Business Tools

Recommendations for tools to run your business smarter and more efficiently, by Erin at Evergreen Design Studio. Do it smarter, not harder!

Before you start signing up for services, map out your workflow and make sure you have a good idea of the tools you’ll need to support your optimal workflow. Avoid shiny object syndrome. The tools below are grouped by function (how I use them in my business). I am popping in an affiliate link where I can, so if you sign up for a service using my link below I will get some kind of reward (maybe enough to buy me a coffee or two!), but these tools I recommend based on my workflow whether I get rewarded for recommending them or not. I’ll keep this list updated.

 

Project Management

Clickup. Man oh man is this a powerful tool. Completely customizable project management and the only negative thing I have to say is that it might be too powerful and overwhelming for some. It’s really important to have a good workflow mapped out before setting up ClickUp, so you don’t get distracted by tools within ClickUp that you don’t actually need. AskYvi is my favorite YouTube chica covering ClickUp and she has some amazing advice on how to use it.

Need something simpler? Trello. I actually started off with Trello, which is great for simple project management, but I quickly outgrew Trello and its simple boards since I do websites, SEO, logos, publications, content management, and have one off projects as well as retainer clients. Each one of those requires a different system.

Proposals, Contracts, Invoicing, Lead Management

Dubsado. Use Dubsado to sign contracts, collect payments, send custom forms, and get your time back with powerful workflows — all in one place. Great tool for automating the whole process. If you went through the process with me, you might recognize the “here is your porposal, contract, invoice” workflow I used to get you on board. This was set up once, tweaked occasionally, and runs itself with a few clicks of a button. Ideally this works best when the packages or services you are selling are limited and not custom. I still fall into the trap of creating custom proposals for people, but really this isn’t the best use of my time, or yours…so my best advice is set up Dubsado and stick to 3 packages per service and have those packages set up as templates in Dubsado so you can automate as much as possible.

I jumped on the Dubsado wagon when they were just starting out and really bought in to the company culture and mission. I was using 17hats, which was missing the boat and as a designer I was constantly cringing at the ugly interface which isn’t fun when you have to use something every day. Might as well have something that is pretty AND functional!

Team Communications

Slack. Slack is a new way for your entire company to communicate. It replaces email with something faster, better organized and more secure. Instead of one-off email chains, all your communication is organized into channels that are easy to create, join and search. I manage my whole team and all my freelancers on Slack. I love keeping those communications separate from my email, which is overloaded.

Accounting

Quickbooks. I used to hate Quickbooks! But as I grew and needed an accountant I quickly learned that it is industry standard and I was making everyone’s life easier by just swallowing my hatred and using it. I even paid for a few training sessions from different accountants to learn how to do my own books. Now my current accountant keeps trying to hire me to work for her, hahaha. I like keeping my own books in Quickbooks because I can log on anytime and have a grasp of my own financials. I also haven’t ever found a reliable bookkeeper, so gave up after a few tries.

But back to using it and setting it up – Quickbooks is customizable and that isn’t very apparent unless you are an accountant or bookkeeper. The average person opening up the app and clicking on the features or help button are lead to think there is one way to do it. So again, my best advice is map out your procedure, align that with your accountant’s procedure, and then set up your Quickbooks. And for god’s sake create an SOP because if you are anything like me you will forget how to use it every single time. (My accountant still wants to hire me knowing that, hahaha)

Email

Google Workspace. You might know it as gmail. Gmail is for personal and is for example yourname @ gmail dot com (written weird so your browser doesn’t create a link there.) With Google Workspace, you get the gmail app to use with your business email – so for example erin@evergreendesignstudio.com. It links up to all the other Google services like Google Calendar, Google Meet, Google Drive, etc.

I can’t imagine using any other email program.

Professional Email Signature

Wisestamp. WiseStamp provides a seamless solution for managing your email signatures across your organization, ensuring every email strengthens your brand and maximizes your marketing potential. Way better than attaching an unprofessional-looking image to your emails as a signature! And way better than a signature that isn’t formatted correctly. Makes you sig look professional and therefore YOU look professional. 

Document Management and File Sharing

Google Drive (part of Google Workspace).

Video Recording and Sharing Deliverables

Loom. I love this app. It lets me record my screen while I speak, so I can better share my thoughts and decisions made on designs with my clients. It’s also a great tool for recording how-to videos for my clients!

Calendar

Google Calendar (part of Google Workspace). This seamlessly links up to ClickUp, my email, Dubsado, Fluent Bookings, Google Meet…all the things!

Video Meetings

Google Meet (part of Google Workspace). Since I’m already in the Google ecosystem, I don’t need to sign up for another service like Zoom. Google Meet is easy to use and has all the same features. It also links up a Google Notes doc for the meeting with Google Drive, so it really makes meetings easier.

Appointment Scheduling and Calendar Bookings

I’m using 2 tools here depending on the type of appointment:

1. Fluent Bookings for my live in-person consulting and training sessions. These are prepaid sessions and I think the user interface and flow is fantastic here for this type of appointment. People can choose a day and time, pay, and the appointment is added to my calendar and theirs – no additional steps needed from me or them. Seamless, minimal effort, and results in my clients getting the service a lot faster than if I had to manaully manage an appointment and all the followups.

2. Dubsado Scheduling for my discovery calls, and for strategy calls for retainer clients. There is no payment collected here and this links up nicely with my Dubsado setup to help manage the client within their system. To be honest, I’m liking Fluent Bookings a lot more these days, so will most likely be converting all calendar appointments there as soon as I have a day to convert everything.

Both systems are integrated with Google Calendar. Everything is linked back to Google Calendar which links with ClickUp (project management app), so I can track all meetings, appointments, and project milestones and tasks in one place. Within Google Calendar, every type of event is on its own calendar so I can turn them on or off one by one depending on the view I need to see (e.g., if I’m in ClickUp working on Client BossBabe’s project and need to only see her project milestones, then I can isolate that calendar view by turning off all other calendars in that particular BossBabe view).

CRM (Customer Relationship Manager)

I use Dubsado for this, but have been pretty lazy on setting up automations. With minimal effort, I’m able to track: new leads, those who ordered a proposal, those who have a proposal and have not yet accepted, current projects, past projects, projects I need to collect a review on.

Networking Relationship Management

I made this up. I track this in ClickUp. It’s basically my business contact list, but with more robust information in it like where I met the contact, have they referred anyone to me, what type of work they do, whether they are on my freelance roster and if so for what, etc.

Email Newsletters

Clickfunnels. The absolute best in the business for creating drip campaigns and funnels.

Second best: Mailchimp. I use this for Evergreen. MailerLite. I use this for some clients. (The difference is minimal, mostly related ot user interface.)

Funnels

Clickfunnels. The absolute best in the business for creating drip campaigns and funnels. Get a free trial here. (Take a free workshop on sales funnels to learn more)

Password Management

1Password

Website Hosting

Evergreen Design Studio of course! We don’t have our own servers. We outsource this to the best. That is either Siteground or Rocket dot net depending on our client’s specific busienss and website requirements. Through partnering with these other businesses who specialize in hosting, Evergreen can offer good rates and ensure the tech is taken care of properly by a whole team of experts. You can sign up directly with them and add me as a user, or leave it all to me and I will set it up for you.

Printing

Myself! My first graphic design job was at a promotional advertising products company followed by a print shop. I didn’t plan it that way, but the education I got from working so closely with the production side of design helped my career in so many ways I can’t even count. In print, that design is still mostly a concept until it comes off the screen and on to its printed surface.

I partner with trade printers and offer competitive pricing. This service comes with a bit of a wait (or printer rush fees are sometimes available, but not always).

For overnight or even same day prints, I recommend Fedex Kinko’s or Office Depot. Not the best quality, but better than nothing. And shoot, I’ve found myself using them a few times when I waited until the last minute to get something printed.

Overwhelmed? Book a consultation with me and I’ll walk you through my setup and discuss possibilities for your own.