Episode Recap

I shout about my favorite ways for providing a great client experience and keeping my biz shit organized.

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Jennifer Fultz 0:00 Hey everybody, today I’m going to talk about some of my favorite business tools that helped me from at least completely losing my shit on a regular basis. And I have found over the years that, you know, tools are not magic, like you have to have the, you have to have the plan and the follow through to make them effective. But sometimes having the right tools can actually, can actually affect the level of work that you can do. So like, I’m never going to say that, “Oh, in order to be a professional photographer, you must have a certain type of camera that costs a certain amount of money.” I’m not going to say that but there are certain kinds of photos that you may or may not be able to take if you don’t have the right kind of equipment. So anyway, all this to just say that no tool, no one tool is magic, but knowing what’s possible and being able to build a system with the different tools that are out there that works for you has actually been pretty effective for me. So here are some of my favorites, the things that I get asked about the most.

The first one is a tool called Dubsado. It is a customer relationship management tool or CRM. There’s a couple different kinds: Dubsado, Honeybook, 17 Hats…I think Google has one now and I can’t remember what it’s called. Dubsado is the one that I use personally, but most of them have pretty similar function. I chose Dubsado over Honeybook initially – because I tried those two – I chose Dubsado, because it was less event-based. I feel like maybe this has changed since I tried it but I feel like the Honeybook interface is set up for very like event-based businesses. Which makes sense if you’re a wedding planner, a florist, like you have a set day for your work to be done by. Like, that would make sense. But it didn’t make as much sense for my business because I do copywriting and website design. It’s a much longer like, ongoing thing, but I maybe just wasn’t using it correctly.

But anyway, I use Dubsado, and it is kinda it’s kind of like a virtual assistant that keeps all of my paperwork and things straight. It lets me communicate more easily with clients. It can even, it even does my bookkeeping and time tracking for me. Now I do use I use different tools for time tracking, but I do use Dubsado’s built in bookkeeping, because my bookkeeping is not very difficult. It’s not very complicated. I think if you have a lot of like accounts receivable, accounts payable, if you have like, if you work with a lot of vendors, you may want to do something like QuickBooks. But I do all of my invoicing, and all of my contracts, and all of my questionnaires, all of those like onboarding forms through Dubsado, and I get a lot of compliments on how seamless that process is. And, you know, I hear people say, like, “Well, I can just have them Venmo the money and then I don’t have to pay any fees,” which is true. But I think… honestly a large part of being a professional whatever-it-is-that-you-do, is, again, it’s not the kind of camera you have as a photographer, it’s not the kind of computer you have. It’s not like, it’s not even how many years of experience you have. It’s how much ownership of the process do you take? So when you’re like, “Oh, just send me Venmo,” you’re putting that into the hands of the client. And that scares them. They do not know what to do with that. They will not get around to it, they will forget about it, all that kind of stuff. Versus if you send them a sleek invoice with a button that they can pay with PayPal or credit card or bank draft, like whatever, all of that is done for them, you have made the process easy for them. And frankly, in my opinion, that is what makes somebody a professional, is how much ownership of the work process are you actually taking.

The next tool that I like a lot is Trello. And actually going back to Dubsado for just a minute. I don’t work, I haven’t used any other CRM with any great frequency. So I can’t say I can’t really talk about the other ones. Dubsado, they have added a lot of features since I started using it. They’ve added a time tracker, they’ve added task boards, they’ve added a scheduler. And I use some of them sometimes. It sometimes kind of feels a little bit like Dubsado is maybe trying to get too many things under the same roof and not always doing them well. I mean, it’s a balance. It’s a balance for me, between the convenience of having everything under one roof and the efficiency and productivity that comes from using a tool that is specifically designed for that task.

But anyway, because, and I say this because I still use Trello for project management and task management, even though my CRM has a so-called task board on it, I just don’t, I just don’t use it because it’s not as easy to use as Trello. So there’s something to be said about very specific tools for specific tasks, and you kind of just have to find that balance yourself. I’ve tried Asana, I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it as much as I love Trello I, I don’t know if it’s just because it was the first one that I learned to use way back in like 2012. The interface hasn’t changed much since then. But I think that’s not a bad thing because it really works. Trello, you can kind of think of Trello as like a virtual whiteboard that you can stick thousands and thousands of post it notes on and if you took a picture of my brain, that is what my brain looks like at any given time. And so it was a very intuitive fit for me. And so you can keep lists of tasks. You could, I typically well, I guess you can’t see this because it’s a podcast, but you can keep like a vertical list and inside that list, you can have separate cards, and you can move those cards around. You can add different like statuses, and labels and things to the cards so you kind of see where all your tasks are at a glance. I really like it. I use typically, I will use one board to manage a specific project and have different lists for to do, doing, done, backlog, things to troubleshoot that, kind of thing. But there’s a lot of different ways that you can use this type of task board. I think it’s called kan ban or…kan ban is the like to do, doing, done format. But there’s a lot of different ways that you can use the Trello task board. So highly recommend that.

Communication. This is another piece: communication tools. This is another piece that is just going to make you, this is going to take you to the next level of professionalism. So, one of my favorite tools is Calendly, that’s CALENDLY. It’s a scheduling page. It’s pretty simple. Basically, you set your availability And then you just send a link to your potential client or a vendor or someone that you’re going to collaborate with. And they get to see they get a calendar and they can pick a time that works for them. It does one thing, and it does one thing really, really well. I like Calendly, and there’s other tools like Acuity and I cannot think of another one off the top of my head, but those are the two big ones. It really cuts down on just the emailing back and forth when you’re trying to schedule a call or a meeting. I think the premium versions you can do kind of like a, like a multiple person thing like if you’re trying to coordinate a meeting with multiple people. I’m thrifty, I use the free plan, but I’ve never really needed anything beyond that. If you pay to upgrade you also can get different types of appointments. The free plan only gives you, at least on Calendly, the free plan only gives you one type of appointment so you can only schedule like a 20 minute call. But if you wanted to have like a 20 minute call and a one hour call and an in-person meeting, if you use those regularly, then you would want to pay for the premium version. I’m pretty sure…I know Acuity does this, I think Calendly will do it too if you’re paying on the premium plan.

Jennifer Fultz 0:00 I know Acuity does this and I think Calendly does too… You can also set payment for appointments. So if you are a coach, or some kind of consultant, you can set, “Here’s a one hour call with me. It costs $300.” And you can just take payment through the scheduling app directly. So that’s a pretty cool feature.

I get a lot of questions about email marketing, sorry, email service providers. From a web design perspective, and from an email marketing perspective, I do not understand how MailChimp has the market share that it does. I do well, I mean, I do understand. It’s because they have a free plan. But I’m MailerLite has a free plan that is very similar, but their list building, segmenting and automation features are just a little bit sleeker. Actually I wouldn’t even say a little bit; they’re quite a bit sleeker than MailChimp and that’s what I recommend if you need something for free. ConvertKit is my favorite email service provider. Their tagging system is so beautiful. You can add all sorts of information to your subscribers based on their behavior or on their self-described interest and then you can send them very targeted customized information and offers. It’s fantastic. I I started with ConvertKit and I sort of religiously neglected it for about a year. Then I switched over to MailerLite, because it just didn’t make sense to be throwing money at email when I didn’t really know what I was doing with it. But then once I sort of consolidated my business strategy a little bit, I went back to ConvertKit and it’s beautiful and I love it. So those are my two recommendations for email service providers: MailerLite, if you want something free, ConvertKit if you need a bit more specialized segmentation and automation. If you’re doing e-commerce, ConvertKit is not awful but not amazing if you’re doing some kind of e commerce. Klaviyo is kind of the gold standard for e commerce, email marketing. They are a little bit pricier. But there’s some of the more premium email service providers that would work better for e-commerce as well.

So other favorite tools: I use Hootsuite to schedule my social media content. Yeah, so lately, finally, now that I’m launching this podcast, I realized I have to do social media, which I kind of was sulking about for a really long time and just didn’t do it. And now I’m at the point where I need to do it again. And so I’ve been using Hootsuite. I think there are three…their free plan has three channels. There we go. You could use up to three different social media networks on the free plan of Hootsuite, which is honestly enough for me because I’m only on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and I do a lot of cross posting, because I am lazy. And I don’t really want to spend very much time on social media but I want to have a presence. So Hootsuite is just you can schedule certain types of content ahead of time. It does really well with Facebook and Twitter, just because of how those platforms share content. They work really easily. Instagram is a little bit dicier. I think on Hootsuite you cannot schedule Instagram stories. But you can do that on the next tool which is Planoly. Planoly is an Instagram planner only. But it’s pretty cool. It has like a preview. It lets you kind of preview what your grid or feed is going to look like when you put posts in. So if you, you know if you’re very, if your work is very, very visual and you want to have that beautifully curated, Instagram-perfect feed, Planoly is a good tool for that. In order to do stories, I think you have to have the paid plan. But if Instagram is a big part of your marketing strategy, Planoly is a really good tool for that. OThere is Tailwind which is a tool used for Pinterest. Pinterest can be a really good marketing tool in certain industries. It functions more like a search engine than a social media platform. But Tailwind is a scheduling software for Pinterest, but I think it also has a Instagram scheduling features as well.

On websites stuff I, well, I’ve kind of changed my opinion, I used to be kind of WordPress or die, in terms of websites. I’ve revised that stance a little bit. If you’re going to DIY something, and you don’t need a lot of content management, like you’re not going to be blogging every day, or you don’t need a lot of very specialized functioning and functionality, and if you’re going to DIY it, I would actually recommend Squarespace for DIY stuff. It’s just a little bit more, I don’t know, ready to go out of the box. Again, this is if you don’t need like, really super specific functionality. And I think there’s some wisdom to that. I…this probably doesn’t surprise anybody…but I have a tendency to over-design and over-build and sometimes it’s just nice to remember like, “Hey, what is the point of this website that I have?” and not get all hung up on the different bells and whistles. But anyway, so if you’re going to DIY it, I would recommend Squarespace. If you’re going to hire a designer, I would say go into WordPress, just because WordPress is so customizable, which is also sometimes a downfall if you’re DIYing your website. So that’s kind of why I recommend those two platforms in those two different situations.

For themes on WordPress, I recommend the X theme. I like the Pro upgrade to X, but again, it’s almost too customizable, if that makes sense. It’s like every single part of it has to be built from scratch a little bit so I recommend the X Theme. I also recommend the Divi theme. I’m kind of starting to switch over my client work from X to Divi, because Divi has a lifetime license that I can use. So I don’t have to keep paying for different licenses. Both of them have really good page builders. Kind of the what you see is what you get type page builders, you can just sort of drag and drop different elements to where you need them to go and customize them kind of in live time. So those are the themes that I recommend for WordPress.

So these are some of my favorite business tools. I still keep a paper planner. I’m not 100% sure why anymore. But I think the, I think just the ritual of writing things down on paper is useful for me. It helps me kind of declutter my brain in a way that Trello sometimes cannot, so I do still keep a paper planner. But other than that those are kind of the biggest, most important tools that I have to run my business. And they don’t cost that much money. But they can make a big difference in the productivity and the process that I can present to clients. how smooth and seamless that is for them, so it’s totally worth it.

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