When you’re starting your new business, there are so many things out there to buy, learn, and start and all of that can get quite overwhelming. How do you know which systems you actually need and which ones you can get by with the free version of? I’m giving you a list of my most used tools to-date in my business and which ones you need ASAP. None of these are affiliates because I have no clue how to do that so #nopressure to sign up for any of these!
Behind the Scenes
These are things I use in my business on a daily basis that my clients may or may not see. Tools that help keep me on track and running properly.
I use SS to host my website. In her VA in 7 Days course, Nora suggests starting with a Squarespace cover page and then building on from there. I’m not sure if that is still an option but at $5/mo billed annually, it was a great option. Having a “real” website made me feel like I was a real business and a little confidence goes a long way. You can host a PDF of your services as a button on the website and create a contact form - then voila, you’ve got yourself a website!
Get pricing here.
Speaking of a website, I hope you’ve already chose a business name. I love using Google Domains because it works nicely with Squarespace and it was easy for me to integrate using the free alias email address before biting the bullet and purchasing my email from them. but I don’t recommend getting your domain for “free” through Squarespace (you want to own it, not them).
Starting at $12/year
I like to track as much of my working time as I can. When I first started working for clients, everything was hourly, but for the most part, clients are now on monthly packages. As I transitioned full-time to working from home I did keep track of every single thing I did that day to prove to others (and really myself) that I was working just as hard. I wouldn’t recommend that as the best reason to track your time, but I would suggest tracking specific things - like writing blog posts or scheduling your own social media so you can eventually hire out those things that take up your time. And you don’t pay yourself hourly, so it is nice to know if the amount you’re getting paid by clients also covers you paying yourself.
I absolutely love Canva! I am not a graphic designer and cannot wait until I can hire someone to handle all of my graphics for me, but this free program is amazing! I finally upgraded to the Canva for work program so I could use my own branding font. But I can’t say enough good things about it - it is so easy to use and has everything sized so perfectly! Also, check out Nicholette’s Canva shop for amazing templates.
FREE and Paid Versions Available
I use the free version of Buffer for my own social media scheduling (yep, I even still schedule a few posts to Facebook through a 3rd party app, and I don’t rightly care too much about that right now). The downside of the free version is that you can only schedule 10 per platform at a time, so if you get on roll (especially for Twitter), it can be a hassle to go back and update. Just put it in your schedule 2x week to update your Twitter queue and problem solved. I have clients that love Later and Hootsuite, which are great, but I love a good one-stop-shop.
Check it out!
I was using an email alias through my website hosting to have a free @thesocialwalker.com email address, but I realized that I was using a lot of the Google Drive products with clients and wanted it all separate from my personal email. So I paid the $5/mo to have my full email and larger storage on the Drive Cloud. I love having separate emails to log into (I do share my calendars between the emails). I create my contracts and proposals right in Google Doc (pro tip: use their logo as the header) and save as a PDF to send to the client. You can then have folders for each client and their docs.
Multiple Level Pricing Options
This one (and the GSuite) could be under ‘Client Facing’ but I also use this a lot in my business to host files. I pay for the Plus plan which is $99/year because I needed more storage. Social media photos take up a lot of space! Some clients love DB and some love using Google Drive, so I want to make sure I have access for everything.
These are the ones that I use with my clients quite frequently.
The first thing (other than email) that a client gets from me is an invoice and a contract (see above). I wanted my invoices to look professional. I hired Jess to digitize my local and help with branding and noticed she used this thing called ‘Wave’ so I followed suit and still use it to this day. I don’t see myself changing anytime soon, but you never know!
Technically it is free but they charge 2.9%+$0.30 per transaction and if you use it for employees (which is a great feature) I think there is a charge for that. They also have accountants you can work with but I recommend Amy or Melissa.
This is hands down the BEST way for clients to share logins with me. Pro tip: it works best on Chrome with the plugin and don’t change email addresses in the middle of onboarding clients.
Free version works for me.
I put this under client facing because it goes into the marketing of my business. It is the one area I know I put too much on the back burner, but I’m working on that. I am still using the free one for now and although I’m considering switching to Convertkit (which I use with clients), I’m still not quite ready to invest the money. Its one of those “if I email every week for x weeks, I’ll let myself buy CK” type of things. I need to work more on my email strategy and create a welcome sequence automation - #2018goals.
All about that ‘base’ level pricing
Okay, y’all, this one is some serious koolaid, but Trello is amazing. I’ve used Asana (and don’t hate it) but most of my clients love Trello (and created a course to teach you all about it - not an affiliate), so here I am using Trello. I purchased their course last year right in the thick of starting this biz thing, and never set up all the boards. I’ve got some big things for the end of 2017 and 2018 which made one of my September goals “finish T4B”. That said, I mainly use it with clients right now and to communicate with my team member, but not really for planning my own content. I tried that in August and I just love using paper and pen for my own brain, but I’m #gettingthere. I have the free one and then the pretty backgrounds from the course, and although I want to use my own photos, danggit I’m not paying for that.
Free, Paid, and Course
Sometimes you just need to quickly communicate with your team or clients on the go. I love Voxer so very much. I love hearing my people’s voices and brainstorming stuff out via voice is helpful. Voxer has group chat availability (and muting options!) which is great too. Another great tool for communication is Slack. I know it used to integrate with Trello, but never really explored that option. Again, it’s great for quick messages without giving out your phone number. These are both in your app store.
You may already know how much I love these next few items, so I’m just going to list them here along with my favorite pens and highlighters.
Powersheets - 2018 launching 10/25! (who thinks a giveaway might be in the works??)
Simplified Planner - 2018 will be my 4th year using these. I tried the weekly for 2017, but have gone back to the Daily in Happy Stripe for 2018.
*I mainly write everything in black and then use highlighters to color-code, but I do like colored pens for my Powersheets!
Kate Spade Highlighters - One of my childhood, lifelong friends mailed these to me as a surprise and I just love them!
Caliber Highlighters - these have a few more colors than KS, but looks like they might be selling out on Amazon (check your local grocery, or Target haha!)