My Tool Box
These are my favorite tools, apps & companies (that I actually use myself). Click on the titles to visit their company page if you're interested in learning more about what they do.
Only the listings marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links & I wouldn't list them here if I didn't love & use them myself.
Squarespace is kind of the perfect system, whether you're a beginner or not. This platform is for you if you want a modern, low-maintenance site with an easy-to-use interface, and want to be able to keep the site updated yourself after the design is done. I love it so much, I use Squarespace myself & for my clients!
I couldn't do my job without Adobe Illustrator, or the rest of my Creative Suite software. Illustrator is where I create most of what I design, though. It's so versatile! Nearly everything I design is created in Illustrator, including all the graphics (including those for my blogs) are created in Illustrator.
On-The-Go Photo Editing
Snapseed is an amazing photo editing app with many of the basic features Photoshop will give you, but on the go. I stopped using Instagram to "edit" photos, stopped using all those other apps too, because this is now my absolute favorite and has become my go-to. I can't gush about this one enough!
Another must-have tool for people who want or need to send out newsletters, email ads, embed ad/pop-ups, etc. Unlike ConvertKit though, MailerLite has 3 different ways to build your content with them: 1) a Drag-And-Drop Page builder, 2) an HTML editor, and 3) a Rich Text editor.
Also unlike CK, MailerLite has a Forever Free Plan which allows you to send unlimited emails (up to 1,000 subscribers) before you'll need to upgrade! That means, if you have a branded email address, you can get started today, FOR FREE!! Plus you know you won't have to upgrade until you've gained a great fandom. How cool is that?!
ConvertKit is a great for large-scale email marketing. CK handles email marketing, newsletters, sign-up forms, segmented groups, and so much more! Unlike other email marketing companies that charge for each sign-up (rather than each subscriber), ConvertKit only counts each person 1 time (no matter if they sign up once or 100 times!).
Their pricing starts at $29/mo. though, with only a 30 day free trial. So if you're an upstart, you might want to try MailerLite first. While it's true, everyone raves about CK, until you can afford an extra payment each month, it might not be for you.
My Favorite Business Tool
I've got to start by saying, Dubsado is my miracle!! I've tried a lot of different things that offer a handful of business services I need. I've also researched far more without actually taking the leap.
Dubsado has all or most of what I need all in one place, as well as some features I didn't know I needed at all! Click here to see their full features list, or keep reading for a short breakdown.
- Send & Sign Contracts (with fields that can auto-fill, and a fully customizable editor)
- Send invoices & Proposals
- Time Tracking
- Payment Schedules (can break up invoices into multiple payments including a deposit, and automate reminders for those payments!)
- Accept credit cards & e-checks
- Create easy to-do lists
- Manage Clients (an area where you can see which client is in what stage of their project, manage their contact info, any notes & more)
- Client Portals (a login area for each client where they can access emails sent via Dubsado & any documents they've been sent)
- Workflows (MY FAVORITE! Automate your entire process, from the initial welcome email to the last payment reminder & thank you!)
- Calendar Integration (syncs with iCal and Google Calendar)
- Send Questionnaires & Forms (use forms for Testimonials, Proofs, Order Forms & more - so flexible!)
- Email Templates ("Canned" Emails)
- Lead Capture Forms (these can be set to auto-populate fields in other forms connected to the same Workflow)
- Branding (ability to customize & match your current branding)
- Internationally Friendly (just choose the currency you'd like to receive your money in!)
- No-Brainer Bookkeeping
- Mobile friendly (currently mobile friendly, but an app is in development)
- Multi-Redundancy Backups
- and more is coming soon! Want to see the list, check it out here!
I'll be completely honest here: setting up took a long time, and I ran lots of tests to be sure the automations were working correctly. But, it is SO worth it! I cannot recommend these guys enough, really! Dubsado has saved me so much time, it's crazy.
In favor of complete transparency:
Yes, I am part of their referral program, but I would never recommend them if I didn't love them & use them myself! If you want to give it a try, you can use it FREE for as long as you want (up to 3 clients), and when you're ready to upgrade, you can use my code "s1862" to give yourself 20% your first month, or your first YEAR if you want to pay annually. Ready to try it now? You won't regret it!! And if you use my code to try it out, please let me know what you think!
+ Zoho allows you to create a branded email if you already own the matching domain, for free (with use limitations). It's not easy to setup, and involves tech settings from your domain provider. I've set this up for clients of mine who weren't ready for G Suite yet.
+ G Suite can be purchased through your Squarespace settings; it's a lot easier to set up and it's got a lot of added benefits. It's also not free, so there's give & take. I use G Suite for myself, and really enjoy having it.
Their slogan is Client Relationship Management in Gmail, and that basically sums it up!
Streak is a plugin for Chrome. It allows you to track emails, snooze emails to view later, schedule emails to send out when you want (i.e.: not at midnight, even if that's when you wrote it!) and more.
With Inbox Pause, you can manually pause and resume incoming messages whenever you want, and no one will know the difference! (You can choose whether to notify senders of the paused inbox or not.)
Unlike Board Booster, Tailwind is "officially" sanctioned by Pinterest, AND it analyzes your account activity in order to automatically schedule pins when your viewers/followers are most active. (Of course you can change/add/edit times that your pins are published as well). Their user-interface is polished and easy to use.
I'm actually A/B testing both Tailwind & BoardBooster now to see which one I like better (I started with BoardBooster), and when I decide, I'll write a blog about it & link back to it here. Until then you can read Think Creative Collective's blog post about it here.
Social Media Manager
Later is social media scheduler, like Buffer, Tailwind & Hootsuite, with a forever free plan (up to 30 posts per month).
The thing I LOVE most about Later is that for Instagram specifically, it shows you the way your gallery will look with the scheduled posts. To read more about it here, you can read Think Creative Collective's blog post about it here.
Please Note: Keep in mind though, Instagram currently does not allow any 3rd party software to post for you. Until their policy allows it, all you can find is a place to create the post & schedule it, but you still have to post it yourself at the scheduled time.
HelloBonsai.com was created by Freelancers, for Freelancers! They started with free plans, and recently upgraded to all paid plans.
They have contracts that are SUPER easy to edit and you can send + sign them digitally. They also handle invoicing, payments, reminders, time tracking, and proposals.
For more on HB, read about it on my blog, Free Invoicing, Contracts, Proposals & Time Tracking.
If you'd like to try Bonsai, you can get your first month free by clicking here!
Accounting & Bookkeeping
If you're looking for a more in-depth accounting system (that's free!), this is a great place to start. They handle accounting, invoicing, lending, payroll, payments and receipts.
There's limited control over invoice styles (though you can choose the accent color and add your logo), but you can connect to your bank account and take online payments and more. If you're not ready for Freshbooks, Quickbooks or those others yet, this is a great starting point!
Organization & Task Management
Trello has boards, lists, and cards which allow you to "organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible and rewarding way." I just switched from Asana myself and am finding it seems a lot more intuitive and is easier to use. It's also extremely visual, so it works perfectly for my creative brain, and I love being able to toggle the calendar & list views inside each board. To say that I'm obsessed with Trello, might be an understatement! 😉
For more, read How To Organize Your Life With Trello.
List of 100+ Best Freelance Tools
Want a comprehensive list? It's organized by category & covers all the topics below:
- File Management
- Project Management
- Time Tracking