I get questions surrounding which tools I use to manage Blaz Design pretty frequently. And then there are other times that I see people struggling without a solution and I just have to make a recommendation.
This inspired me to put together a quick series covering the tools I use to run my web design business. But I think these can easily translate to just about any other industry, too.
This particular post covers my favorites in the categories of scheduling, organization, accounting, and invoicing—all ultra-important (although sometimes cumbersome) components of running a successful business!
*Please note: some of the links below are affiliate links. I’ll receive a small commission if you end up making a purchase, which is always a nice little bonus!
I’m hyper organized when it comes to files, emails, office supplies; you name it. But before I really started getting my life together in digital calendar format, I was a bit of a mess. Some appointments would be on post-it notes; others would be in emails; and some were handwritten on the pages of notebooks, never to be referred back to again.
Then I discovered the simplicity and organization that is Google Calendar. It seems so simple, but getting into the habit of scheduling EVERYTHING in one place has been key for me. And since everything—from my email to my documents—was through Google already, this was the obvious solution. Plus it’s totally free, and free is an automatic win in my book.
(Free version available, premium starts at $12/month)
Even if you’re just starting out with a little side freelancing, I’d highly recommend setting up and committing to actually using a project management tool. This keeps you on track, especially when you’re juggling a ton of things, and it’s great to have a pre-planned workflow and set of tasks that you know works for a specific type of project.
My project management tool of choice right now is Insightly. They did a nice redesign a little while back, and since then, most of my initial minor complaints surrounding it have been completely resolved. The version I’m currently using is free, which allows up to two users. Once you outgrow that, it starts at $12/month/user for the paid plan.
(Free version available, premium $45/year)
I am a chronic note taker. Tell me anything, and I just have to write it down. Before Evernote, I would jot things down in notepads, my phone, a Word doc; you name it. I would have a heck of a time remembering where I actually saved something when it came time to look it up.
Then I discovered Evernote, a total game changer for my obsessive note taking. I love that all of my notes sync easily across both computers I use as well as my phone, and I can always access everything via their web app as well.
(Free version available, premium starts at $9.99/month)
Dropbox is a no-brainer for me. It’s great for sharing large files with clients, big website backups, large amounts of photos, and it’s cross-device compatible (I can grab anything from my Dropbox from my phone, if I need to). The free version is great if you’re just getting started, but if you’re anything like I am, you’ll find that you quickly run out of space. I switched to the premium version about two years ago, and I find that the 1TB of storage that comes with it is way more than enough!
(Free version available, premium is $39.99/year)
If there’s one tool that’s saved me the most time over the past year, it has absolutely got to be Dashlane. This password storing/sharing tool has saved me countless hours going through the old cycle of forgetting passwords and then having to look them up in a note or just reset them altogether. It’s also been a game changer for me in password sharing.
The browser extensions make it ultra simple to log into sites as you land on them, and a big bonus for me is not feeling the need to re-use the same password over and over again. I set a crazy long password, let Dashlane store it and sync it across all of my devices, and I never have to try to recall it again.
(Starts at $17.96/month if paid annually)
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not the biggest fan of accounting/invoicing tasks (well, maybe invoicing isn’t so bad!), but it’s definitely a necessary evil of being a business owner. From tracking time spent on projects to generating reports and invoices, I’ve found that it’s best to use a system that’s easy, quick to learn, and cheap compared to other options.
Enter Freshbooks. Freshbooks allows you to work off of any device (phone, tablet, desktop—anything), it creates automatic secure backups of all of your data, it allows you to easily track your time, has built-in support for online payments, and so much more. With Freshbooks, you can easily track your expenses and generate any report you could ever imagine, too!
(Free to use, transaction fee is 2.9% plus $0.30 USD of the amount you receive)
I’ve been using PayPal since the beginning of running my business, and I just haven’t had enough reason (or initiative, probably) to switch. It’s how I accept probably at least 50% of payments (through Freshbooks), and I gladly deal with the 3.5% transaction fee.
And there you have it! A few of my favorite tools for all of those pesky administrative business tasks. Let me know in the comments below if I’ve missed anything; I’d love your suggestions for new tools to try out!