10 TOOLS THAT IMPROVED MY BUSINESS
Updated: Feb 26
Deciding on what tools to use didn't happen overnight. It took years of failures to figure out what I needed to run a successful business. Even with with my existing toolkit, I still feel like there is room for improvement. It's never ending...but for the sake of answering your questions now, here are 10 tools that have drastically improved my business!
Asking for my paycheck or sending my invoice has always made me uncomfortable. I am not entirely sure why -- but the truth is, these moments of cashing in on your hard work should be a thrilling time! It might have been because I felt disorganized or because I was still asking for paper checks like a fossil. When I discovered HoneyBook, I was astonishingly blinking my eyes in disbelief. You have so many capabilities. You can send proposals, write contracts, accept payments, track expenses, and so much more. When a client fulfills an invoice, I receive an e-mail that says, “Cha-ching” and it’s as if I was just hit with dopamine.
(If you want to try Honey Book, please use my referral code here.)
I was one of those people who would write a fresh “to-do” list every single morning. I think I inherited this from my mother. It was an oddly satisfying act, but not efficient whatsoever. Years ago, when I entered the corporate world for the very first time, I was introduced to task management software. In this job, I was just a number, hammering tasks every single day and I started to loath this type of software. As I transitioned into the world of being my own boss, and having a teammate to manage, I realized that task management software has its benefits. I decided to go with Asana. It’s a brilliant, yet simplified, and very easy to use. I am able to delegate tasks to my teammate, enter requests from clients immediately, and just STAY ON TRACK.
Any professional graphic designer is going to roll their eyes at me, but I freaking love Canva — especially when I am collaborating with others on design files. I take pride in always using a blank template and building all my own designs, but if a girl is in a pinch, Canva does offer amazing templates to choose from; for any type of project. Canva is always rolling out new features, and my favorite one right now is there recorded presentations!
HUBSPOT AND/OR FOLLOWUPBOSS
If you are running your own small business, contact management is going to be the basis of your business. Building your sphere, nourishing your network, and staying top of mind — is going to be how you rule your own world. I have two different CRMs (Contact Relationship Management). I use Hubspot for all my marketing clients. This CRM is free, which is a bonus. Hubspot also allows me to embed contact forms into webpages, so all my marketing leads go directly into my CRM database. For my real estate business, I use FollowUpBoss, which is created specifically for the real estate industry. It has all the tools you need for effective follow up and business generating tasks.
There are so many social media scheduling tools out there, but PlannThat was recommended to me by my teammate, Ashley. I like this platform because it allows you to store your entire libraries, organize your Instagram grids in advance, schedule your posts, store hashtags, and so much more. I am positioning myself out of social media (Ashley takes care of this division), but I wanted to share with you what we are using at Visual Manor.
Google is the motherland. I use Google for EVERYTHING. E-mail. Calendar. Storage (Drive). Maps. If you don’t know how to use or navigate through Google… get started. I highly anticipate this being a requirement for many jobs, similar to the good old “Experience in Microsoft Word”…
There has been multiple moments in my career that I have said, “I never want to build a website again”. I wasn’t educated in HTML, JAVA, blah blah blah, so I felt like I couldn’t provide enough for my clients. It wasn’t until I was introduced to WIX, where the once grueling task of web design was now delightful. This website builder is extremely user friendly and allows you to build fully functioning websites in all degrees, including e-commerce. You have the abilities to toggle between Desktop and Mobile, so you know you are building web experiences optimizes for both devices. It allows you to connect Google to improve your search-ability, assign users for more efficient builds, and sooooooo much more. I have also started using their in-platform email marketing service called Ascend.
I have two websites for myself. The first, marialmaher.com was built on WIX. My second website, visualmanor.com was created through a platform called Format. I chose Format, because it’s a website builder for artists, designs, photographers and creators. It allows us to build traditional platforms, offering everything we need to showcase our work. It’s simple and affordable. Moving forward, my goal is to work with less platforms, so I might migrate Visual Manor over to WIX, but for right now, it’s doing the trick!
Visual Manor provides a lot of video content — and we need to provide it fast! InShot is a great video editing tool that is accessible on your phone. You have endless capabilities of cutting, transitions, overlays, text, special effects, filters, stickers and more. It allows me to edit video on the go, taking video I have captured on my iPhone and making it more in-tuned with the business or brand that I am creating for. Oh, and it’s free.
I saved the most obvious one for last. If you have made it this far in my article, thank you so much for reading. Instagram has been a source for much of my business. I use Instagram to showcase my portfolio, communicate with my community, and market my clients. Visual Manor has a very different approach with social media platforms like Instagram. Our goal is to cut through the noise, and help you find your edge. This is done through captivating photography, video, and storytelling. If you want to learn more about Visual Manor, you can click through here and keep exploring!