When I started Twig & White nearly a year and a half ago, I really wanted it to be a place completely separate from my “day job” but as I got farther into this new journey I realized that while I don’t have to be all about my business it is a part of who I am and sharing parts of that area of my life may be helpful to you in your journey as well. My business has morphed many times over the years but one thing has remained the same and that’s been finding and using good tools to make things easier, more streamlined and organized so today I thought I’d share some of my favorite tools for running my business.
Before I get into the list I’d like to address one thing and that’s investing in your business. My Dad always said that in business you have to spend money to make money. I never really took that to heart until my business really started growing and I realized that putting money back into my business, investing in it’s success has only made it stronger and better. It can be hard when you are just starting out to make any money let alone put money back into the business. While you have to be smart about where you spend your pennies, I strongly believe investing wisely in your business is extremely important. Now onto the tools!
Google Docs has become one of my favorite tools in recent years. I’ve always had MS Office so I was slow to jump on the google doc bandwagon but when I started hiring assistants having sharable files that anyone could access in the studio or at home became much more efficient. We use Google Docs company related things like our product lists, our master editorial calendar, pricing guides, document templates for proposals, as well as other things. We also use this for all our product description templates and other wording templates. It’s just a great way to have all these types of things in one location that we can all access any time, anywhere.
Most people are familiar with dropbox but I have opted for box.com instead and it has become one of those tools I cant imagine giving up when it comes to running my business. While not cheap, box has a feature that by installing their app on my computer it auto syncs everything from my computer to their cloud. This does require alot of memory and we were not able to install box on some of our older computers but for the primary computers in the studio, this has become an amazing way to give us the feel of an internal server and the confidence of knowing our files are always backed up in more than one place. What is even more amazing about this is that all of the primary computers in the studio are synced to the same set of files so whether I’m at my own computer or at one of the other computers, I always have access to the same exact files and versions.
Like dropbox, box.com also enables us to designate files or folders that are sharable with customizable links so we have a library of things we can share with our email list or our customers simply by providing them with the link.
I’ve been using Box.com for a few years now so I’m not sure if the packages have changed but my plan has unlimited data because it’s a business plan so I’ll never have to worry about running out of space.
A couple years ago I took the Trello course from Think Creative Collective. Abigail and Emily have been hardcore proponents of trello and as a long time follower of theirs, I gave it a try. While i haven’t come to rely daily on Trello it has been a great tool for me for many reasons. I should also mention that because I took their course, I was able to download and use their templates to set up my own which was a big time saver for me. Trello has become one of my favorite tools for running my business.
When I had assistants, we used Trello for task / project management. Just like Asana or other project management tool, we could assign tasks for various projects to members of the team with notes, attachments and deadlines and then everyone would know what’s getting done and when.
Now that it’s just me, I don’t use Trello for tasks but I do use it for some pretty important things. One of my boards is kind of like my company handbook. Inside there I keep all kinds of information organized relating to how the business runs. This includes cards for everything that I do in the business with checklists, timelines, etc. For example, when an order comes in from Etsy there is a checklist of every single step from order received through the order is delivered to the customer. It’s like a training handbook ready-to-go. This board also includes FAQ’s with pre-written answers, credentials to sites the business is a member of and so much more.
I also have a board in Trello for the 10 million ideas I have on a daily basis. Any time I get one of my crazy ideas, I make a new card. Sometimes those cards turn into something real and sometimes after I’ve realized it’s impossible, crazy or wouldn’t work, I delete it. The ones that actually turn into something get put in a new category and then get tracked and evaluated as to whether it worked, failed, how to improve it, etc.
I also use Trello for tracking leads. This has been great over time because I can learn from things that didn’t work out and repeat things that did. Trello has really become a great behind-the-scenes tool to help keep me organized.
I cannot say enough great things about CoSchedule. I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve seen someone talk about how great it is but I’m not getting paid to tell you it’s good and it is really that good! I admit I’m probably not even using this tool to its fullest yet but it’s been a game changer when it comes to handling all my social media from my blog to posting on Facebook and even my email marketing.
I’m currently using their Solo Marketing plan which is for bloggers and solopreneurs. That’s me. I’m using it for the second time actually. I tried it a couple years ago after seeing so many people rave over it but at the time, I wasn’t able to really dig into it so for the money, it didn’t feel worth it. I came back to it this year and haven’t looked back.
The calendar in CoSchedule is drag-and-drop which makes it super easy to move things around as schedules changed. CoSchedule syncs up to WordPress which saves me time. I also love that I have been able to take those checklists from Trello and put them into task templates in CoSchedule so that every time I enter a new blog post topic into the calendar I simply click on the blog task template and it schedules out all my tasks. The same is true for Facebook and Email Marketing.
Setting all the templates up did take some time at first but now it’s done in just a couple of easy clicks. Also, having those lists already written out in Trello meant I didn’t have to worry about forgetting a step. I could just refer to Trello to make sure I had everything included.
When I started using Trello again, we were scheduling Facebook and Instagram posts but something changed and Instagram no longer worked. After some trial and error, I moved Instagram scheduling to Later which I’ll talk about below.
Cost: $9/Month (Plus Monthly Plan)
I first heard about Later through Abigail and Emily of TCC but didn’t start using it until CoSchedule no longer worked with Instagram. Later is a social media scheduling tool similar to Buffer but I really like the interface of Later. It’s kind of a drag and drop style that was super easy for me to learn. I use it for Instagram but it also can schedule for Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. It’s the newest of the tools I use so I know I’m not using it to it’s fullest yet but what I do like is that I can upload a bunch of photos I know I want to use and then schedule posts and write the captions once I’m ready and it will mark the photos I’ve already used so I don’t duplicate them.
Because I draft all of my social media from blog posts to Facebook and Instagram posts in my master list in google docs, I always have a list of photos I need and can batch tasks like uploading them and writing the posts and scheduling in Later which has been a much more efficient way for me to work.
Cost: $119/Year (Plus Plan)
I have been using Tailwind for exactly one year. While there is still a lot about Tailwind I don’t yet understand, it has definitely helped me stay more consistent and seriously improve my Pinterest game. While the act of scheduling pins in Tailwind is pretty easy, understanding all the features and analytics hasn’t been a straightforward for me. One of the features I love and use a lot is the tool that I was able to install into Google Chrome that enables me to schedule a pin from any site I visit. This is also the one and only tool I currently pay to use for this blog as well.
Cost: $29/month (up to 1000 subscribers)
ConvertKit is the tool I use for my email marketing. There are many options out there and they all seem to have their pros and cons. I have been using ConvertKit for just under a year and so far I have been very happy with it. Like some of the other tools, ConvertKit can connect to WordPress and Shopify (my current e-commerce platform) which has been nice.
While email marketing is still a pretty new area for me, I have been able to easily set up welcome sequences, add forms to my website as well as create a landing page and then organize my lists. Because of the way emails can be organized, I have also been able to use the same account for the blog here without mixing them in with my stationery customers. That’s a money saver for sure but also makes it easy to manage both lists in one place.
Deciding on the right tools to run your business or blog may require some trial and error and the tools that work for me may not be the best ones for you. The key is being open to paid tools when the investment makes sense and knowing when to opt for free options when the investment isn’t worth the return. I know I could run my business without any paid tools but over time I’ve realized making these investments have helped me work smarter to where I’m doing the work it once took me plus one or two assistants. That’s actually a savings so I hope that what I’ve shared today has been helpful.
I’d love to know if you have a favorite tool from my list or something I didn’t mention. Leave a comment below and let me know.