These are the tools that run our business. Most are free (we are frugal!), and some have paid versions.
An * is next to those that we pay for.
We make the recommendation based on personal experiences. Everyone's business is different, it is up to you to determine what is best for you. Some links have affiliate links means we get a perk when you sign up. There are no additional cost for you to sign up.
Website & blogging: Wordpress, Squarespace*. We used to build everything on Wordpress, while we still love the SEO power of Wordpress, we now use Squarespace for the Staged4more site. It cuts down the amount of time for us to develop the theme and update the sites. It is also easy to use. While we sacrifice some functionality and SEO capabilities, time saved and beautiful styling more than make up for it.
Writing: Grammarly*: a great tool to help you proofread.
Data: Google Analytics, Crazy Eggs*. Google Analytics is free and there are TONS of tutorials out there on how to maximize this tool and how to measure your web traffic. Crazy Eggs is a heat map tool that shows you physically where people click on your sites. Crazy Eggs used to be free but now is subscription based.
Email: Mailchimp. Mailchimp has both free and paid versions. We use the free one, which is enough for us. We don't send out a great deal of newsletters in general, most of our attention is our blogs. Mailchimp does have a service that lets people sign up for weekly blog updates, which we use frequently. We recently also started using ConvertKit*, which we feel is better with what we are trying to do with our business.
Web hosting: Bluehost. When you have websites, you need a host. Bluehost is the best for Wordpress that we've experienced.
CRM: Capsule* We've tried MANY, paid & unpaid, including ones that are incredible expensive like Infusionsoft and ACT! by Sage, or popular ones like Highrise. Capsule* was the most easy to use and most affordable.
Social media management: Hootsuite
Business cards: We love how good moo.com* makes us look, especially that we can turn our business cards into mini portfolios by uploading our project photos.
Watermarking: Visual Watermark*. We used to use Photoshop for this. Even though we can batch edit, it didn't look great and still time consuming. We ended up invested $30 for the commercial license for Visual Watermark and it was money well spent! It batch watermarks (with a variety of templates), resizes, changes file names and embeds metadata for copyright. We highly recommend it.
Sound recording: Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone
Calendar: Google Calendar
Inbox clean up: Unroll.me cleans up my inbox, while sanebox* helps me manage and prioritize emails. I used to have hundreds of emails in my inbox, sandbox helped me tremendously in managing them. It also trains itself. If you have a pretty unruly inbox, we recommend sandbox.
Organize everything, cloud storage: Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote*. Our favorite is Evernote. It displays everything visually. We have the premium version and uses it to archive EVERYTHING: project photos, documents, important emails, newsletters, RSS feeds, pretty much everything. Evernote has helped us to work remotely. And it is SUPER affordable. Evernote also allows you to share files with team members. It has cut down emails in our inboxes significantly.
Brain dump / organize my brain: Workflowy. This is probably hands down one of our favorite free tools ever.
Proposal: Harvest*. This is our FAVORITE tool. We simply cannot run our business without Harvest*! This web-based programallows us to access our invoices everywhere, so our project coordinator Anita, who is based in LA, can contact clients and view details of their work agreements & proposals. It also syncs up with our cloud based accounting software Xero* and connects to our CRM Capsule. Harvest* is super easy and intuitive to use. We can run reports any time and see what client history and account receivables. It's truly made our life SO much easier.
Cover your ass with Small Business Bodyguard*. SBB came highly recommended and it just so happened we were dealing some drama with an unethical individual who had stolen our images (cropped out our watermarks and all). Rachel at Small Business Bodyguard* made it super easy to understand all the important legal issues that are important to small business owners, especially creative individuals. I also love the checklists and templates, which we use frequently in our business, even though we have attorneys on our speed dial locally.
People Biz Inc.* has kept us focus and helped us evolved. Business coaching is crucial in a business's growth. We highly recommend their Leading Change & Leading Change Mastery programs.
Start Up Tool Kit: A great resource on various phases of starting your business. Even though the company is based in UK, most of the advices are universal.
American Express Open Forum: We love our American Expresses. They truly build their card benefits with businesses in mind. They also have a great forum designed for small business owners to share their resources and challenges.
Recommended reading by People Biz. This is a very comprehensive list of books recommended for entrepreneurs
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