You've decided you want to start a creative business. Awesome! Now comes the daunting (and sometimes not so much fun) part for us creatives: organizing the business.
If you're in the same place I was about two months ago, I'm sure you're now trying to navigate through all the programs, websites, and applications built to help entrepreneurs and corporations alike manage their business. There is a plethora of free and subscription based programs out there to organize and manage each and every part of your business. But which are the best? Which are user friendly, integrate with your current systems and each other, and offer the best bang for your buck?
I've tried several programs and applications for each need, and here are my 5 favorite tools that help me manage my business efficiently and effectively:
Google Docs and G Suite
Google Docs has been my savior since grad school. Since it lives in the cloud, you can pull up your document on literally any device with the app or an Internet browser. I use it all the time for the blog, freelance writing, and other business ventures. Documents can stand alone or be moved into specific folders, and changes save automatically. While documents don't print quite as pretty straight from Google Docs as they do from Microsoft Word or another processing software, it's easy to access for note taking, quick adjustments, or to type out ideas while you're on the go.
G Suite is new to me, as of this week in fact, but I'm loving it already. For just $5 a month, I can create an email account with my name at thebrokenglassblog.com. How cool is that?! I thought I'd forever be stuck with an @gmail email address, but G Suite saved my life (okay, I'm being a bit dramatic). It is seriously cool though. Now all my Google Docs and Sheets are attached to my business account, I can create a calendar for the blog, connect other Marketplace apps and AdWords, create mailing lists, and more. G Suite is used by corporations around the country and it's on the top of my recommendation list for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Okay, I'm going to just admit it. I'm still living in the stone age. I have to have a physical planner on me at all times. If I don't write something down, and merely type it, I'll most likely forget about it. My brain has learned to shut off conscious thought when I type, so handwriting something allows me to clearly remember meetings, tasks, and events.
I do have to say though, there are some excellent calendaring websites and software that I've utilized in conjunction with my old school planner. While programs such as Google Calendar and iCal are free and have their own merits, I've found Acuity Scheduling to be one of the best systems out there for scheduling appointments with clients and interviewees.
Rather than back and forth emails trying to find a mutual time, you or the client can simple schedule an appointment during your availability. Acuity can be embedded into your website for easy client access, or you can send clients a direct link to your scheduling page. Acuity can sync with your other calendars, you can customize appointment types, and require clients to complete an intake form to prepare you for the meeting.
Visual Content Creation
i am not a graphic designer by any means. I know the basics of Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, but can't design visual content to save my life. That's where Canva comes in for me.
Canva (www.canva.com) provides templates for any kind of marketing material you may need, both digital and printable, and also gives you the option to create custom sized documents. There's a library of stock photos, backgrounds, shapes, text options, and varying layouts for you to customize to your liking. And that's just the free option.
The premium option of Canva (for which there's a free 30-day trial) gives you access to additional stock photos, the ability to save templates with your logo, and invite up to 30 team members in addition to so much more. All those pretty Instagram posts on @thebrokenglassblog are created in Canva, and I highly recommend this site for the non-designer.
With all the different website builders out there - Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, among others, it's hard to decide on which site to design and host your own website. Each has its own merits, with different templates, free and premium options, and integration options. I've tried pretty much all of the well-known builders and found Squarespace to be the best fit for me. Not only does it integrate into my email program, MailChimp, it's easy to set up, requires no coding experience (unless you want to go that route) and seemed to be much more easily customizable than the other options. In fact, this site is hosted on Squarespace.
The one downside to Squarespace is that the only free option available is the 2 week trial period, but I don't mind shelling out a little bit of money if it means I can manage the website on my own without a developer or other assistance.
Financial Applications and More
AndCo is free online business software that not only tracks invoices and expenses, but helps you create proposals and contracts, manage projects, track time sheets, It also integrates with apps you may already use such as MailChimp, Slack, PayPal, and Stripe and connects seamlessly with Shoeboxed to manage any paper receipts. Best of all, it's simple to use, creates clean looking documents, and did I mention it's free?
Are you starting up your business? What tools do you find useful to organize your business? Comment below to share!