’s one of those.

It seems like anyone who’s anyone in the successful blogger world uses Convertkit and I think maybe I would love to one day.  However, if you’re starting with 1 subscriber (probably you or your mum) you pay $29 per month from day one.  As brilliant as Convertkit is, I could not justify that when I was starting out as much as I tried to convince myself I should go for it (because that is what so many people recommend).

So then I found Mailerlite and I love it.  It’s free for up to 1000 subscribers for a start!  It’s really easy to use and the support is amazing with very quick responses (within minutes usually).  There are so many excellent features that in my book it's on a par with Convertkit and in some areas is better.  Based on the pricing alone it will take a lot for me to move from Mailerlite to Convertkit.  

I think with email marketing providers it’s a question of trying a few to see which you get on with.  However, a lot of them are pretty pricey which does reduce your choice if you want to save money.  Having used Mailchimp for a few years with another business, I prefer Mailerlite 100%!

{The link above is an affiliate link}

8.  Plann / Preview

I haven’t quite plumped for my preferred Instagram scheduler yet so I tend to switch between Plann and Preview which is probably not the simplest way to do things!  Again, there are a lot of choices now to plan out your Insta feed but these are my two favourites.

9. Tailwind and BoardBooster

I’ve put these together as Tailwind and BoardBooster are both great tools for scheduling your Pinterest posts.  Many people opt for one or the other (and it’s mainly a question of which one you get on with best) but I use them both at the moment.  

Tailwind costs me $9.99 per month and the BoardBooster plan I’m on costs $5 per month.

They’re similar but different tools - whilst they both allow you to schedule pins they each do this in their own way.  BoardBooster has additional features to allow you to maintain your boards - removing duplicate pins for example, which Pinterest doesn’t like.  Also BoardBooster has a brilliant pin looping feature which you set up on a few or all of your boards to repin your pins each day so that you are an active and regular pinner without having to actually go in and pin each day.

With Tailwind you can also schedule Instagram posts and it has just introduced automatic posting to IG too.

You can get free trials for both so they are both worth a try.

{The Tailwind link above is an affiliate link - if you sign up using it you will get a free month on Tailwind and I will receive a small credit to my account if you later upgrade to Tailwind Plus}

{The BoardBooster link above contains an affiliate link and I will get a small amount of credit to my account if you sign up using the link}

10. Dubsado

I think I’ve left the best to last!  Dubsado is an amazing tool for creative businesses.  It’s described as a business management suite for creatives and is one of those tools that I couldn’t really manage without now.  If I did, my business would be pretty chaotic.

Within Dubsado are all of my clients, their details, our email conversations, proposals, contracts and invoices.  Every detail basically of the client process is safely kept in one place.  You can set up amazing automations and workflows to make your business run seamlessly and professionally.

My clients can also access all of their project documents through a password protected client portal set up on my website.

Dubsado is one of those tools that I didn’t know how much I needed before I tried it out.  It is fantastic!  Your first three clients are free, no matter how long for and after that it costs $25 per month.  You can even add additional brands for an extra $7 per month.

It’s perfect for all sorts of creative businesses - graphic designers, event planners, photographers, artists, web designers, florists - anything really that requires you to manage the relationship with your client over a (short or long) period of time.

There is a bit of a learning curve but once you’ve got your head around Dubsado you won’t want to leave.  One of the best parts is the fantastic customer service - it’s run by a husband and wife team and they are super responsive to any questions.  There is also a great Facebook community where you can pretty much always find the answers to any random questions that pop up.

If you sign up after your free trial and use my affiliate code ILOVEDUBSADO (or via the link above) you’ll get 20% off your first month or your first year if you sign up for a whole year (and I’ll get a month free).

I do like to rave about Dubsado so if you have any questions just comment below or drop me an email!  I've made a pdf checklist of all of these links for you to download - the links in the pdf are all clickable so you can check them out in your own time.  If you'd like the checklist just add your details below:

 

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10 tools to help your business run smoothly