Join Lauren Bacon for an in-depth discussion in this video Q&A: Key business tools, part of Web Career Clinic.
- [Voiceover] Hi, I'm Lauren Bacon, and welcome to this weeks edition of the Web Career Clinic, where I explore how to build a career you love, making good stuff on the web. It's Q&A week, which means I get to answer a question from a member. If you have questions about your web career, hit me up on Twitter at @laurenbacon, using the #ProWebClinic. Here's today member question. I'd rather manage the business side of my practice myself, and kick things lean, but I'm also terrified of doing it all by hand.
What modern tools for invoicing, marketing, etc., would you recommend for running a web design business? Okay, I should give the caveat here, that this list is going to reflect a lot of my own personal preferences, because everybody has their own favorite app for scheduling, invoicing, and so on. So, to keep things a little more open ended, I'm going to list out the categories of tools I use, and then share the specific software that I prefer. Let's start with scheduling. I'm going to assume you all ready use a calendaring app that you like, but what about making it easier for clients to book time with you, whether for consultations, meetings, or office hours.
I use ScheduleOnce, which lets me set up a booking page that syncs automatically with Google Calendar, to show my available and busy times. And then clients can book with me at a time that works for both of us. I've also heard good things about Timely. So that's another option for scheduling. While we're on the subject of time, I'm a big fan of tracking your time, and I've used both Harvest, and Freshbooks for this. I prefer Harvest for working with a team, but FreshBooks is good if you're running a solo operation.
Both of them also do a good job with invoicing, although FreshBooks is better if you need to track a lot of different types of expenses to bill to clients. If your finances are more complex, you probably want to use something more like Quick Books, but then, I highly recommend hiring somebody to help you configure it and teach you how to use it properly. For document management, most people I know use a combination of Google Drive and Dropbox. I use Google Drive for anything collaborative, and Dropbox for simple file sharing.
If you work with a team, or collaborate regularly with other freelancers, you could probably benefit from using Slack for team communication and collaboration. If you haven't played with their app integrations, you're missing out on a huge facet of what makes Slack great. You can drop a Google doc into Slack, for example, and make it easy for the rest of your team to comment and edit on it. Or, if you use Rollbar for error monitoring on your sites, you can have it notify you in Slack if something goes wrong. If you manage your projects with Pivotal Tracker, you can integrate that with Slack, so that your team gets notified of status changes.
So Slack is a pretty amazing communication tool, especially for distributed teams. Speaking of Pivotal Tracker, that's a great application for project management, especially if you do agile development. I've also used Base Camp, and Asana, for different types of projects. I find project management styles are really personal, so I recommend trying a couple of different options, and figuring out which software is the best match for your project management approach.
If you field a lot of support requests from clients, I recommend using a help desk system, like Zendesk, or Help Scout. They'll make your life a lot easier, in terms of prioritizing, addressing, and responding to bug reports and maintenance requests. A few more favorites. I use Evernote for everything under the sun, meeting notes, snapshots of handwritten documents, which Evernote makes searchable, magically, blog post ideas, research for longer articles I'm writing, random thoughts about stuff I want to do someday, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
It took me a while to get into the habit of capturing everything in one app, but now that I've done that, I have years of notes stored in one place, that I can search anytime, I love it. If you manage other peoples websites, you need a top notch password manager, 1Password is your friend, enough said. I won't spend too much time talking about email, but I do recommend two add ons for Gmail. The first is Boomerang, which will return emails to your inbox when you need them, so they don't clutter up the place.
It also lets you schedule emails to be sent in the future. The other email tool I use is Unroll Me, which bundles all your newsletter subscriptions, into a daily digest. Both Boomerang and Unroll Me are huge time savers, and sanity boosters. If you manage your own client contracts, Contractually or DocuSign, will make your life easier. I like Typeform for client intake forms. You can use it to set up a simple questionnaire to ask clients for all the information you need, in order to put together an estimate, a proposal, or a pitch for them.
Finally, you also asked about marketing apps, this is a huge category, but I'll say that for me, the two kinds of marketing that have been consistently fruitful have been blogging and email, with a bit of social media promotion sprinkled into the mix. So for blogging, I'm guessing you have your own preferred software, but I also recommend cross posting on Medium and LinkedIn. I also use Hootsuite, or Buffer, to schedule social media posts.
And for my email newsletters, I use MailChimp, although I know lots of people who are loyal to Constant Contact or Tiny Letter. And that's your whirlwind tour through my apps folder. I hope that was helpful. Tune in to Web Career Clinic next time, as I explore another topic for web professionals. And if you want me to answer your career question, tweet at me, I'm @laurenbacon on Twitter. So fire me a question using the #ProWebClinic. See you next week.
Tune in every Wednesday for a weekly "small dose" of advice, an explanation, or an interview with a web veteran. Lauren Bacon has mentored and coached many web professionals as they were starting out and loves sharing all that she's learned from her 15-year career as a designer, front-end developer, and agency principal.