If I could go back in time and give fresh-out-of-college-me a toolkit for running a business – this would be it. This is every online tool I use behind the scenes at LIBP to help keep things running smoothly (and a couple offline, too). Over the last couple of years, these have helped me take my business from the workhorse I thought it had to be, to the streamlined, automated, branded vision I never even knew to dream of! And at the end of the day it all meant happier clients, a better run business, and a happier ME!
Sounds pretty damn good, right?!
With everything that’s been going on in the world, things are hard enough – so over the last couple of weeks I’ve been compiling EVERYTHING – every last resource (and even better, dug up every discount I could find!) and today, I’m sharing them all with you! Whether it’s something that you can use in this new season your life is in, or something that you’ll want to save for down the road, I hope that this list will make things a little easier for you. And if you have any questions about anything you read about, just send me an email! I’m happy to help – we’re in this together, friend <3
Honeybook is really just my favourite business tool of. All. Time.
It handles everything from my invoices and contracts to my questionnaires and pricing information. I’ve been able to automate my workflow so I can spend so much more time behind the camera doing what I love, and less time doing paperwork behind the scenes. I mean, that’s why I got into this business to begin with, right?!
And above all else – Honeybook is about community. When the COVID-19 crisis began, they jumped up and got to work compiling resources to help small businesses in a time they were going to need it most. They put together a free toolkit with legal resources, communication templates and so much more, completely free, updating it as much as possible. This is the kind of company I am proud to support!
Social media can feel like a whole other job in itself, right?! I’m all about making things easier, and after trying so many different social media scheduling apps, Plann is everything I wanted and then some. It lets you schedule your posts, saves your hashtags for easy copy/paste access, and gives you the chance to drag-and-drop your photos around so you can arrange them in any order to get that oh-so-grammable aesthetic.
But my favourite feature? Being able to create posts from my computer! No more sending photos back and forth to my phone, or having to work off of my teenie little screen :)
Let me introduce you to my email marketing secret weapon ;)
I started using FloDesk for my email marketing and newsletters earlier this year and am obsessseddd. It’s so easy to put together, navigate, and keep things on brand. And did I mention that EVERYTHING is unlimited? You can have as many contacts as you want, organized in any way you want, with fully automated workflows and website integration available.
You guys, this is one of my newest favourites!! Think of it almost like a virtual bulletin/cork board. I have one board I use like a “brain dump” where I pour all of my random ideas I think of on the fly; another board I use as a “to do” list, where I can check things off as I complete them; and I even set up a board that I share with my team on wedding days, so we can all access the timeline, family shot list, and important details for the day from our own phones! Plus, I LOVE anything that can be fully customized and there are literally hundreds of backgrounds you can choose from for every board :D
This year I decided to get all of my projects up onto my wall and I absolutely love the simple style of Laylee Emadi Smith’s 2020 wall calendar! It comes as a digital download so you can take it anywhere to get it printed, and then style it however you want to! I recommend putting it in a frame, with or without glass, so it’s sturdy for writing all of your projects for the year on.
If you’re not a graphic designer, Canva is the easiest way to make all the things you could ever need for your business – from graphics for social media to PDFs to resumes to presentations to marketing displays… Literally everything you could need to create. There are tons of free and paid options available throughout the entire site – I have a free account and rarely run into an issue where I can’t do something because it’s a paid feature. Everything is set up in a super easy “drag & drop” way, and getting things done in minutes instead of hours made my life so much easier.
If you don’t have someone who’s looking after your bookkeeping for you, Quickbooks is going to help you with just that. There is a desktop version, but I chose the online version because it can actually sync with Honeybook, so my income is automatically importing and I only have to input my expenses. Half the work is fine by me!
At first, Quickbooks can seem overwhelming, but take advantage of the articles you’ll find with a quick Google search for any and all questions you have – I couldn’t believe the amount of info I was able to find. It’s really easy to learn and your reports are so easy to export for any tax purposes throughout the year.
Even though my email address is email@example.com, it’s hosted through GMail, which is so much nicer than the interface I was using before and has the added benefit of Google’s security to keep my inbox safe. Plus it comes with all of the extras you’d expect with a regular account! My favourites are:
*Google Drive for storage and file sharing between all of my devices
*Google Docs for all of my brainstorming, timelines, shot lists and other day-to-day documents
*Google Sheets for all things spreadsheets – because as much as I tried to avoid them, I’m convinced you can’t run a business without a spreadsheet
I used to worry about having everything on a cloud – security reasons and technology reasons. If the internet goes down, how do I access anything?! But honestly, I run into that issue WAY less than losing the USB sticks or breaking the hard drives that I used to store my files on, and if I didn’t have them with me or backed up somewhere else, I was out of luck. Now I have access to everything I need, whenever I need it :)
The last of the cloud services I use! This one is running in the background of my computer 24/7, and is the silent hero of LIBP. BackBlaze offers auto-sync backups of your computers the hard drives connected to them, which is so important to me as a photographer. Having multiple backups of my photos “just in case” is key, and when I found out that BackBlaze would do all the work for me, I was sold.
I have Calendly integrated into my website to make booking a session or meeting with me a breeze (but if you don’t have a website, you can use a standalone link, too!). I love how many options there are to customize the information I’m giving my clients and asking from them, from location options to session times and the types of reminders they want to receive. There’s options to receive deposits at the time of booking, cancellation and re-booking – everything you could need to save yourself the time of emailing back and forth with your clients.
Because I always like to keep things real, I wanted to let you know that a few of the links above are referral links – meaning I get a payment or perk for having someone join. BUT – one thing I want to say – I never, ever, eeeveeerrrr promote any service or product that I don’t use myself, and none of the companies on this list have asked or paid to be a part of it. This is an ad-free zone! These are truly the tools that I use to keep Life is Beautiful Photography running, and I only shared about my personal experiences with them :)
Top photo by Jess Collins Photography