When it comes to running a small business, it takes more than talent and grace to keep it running successfully. As a creative service-based entrepreneur (especially if you’re doing it solo), you have a lot to do: Serve clients, keep up-to-date on training so your skills stay sharp, stay on top of emails and appointments, track your projects, send invoices and contracts…
It’s a lot!
If what I said above resonates with you, it’s because I’ve been there, too.
For a fairly organized person, it took me some trial and error in my first year of business to get the right systems in place and find out what worked for me to make managing appointments, client projects and marketing my business a lot easier. It took a learning curve.
One of the best things I’ve done in my biz is to use time-saving online systems and templates! In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my go-to resources.
For project management:
Consider yourself to be a very Type-A creative? If so, Trello is for you!
Use Trello to create project pipelines for every client or internal project.
Assign tasks, deadlines, and add external links to supporting Google Drive documents through Trello. Did I mention that Trello is free AND available on mobile as an app?
Pricing: Free for the basic plan; paid plans start at $9.99 USD
Worthy alternative: Asana
For a client portal:
Looking for a robust client project management tool that does it all? Gotta love all-in-one systems, right? Check out Honeybook, a super intuitive and simple-to-use client relations portal & project management tool. It’s the one I use for this business, and I really love it.
You can use Honeybook to track prospective client leads, proposals, questionnaires, contracts, invoices, timelines, and payments.
Pricing: $34 USD/month (billed annually) or $40/month — here’s your invitation to get 20% off your first year on me by using my partner discount on either an annual or monthly plan.
Worthy alternative: Dubsado (free up to 3 clients, then $35 USD/month)
For simple graphics creation:
You don’t need superior design skills to create Pinterest-worthy graphics or beautiful Instagram or Facebook quote posts: all you need is knowing how to use Canva online.
Canva is a wonderful, drag-and-drop graphic design tool.
Pricing: Free! Upgrade to Pro for $12.99 CAD a month.
*You can try their Pro Plan for a free trial before committing.
For your online presence:
Bluchic is a great place to look for premium WordPress.org website themes, landing page templates, and social media templates.
Consider them your one-stop shop for making a stunning impression online.
Their unique Canva template packet comes with a one-time investment with 85 unique different options that you can use for years to come. I highly recommend it!
Pricing: $$-$$$ (USD) ranges depending on product
Btw, I’m using their ChicServe theme and it’s fantastic.
For stock photos (free):
For those just starting out in business, of course, free is the best price… I still use it, too. Check out Pixabay for their incredible collection of free, commercial-use photos for you to use!
I love Pixabay because it integrates free Canva images too.
Worthy alternative (also free): Unsplash
For stock photos (paid subscription):
A paid photo subscription for those serious about growing their visual brand!
Out of all the premium stock photos I’ve seen online, I believe these stock photos for social media are by far my favourite in photo quality & diversity. You can use them for your website, your social media (hence the name, Social Squares), and your email campaigns.
The stock photo collections are great: You have home and living themes, wedding/event themes, fashion/style, food, nature, health and wellness, etc. Perfect for every niche.
These crisp, HQ photos will create a cohesive, attractive look for your brand.
The monthly subscription fee pays for itself if you are a designer or a service provider that books a sustainable number of clients to keep current and new followers interested.
For content templates:
Content creation on Canva should come with enjoyment and ease… This done-for-you, copy-and-paste biz templates with lead magnets – the perfect thing to create email opt-ins!
My favourites? eBook templates! Perfect for infopreneurs, bloggers, educators.
Created by a mompreneur who gets the blogging & biz thing like the back of her hand.
You’ll need Canva (free or pro version) to use these templates.
Looking for a free accounting/financial solution that’s simple & effective?
Use WaveApps to create and send invoices, automate your payment reminders, receipts, and track your financial revenue for the business year. It’s also free to use! Excellent 😉
Worthy alternative: Freshbooks (paid; more robust features begin at $15 USD/month)
A great business system to schedule appointments with others. It syncs with your calendar and people can book you based on availability (or what you open up for meetings).
No need to email back and forth!
You can also accept payments through Acuity (ex. If your services/consultation meetings have an upfront fee for producing product samples, or if there’s a price for seeing you).
If you use Squarespace to host your website, Acuity integrates beautifully!
Pricing: Free trial, upgrades for $15 USD/month, starting
Worthy alternative: Calendly
A new email marketing service that’s changing the game, with greater user-friendliness and open rates than ConvertKit with more robust features than MailerLite, MadMimi or MailChimp. Not only does it create beautiful, stunning emails, but the platform is intuitive and simple.
Flodesk is like if Squarespace & the best email marketing systems had a lovechild.
It’s that good and that effective, and so worth the hype.
The best part? The price is right.
It’s $38 USD/month forever — they will not penalize you for growing your list. All other email marketing subscribers raise the monthly fee once your mailing list grows over +1000-2000. But not Flodesk. You’ll get all the features at one locked price, forever.
I keep repeating the words “forever” because really, it’s true. No hiked renewal fees. No higher pricing because your email list has exceeded x amount of subscribers.