Are you looking for creative online business essentials? What I’m about to share are my tried and true, must-have online business essentials. Efficient, beautiful and easy to use! They have saved me hours of work and de-cluttered my brain of thoughts and ideas that never seem to end. I will literally shout off the rooftops for them! Try them for yourself by selecting any of the photos.
I do get referral bonuses from these links. With that said – I would never share anything I genuinely don’t believe in. Thank you for supporting my small business, I appreciate the support in using my link to try any of these out!
I was not sending out emails because I found it incredibly overwhelming and time consuming. No offense to Mailchimp, but I hated it. I had several online creative businesses talk about Flodesk and I can see why. It’s SO simple and elegant. Plus, it automates workflows. For example, let’s say someone opts into my pricing guide. From there I can create a sequence of emails to hopefully nurture them to become a client. I have used nothing but templates and I love them. I love that you can customize them with your brand colors and fonts, and it’s so easy to add Unsplash or Giphy images.
The CRM platform that has saved me days of time. Seriously. It takes some time to set everything up on the front end, but after that you’ll thank yourself forever. I use Dubsado to onboard clients from the moment they inquire. I then create workflows that automate work for me. Here’s an example:
Sue inquires to work with me. An automated email reply goes out with a calendar invite to set up a discovery call. We have the call and I send her a proposal which she accepts. I add a contract, invoice and questionnaire within her Dubsado portal for her to complete. All of these deliverables thus far are created from from templates I made during set up. Sue signs the contract online and pays the invoice online which includes payment plans and links to Quickbooks. She uploads photos and dimensions of her space plus fills out my questionnaire. All of this is linked through Trello which I call my online design studio and client interface. I then begin the design phase and upload all deliverables to Trello. Dubsado automates emails and supplies email templates. These can be sent as follow up, payment reminders, etc.
I was using Dubsado as my client interface because I had in my mind Trello cost a lot. Well, it turns out your first 10 boards are free and it’s only $5 after that *face palm*. As a client interface and organized system for all projects, I highly recommend Trello. I used this to plan a photo shoot with other creatives as well as using it for my clients. It’s so incredibly organized, simple, beautiful and easy to use. It’s available as an app and my clients communicate directly under each section so that communication isn’t lost. You are able to add members to the boards and links, photos, videos, checklists, labels, due dates and so forth.
Start by creating a template board that you will use for all of your clients. Then add in lists with their own cards that make sense for you business. For me, I chose to lay it out like this:
General Info – How to use Trello, client information
Client Homework – contract, invoice, questionnaire, dimensions, photos, inspiration
Design Files – floor plan, line drawings, vision board, 3d rendering, project timeline and guide, product list
Wrap Up – final deliverables, strategy call, invoice, feedback form
Don’t just take my word for it, try Trello for yourself!
Tailwind is the queen of Pinterest scheduling and management but it also handles Instagram (and Facebook) wonderfully and I love it for both. It schedules both based on recommend times and gives you analytics to show you how each pin or post performed. I used Later for awhile but ultimately went back to Tailwind because it recommended hashtags showing their post counts and I just like simplifying my life as much as I can with 2-in-1.
Get a month of Tailwind for free with this Tailwind discount code!
Showit is a wonderful website builder made for creatives. I seriously love how custom this is yet easy to use for someone who isn’t a graphic designer, plus I know graphic designers praise this platform and I understand why! I built my own website within a month from a template I loved. It’s fantastic whether you build your own website from a template or have a graphic designer build one for you. It’s comforting knowing you can make changes to your own website after it’s designed as save a ton of money and time.
Milanote is free to use and I’m obsessed for organizing my different business plans. You receive a screen of space which you can then add boards, links, comments, lines and columns to. It’s like a Russian nesting doll situation, as you can add all those things within a board within a board. I have used it to:
Canva has to be one of the top online business essentials for creatives. I was attempting to learn Photoshop before committing to Canva and I don’t know what I was thinking! Canva is just too simple – you can’t not have it as a creative in the online world. I’m a huge fan of customizing templates and Canva makes it so easy to customize. I will either buy graphics from Creative Market that are customizable and align with my brand or add in some elements to Canva templates that make it my own.
I am a hobby photographer and love Adobe. I also loved Lightroom for editing photos, before I had an app. If you’re not a photographer, it’s easy to find presets from your favorite photographers and apply them to your own photos. I have the $9.99 plan that also comes with Photoshop. I have used photoshop for mood boards and other graphics I have purchased from creatives online.
No referral code from Adobe, but worth the investment if you need a great photo editor. Head here to get started with Adobe Lightroom.
Where are the numbers magic happens. I don’t know a lot about accounting but I do manage my own daily expenses and income. Quickbooks makes it easy to categorize and understand. Most accountants prefer it and almost all platforms online that collect money from your clients integrate with QuickBooks. It’s $25 a month and well worth it. Excel Sheets and Google Sheets take way too much time for expense and income tracking. QuickBooks also tracks your mileage for you. They have a lot more features on their top tier pricing plans as well. This is one of the online business essentials I can’t be without.
Literally all of the things! I worship Google for simplifying my life and having a lot all in one place.
Where my business email is based. I love how organized this is with categories of email types. I appreciate the reminders to follow up if I missed replying. Can we have this for text messages? I love how I can be in my email and access everything I mention below at the top right corner.
Where would I be without this! I add tasks, meetings and reminders. I also have multiple calendars that I can turn on and off to simplify what I need to see in that moment. The calendar for my rental home is shared with my sister, so that she can see when we have bookings and what needs to be done on various days. I also created a both a personal and “social media strategy” calendar to help me plan out content for the month.
I ditched my paid Microsoft subscription and have been more than happy with Google. If Google can’t provide, Canva does. I use Google Sheets to visualize budgeting, financial goals, profit and loss for each project and rental home expenses.
Google Docs is where I write out content before adding it into a Canva design, my website or scheduling a post on Tailwind. If I am collaborating on content with someone, it’s great to be able add them to a specific document and work efficiently online.
This is where I keep notes for various occasions and also dump all my ideas as I have them. It’s conveniently located on my phone and desktop! From there I sort ideas in either Milanote or Trello.
So there you go – my top 10 online business essentials for creative businesses. If you found this helpful, send me a message on Instagram! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out via my website.
from the blog