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Our first year as business owners, we tried to do everything ourselves in the name of “saving money.”
We learned the hard way that that is not the best way to grow a business!
All of the time and effort we spent doing things ourselves the hard way (or only using free tools) could’ve been spent on way more important things – like serving our clients and focusing on long-term growth.
Believe us when we say you do NOT need to follow in our footsteps here. One of the best things we’ve done to level up our business and give us WAY more of our life back was put smart systems in place, bring in an awesome assistant, and use the tools we’re going to share with you today.
[We’re launching a group training program this winter to dive DEEP into these strategies! To find out when it launches and learn more ways you can level up your business this off-season, click here to get on the waitlist for our upcoming Signature Course!]
Ahhh productivity – that thing we always aim for and somehow get off track into a stream of insta posts.
Well, no longer! Here are our favorite tools that help us stay on track + productive:
Toggl is a free time-tracking tool that completely blew our minds when we started using it. It’s just so easy to setup and gives so much clarity into how we’re actually spending our time.
Even before we had a team beyond Pete + I, Toggl was a must-have tool for our business.
You can track by client or project to help you understand how much time you’re actually spending on each client, or you can even track your own business tasks like blogging, emailing, etc! It was quite eye-opening once I realized just how much time I was spending in my inbox!
If you use Toggl, we definitely recommend downloading the desktop app! It makes time-tracking a breeze and even reminds you to log your time!
This magical little tool could fit into a ton of categories – productivity, workflow, email marketing, systems, automations. You name it, and Zapier will probably make your life easier in that area.
Honestly, this is my favorite tool, and I gladly pay $20/mo for it.
You can give it a try for free, but for the amount of time this tool saves us (and how much easier it makes OUR lives and our clients’ lives) – it’s kind of a no brainer.
Essentially, Zapier connects your other apps and programs automatically. Here are just a few ways we use Zapier:
Speaking of Calendly, this is our go-to tool for scheduling meetings.
Instead of spending all of our time going back and forth on emails trying to coordinate the best times to chat, we just send the relevant Calendly link.
There is a free version if you only need one Event type, but we pay $10/mo to have different events. For us, this is important because there are certain Events like Discovery Calls that we only schedule on certain days, and other Events that are paid trainings.
Yep – you can integrate Stripe with Calendly to easily accept payments for meetings.
You can also integrate your Calendly with all of your calendars, set the days and times you want to accept meetings, and decide how far out you want to allow people to book.
We used to spend 10+ hours a month keeping track of our books – and I’m pretty sure I still did them wrong.
And even though we both took accounting classes in college, this just isn’t something we enjoy spending our time on. We’d SO much rather pay an expert to do our books perfectly while we get to focus on serving our clients well!
As soon as we were able, we started outsourcing our bookkeeping to Bench. Oh my WORD was this the best investment.
Not only is their team incredibly helpful in answering questions, but we can easily access their platform online to know exactly where we stand each month. They’ll also create your End of Year statements to provide to your Accountant. (aka they will save you a bagillion hours during tax season!)
We’ve tried quite a few email marketing systems (we’ll mention some more options below!) but Drip is hands-down our favorite.
Most of the time, our clients started out on Mailchimp and they’ve outgrown its capacity. Drip is one of the easiest ESP’s (email service provider) to use and we think their tiered-pricing is pretty affordable compared to the other options out there.
We use Drip to send all of our one-off email newsletters, to build our funnels and automated workflows, to deliver opt ins, segments, and so so much more.
[If you’re interested in learning more about workflows + funnels, we definitely recommend joining our “I do” Funnels mini course! We do a deep dive into getting these bad boys set up for your business!]
Another go-to ESP for many creatives is ConvertKit. Originally built for bloggers, this tool makes sending emails and sequences easy.
The user-interface is incredibly easy to use and can help you send one-time emails (Broadcasts), set up email campaigns (Sequences), create Workflows and Rules (Automations) and even embed forms onto your sites and landing pages!
ConvertKit is comparable in pricing to Drip and integrates super well with Zapier!
We have to mention ActiveCampaign here because it’s INCREDIBLY powerful.
It’s the first ESP we fell in love with, but be warned: it can be a little daunting to use. One thing we love that sets ActiveCampaign apart is it’s custom pipeline feature. We loved building pipelines for our clients and automating their processes based on where their leads or clients were in the funnel.
That being said, we found it to be way more advanced and thus way harder to teach our clients. Once we made the switch to Honeybook and were able to manage pipelines within the CRM, we also made the switch to Drip.
If your current project management process looks like your gmail inbox, then we have GOOD news for you! The following apps and tools are about to make your life a whoooole lot easier.
Say goodbye to overwhelm, and hello to organized!
Working with so many wedding professionals and creative entrepreneurs meant that HoneyBook was a no-brainer for our business.
HoneyBook manages everything from our inquiry and client pipeline to our contracts, payment processing, task lists, brochures, and more!
You can add team members and clients to each project and create one workspace where all of your files, documents, and communication take place (aka nothing getting lost in translation!)
Think AIM but for work 🙂
Slack is not just a communications tool though – it keeps all of your communication organized and accessible!
Instead of emailing back and forth with clients (or worst – texting!), you can streamline communication, keep it more casual, and easily respond to urgent questions. It helps communication feel more like a conversation, and best of all – it allows you to search for words or document.
Speaking of documents, you can share files super easily. You can also integrate Slack with Asana (see below!) to create tasks based on to do’s in a conversation.
One of our favorite features of Slack are their Channels. You can think of Channels like topics of conversation or even projects. Each one of our clients has their own channel, so that we can all chat together (their team + ours) on their project. You can also chat 1:1 with other members of your workspace, but we’ve found Channels to be super helpful in collaborating between a few members!
For all of my fellow list-lovers, you are going to LOVE Asana! Similarly to Slack, you can organize your workspace based on Projects. Each of our clients has their own Asana Project, and we have a bunch of projects for our own business as well.
Within a project, you can then break down the tasks into main + sub tasks, assign tasks, attach files, tag users in comments, and set deadlines.
This makes staying on top of every little step of your project WAY easier!
This may seem a little obvious, but we’re always surprised by how many of our Coaching Clients are still using gmail accounts rather than a professional business email.
At first, you may be able to “hack” a business email at your domain by forwarding one to a personal gmail, but this can get tricky if you need to share documents or access files from clients.
For just $5/user/month, we HIGHLY recommend setting up a Google Suite account for your business! This will allow every person on your team to have their own gmail at your custom domain, share files within Google and have access to every Google program (Sheets, Docs, etc!)
This is one of the first things we upgraded to in our business, and we wish we had done it sooner!
Wave is a FREE invoicing tool that makes getting paid for your work a breeze.
While we use HoneyBook for 90% of our invoicing, we use Wave when we need to send recurring invoices. Before HoneyBook though, we used Wave for all of our invoicing.
We love that you can send as a PDF (if you want to pay by check, you can turn online payments off!) and that you can choose to accept either Credit Card payments, bank payments, or both.
The processing fees are straightforward and standard in terms of pricing, and the app itself is free! They also have a great bookkeeping tool if you do your own books (which we don’t – see Bench above!)
A good website can make a HUGE difference in how your business grows. We’ve been fans of WordPress since we started (see below!), but it wasn’t until early 2018 that we switched over to Showit.
Showit makes building (or customizing) beautiful websites a drag-and-drop realty – while STILL giving you the power of a WordPress blog.
They have a ton of great templates on their website (both free + paid versions!) and the BEST customer support you could ask for if you get stuck along the way.
The tool itself feels more like an Adobe program than a website building tool, and it makes it easy to design a site that looks good on both desktop AND mobile!
WordPress is THE best place to have your website + blog. Period.
With Showit’s website designer and templates, you can now have a WordPress website with the ease of using a platform like Squarespace or Wix (but way more powerful).
WordPress will give you access to a TON of plugins (which will make your life way easier), and the blogging is the best platform out there.
If you’re looking to create a website on more of a budget, you can buy a great responsive theme from Themeforest (about $50 for a good one) to use on WordPress – making your website SUPER budget-friendly. Our favorite theme (and our go-to before we switched to Showit!) is X Theme.
Now that you have a sweet WordPress site, let’s talk about one of the FIRST plugins you need to add to your website.
Yoast SEO is THE plugin for making sure your website is SEO-friendly – aka making sure it shows up where you want it to on search engines!
They have a great demo that will walk you through all of the steps you need to take to get your site as optimized as possible. The plugin will also help you manage the top SEO factors as you draft new pages and blog posts!
This is for ANYONE with ANY website (aka you!). To help you learn more about your website performance, visitors, search terms, referral links, and more, you’ll want to have Google Analytics setup.
A Google Analytics account is free – just sign in with a Google account (see: Google Suite above!) and follow the steps to verify your website.
You can then start tracking your data and gaining a better understanding about where your traffic is coming from, which pages or posts are performing best, and which search terms you’re ranking for.
If you’re a WordPress user, there are a ton of free plugins you can use to see a quick Dashboard of your Google Analytics data right in your WordPress Dashboard!
Last, but certainly not least – let’s talk about our favorite thing: Facebook + Instagram ads.
If you didn’t already know, this is totally our jam. We help wedding professionals and creative entrepreneurs grow their businesses with smart marketing strategies – and usually, those strategies involve a good bit of Facebook ads 🙂
Below are some of our favorite and go-to tools if you’re running ads for your business!
Want to take a deep dive into getting started with Facebook? Check out our Facebook basics mini course!
This is a MUST if you’re working with anyone on your ads or Facebook page! It’s the first step we have all of our new clients take whenever we start coaching or working together.
Facebook’s Business Manager is free, and it will help you keep all of your pages and ad accounts in order. To get started, all you have to do is to go to business.facebook.com and follow the setup instructions!
Once you setup your new Business Manager, the next step is adding your Pixel to your website!
Your pixel is FREE and it’s your new BFF. We have a mini course on how to install your Facebook Pixel for just $17! Learn more here!
Canva is a great tool to use for both creating ads but also for creating social images and downloadables too.
Pro tip: don’t use text-heavy images in your ads! Facebook used to have a hard rule that your ad image wouldn’t get approved if more than 20% was covered with text.
Now, you can still get it approved, but it won’t perform as well. We recommend keeping the text light when creating ad images – and be sure to test both images with and without text overlayed!
We personally love using Canva to create our opt ins and ebooks. We pay for the Canva for Work version, but you can use Canva for free to create graphics of MANY kinds. They also have a TON of templates to choose from!
Check out our Toolkit for Success for a quick cheat sheet of our favorite tools to use when running Facebook + Instagram Ads (Canva being one of them!).
One of the biggest mistakes we see our clients make when it comes to running ads is sending people right to your website.
This is a big No-No!
Anytime you run an ad campaign, you want to send visitors to a relevant and targeted landing page. We use LeadPages to create all of ours – both for our own business and our clients!
LeadPages is a drag-and-drop website builder made specifically to build landing pages. You can even create pop up boxes with it!
Some of our favorite things about LeadPages is the analytics and data you get from your landing pages, the ability to split test (HUGELY important!), and the vast amount of free templates to start with. It also integrates really well with other apps like Drip and Zapier.
Want to learn how to create landing pages that convert? Click here to get on the waitlist for our upcoming LIVE Signature Course! We’ll be covering everything you need to know about using landing pages to get more inquiries!
This is especially for YOU, creative friends! Odds are, you may already been using Adobe products. If not, the Adobe Creative Cloud gives you access to ALL of the different Adobe programs – and you can share between computers and devices!
We use Premier, Photoshop, and Lightroom, as well as have an Adobe Stock subscription. One of the things we LOVE about Adobe’s Creative Cloud is that we can use apps like Lightroom right from our phones – and everything will sync on the cloud. This makes editing Instagram photos WAY easier and less time intensive!
You can click here to learn more about the full Adobe suite and see which of their programs would be the best fit for your business!
Oh hello again, Zapier! Yes, we totally already shared our favorite tool in the Productivity section above, but we HAD to include it here in case someone just skipped right to our favorite Facebook + Instagram Ads Tools!
For this use, you’ll need the paid version of Zapier ($20/mo – and worth EVERY penny).
If you are running any ads online, odds are you’ll find a great use for Zapier. If you are running Lead Generation ads specifically, this app is a MUST.
Crazy enough, Facebook does NOT automatically send you the leads you get from Facebook Lead Ads. That’s right – that means that if you are trying to generate leads on Facebook or Instagram, those leads will be saved in your form on Facebook and will then need to be manually downloaded…
Which means if you’re trying to get new inquiries for your business, this isn’t going to help you respond very quickly (or in real time if you have an email sequence in place!)
Enter your new bff: Zapier.
By using this app, you can set your awesome Lead Generation campaign form as the Trigger option, so whenever a new lead comes in, you automatically receive the info. You can then have the info sent to a CRM, your email, or even send you a text to do a happy dance 🙂 You can even send confirmation and follow up emails to your lead automatically!
Told ya this one was a MUST!
One of the biggest things we help our clients out with before running ANY campaigns is creating a workflow of their business processes.
I’m a very visual thinker, so Draw.io is a tool that helps me teach our clients without confusing the heck out of them!
This is especially important when you get into more advanced Facebook advertising strategies and you want to make sure that you’re campaigns and strategies are all working together.
Essentially, you can visually workflow out what happens from a lead filling out an inquiry all the way to showing up at the wedding (for our wedding pros out there!) to even delivering galleries or videos and asking for testimonials afterwards.
Here’s an example of a basic workflow using Draw.io:
[Pro Tip: This is a BIG mistake we see creative’s making all of the time – not taking the time to build smart workflows. We’re so passionate about this step, that we have a WHOLE week dedicated to getting systems and funnels in place for your business in our upcoming LIVE training course! You can click here to get on the waitlist + learn more when we launch!]
This is a new tool for us that we’re REALLY excited about!
We’ve been wanting to test out quizzes for a while now, but the tech of it always scared us. When we found Interact, we knew it was the PERFECT solution.
Quizzes are a phenomenal tool to generate leads both on your website AND as Facebook Ad Campaigns. They’re fun and engaging, and they give you a unique opportunity to build your email list while delivering targeted and relevant information or resources to your list!
Phew! That was quite the list 🙂
Believe it or not – we’re always adding new tools to our business. We love finding ways to work smarter and give our clients an even better experience.Be sure to bookmark this page or check back soon as we continue to keep this post updated! If there’s a tool you LOVE that we’re missing, we’d love to hear about it! Drop us a comment below and share some of your go-to business or marketing tools.
If you want to become a PRO at these tools – then be sure to check out our Signature Course. It’s a 7-module program and a FULL week is dedicated to workflows, systems, and implementing some of the tools above!