Process improvement and creating systems in our business is boring work but there are so many tools out there that allow you to put structures and systems in place in your business to help it run smoothly When you do the work to look at your systems and processes, and where you can improve in your business, you will be surprised at how much more efficient your business runs. When you have the right tools and the right people and processes and systems in place it allows your business to function smoothly.
4 Business Tools Every Business Owner Needs (+ One Extra!)
Mind Map Journal for Business
Welcome to Strategy for Creatives: Business Minus the Bullshit. Whether you're new in business or find yourself in a season of change, get ready to build a strategy, create an action plan and crush those goals. I'm Sasha, host a strategy for creatives. And I help female led businesses grow their brands in authentic, measurable and meaningful ways, without the stress. There's no sugar coated here, I'm serving up real tips and actionable steps you can take to help get you organized, get off the path to burnout and grow your brand like a boss. So go ahead, pull up a chair, grab a notepad, and let's talk business. Welcome to another episode of Strategy for Creatives: Business Minus the Bullshit. I, of course, am your host Sasha and today we are continuing our conversation on ways that we can improve our processes and our systems in our business. Earlier this month, I talked about actually looking at those business systems that we have looking at the processes that we have in place, and figuring out best ways to streamline and automate those processes. Last week, I talked about whether or not it's time to outsource and how to figure out what to outsource, you know what questions to ask when you're thinking about outsourcing and how to find the right people. And so today, I just wanted to talk about tools that can help your business processes and help you improve in your business, and really helped streamline and automate things. And some of these are going to be low tech tools. It's not really hard for most people to do this, but... and some of them are going to be paid things. I'm not an affiliate for any of these things. But I wanted to share with you guys the tools that I find best that helped me really streamline and make my business work more efficiently for me. I've talked to you guys before about all of the various things that I do day to day, I not only have a nine to five, I have my own business, By Sasha, I work with clients in my own business, but I also help other businesses and theirs, and that's on top of being a mom and being a wife and just being a woman and doing the things that I want to do that bring me joy. And so it's important for me to have tools and resources that allow me to free up my time, that gives me peace of mind, that allow my business to run more smoothly, and that just helped things function more efficiently for my business and for my life. And so I'm just going to talk about a couple of these, I will have links to all of these in the show notes, if you're interested. Some of them, some of the links do allow affiliate signups if you want to. But I would never recommend anything that I don't personally use and love. So all of these are little things that I use in my business that just helped me and help my business and me function better and run more smoothly. So the first thing that I use in my business is called a CRM, a client relationship manager. The one that I use is Dubsado. There are other ones out there like HoneyBook. And I think Bonzi is another, 17 hats. There are a couple of other CRM systems out there that allow you to manage your clients. But the one that I use, of course, is Dubsado. And it's an all in one business management tool. And some of you are probably asking, well, what's a CRM. A client relationship manager helps you essentially manage your client relationships. It manages that process from when clients book with you. And when they onboard to when they off board with you. In Dubsado, you can do everything from send emails internally, clients can book discovery calls with you or other types of meetings with you within the system, you can do all of your contracts and invoicing through them. And then you can do... they have what's called client portals, where you can share any sort of documents, get approvals from your clients, if you need those things. And it's just an all in one place for your clients to access and have different touch points with your business. It allows you to keep it all in one place. When you are thinking about whether or not you need a Client Relation Manager tool, it really comes down to whether or not you feel organized and how you're relating to your clients how you're communicating with your clients. A lot of people before getting a CRM will simply just email clients back and fourth, there'll be attachments back and forth if they're supposed to be reviewing things. They don't know where projects are at any given point. What a CRM allows you to do is essentially project manage your way with clients. It's a one stop shop, everything's included in there. It allows you to see what projects you have where they are, and kind of keep your clients moving all in one place. So if you're looking for a CRM, I definitely recommend Dubsado, I've been using them for years way back even when I had my stationery business, I was still using them. So it's definitely something that I recommend. Another tool it's not quite a CRM tool, but it helps you manage things internally is monday.com. It helps organize and collaborate within your team. Other systems like monday.com are Trello, Asana, ClickUp these These all very similar systems. I actually use Trello and Asana for other parts of my business as well. But I also like monday.com. And what allows you to do is assign tasks to other people that you're working with, and helps you keep up the internal process for wherever the work for your clients is. So for example, whereas something like Dubsado is outward facing your clients interact with it as far as invoicing, contracts, to review documents that they need to see, a system like monday.com or Trello, or Asana allows for that internal back and forth communication while you're working on projects. For example, one of my graphic design clients uses monday.com, to let her copywriter know when something needs to be written or to let her junior designer know that somebody is now ready for their website to be designed. So it's a great way to do some of that internal tracking in your business that helps you keep track of where your projects are, without your clients seeing that piece of the business. Something else that I use is Wave Apps.com. It is a financial accounting software, it's designed for entrepreneurs. What I love most about it is that it's free for the basic service, which has so many tools in it. But I use wave for not only myself but one of my other clients and it makes your bookkeeping so easy. If you are not a financial person, I definitely recommend Wave to you. So one of the things that Wave can help you do in as far as automation and improving systems, is it can actually import your financial transactions. So if you connect it to your bank, or business credit card, or anything like that, it can import all of your transactions for you. And all you have to do is go back in and reconcile those transactions. You can put who the vendors are, you can put what kind of expense it is whether it's education expense, or software hardware expense, you can categorize that. Over time, it'll start to recognize that you categorize the same transactions for like the same vendors to the same category. And so it'll start to help you do that automatically. But what I like most about wave is that come tax time, it's really easy to pull a Profit and Loss report that's detailed and outlines all of your expenses as far as categories that you can send to your tax person. And so literally, at the end of the year, I run this report, give it to my tax person, and I don't have to do anything else, it's super easy to just keep up with bookkeeping, like that. What I also like it is that it does automate some of that reporting. So it's easy at any given time to look at your profit and loss to look at what vendors you're paying the most money to. A lot of us have subscriptions to things that we don't realize we're paying a lot of money for. And you can go into something like Wave, look at who your expenses are, what are those vendors that you're paying the most money and maybe you don't need that expense, maybe you can get rid of that automated tool that you're paying for that you're not using, because you forgot about. So that's one thing I also love about Wave. I also use Wave to invoice reoccurring clients. That's another way to streamline a process, right? Sometimes when we have clients who are paying a reoccurring payment for a service, we might not have the time where we might forget to send them their invoice with something like Wave, I only have to set it up once. So I use it for my strategy clients because I can set up one invoice, I can set it so that it kicks off, it sends the client the invoice at the same time every month. And then clients can also auto pay so they can check a box to auto pay. It's automated on their end and it's automated on my end. And it just makes that financial transactions so much easier, and so much more streamlined. Another tool that I use for email marketing is Flodesk. So Flodesk is relatively new to the email marketing game. They just came out a better a couple of months ago. But I personally like Flodesk because it's easy to use. And so I talked a little bit I think about Flodesk on a previous episode. If you're looking for a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to email marketing Flodesk probably isn't for you. If you are really looking to streamline and automate your email marketing services, I will suggest something like Constant Contact or Active Campaign. I've used Active Campaign in the past and they are really good about letting you automate a lot of things when it comes to email marketing, you can automate based on tags if somebody clicks on a certain link, it's just a lot easier in that type of system. Now with Flodesk, you still can do some automations and your email marketing and I do this for a lot of my marketing as well. For example, if you sign up for my Organized Business Checklist, what happens is you get put into a welcome sequence and I have an automated welcome sequence email that goes out, it's three or four emails that you get over a certain number of day,s that just welcome you into what By Sasha is about and I suggest you automate those types of emails. Having things welcome sequences allow people to get familiar with your business and allow people to get used to seeing your emails in their inbox. And that's what you want. Sales takes about seven to eight touch points before somebody is willing to make a purchase from you. So the more often they see you in their inbox, the more often that they see your name coming up, they're more likely to make a purchase from you. I talked all about this and Beyond Social Media email marketing, episode so go back and listen to that one for a lot more details on that. But you can set up the sequences that are streamlined and automated, that allow you to not have to worry about where people are, if they're getting that welcome. If they're getting that nurture sequence. You can set it up so that when someone makes a purchase for you, that they automatically get a thank you from you. That they automatically know you know what it is about your business that you want them to know. So I highly suggest using something like Flodesk as well. Another tool that I use to help on my website to really help automate things is a tool called Zapier, and I'm sure you've heard of it before. But essentially what Zapier does, is allows different, different tools like Flodesk, for example, talk to other tools. So when I have my quiz that I have on my website, to figure out what your entrepreneur archetype is, you can enter your email and it'll take you to essentially a thank you page that enters you into my welcome sequence. But there's nothing that connects my email marketing Flodesk directly to that tool, the quiz tool, there's nothing that directly connects Flodesk to it. What Zapier does is take people's who enter their email desk and connects it to Flodesk so I don't have to take that extra step. Because the manual process of that would be when someone completes a quiz, I would have to download a spreadsheet, look at the emails who signed up, enter them into my welcome sequence in Flodesk and do it that way. So it streamlines that automation process. And it is available for a lot of different tools, you can connect a lot of different systems to each other through Zapier, it is free for a certain number of zaps. But I highly, highly recommend it if some of your systems don't easily talk to each other. It just makes things a lot easier. When you think about calendar management, and how your clients can reach you or contact you or how do they schedule bookings with you, or different service with you, I highly recommend something like Calendly. So Calendly is the same as any other sort of calendar booking system. It can connect to your Google Calendar or your Outlook calendar. But what it allows you to do is essentially set up different types of appointments, that you can set your availability, the times that you are available for scheduling, and they all have different links. And you can use that so people can book appointments with you. And again, there's workflows within that, that allow you to streamline that process as well. So for example, if you were to book a discovery call with me, it's going to take you to my Calendly calendar, you can schedule what time works best for you. And then it's going to send you an automated email that says thank you so much for booking with me, make sure you fill out this link that lets me know a little bit more about you, which is actually connected to a Dubsado form because dubsado does a lot. And so you can see when a client books like discovery call with me, I'm not involved in that process at all. It's actually all the way automated, I don't actually have to touch anything until I meet with the client. And so it just streamlines that process. So I don't have to worry about missing a client inquiry. I don't have to worry about you know, sending someone a link to schedule something, the link is available on my website, it just makes it so much easier to have that whole process automated. Something else that I use that is more on the low tech side is actually my Mind Map Journal for Business. And so this is what I use to help me streamline and organize my actual goals every year. So if you go to the website, you'll see that the Mind Map Journal is out there. And I talked a little bit about goal setting in a previous episode. But I prefer doing my mind map method where I set goals based on different categories for my business every month. And then I can go back and look at what my goals are, if I've hit them, what changes I need to make to my goals and whether or not those goals are working for me. This is a very low tech solution. There are certainly other more high tech, you know, automated processes out there. But I find for me, writing down what my goals are and looking at them and having them available for me, make it a lot easier for me to decide, you know, what is important and whether or not I'm hitting goals. So that's another tool that I use. I talked a lot about my email marketing and in especially in the previous episode, I talked about how I manage my emails and my blog post. I do all of that on a simple Google Sheet. It's not automated, but it's structured in such a way where I look at my email and blog posts and podcast episode on a weekly basis, and I can plan out pretty much by day, what the topic is going to be. So if you're on my email list, you know that you get emails every Tuesday and Thursday. And so I have on this spreadsheet every email topic for Tuesdays and Thursdays what it's going to be. I have whatever the podcast episode for that week is outlined on the Tuesday that it comes out. I have on Thursdays that the blog post is posted. So I know I can look at this spreadsheet and be able to tell exactly whatever my email and marketing is, is scheduled, I know what's going out. Again, it's a low tech solution. But it's something that's organized and not automated, but it's streamlined in my business, that allows it to run smoother and more effectively and more efficiently. I'm not scrambling, figuring out what my next blog post needs to be about, or remembering what episode I need to do. It's just more organized that way. I also briefly mentioned Trello. I use Trello a lot in my business to structure my social media. So I briefly mentioned in a previous episode that I do have someone who creates the graphics for my social media, but I am the one who actually post it. I do all the captions, I reply to anybody who DMs me, and then I reply to any comments. So while my social media management isn't outsourced or automated, by any means, I don't use a posting software like Later or Buffer or anything like that I do use Trello to organize what my posts for the week are going to be. So I know what suppose and my graphic or my social media person, and I both have access to this Trello so we can see what's coming up. She knows what podcast episodes are coming up, she knows what the topic of the month is. She knows what the topic of the week is. So we can structure posts accordingly. So there are so many tools out there that allow you to really put structures and systems in place in your business to help it run smoothly. So your action plan for today is really to take a look, I want you to go back and listen to this month's episode. Listen to the episode about creating business systems, do the work to create business systems. Listen to last week's episode about outsourcing and think about where you can outsource in your business. And do all of that put it together with what we've talked about today, some of my favorite tools, and figure out if you have the best tools for your business. Are there tools out there that can help you, whether low tech or high tech solutions, that can help you better streamline and organize your business? Process Improvement and creating systems in our business is boring work. I'm not going to pretend that it's fun work. I like it because it's organization is something that really like makes me function better. But I know that for a lot of creatives, all of that work is not fun. It's not exciting. But when you do all of this work that we talked about this month, when you really look at your systems and your organization, and your processes and how things function and where you can improve in that in your business, you will be surprised at how much more efficient your business runs, how much more you can get done in your business, when you have the right tools and the right people and processes and systems in place that allow your business to function smoothly. I know that when I go on vacation, everything in my business will keep running. For example, last year, my husband and I took a 10 day trip to Colombia and Panama. We were out of the country. I had limited access to emails and I had zero access to anything that was on my laptop, any of my computer were clients where I could reach clients or talk to clients directly. But I knew that if a client booked an inquiry with me that my calendar showed the days that I was available when I came back and they were still able to book. They were still getting their questionnaire about, you know, the questions I needed to know with a discovery call. They were getting all of that and I had to do nothing. I knew that my graphic design for my social media was still being done, because my social media person could still go into Trello and put all of the graphics that I needed, which I could pull from my phone and still post. So even though I was on vacation, my social media was still running smoothly. I knew that I had my Google Sheets with my email and blog marketing. And I had all of that pre scheduled. So all of my emails were still going out. Everything was still showing that my business was still functioning. And so when you put those improvements in place when you put those systems in place when you start automating things in your business, it frees up so much time but more importantly it frees up so much headspace. We stop worrying and having anxiety about whether or not things are functioning in our business. We stop feeling like we have to be tied to our computers our phones because we need to be available for everything that's coming in. When you have all of these things in place, when you have people on your team who can handle things for you, it just helps your business run more smoothly. So hopefully, you've been able to figure out where you can start utilizing either outsourcing or coming up with different processes and different solutions in your business. And using tools like I've talked about today, to really help organize and streamline your business so that it runs more effectively, it runs more efficiently. And most importantly, you get time back in your business to do the things that will help you be creative, help you come up with new ideas, and most importantly, help your business grow. Are you ready to uplevel your business? Join the five day be your own CEO challenge. All the details are available on the website at www.by-sasha.com. If you liked what you heard, make sure you rate and review. It really helps other people find the show. And of course, following subscribe on your favorite podcast platforms. Want to follow me on social? I'm on Instagram and Facebook at Strategy By Sasha. Make sure you tune in next Tuesday for more business tips.