7 Key Tools & Resources to Help Run Your Creative Business | Crystal Lily Creative | Photographer & Brand Consultant | Los Angeles + Florida + NYC

“What do you use to run your business?” This is a question I get asked a lot and the answer isn’t a quick one, because running a business–especially a creative one–requires more tools and resources than most people realize when they decided to start a creative business of their own. Since it’s such a common question, I’m sharing the 7 key tools and resources I use to help run my creative business.

1. CRM – Dubsado*

If you’re handling multiple clients, contracts, and package types, having it all organized in a CRM will save you time and help you stay organized. I. Love. Dubsado! Seriously, I can’t imagine using anything else. For starters, they have ah-mazing customer service and an array of resources to help you get acquainted with the software, including the ability to schedule free 1:1 trainings each month if you need individual help on a specific funtions.

Dubsado can help you manage everything related to your client projects from inquiry forms; to individual client portals; templates for everything from contracts, to invoices, emails, and packages; setting up project workflows so you never miss a step in your process; and even calendar and scheduling integration. (I also love that everything integrates well with GSuite.) This is only a highlight reel, but I cannot recommend Dubsado enough and if you wanna learn more, you can check them out and save 20% off your first month or year with this link.*

2. E-mail Marketing – MailerLite*

Email list building is a very important key to growing your creative business. If you haven’t started yet, I highly recommend you look into creative ways to get started. (This is something I can help you with through Brand Therapy Consulting.) I know a lot of creatives have been raving about Flodesk, but I haven’t tried it yet, because I simply haven’t made the time to switch everything over and MailerLite has been working well for me.

Like other email marketing platforms, MailerLite gives you the ability to track your subscriber analytics, set up opt-ins and automated email funnels, and create landing pages and websites if you need to. MailerLite is also more cost effective than Flodesk or even Mailchimp so if you’re looking to spend less on email marketing to get started, I recommend MailerLite.*

3. Video Conferencing – Virtual Coworking.Community*

The world has gone primarily virtual this year and many people turned to Zoom, however, there are other options available and I use Virtual Coworking for two reasons: 1) it’s an opportunity to support a black-owned business 2) it’s more than just a video conferencing platfrom and I believe in the tools and resources they’ve created for entreprenuers.

Virtual Coworking.Community is the first black-owned video conferencing and virtual coworking community that serves entreprenuers and small business owners by providing them with a resource library and member directory to foster connections and growth for their members. Their resource library is full of templates including business plans, marketing plans, and company policies to help small business owners. The video conferencing function has comparable capabilities to Zoom, including screen sharing, recording, and chat features. In addition, they have closed captioning integrated, which is fantastic for accessibility for the deaf community, which is something that Zoom doesn’t currently offer. Virtual Coworking.Community is essentially what you’d get if Zoom and LinkedIn had a baby and I think it’s brilliant! You can check it out and save on your first month through this link.*

4. Business Tax and Legal Guidance – Legally Launched with Braden Drake*

If you have a business, you should make sure that you hae the right safeguards in place from a legal and tax perspective. It’s not nearly as sexy or fun as the other stuff in this list, but it’s absolutely the most important. There are plenty of options for small business owners to make sure they have what they need to protect their businesses, but I recommend Braden Drake.

Braden works with creative business owners to give them the tools they need to ensure their businesses are protected legally and set up to avoid getting hate mail from the IRS (his words, not mine). Braden offers a signature course called Un-F*ck Your Biz* that he launches twice a year, where he helps you set up and streamline everything you need for the legal and tax side of your business. I highly recommend his signature program, but if you catch him during a season where he isn’t offering UFYB, Legally Launched* is a great starting point.

5. Scheduling Instagram Posts – Planoly*

Social media is inescapable if you’re a creative small business owner (If you have proof to the contrary, please share your secrets!) and Instagram can be a time suck if you let it. That’s where scheduling your posts through Planoly comes in handy, because it allows you to schedule days/weeks/months worth of content without ever being tempted to scroll inside of Instagram. You can also schedule Instagram stories in Planoly, which is super handy if you tend to market and promote a lot in stories. One of my favorite features of Planoly is the hashtag list that allows you to store multiple groups of hashtags and attach them to your scheduled posts so you don’t have to worry about typing them out or copy and pasting them from the notes section of your phone. Everything you need for each post can be saved right in the Planoly app. (Pro tip: if you’re scheduling large batches of content, I recommend doing it on a desktop, rather than in the app on your phone, because it’s easier and faster to type out large batches of content.) You can check out Planoly and get $10 off with this link.*

6. Scheduling Pinterest Pins – Tailwind*

Pinterest is an amazing tool help creative business owners drive traffic back to their websites, but much like Instagram, it can be easy to get tempted by the scroll. That’s why Tailwind is helpful. Similar to Planoly, it allows you to schedule days/weeks/months worth of pins without ever having to log into Pinterest and risk getting distracted. Another great feature inside Tailwind is the ability to create smart loops, where you can add your highest performing pins for seasonal or evergreen content to groups that Tailwind will pin for you in a continuous loop based on when your audience is most likely to see and engage with it. If you’re looking to increase your website traffic and get more engagement with your content, Pinterest is a great place to focus your attention and using Tailwind to help you automate is an awesome tool! You can check it out and get $15 off with this link.*

7. Creating Graphics and Presentations – Canva

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use alternative solution to Adobe Photoshop, Canva is an amazing tool for creating graphics and presentations. It’s user friendly and full of customizable templates to help you create visual assets for your business. The free version of Canva is great, but if you choose to pay for it, you can also load your own branding, including specific brand fonts into your profile.

There are an array of tools and resources available to help you run your creative business, but these are the key helpers I thought important to share. Do you need help getting started? I’m available to work with you and have consulting options to suit your needs. Reach out and let’s chat about what you need to grow your creative business.

(Disclaimer: Crystal Lily Photography participates in affiliate programs and partnerships. Links followed by an asterisk* indictate affiliate partnerships where we may receive a commission.)


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