18 great business tools I run my web design studio

I haven’t done a list post like this in such a long time! I’ve been chatting with a few fellow businesswomen about how we turn our business, and it got me thinking, why not share with you too!? And, that’s how this post was born. I’m going to write down every tool I use to run my business and as you’ll shortly realize it really isn’t that much.

I will say that I do not like to use too many tools or apps because then running my business becomes inefficient. However, I do also switch tools when they don’t serve me as I have with Tailwind. I’ll tell you all about it when we’ll get to it! If I am using a paid tool, I’ll let you know how much it costs me. Okay, let’s go!

1. Gmail

First things first, I pay Google around $5 a month to use Gmail for my custom URL email (hey@paulaborowska.com). I have a personal Gmail account that’s free as well, but I needed to keep my business and personal emails separate. The $5 a month is so worth it because it makes sending files, scheduling events, and even sharing documents so much easier. You don’t solely end up paying for Gmail with this monthly subscriptions; you’re paying for GSuite which also comes with their typical Google stuff such as Google Docs, Calendar, and some small Google Drive storage too. I think it’s a vital tool, not just a great business tool!

2. Google Docs

I love using Google Docs because it really does make my life easier. Not only are the files kept in a single place for me, but I also use them for everything! I keep track of all my documents from my contract drafts to website content, outlines and so on. Google Docs is a great business tool for me thanks to easy sharing and collaborations. I can share my documents with all my clients, contractors and partners; it’s excellent!

3. Good Drive

I will preface that these first three tools are just so tightly related that it’s easier to start off with all things Google ?. However, I also don’t actually like using DropBox. I switched to Google Drive years ago to help store my photographs because I was bothered by how DropBox handled file organization and a few other things. With that said, using all the other Google tools, it just made sense for me to stick around with Google Drive for my business files as well. And that’s precisely what I use Google Drive for, all my project files are kept there.

4. Calendly

I use Calendly over other meeting scheduling tools because I think it does the job well enough. I do use their free plan because I don’t need their premium features. It syncs with my calendars really well, which I absolutely love. I use Calendly exclusively to book meetings with new, cold leads that have reached out to me through my website. I limit my availability to max 3 days from today so that people don’t schedule a meeting with me two weeks from now an forget about it when the time comes. I highly recommend doing this with whether you’re using Calendly or not. I do think it’s a great business tool because it helps streamline the meeting process, especially with cold client leads.

5. MailChimp

For my mailing list needs, I use MailChimp. That’s mostly because my list is less than 2,000 emails and that means I can use MailChimp for free! However, I’m also pretty familiar with their app and like how they set up all their segments, automation and everything else.

6. WordPress

Over the years, I’ve switched back and forth between WordPress, Squarespace and even a completely custom website for my own portfolio. However, I switched back to WordPress last year because I needed the functionality of their plugins that Squarespace lacked.

7. AND Co

When it comes to invoices, time tracking, expense tracking, all things money and accounting I use AND Co. I decided to pay for the service a year or two ago, but since then they make their service free and even refunded my last payment. I found that their functionality and price was superior to QuickBooks. It aligned so much more with how I like to organize my invoices.

8. Planoly and Tailwind

As a business, I am only active on Instagram. I had a Facebook group for a while, but I wasn’t feeling it. I have a Facebook Page but, again, not feeling it either. This made choosing a social media posting app so much easier for me.

To stay on top of posting and analyzing my Instagram growth, I rely on Planoly. I’m not in love with the app, to be honest, but it’s good enough. I actually upgraded and paid for Tailwind for about a month or two earlier this year. However, I was fed up with both their customer and user experiences. Tailwind had so many bugs, and it was unclear that upgrading wasn’t going to give me access to all the analytics tools which let me all sorts of confused and angry. It wasn’t worth the premium payments, so I quickly downgraded. Now I’m back to using the free accounts on each of these platforms interchangeably because the free accounts for both of these tools limit their monthly post count.

I think of all of these this is an excellent example of me trying out a tool quickly and switching ASAP to keep my productivity to a certain level (and frustration levels too ?).

9. Vsco

I use Vsco to edit the photos I take myself for either my website, this blog or Instagram posts. I love Vsco so much, it really is a great business tool, hands down! Sometimes, I’ll edit photos for my clients in it as well! A couple of months ago I paid for their yearly subscription, I think it’s $20, to gain access to more of their assets. So worth it!

10. Pixistock and Unsplash

I don’t take most of the photos I use on either my website or Instagram myself. I source the internet for that. I tried a few different stock photo services this year, and I always end up coming back to Unspalsh. Yes, their photos get used a lot but, let’s be real, their photos are of fantastic quality. Additionally, I am paying for monthly access to a private stock photo seller at Pixistock. I love the images she has to offer. They are absolutely amazing. My only pet peeve is that browsing them is a nightmare, but I digress ?

11. Sketch and Affinity Photo

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but so far most of these tools have been about day-to-day business stuff. Sketch is the first and almost the only tool that I actually design with. I do not use any Adobe tools, by the way, ever since their new subscription-based pricing model; I refused to pay for them. Additionally, based on the kind of designs I do Sketch covers all my needs and then some! I paid for it once, $99 years ago and I couldn’t have been happier!

The one downside to Sketch though is its inability to edit photographs, and sometimes that’s still necessary for me. Again, refusing to jump back on the overpriced Adobe train, I instead bought Affinity Photo for $29.99, and I’m loving the app. It’s a simple tool that helps me get the job done, and I couldn’t have been happier with it!

12. Atom

For all my development and programming needs I like to use Atom. Both, for myself and for my clients.

13. Bear and Grammarly

Bear is an iOS writing app. It’s free, and it does make writing smooth for me. I’ve tried so many different writing apps over the years, and this one fits my needs perfectly! I have been in love ever since I downloaded it.

I also suck at proofreading my posts. However, I absolutely love using Grammarly to help me do a quality pass. For me, Grammarly is a great business tool because it also has small suggestions for editing and wording as well which I absolutely love. I am paying for the app annually at $139.95, which I think is an excellent investment for me.

14. Facebook groups

I love being part of Facebooks groups. I am currently only part of one paid group – FEA – all others are free. I have joined a few different paid ones throughout the year, and I come and go as I need to. This way I don’t invariably overpay for these membership sites while not using them.

However, the reason I’m in these groups is to learn and connect. I love being part of the entrepreneur community. Being in those groups has yielded in many problems solved, plenty of exposure and good friends too! There are so many things I am always learning with everything that’s being shared in these groups, it’s incredible!

I do think naming “Facebooks groups” as a business tool is a tad unorthodox, but I truly see them as a great business tool for me.

15. Kindle and Libby

I do love reading a lot. Most of my reading is to learn as my book choice can be divided into either personal or business development. I love reading on my Kindle while I’m commuting, traveling or am just ready to head to bed. Libby is a free library tool for borrowing eBooks and audiobooks. You can sign up for an account through your local library. I highly recommend it instead of constantly spending on eBooks.

16. Misc online courses

Another thing I sometimes spend my money on is online courses. If I find a course that truly speaks to a skill that I lack that seems to have reliable results, I will buy it! I’ve signed up for maybe 3 or 4 courses this year. I’m trying to be realistic and not buy everything I come across as some of these courses can be expensive.

17. Pen and paper

I love journaling, taking notes and keeping a to-do list with an old-fashioned pen and paper. I love it, and it can’t be beaten!

18. Google Fi

Oh come on, you know I had to end this list with another Google tool! This one is Google Fi, and it’s a cell phone plan! I signed up for it a couple of years ago as I began my indefinite travel abroad. I needed something that worked across multiple countries without being too pricey and Google Fi fit the bill. (I didn’t want to change phone numbers which each new country even though most Simcard are inexpensive.) I don’t always work while I travel but sometimes just being connected to browse Instagram while I’m on a long bus ride can be a lifesaver.

However, I have used Google Fi as a hotspot to get work done on multiple occasions as well. It’s an inexpensive lifesaver whether you’re a traveler or not. The plan costs $20 a month, texts are free around the world, calls are free in the US, data is $10/GB, and you pay as you go. Oh, lastly, data is free after the first 6 BG! That means your bill is never more than $80/month (assuming you don’t make direct calls from outside the US)!

The takeaway

There really isn’t a grand or significant takeaway from today’s article. I just wanted to share with you how I run my own business with a pretty limited list of tools. Although not all of them are the greatest, I still consider all of these great business tools because they do help me be more efficient in running my business after all. And, of curse I use other tools too; just nowhere near as much or regularly enough to make it worth adding it to this list!

I do hope that you found a tool that you’d like to try to make running your own business smoother or easier too!