Over the last 2.5 years in business I’ve found programs that have totally changed the way I do business. I literally use them daily to keep things running smoothly and stress free. In the beginning of my entrepreneur journey it was like a mad dash to do all the things myself, by hand in some cases, and it felt like with each new inquiry I was starting from scratch. What a total disaster and major stress inducer!
Now I automate the things that I use for each client, I know exactly what steps to take to meet deadlines and not absolutely kill myself, and I’m all together WAY more organized than I was previously. I honestly don’t know what I would do without some of these programs, as they all are integral parts of the inner workings of my business as this point. Here are some of my favorites and the reasons why I just can’t function without them:
This little gem helps me with all of my daily, weekly, and monthly planning. I use it for both my business and my blog but it really shines when planning out my blog posts. Now granted, I haven’t been the most on top of my blog posts towards the end of last year, but that has fallen on me taking on more things than I should have (lessoned learned). What I love most about this app is that I can have a different board for each month where I can plan out all of my blog posts, give them due dates, assign them tasks that are super satisfying to check off, and at a glance I know what posts still need to be written, shared, you name it. Favorite part: seeing all of my monthly plans a glance where I can quickly reorganize and rearrange the order of my to-do list.
I start off with a generic board that I’ve already set up with all of my Lists and Cards. I then just duplicate that board, rename it to the month I’m working on, and I start filling in all my content for that month. Most blog boards have Lists for the following: Monthly Newsletter and what files will be added to the resource library, Blog Posts with checklists for main bullet points that will be written, photo ideas and where it needs to be shared, Social Posts that aren’t specifically sharing a blog post, Product Launches for that month, and lastly, new product or project ideas. The last list is the best for just jotting down ideas so that I don’t forget anything and have it all for future reference.
I can’t say enough good things about Tailwind. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but holy wow it has taken this blog’s traffic to the next level. It makes it so easy to pin blog posts, Instagram photos, and any other promotional material (portfolio work, photo shoots, etc.) and spaces everything out so that my followers aren’t bombarded with a million pins about the same things all at once. Favorite part: Cuts my Pinterest promoting time WAY down and I get everything scheduled to pin for the week in about an hour.
After a blog post has gone live, I’ll add it to my Tailwind scheduler along with other pins of mine (like the above examples). I really only do this once a week and just pin all of the blog posts, instagrams, and new work that was posted that week. Then throughout the week I’ll pin other people’s pins as I come across them. Some people swear by pinning 80% your own work, 20% other people’s work, but I don’t stick to anything so rigid. I just pin what feels like a normal amount or whatever I have time for. Then I use the handy dandy pin randomizer in Tailwind so that everything is mixed up in the calendar (i.e. 5 pins from the same post won’t all get pinned at once.) All of my blog posts have 4 hidden pins that include the Blog Post Title and a description so that all of my posts have a lot of opportunities to get pinned. I also schedule them to group boards based on if they fit that board’s criteria. Using this method, when I was posting multiple times a week to my blog, I was getting over 1 million views on my pins. As you can imagine, that has boosted my blog traffic quite a bit. And the best part about Pinterest is that your pin can continue to circulate and drive traffic, unlike Instagrams that get lost in the feed and get pushed down over time.
There are several systems similar to Dubsado out there that people love but I’ve found Dubsado to my favorite client automation software. It houses all of my Inquiries, New Project Breakdowns, Client Contracts, Client Questionnaires and all of my Invoices and Payments. They keep coming out with updates and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of all this software has to offer. Favorite part: I have COMPLETE control over how questionnaires and contracts look, so everything is perfectly on brand. As a designer, there’s nothing else out there that can beat that.
I designed my questionnaires and contracts some time ago, so now everything is pretty much automatic. Once someone is ready to book my services I easily create a new job in the Dubsado Dashboard, fill in their name and project info into a contract, and send it over for them to sign. Once it’s signed I send them the deposit invoice that they can easily pay with any credit card, paypal, or stripe account. When the invoice is paid, the fun part starts and I send them over a fun client questionnaire to get the creative work flowing. Dubsado also lets me break up invoices into smaller monthly payments for clients that need to space things out a bit. I can also send my clients a link to their own Client Dashboard where they can look over contracts, invoices and questionnaires. But Dubsado sends all this info through regular email as well so they will have email backups of everything we’ve done as well. Win-win.
This has totally changed my Instagram game. I’ve been trying to focus more and more on Instagram and Planoly makes it so easy to plan posts in advance, track hashtags and find new ones that fit my post, and NOW I can even schedule posts to post automatically. I’ve tried other Social Media planners before and Planoly is by far the most user friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and has the most features. Favorite part: Their hashtag tool that finds and organizes all your hashtags
I usually make my images/graphics in advance to that I can add them to the scheduler and see how they will all look together. Brand aesthetic is everything my friends! Once I’ve uploaded them all I can easily drag and drop them to rearrange the order that they will post. Within each post I can add my captions and hashtags and schedule the post with incredible ease. Within the hashtag area I can create hashtag groups (calligraphy cased hashtags, webdesign based hashtags, wedding photography based hashtags, etc.) and look up new hashtags, see the number of posts in each (smaller is better imo), and add them to the group. Once the group of hashtags is full it is saved for later use. For instance, when I post about calligraphy, I can quickly go to my hashtag group, click the calligraphy group, and add it to the post. Quick and easy makes social media a breeze!
Okay so this one is a given and an absolute must. And I do use the ENTIRE Adobe Suite. Lightroom and Photoshop are essential for my photography business. Premiere is essential for my film and videography business. InDesign and Illustrator are essential for my branding and website design business. And every so often I find myself using XD for website prototyping (if there are fancy graphic and transitions I want to show a client) and After Effects for creating gifs for clients and my own business. Favorite part: How easily everything integrates! It’s wonderful that Adobe realizes the best uses for each of their products and they prioritize what program should be used for what purpose and they make it SUPER easy to move from one to the next.
It really depends on what I’m working on. Like I said before, I use so many programs but for different things. For each program I kind of have my own workflow for what I’m trying to achieve. But honestly, I don’t know what I would do without Adobe software. Complete godsend and totally worth the monthly subscription price for the most up to date software.
This one is specific for my photography work. Pass Gallery makes it so super simple to share huge photo galleries with clients and allow them to save all or just a few of the photos for their own use. It also makes it really easy for clients to order prints without me having to assist them. Pass also has great design aesthetic and allows you to create stunning galleries in just a few clicks. You can limit who has access to a gallery if you choose by just adding in specific client email addresses. You can also track who has viewed the gallery and how many times it’s been viewed. Favorite part: the ability to split up HUGE galleries into smaller categories (Getting Ready, First Look, Ceremony, Reception, etc.)
It’s quite simple and I mainly just follow the prompts already set up by Pass. I upload each section of the wedding day into its own categories so that the couple can click right to the section they want to see. I usually include a Highlights category right at the top so that they see the best photos first thing. Then I just send it off to the clients. It’s as simple as that! They get an email with access to all of the photos and they have complete control to download or print their favorites.
I’m so thankful that I’ve found these programs and that they are totally killing the game with their specialities. If you are just starting out or are looking for software to help you get organized and in control of your business I can’t recommend these enough.
Are there any programs you love and swear by in your business that I haven’t mentioned here? I’d love to know what’s working best of you!