I'm a firm believer in "work smarter, not harder" so I've spent a lot of time developing and refining workflows to manage the businesses and projects I work on each week. My first few years freelancing had me constantly on-the-run and trying to keep up with everything was a challenge, and I'd even wake up in the middle of the night remembering something that needed to be done. Over the years I've developed a list of my favorite tools for running a business
Today I'm going to share the tools that I use every single day to maintain my sanity and automate routine tasks. The key to success with any tool is consistency and actually using it! Before starting my work, checking emails, or making phone calls, I spend 10-15 minutes planning out my day and prioritizing my tasks. Once I started doing that, my days became so much more productive because I actually had a direction to follow and distractions were easier to ignore.
Tools for running a business
The vast majority of my work is done on my electronic devices, so for me, it makes sense to have a digital task management system. Todoist is my go-to because I can access it on my computer, phone, or from any web-browser, so it's always accessible and by far the easiest task manager I've used. I'm able to break down my tasks into different projects, assign tasks to team members, and get reminders when things are due.
One of the best parts about Todoist is the natural text recognition which allows you to enter tasks and information quickly. In the example below I typed "Write Business tool post today #JHC !!1" Which translates into a task called "Write Business tool post" which is due today, categorized under JHC (my project for this site), and priority 1.
For those who prefer pen-and-paper, my favorite tool has been Momentum Planners ($12). These planners are a printable tool that helps you plan your projects and goals at different levels, starting with annual, quarterly, monthly, and then daily goals. It makes planning super easy and focused.
Podio from Citrix is my favorite CRM and project management tool. There are a ton of paid software solutions out there, but Podio is completely free! They have paid upgrades if you want automation tools, but you likely won't need that. Podio comes with a large library of pre-built workspaces for everything from CRMs for customers and leads, to social media planning, and project management. My production company uses it for lead tracking, project logistic planning, and deliverables tracking. We have our entire team on the system which allows us to easily collaborate and message each other without long email threads.
Check out the use-cases to get an idea of how it could work for your business. It also deeply integrates with thousands of other web tools through Zapier, so you can use and share your data across all your business tools.
For businesses that are more focused on booking client shoots like weddings or portraits, HoneyBook (50% off with that affiliate link!) is an amazing all-in-one tool. While in the process of planning my own wedding, our venue sent us the proposal through Honeybook and it was so simple to use on the client side. I tried the trial and immediately fell in love because it streamlined and automated all the tasks of responding to leads, booking, invoicing, and managing relationships with clients.
Check out the 10 Reasons I Switched to Honeybook
If you have a blog you better be building an email list. While SEO and blog strategies will help draw visitors to your website, you need to be able to build a consistent audience. Having an opt-in for a email newsletter will allow your most engaged readers to connect with you and your content, and allow you to continuously reach that audience. ConvertKit (affiliate link) is my favorite email list management tool because it allows you to create opt-in forms as well as build automations and pull content directly from your blog's RSS feed to create emails to send to your followers.
When scheduling with clients, the biggest challenge is finding dates that work for everyone. I started using Calendly, which allows me to send them a link that shows all my available times and automatically schedules it on both our calendars. I love it because it takes the back and forth out of the equation and ups the user experience.
Accounting and invoicing is the bane of my existence as a business owner, but oh so necessary. I love Freshbooks because it simplifies the entire process and makes keeping track of expenses a lot less painful. On the client end, invoices are easy to view and pay online and the software will even handle the follow-up process to make sure clients don't forget about you.
You've probably been told to use unique passwords for all your online accounts. You've probably also gotten a few mandatory password resets along with a statement about accounts being compromised. I used to break the unique password rule with pretty much every website, except for the really important ones like banking. After that main password got stolen in the Adobe hack a few years ago, I decided to get serious about using a password manager and found 1Password. It integrates with most apps on my phone and integrates in any web browser. Now I have completely secure and random passwords for every website and service I use. It also helps to protect my client's data which is a win-win!