Want a PDF list of the tools without my commentary? Scroll to the bottom of this post.
When Mr P. & I moved home to Victoria from Western Australia, I left a cushy corporate job. I'll be the first one to admit that I really freaking enjoyed my corporate job. While the work I was doing didn't really light me up, the structured policies and procedures had me beaming from ear to ear. I was that person that walked into every office, ensuring that everybody had completed their job hazard analysis forms, they'd filled out their staff performance development plans and had signed up for the next "boring" training event at Head Office in the city - four ring binder under arm.
What I just couldn't dig about my career in corporate, aside from the bullshit workplace politics and status wars, was that I was playing by someone else's rules. The hours I worked were dictated by someone else, not by my ability or my peak creative & productive hours. I was expected to consistency pump out work of the highest standard for eight hours a day - individual work patterns were irrelevant.
When I started Beautiful Business Systems (purely by chance - I'll tell you about that another day) I came to realise just how far removed creative business owners are from their corporation counterparts. The idea of conforming and contorting their abilities to fit into someone else's mould felt like hell and so, they were avoiding anything that smelled even remotely establishment and leaving out all the golden bits - the systems.
It was a no brainer for me to incorporate processes, procedures and systems into my business. My client on-boarding, team integration, project management, scheduling... all of it systemised. Here's where the gold happens:
Asana is a project management app and the heartbeat of my business! If it’s not in Asana, it doesn’t get done. My team and I work remotely from each other, so I’m able to add tasks as they come up, assign them to a team member with a due date and attach any relevant files and instructions. We can chat within the task, so any questions get answered in real time. No-one ever has to be told what they're doing or ask for a task - it's all there for them in Asana.
We use it for client facing work as well. Nothing that we do at Beautiful Business Systems is interpretive. When a client signs up for a Systems Audit, they have a task list set out for them in an Asana board. There's no question for them as to what the next step is.
I've set up my dashboard to see the progress that my team and my clients are making in their projects, I can communicate with them directly in that project and eliminate emailing backwards and forwards completely between my team.
Click here to find out when the next free Asana online training is happening.
I can't physically carry the pile of idea notebooks that I have, so Evernote is the cloud version of that - my every thought out of my head and in the cloud.
I create notebooks for each category of content, from newsletter brainwaves to blog topics. I’ve notebooks for top tips to share on social media and quotes that resonate closely with what I teach through Beautiful Business Systems.
Evernote is collaborative, so you can share notes and notebooks with your team and your clients and set reminders to follow up. If you’re a Chrome user like I am, installing the Evernote web clipper tool means you can save notes to any notebook from any web page.
3. Acuity Scheduling
If it's not scheduled, I'll forget it. It's one of my severe business weaknesses. Acuity Scheduling is my key to following through. Not only can clients log in and book their appointments depending on the availability that I set, it also links to my payment gateways and they can pay for their sessions before their names have even hit my calendar. It also syncs with my personal Google Calendar and if I book something elsewhere, it’ll block that out in Acuity too.
When a client books a session using Acuity, they're asked to complete an intake form, answering questions that I've set for them. This alone saves at valuable time in our one-on-one calls, meaning we can jump straight into dissecting their current processes and creating new systems. I can set up individual sessions, package my offerings and create coupons for special offers.
(I am an Acuity Scheduling affiliate, so if you use the link above and choose to purchase I may get a small commission)
4. Google Apps For Work
My email, data storage and management and my calendar are all taken care of by Google Apps For Work. Using my own custom domain name I have email addresses set up for myself and my team using Gmail, all integrated to my Google Calendar. I can see at a glance what I have happening in my week, remembering that any client-facing work has been booked through Acuity and shows here too. My team can see my availability and vice versa. If I think we should have an impromptu meeting, I create it in my calendar and invite them. It's right there for everyone to see.
My data storage is all managed with Google Drive, something I set-up for my clients and urge them to use. Each of my ongoing clients has a shared folder in which we can share documents and files without emailing backwards and forwards - from anywhere, anytime. Hooray for cloud storage!
We have a team folder, where all the policies, procedures and document templates are stored, as well as each member of the team having their own folder to store their working agreements with me as well as any of their personal work-related files.
Imagine all your favourite apps and programs talking to each other in the background, without you having to initiate that conversation. If This, Then That (IFTTT) has made that a reality. Setting up recipes to send information to different places without needing my time or touch sees data transferred from one app to another and social media cross-posts. Just one process can initiate a chain of posting, sharing and saving.
What are your must-have apps or tools for your creative business? Leave me a comment below!