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Top 10 Tools for Creative Businesses, Pros and Cons

Posted by Tippy Tippens on

These are my top 10 FAVE tools that I use to run my Creative small business varying in need: Organization, Metrics, Shipping, Website & store, Bookkeeping & more.
*Dream Studio pic via Pinterest/Abduzeedo

1. Sales & Pricing Toolkit for Creative Businesses
3 Excel Templates & a How-To Booklet to track your sales & price your products. Shameless I know, but I stand behind it.
Pros: See which products/services or retailers/clients are your top performers. Track your monthly & annual revenue: overall, per product, & per sales channel. See what your margins are per product, month, and year. Track styles per product. Automatically see sales tax and transaction fees & so much more. I've done the work for you & with a recent revamp by 4 amazing MBAs at Ross Business School, these templates are amazeballs, at an affordable price (as a small business I know how important this is, and they provide boatloads of vital biz info at your fingertips. It's taken me six years to get these sheets to this point, I want to save you the time & frustration that I know firsthand. At our intro price of $55, these are a great value.
Cons: A little learning curve if you haven't used Excel. But, in my workshop I will teach you the basics & show you how to use our templates! ($75)
 
2. Teux Deux 
An online to-do list
Pros: Beautifully designed (from the maker of tattly & swissmiss), affordable ($2/month), desktop & app versions, you can cross of your to-do list (gratification is important!) & if you don't check it off rolls over to the next day (accountability, yasss). I use this as my daily/weekly checklist and to add don't forget items/ideas when talking w/ folks and out in the world and away from my computer. I love the humor in their support & FAQ section too.
Cons: Make sure that when you are entering an item on your phone, that you click 'Done' 2X, otherwise it won't save : /
 
3. Square
Easily accept Credit Cards
Pros: Affordably accept credit cards in your store or at markets. Easily see sales by item, month, or year; search for transactions; and see how much tax you paid or discounts given. *Tip - I create a different square account for use at markets & in my brick & mortar sales, to easily track sales in different locations.
Cons: The chip card readers are slow & sometimes don't work : /
 
4. Shopify
Online shop, website, 'buy buttons', payment system, & payment reader
Pros: Beautiful themes, great interaction with customers, automated order order, shipping, and other customizable replies. Shopify card reader with slightly lower transaction fees than square (like .02% lower, but still a teeny bit lower). Also, slightly lower transaction fees for your online orders if you use their payment system. New 'buy buttons' allow you to incorporate a place to purchase a product anywhere on blogposts, webpages, etc. Awesome control of shipping options, discounts, and the interface is easy to use & looks nice. Bonus, the app makes a cha-ching sound when you have an online sale : )
Cons: Their in-theme blog does not autosave or have a drafts folder, beware, I learned this the hard way & lost an hour of work. My workaround is to create blogposts in Evernote (see below). Different features are offered at varying monthly fees, for example, I use the $29/mo. for example, and don't have access to full sales/traffic reporting which is a big leap to $79/mo. However, the 'Buy button' option is only $9/mo.
 
5. Ordercup
Purchase shipping labels online
Pros: Ties in directly to my shopify account, thus orders are already entered in my ordercup account & ready to print a shipping label for. The whole process often takes less than 1 minute per order (much faster than many I've used). You can set up profiles for your frequent package sizes/weights so that it makes purchasing the shipping label a breeze. Also, as a designer, I appreciate that their interface looks nice. Awesome customer service & discounted shipping prices!
Cons: I don't really see this as a con since it saves you so much time in the long run. It takes maybe 20-30 minutes to get set up initially to link to your shopify account, create shipping profiles, etc. If you run into trouble, call their customer service, they are awesome & will walk you through it!
 
6. Calm
Meditation App
Pros: Helps you focus, relax, fall asleep, feel inspired, etc. This meditation app has many different guided meditations varying from 2-25 minutes & on a variety of issues. The free version has a fairly limited amount of varieties, but is still really useful. As busy, always on creatives & business owners, I so greatly value the 10 minutes each morning to sit still, try to quiet my brain, and only focus on breathing in & out.
Cons: The paid version is kind of high, about $40/ yr., they recently did a price hike. I've used both the paid & free versions & think there's great value in both.
 
7. Evernote
Organization & Information Storage
Pros: A really versatile note taking, image saving, link gathering, information storage place. You can organize things into notes, notebooks, and also with tags. I use both the app & desktop version as a place to keep product and strategy ideas, blogpost organization, notes from phone meetings, and so much more. Free & paid versions are available, I use the free version.
Cons: Sometimes I will open a second window so that I can see my notebooks without leaving the notes page, wish that I could hover on the notebooks icon to see a list of those, but this is definitely not a dealbreaker to me.
 
8. Google docs / Calendar, ICal, & Tiny Calendar
Organization, Office Tools, Calendar
Pros: Inexpensive, Easy to share Information with others. 
Cons: As web-based tools you can lose your work when auto-save or save don't really save. The google calendar sends wonky times when you invite folks for a meeting (A meeting is at 10am, it will say 1pm - something to do w/ time zones).
*Workaround, I prefer to use ICal to schedule meetings, track my appointments, and weekly schedule. I then use a third party calendar app on my phone, Tiny Calendar to link google calendar & ICal, since ICal doesn't always sync between phone & laptop. Anyone have a less redonkulous method?
 
9. Quickbooks
Bookkeeping/Accounting
Pros: Pretty universal, as most accountants use & if you use the online version, you can provide your bookkeeper and accountant with a login, which is a great timesaver. It also links with many banks to automatically pull your banking transactions. Once set up, it is easy to categorize your transactions into their proper bookkeeping bucket (rent, sales income, services income cost of goods sold, etc.). It also remembers your selections, so that you can just click accept on regular transactions. I also use Quickbooks to invoice and track my wholesale accounts. It's easy to search for invoices, customer info, individual transactions, & to run reports for profit & loss, balance sheet, etc. Save 20-50% with the link above, btw.
Cons: Hello Learning Curve. It took me some time to get used to use Quickbooks as someone with a creative brain. In the beginning, I hired a Bookkeeper to set up the initial categories for me & now it's easy for me to track my expenses. I would also recommend, if you can afford it, to hire a bookkeeper & accountant for the time and frustration saved.
 
10. Smart Phone / Instagram
Swiss Army Knife/Social Media
Pros: I use an Iphone & it is the vehicle for all but three of the above tools. Camera, organization, focus & relaxation, credit card machine, communicator, & more all in one. It's an amazing business tool. I put these together because sometimes I feel like my Iphone should be called Instagram. I'm better about limiting myself these days.. Insta is my fave social media as I love to take photographs and appreciate its simple interface, awesome way to stay in touch / meet new people. 
Cons: Iphone - expensive upfront. Instagram-please don't let Facebook mess it up.
 
Which tools are your faves? Do any of these help you?

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1 comment


  • Once again, you’ve inspired me.

    kathryn davison on

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