For the last 7 months or so, I’ve been running my entire business online from my laptop, on an island, in the middle of the ocean. And for the most part, it has been pretty awesome! I especially love having the freedom to plan my business hours around my life. But the truth is, without the arsenal of online tools I’ve picked up along my way, my business would most likely be a jumbled, chaotic mess. I mean, seriously, it would not be pretty! Or at least, it wouldn’t be this easy.
I owe a lot to the systems & tools I keep. When you have a busy design studio working with awesome people all over the world, you don’t want to have to spend too much time messing around with all of the mundane paper work required to keep things running smoothly – you just want to spend time doing what you love – designing & helping others. (At least that’s how I see it!)
So, in the name of helping out my fellow creative entrepreneurs be able to spend more time doing what YOU love to do, too, I’ve put together a quick overview of my 10 favorite tools I use to run my life & business on the go.
In no particular order…
- Basecamp (Starts at $20/mo.) – This is the project management application I use to manage all of my client projects including my own back end business headquarters (with all my super secret plans & such!). Why I love it: it allows me to keep every discussion, file, to do list, and deadline in one place for every project I take on & it helps me keep my e-mail inbox a whole lot more organized, too.
- Calendly (Free version available) – I just started using Calendly a few months ago, and I absolutely love how I can easily schedule client consultations and meetings without having to figure out the time zone conversion myself – especially living in Hawaii where I always seem to be at least 3 – 11 hours behind everyone else!
- TeuxDeux (Starts at $3/mo.) – I use TeuxDeux as my catch-all, go-to online scheduler where I keep track of pretty much every detail about my life, finances, business, and even my shopping list. I really love the interface, especially the fact that I can make it any color I want, and it’s super easy to create lists for everything I can think of, and then move things around or check them off as I can finish them. Best of all, they also have an iPhone app!
- FreshBooks (Free version available) – I use FreshBooks to handle all of my business’ invoicing needs. They also allow you to customize the colors & branding and create a seamless experience to get paid for services online. My clients can pay with Paypal or a credit card, and I get the money immediately in my Paypal account.
- HelloSign (Free version available) – HelloSign is a super easy way to approve & sign contracts digitally. I just upload my contract as a PDF, fill in my digital signature, and send it off to my clients so they can do the same before we work together.
- Gmail (Free to sign up) – Okay, this one’s a little more obvious, because a lot of people already have it, but I seriously don’t know what I would do without Gmail. I’ve organized my inbox to work like a well oiled machine at this point (perhap that could even be another post for another day?!), and I love that I can manage multiple e-mail addresses all in one place, even on my phone. Stars & labels have saved my life!
- Sell on Etsy App (Free app) – This is the app I use to manage my online Etsy shop including my stats, listings, and conversations. I think it might actually be my most favorite of this bunch, because it lets off a cash register ka-ching whenever you sell something! Instant day brightener, no matter where you are or what you’re doing in the world.
- Tweetdeck (Free app) – Facebook already has a built-in post scheduler, but what about Twitter? Tweetdeck is actually an app you can download to your computer instead of using it on a website. I use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets in advance and keep track of what my favorite tweeters are doing without having to go to each of their feeds individually.
- Gravity Forms ($39/year) – This is a drag-and-drop form editor for WordPress websites. You just install it like a plug-in and you can easily customize your own online contact forms. I love it for making client questionnaires and doing annual surveys and see it as a very worthwhile investment after trying so many other form-making tools that didn’t have what I needed and caused more headaches than they were worth.
- Wunderlist (Free version) – And lastly, I have recently started using Wunderlist again ever since they came out with a new desktop app. I use Wunderlist to remind myself of little daily tasks I need to do to keep my life and business running smoothly (like pinning to Pinterest every day!) and on the flipside, it helps me keep track of holidays & birthdays I need to send presents for, too.
And that’s basically it! This is just my personal list of what I use to run my design studio, so your needs might look different depending on your business, but I hope I was able to help you discover at least one new favorite tool (or two!). xo