As your business gets busier and busier, it's critical that you have systems in place to be organized and efficient.
You have to have your business set up so that you are not having to recreate the wheel each and every time you book a client, and you definitely don't want all the knowledge in your head alone.
Because if you do, you won't be efficient and you won't be able to easily grow as the business itself grows.
For creative entrepreneurs, especially those who provide services, the skeleton of our processes is very similar!
I get asked all the time about the different programs I use in my business to keep it running, and so I thought what better way to answer that question than to do a blog post about it!
This post became pretty long pretty fast, so I've split it up into 3 parts!
Let's kick off part one!
Software Programs I Use to Efficiently Run my Small Business
Pixifi is my CMS - or client management system.
It's literally the heartbeat of my business.
All leads come through Pixifi where I have templated emails set up to respond and follow up. Pixifi lets me know if I have other things booked on that lead date so I know how to respond, and all details from inquiry to booking are handled through Pixifi.
All my client info is stored including current and past clients, the plans for their jobs, contracts, invoices, automated email reminders, and correspondence, workflows and more.
I check in on Pixifi daily and see what is needed for the next steps for my clients.
It costs me about $35 a month, but saves me hours upon hours and not only makes my life easier but makes for a much more streamlined looking process from the clients perspective as well.
The one thing about Pixifi and any CMS you use is that you have to expect A LOT of front end work to get it all set up and going. It will literally take days of your focus, so it's a slow season type of project. But please keep in mind that it will literally save you hundreds of hours and gray hairs once it's set up and so it's SO worth the front end work!
This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but here it is anyhow.
I use Google in all the ways.
I have a Google Suite email account for my main email that is at my domain name which is $50 a year.
If you are in business, it's my opinion that you must have a legit email address.
Especially since you can stick with the Gmail framework and on the backend, it's the same looking to you, but simply not having the @gmail.com ending your email is important if you want others to take you seriously as a business.
I have a @gmail.com account I use for my personal and my junk mail but the @rebeccaellison.com account is the one I use for business. On the backend, they look identical.
Along with Email, I use Google Cal because it's connected to everything and readily available no matter what. I am a Mac user, but I hate the mac calendar interface, and when it comes to the programs I find myself actually using, the interface has to make sense to me.
Google drive I use as well, but not as much as Dropbox, which I've listed below. I mostly use Google drive for questionnaires I send out to do new product research and for Google sheets as I like having things readily accessible online and Mac Numbers doesn't have that.
Then there are Google business listings which are free and SO important for SEO. Also, through the Google business listing, I request testimonials and reviews to be given through Google as they help SEO as well.
Google basically rules all, and they've made it very easy as a small business owner to keep all the things for business together!
Calendly is my online scheduler. I only adopted this in the past 18 months or so, but could not be happier. I use this as a way to schedule meetings, photo shoots, ordering sessions, branding sessions and everything.
I set the days and hours that I am willing to meet and how far in advance I'm willing to schedule, and then let the clients look and choose their own times to schedule.
It looks at my availability on my Google Calendar and I can create parameters so that certain types of meetings can't be booked within say 30 minutes of another one (to alot for travel times).
Calendly is at the top favorite software programs for efficiancy!
This has saved so much back and forth with people as we work out days and times for shoots or meetings and just makes it easily done.
Since implementing this, I do have to keep closer track of my inbox and calendar though as meetings will pop up and I have to mentally note them. Calendly sends out an email when someone books so I see it there as well to help for me to not miss anything.
Calendly automatically sends out a reminder email to the client before the meeting without me having to touch it which is great to have yet another thing automated in my business.
It has taken some adjusting to, but as a busy business owner and mom, I definitely love this program.
There is a free version and paid options as well. I find the $8 a month to be well worth the streamlining of it all and removing the never-ending thread of "I'm not available then but I am available this time".
Trello is amazing for project management and organization.
Imagine a digital whiteboard with a ton of sticky notes organized on the whiteboard and you move them around to different areas depending on what stage of a project you are in and you understand what Trello is.
I use Trello less for client management and workflow, keeping up with what team members are doing, organizing product ideas and launches, content schedules, as well as having a board for my company workbook so that when new people come into my team, they have the things they need to know about the company and policies all in one place.
Trello has a paid version and free versions, and their free version is really robust. So much that I've never needed the paid version. In my opinion, the paid versions are for those using Trello in a bigger team or company situation where a lot of people have access to the boards.
As a small business owner with only 2-3 employees, or even going solo, Trello basic is totally robust enough!
Evernote is essentially a digital version of notebooks so you can organize and not lose thoughts and ideas.
You can have tons of different notebooks with different pages in Evernote for all the different aspects of your business.
I use Evernote primarily as a place to draft my blog posts, changes to my website content, and anything else I need to write out.
For example, I have a website notebook for all my website copy. Inside that notebook is a page for services, about, opt-ins etc. Then I have a different notebook for blog posts and each new note is a different blog post draft.
The functionality is very similar to Google Docs, but I find the usability and organization on Evernote to be easier for my brain to understand and use efficiently than Google Docs so that is why I keep using it.
There is a free version as well as a paid version if you want to be able to access on more than 2 devices. Since I like to have things synced between desktop, laptop, iPhone, and iPad, I pay the $35 a year.
Please note that some of these links are affiliate links which means if you sign up I can get a little kickback or a free month of service for the referral. It doesn't affect what happens for you at all and I refer these programs because I love them, not because of the kickback. But it pays to be transparent about these things :)
There are quite a few more software programs that I use in my business to keep me efficient and running while growing as well, but I didn't want to overwhelm by having them all in one post, so I have broken this up into 3 separate posts coming in the next weeks!