April 23, 2018
First off I have to say it feels like a dream come true to actually be writing this post. Useful tools for my first year of online business – I’m finally launching my own online business!
I have to admit, I’ve been preparing for this day for about 5 years now. When guru’s in the online business space preach progress over perfection they are certainly speaking to me.
Yet I had to do it my way and it’s so exciting to finally feel ready! So today I’m sharing the tools I’ve decided to use as I launch my web design agency!
One of the first things I had to get in order was my inbox. The first iteration of my website was hosted on Bluehost and their options for email management are honestly pretty awful. So, I set my business email to forward to my personal Gmail account just so that I didn’t have to use their email management offerings. However, mixing my personal email with my work email was getting complicated.
Since I’ve been a Gmail user for ages and am really comfortable with the platform, paying monthly for G Suite was an easy decision for me. I love using the docs, sheets and drive applications that come with the email account.
I also needed a video conferencing solution to connect with my clients. At $5 a month, I felt it was a necessary choice for communicating effectively with my customers.
The cloud storage was another must have. Since I mix working from my home office or on my laptop within the neighbourhood, I need to be able to access files from anywhere.
There are so many email marketing options out there but given I’m just starting out MailChimp was the most economical option with their free New Business package.
I did do a fair amount of research on this decision and a lot of businesses in the creative space opt to use ConvertKit. I did try it out but given I’m just launching and need to control my expenses, I couldn’t justify the monthly fee just yet.
MailChimp did seem to be the most recommended for those just starting out so it’s what I went with in the end.
I do have to say, setting up MailChimp was no fun at all. In fact, with everything I’ve had to learn with the launch of my business, this was the most difficult thing to figure out. (Yes, even harder than doing my taxes and building my website!) It took me three miserable days scanning the internet for tutorials and playing around with the tool until I finally got it to do what I wanted.
I’ve heard over and over again how important email marketing is to a business so it was really important to me that my email opt-in process was seamless. Also, being based out of Canada I had to ensure I was complying with the Canadian Anti-Spam legislation.
I’m happy with the outcome for now but may re-evaluate in a few months time once I have a larger subscriber base.
One of the hardest things to do in an online business is to capture the attention of your audience. Did you know there’s a whole science behind writing effective headlines? A huge thanks to my cousin Anna at A Small Business Life for this tip!
I use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer for headings and subheadings on my web designs, email subject lines and of course blog titles! The title of this post as an example scored a 73%. Not only does it look at word composition, it also considers the headline type, the length, the keywords and the overall sentiment to rank your headline out of 100%.
I’d dabbled with Trello on and off before but when I started to build my business I needed a place to organize everything.
I’m the girl that signs up for all the free webinars I can get my hands on, listens intently to business podcasts, skims my favourite blogs regularly and picks up a new book from the library every few weeks. I consume a lot of content to learn as much as I can and I needed a place to store all the knowledge bombs I take in daily. Trello became my go-to place and I love it!
Here’s a sneak peek at my dashboard and some of the boards I’ve created. First off, as a visual designer, I love the ability to use photography to make it visually appealing.
Here’s an example of what’s on each board. I love that I can store screen clippings and other imagery. The cards are all drag and drop so you can re-organize as you wish and the archive feature lets you store something away once it’s done.
This was a really important one for me & heads up I do get a free month of service if you click on this link and sign up (plus 20% off your first month with the code vbcreative)! Dubsado is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that I use for all my design projects. Before launching my studio, I knew this would be something I’d have to invest in right from the start. I really wanted to offer a seamless client experience and a CRM system is imperative. Here’s why I opted for this solution:
I could probably write an entire post on why I choose to work with Showit as a web designer but for now, I’ll give you the Coles Notes version.
When I started pursuing this career, I was torn behind offering web design and web development services. I loved everything about design but didn’t love that I couldn’t physically create my designs without bringing on someone to code them for me. So, I started to learn to code and am very grateful I did. However, in the world of tech, there is so much to learn and I felt my coding skills weren’t on par with the designs I wanted to create.
Thus began my search for a no-coding-required solution. I looked at Wix, Squarespace and Showit before deciding Showit was the best fit for my business. It certainly is a more niche choice, but it gave me the design freedom I was looking for and allows me to offer my clients gorgeous websites. A few other benefits:
The Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps package is the most expensive item in my business right now but I use it every day and couldn’t run a design firm without it.
I know I’m completely underutilizing this tool at the moment. There are so many other apps I could integrate into my business. I’ll get there one of these days!
Canva was my go-to design tool prior to investing in Adobe and I still use it today. It’s such a useful tool for quick graphics. Their social media templates are already customized for individual platforms. It’s also the tool I teach my clients to use for implementing social media templates.
I haven’t made much progress with my social media marketing yet, but I have decided Instagram will be my platform of choice and Later will be my management tool for now. Pinterest will be a focus as well but it’s not a true social media platform, rather a search engine so posting strategy is a little different. I may switch to something which will manage both down the road.
I’ve tested out a few useful tools although I didn’t spend a lot of time on this. When starting a business there are so many decisions to make that sometimes you just have to pick and move on. That’s precisely what I’m doing here but did have a few reasons backing my choice:
If you’re thinking of giving it a try, this referral link will get you 10 extra free posts!
There you have it! The list of useful tools I’ve hand-picked that will help me through this first year of business. Let me know in the comments, what tools are you using in your business that you can’t live without?
Looking for more recommended resources? I’ve compiled a few of my favourite things over here.
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