There are so many resources out there aimed to help entrepreneurs run a smooth production - where do you even start?

When you first launch a service-based business or blog, it's difficult to sort through and condense all the tools and resources out there. Even once you do, you still don't know which ones are the right fit for your business. Before I launched my design business, my highest priority was to establish all my processes. I know from experience that processes can make or break a business. The resources I researched had to help me with the following:

1.) Keep me and my multiple clients on task.

2.) Create clarity - what is expected of me? What is expected of my client?

3.) Help set solid automations - I wanted to spend less time recreating steps in the process and more time on what is most important - creating content for my clients.

4.) Transparency - I wanted my clients to visibly see the status of their project on any given day, at any given time.

5.) Send less emails - There is nothing I hate more than having to sort through email chains for the information I am needing.

6.) Tools and resources with multiple functions - I knew I wouldn't find a one-stop-shop, but I also didn't want to use multiple platforms for various tasks.

It felt like I tested every product, service, tool, and resource. I went through so many trial-periods, I thought it would never end. Some tools worked...some didn't.

This is the comprehensive list my design business currently swears by. As our processes evolve and technology becomes increasingly more helpful - I'll make sure to keep this list updated.

DISCLAIMER: There are NO affiliate links in this post. Everything we've listed are all resources we currently use or HAVE used in the past. Before investing in any tool, resource, or program listed below, please test-drive to make sure it's a good fit for you, your team, or your business.
How To Run A Successful Business

WEBSITES

How To Run A Successful Business

1.) Wordpess.org

WHAT IS IT:

Open-Source Content Management System aka Website Creation Tool

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Self-Hosted - This means you have full control over your content.

Monetization - You can run ads on your site. When it comes to paid sponsorships or affiliate commissions, brands like to work with blogs/websites that own their website and the content on it, with Wordpress.org you do own your website and content, making it easier for passive income.

Unlimited Capabilities - There are so many possibilities with Wordpress as far as content and design.

PRICE: Wordpress.org is free, however, this does not include your URL or host service.

2.) Webflow

WHAT IS IT:

Web-Based Tool For Building Websites

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Killer CMS(Content Management System) - This helps you to better organize your website and gives it a better user flow on the front and back-end.

Unlimited Creativity - Webflow takes the cake on creativity. For any creative entrepreneur or (non-blog) business, we like recommending Webflow as an alternative to Wordpress.

Full power of CSS, HTML, and JavaScript behind a Photoshop-like Visual Builder. Meaning, you can build on the visual builder/designer while it makes clean, semantic code for an optimized website.

Fast Load-Time - Like, Enterprise level type of fast. Even with all the creative actions!

SEO Tools - Unlike Wordpress, you don't have to upload plugins to maximize SEO. Everything you could imagine to boost SEO is built into the dashboard of each page.

PRICE:

- You can TRY it for free, but the pricing depends on what your site is needing.

- View their pricing structure here.

3.) Divi aka Elegant Themes

WHAT IS IT:

Wordpress Templates + Visual Page Builder

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Ease of Use - Wordpress gets a bad rep because people say it's too complicated. Divi + the Divi Builder takes the complication out of everything and turns your Wordpress site into something that can be easily designed.

Unlimited Creative Power - If you can dream it, it can be created with Divi.

Email Marketing Integration - This is somewhat typical, but Divi gives you extra customization settings to make your opt-ins look beautiful and set apart.

Custom Templates + Style Guides - You have the ability to create custom templates + layouts and save them in a library to be used on any new pages added. This drastically reduces the time spent developing custom sites.

PRICE:

- One-time yearly fee of $89 or lifetime access for $249

- View price info here

4.) Google Analytics

WHAT IS IT:

Software that tracks and reports website traffic

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Price - It offers "Enterprise-Class" software for FREE.

Interface - Gives data on a clean, user-friendly, easy-to-read interface.

Customizable Dashboard - You can tell Google Analytics which information you want to see when you log in.

Valuable Information - You can know everything there is to know about your website traffic. Where your viewers are from, how they are finding you, what they are looking at, how long they are on your site, what content they like most, and so much more. This information helps you tailor the digital experience for your audience.

Referral Traffic - We are constantly looking at this part of our analytics because it tells us which channels to place our marketing efforts towards.

PRICE:

- Free, unless you want or need Google Analytics 360 which starts at $150,000.00 per year.

- Most small to medium-sized businesses won't ever need Google Analytics 360, as regular Google Analytics gives more than enough helpful information.

5.) Google Search Console

WHAT IS IT:

A tool that allows webmasters to monitor indexing status and optimize visibility of their website

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Search Visibility - It gives you the ability to see if your website is even showing up on a Google search.

Spam - Allows you to monitor any spam issues on your site so you can make sure your site keeps clean.

Indexing - It gives you the ability to communicate to Google if you've added new pages to your site that need to be indexed.

Search Queries - Allows you to see queries people have searched to find your website.

PRICE:  

Free

EMAIL MARKETING

THIS IS A TOP QUESTION ASKED WITHIN THE THE DIGITAL WORLD - "WHICH EMAIL MARKETING PLATFORM IS THE BEST?" WE CAN'T GIVE YOU AN ANSWER TO THAT, BUT WE CAN SAY HERE ARE THE TWO WE HAVE USED:

How To Run A Successful Business

6.) Mailchimp

WHAT IS IT:

All-in-One Email Marketing Platform

WHY WE LOVE IT:

User-Friendly - It's very easy to set up automations, such as automatic welcome emails

Built in analytics - You're able to see the success and traffic of each campaign and automation

Great cost - A big misconception is you may have to pay twice for the same subscriber - this is not true. With the proper use of audience vs. groups you won't ever pay twice for the same subscriber.

Customizable designs - You can choose from the various designs Mailchimp offers along with many other businesses that offer Newsletter designs made specifically for Mailchimp

PRICE:

- Prices range from free to $299

- View their pricing structure here

7.) ConvertKit (we suggest to *most* of our clients)

WHAT IS IT:

Email Marketing Software

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Visual Automations - Their visual automations make creating sequences and automations a breeze!

Tool Integration - ConvertKit connects with a lot of the top apps like Shopify, WooCommerce, Wordpress and many more.

Ease of Use - They make email marketing easy for even the beginner.

PRICE:

View their pricing structure here

ACCOUNTING

How To Run A Successful Business

8.) Freshbooks

WHAT IS IT:

Accounting Software

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Invoicing - It's very easy to invoice clients and create different rules for their invoices.

Time Tracking - You can track your time spent on each client through Freshbooks.

Link Bank - You can link your bank to Freshbooks and it keeps track of expenses and even tags each expense for you.

PRICE:

View their pricing structure here

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

How To Run A Successful Business

9.) Monday.com

WHAT IS IT:

Project + Team Management tool that helps you stay on track with all of your projects

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Project Progress - There are so many modules within this tool that allows you to track the progress of a project.

Collaborative - You're able to share files, ideas, and comments with members of your team.

Time Tracking - You're able to track time spent on each phase of a project.

Multiple Project Views - Not everyone processes information the same. With the multiple project views available, you're able to tailor each project for you and your team - from calendar views, gantt charts, timelines, and many more.

Templates - Each industry is different in how they tackle a project. Monday offers multiple templates, categorized by industry, that you can use and customize for your business. You can also build your own.

Client View - This was a HUGE plus for us! We wanted to offer a sense of transparency to our clients and most project management tools we used did NOT offer this. It was important to us that our clients had access to the progress of their project - from a general view.

There's an app - You're able to access all your projects from an app, another huge win for us.

PRICE:

- Prices vary depending on the size of your team.

- View their pricing structure here

10.) Trello

WHAT IS IT:

Web-based list-making application

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Kanban Board View - Allows you to visually set up work flows and move a singular task from one board to the next, depending on the status of that task within a process.

Card Information - Each board contains "cards" you add. Within each card, you have the ability to add as much information as needed.

Multiple Boards - You can set up a multiple boards within a team view.

PRICE:

- View their U.S. pricing structure here

11.) Dubsado

WHAT IS IT:

Customer Relationship Management Software

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Lead Capture - This is the biggest reason we LOVE Dubsado. Dubsado keeps track of all your leads and allows you to tag a client after they move from "lead" to "current client". This is so much easier to keep track of leads than having them go to your email inbox, where a lot of things can get lost.

Website Form Integration - It's easy to embed a form on your site that pushes information back to Dubsado for safe keeping.

Forms + Contracts - Dubsado has several forms and contracts available for use, so you don't have to create those on your own.

Client Portal - Every client has their own portal, which houses all their email communication, forms, and any important information apart of their project.

Workflow + Automation - Another huge reason we love Dubsado! You can create workflows and automations that help cut down on the time you spend on admin tasks.

PRICE:

- Monthly and Yearly Rates with some additional add-on options

- View their pricing structure here

12.) Sortd

WHAT IS IT:

Gmail and G-Suite add-on that gets your inbox organized

NOTE: This is an email add-on that only works with Chrome

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Organization - Helps us track our communication status with each client question or request.

Visual Layout - Laid out like Trello, you're able to place emails into different labeled boards.

App Integration - We can integrate our Trello boards and Gmail with their app integration.

PRICE:

- Price Per User

- View their pricing structure here

Noteable Project Management Tool - Basecamp

- I have personally used Basecamp in other companies I've worked for and LOVE it! Especially the push-notification option on their app.

- Basecamp had everything we needed, however, was out of our yearly budget

FILE-STORAGE

How To Run A Successful Business

13.) Dropbox Business

WHAT IS IT:

File Hosting Service

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Storage - It can safely store a massive amount of content in it's cloud-like file storage.

Access - You're able to access your files from anywhere, including your phone.

Sharing Files - It's so easy to share big files with clients, unlike email providers that limit the size of files you can send.

Collaboration - Team members and clients can add their feedback on each file through their comment feature.

File Security - You're able to create rules on who can see or even download the content you send.

PRICE:

- View their pricing structure here

14.).Google Drive

WHAT IS IT:

File Creation + Storage

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Price - For all the reasons we use Google Drive, it's free

User-Friendly - It's so easy to create and share documents or spreadsheets.

Sharing - You can add contributors or anyone that needs to see what you've created.

Templates - They have a wealth of templates available for use and customization.

PRICE:

Free

CLIENT PRESENTATIONS

How To Run A Successful Business

How To Run A Successful Business

15.) Keynote

WHAT IS IT:

Presentation Software for Apple Devices

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Device Availability - Since our studio is ran by all Apple products, it's so easy to create presentations on ALL our devices.

File Security - Touch or Face ID can be activated to secure important presentations.

Export Options - You can export your presentations to PDF or any other final format needed.

Microsoft Friendly - You can import PowerPoint projects into Keynote for collaboration with other team members who may not have an Apple device. You can also export a Keynote project to PowerPoint format.

PRICE:

Free

16.) Zoom

WHAT IS IT:

Video Conferencing Software

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Online Meetings - We are able to have face-to-face communication with our clients, when needed.

Cloud Phone System - For our international clients, this works amazing during initial consultations.

Recording - We love being able to record (with consent) our meetings with clients. This gives an accurate record of what was said and what needs to be done.

Simultaneous Screen Share - You're able to conduct a meeting while sharing your screen.

Real-Time Video Editing Options - You can edit your appearance and your background, not that we ever need that, but it's fun to play around with.

PRICE:

- View their pricing structure here

CALENDAR

How To Run A Successful Business

17.) Acuity

WHAT IS IT:

Online Appointment Scheduling Software (recently acquired by Squarespace)

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Seamless Client Experience - Acuity gives our clients access to our calendar and walks them through a seamless booking process.

Service Categories - We can create service categories and attach any necessary documents or questions that become visible to clients when they are booking for that particular category.

Embed Option - We can place a form on our site for clients to schedule appointments without having to remember the booking link.

Integration Friendly - You can integrate Acuity with several applications to create better workflows. We integrate our Acuity with Google Calendar. Anytime a client schedules an appointment it is automatically placed on our Google Calendar and we get a push notification to our phone.

PRICE:

- View their pricing structure here

18.) Google Calendar

WHAT IS IT:

Time Management and Scheduling Calendar Service

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Price - For all the reasons we use Google Calendar, it's free.

Push Notifications - There is nothing better than getting reminders to your phone.

Reminders + Intervals - You're able to tell Google Calendar to alert you several times before an event or meeting.

Schedule View - Makes your calendar more visual and engaging.

Smart Fields - You can add information like suggested titles, contacts, and places (map or address) to your event or meeting.

PRICE:

- Free

SOCIAL MEDIA

How To Run A Successful Business

19.) Planoly

WHAT IS IT:

Instagram Scheduling Tool

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Instagram Approved - Planoly is the FIRST visual planner approved by Instagram. They are also one of the first Instagram Partners.

Drag + Drop - You can drag and drop your content in a grid layout. This helps you to see what your Instagram feed will look like, once posted.

Hashtags - You can save all your favorite hashtags and add them to your post with a quick copy and paste.

Schedule - You can add and edit content from your phone or computer for a later post.

Analytics - Allows you to see the success and engagement of each post.

Stories - This was a HUGE feature for us. Most platforms allow you to post pictures, but stories is a different thing. With Planoly, you're able to plan, arrange, edit, and schedule your stories.

Stories Edit - They have pretty story templates to make your stories more pretty.

PRICE:

- Per account plus add-ons

- View their pricing structure here

20.) Pinterest for Business

WHAT IS IT:

Visual Social Media App

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Inspiration - We find so much inspiration for each project, on Pinterest.

Analytics - This is something we are constantly monitoring to see what content is appealing to our followers.

PRICE:

Free

21.) Tailwind

WHAT IS IT:

Pinterest & Instagram Scheduler, Analytics & Marketing Tool

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Advanced Analytics - Tailwind goes deeper than the analytics Pinterest offers to business profiles

Scheduler - You're able to bulk upload and schedule. It also tells you which times your followers are MOST active on your Pinterest, allowing you to schedule your pins at optimal times.

SmartLoop - Helps republish your best performing pins.

Tribes - You're able to maximize your reach, exposure, and engagement by posting your pins to "tribes".

PRICE:

- Free Trial Period

- View their pricing structure here

22.) Unfold

WHAT IS IT:

Instagram Story Template Provider

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Killer Aesthetic - Their story templates are so beautiful.

Time Saver - There are times we aren't able to create custom content for our stories. Unfold helps us dramatically cut down on creation time, without sacrificing quality.

Engagement - We love creating content for our followers that help them engage more with us.

PRICE:

- Free to download, but templates are a one-time cost

- Download app here

PODCAST

How To Run A Successful Business

23.) Libsyn

WE USED TO HAVE A PODCAST AND LOVED USING LIBSYN

WHAT IS IT:

Podcast Hosting and Publishing Service

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Multiple Destination Publishing - You upload one file and Libsyn publishes it to all the important platforms so your content receives maximum exposure.

Blog + Social Media Friendly - Libsyn gives you what you need to integrate your podcast with your blog and social media.

Price and Value - For everything you get, it's a great value.

PRICE:

- Based on storage needed per month

- View their pricing structure here

CONTINUED LEARNING

How To Run A Successful Business

24.) Lynda.com (recently acquired by Linkedin)

WHAT IS IT:

Online Learning Platform

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Training For Every Industry - Learning is something we value as a team. Whether we are wanting to learn something new or refining our knowledge in one category - Lynda is a wealth of knowledge.

Industry Experts - You're learning from experts within each industry.

Course Outlines - They have courses for anything you can think of and all courses are organized in a way that makes it easy to follow along.

PRICE:

- Month and Annual Options

- View their pricing structure here

CONTENT CREATION

How To Run A Successful Business

25.) Adobe Creative Cloud

WHAT IS IT:

Complete Design Solution For Creative Professionals

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Everything In One Place - All of our application in one central location.

PRICE:

- Based on applications needed and if for personal vs business use.

- View their pricing structure here

26.) Creative Market

WHAT IS IT:

Creative Online Marketplace

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Options - There are so many things you can purchase on Creative Market, from stock photography to presentation templates.

Licenses - In the event we need to purchase a creative element for a client project, we are able to secure the correct license to protect us and our client.

Support Other Freelancers - We love being able to support some of our favorite freelance artists who place their work on Creative Market.

PRICE:

- Depends on what you're needing to purchase.

- Also depends on the license you're needing per asset.

STOCK PHOTO SUBSCRIPTIONS

FOR A FULL LIST OF OUR FAVE STOCK PHOTO RESOURCES (PAID AND FREE) CLICK HERE

How To Run A Successful Business

27.) Moyo

WHAT IS IT:

Premium Design Tools and Photo Based Mockups

WHY WE LOVE IT:

Minimalistic Aesthetic - When we are trying to showcase our work, it's important the mockup design doesn't take away from what we've created. Moyo Studio's minimalistic approach enhances the visual presentation of our work.

Options - We can choose from stock photos AND mockups on their site.

Inexpensive - For the value they give you, their subscription model is a great value.

PRICE:

- Quarterly and Yearly Memberships

- View their pricing structure here

28.) Haute Stock

WHAT IS IT:

Styled Stock Photography for Women Business Owners, Bloggers and Creative Entrepreneurs

WHY WE LOVE IT:

New Content - They are constantly creating new content, which is great because there is always something new to look at.

Beautiful Aesthetic - They are amazing photographers and their aesthetic is perfect for what we do.

Great Value - Their subscription is amazing in comparison to what you get.

Social Media Graphics - During the times we are busy working on client projects, these social media graphics come in handy.

PRICE:

- Quarterly and Annual Options

- View their pricing structure here

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How To Run A Successful Business
How To Run A Successful Business