If you run a creative business, you want to spend more time making and less time on admin. Here are our favourite free apps, websites, and tools to help you save time and streamline the running of your creative business.
I always feel quite reflective at this time of year, and I’m putting aside time each week to try and review what has gone well and what I can improve for next year. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the tools I use personally, or we use here at Print & Press, that have helped us to streamline how we work, and helped me to feel more organised and (slightly) more on top of my to do list.
Everyone works differently, and they might not all work for you or how you run your business. But if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, or think there’s probably a better way of running your business, why not try some of these out and see if they help?
While most of these tools do have a premium option, I have used, and am recommending the free option for all of them, although of course if you do enjoy them and want to help out another business I’m sure they would appreciate your custom.
Google Analytics is one of those things you know you should spend time on but always put off – or is that just me? This free tool is for people who either always forget or just don’t understand Google Analytics. It sends a weekly and monthly email, reviewing your Analytics’ stats and putting them into easy to understand sentences. There are a couple of graphs, but again they are nice and clear. The whole point of this tool is keeping everything very simple and straightforward, so you can easily track how your website is performing week to week and month to month.
Of course you do need to get your analytics set up properly first of all, but Quill Engage means it keeps an eye on it for you. Even if you are quite technically minded, the weekly email is still a great prompt to remember to go and look at your analytics in more depth, or to flag if you’re having a particularly good or bad week.
One of the most common complaints I hear from other creatives is how long social media takes to organise and manage. It feels like half my time is spent taking photos, planning captions, and hunting down hashtags. Unfortunately you still need to spend time on the first two, but Makelight’s hashtag tool will save you hours, by suggesting similar hashtags to the one you entered. It also shows how many people have used it, so you can target more/less popular hashtags, and also spot new ones that haven’t become saturated.
They also have lots of fab things like a review of your colours, what is helping your account to grow, and your brand personality, all in their tools section.
If you write a blog or use content marketing, Missing Lettr will help you to keep your blog posts working hard, even months after you’ve written them. It takes images and quotes from your article, and automatically creates a schedule to post them to your social media accounts in the coming weeks and months.
This is the one tool on this list where I use the premium version – I started on the free version (which is great), but liked it so much after a few months I decided to buy it. This tool has saved me so much time, and it means there is always content for social media if we’re having a busy week and I don’t have time to post anything.
The Creative Choices website is a great place to head to for personal development tips and business advice. They have lots of short articles on a variety of topics, including how much should you charge, setting up as a freelancer, and growing your creative business. It’s a good starting point when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Not only do you realise how many other people have asked the same questions, you also understand just how much help and support is available.
I’ve tried Trello before and never really got the hang of it, but this year I watched this video, which completely changed how I manage my week and my to do lists. I started using it for my freelancing work, and it worked so well I introduced it to Print and Press, and we now use Trello to manage our weekly plan and our print jobs.
I love that it’s on my phone and my computer, so I no longer have several different lists that I’m always updating (or forgetting to update). I also like that I can separate tasks into different topics, so if I want to just focus on marketing or finance I can look at that list and ignore the others.
If you haven’t come across Janet Murray yet, you need to visit her website asap. Janet’s blog and podcast are full of time saving templates, tips and general advice to help with your PR and marketing. Favourites include how to write emails journalists will actually read, media enquiry services costs and comparisons, how to get PR for your product launch, and how to get started with email marketing.
Another one to help with your social media, Union Metrics analyses your accounts and helps you to see what types of post are driving the most engagement, when is the best time to post, and who should you try and target or engage directly with. If you’re spending all that time on social media, it’s worth making sure your posts are having an impact.
Slack is meant to be used by businesses to connect workers so they can communicate easily, without generating hundreds of emails. However I’ve found it’s a great way to archive information I find online. This is an app I use in my personal creative business – I set up an account and then just didn’t invite anyone else to join. I have channels for different topics – potential collaborators, podcasts to listen to, courses to take, time management advice, etc, and whenever I find an interesting article/website/app/social media account, I just save it in the relevant channel.
Again I have it on my phone, so I can easily add things when I’m out or having conversations with people, and it stores all of the useful and interesting things I come across in one, easily searchable place. I know it’s not really how it’s ‘supposed’ to be used, but it has made such a difference to how I work, and means I no longer have 30 tabs open in my browser – pages I want to read but don’t quite have enough time for – I just save them in Slack instead!
I hope some of these suggestions are useful, especially if you’re just starting out and wondering how to manage everything without spending a small fortune. And if you use another tool I haven’t mentioned please let me know and I can add it to the list.
Just to let you know, if you do buy anything from some of the above links, I may receive a small portion of the payment. It won’t cost you anything extra, and I haven’t received any payment or free items for including these links in this post.