As a small business ourselves, we get how difficult it is to know where to begin when it comes to the never-ending mountain of admin that goes alongside running a business. And we also know that reaching the top of that mountain seems even more impossible when you’re doing it by yourself or with a very small team, who also have to manage the daily running of your actual business.
When we finally did sit down to figure out what we needed to get ourselves organised and our processes rock solid, we found there were so many options that it was still overwhelming, and a vicious cycle in that we then had to spend even more time trying and testing each option to see whether it was really the right fit for us. Cue a lot of time wasted, and considerable frustration. Thankfully, through a lot of trial and error (and headaches), we’ve finally found our list of go-to programs that we absolutely can’t live without, and that help us to run Rare with a little more ease and a lot less stress. We hope our list below will help you too, whatever stage of business you’re at.
When we say that Asana is what literally keeps everything running over here, it is not an exaggeration. We use it for EVERYTHING. We have project boards set up for each of our clients in a to-do list style which allows us to keep track of project changes, add comments, upload documents and set due dates. We also have numerous boards in a trello/kanban style to organise all things behind-the scenes, from our content planning to proposals and invoices that need to be sent out to our general studio admin. There are various other layouts that can be incredibly useful depending on the task in hand, including a calendar view and timeline which allows you to create dependencies between tasks. Even better, Asana has a highly capable free plan, with lots of amazing advanced options on each of their paid plans. If you’re in need of project management, this is one we absolutely swear by.
No business can operate efficiently without a solid process for accounts and invoicing. For us, Xero is our life-saver in this regard. I (Vicky) have learned to accept that I am not really a numbers person. Anything involving spreadsheets, equations or complex mathematics I find somewhat yawn-inducing, and aside from the fact that finances are the life blood of any business, I would happily absolve myself of any of these duties. However, as we all know, the owner of the business doesn’t really have that luxury, and so I turned to Xero. While I will say it took a little trial and error to get our custom invoices set up with our branding and the exact merge fields that we needed, the effort was undoubtedly worth it, and we have since shelled out for the premium plan which allows us to invoice in multiple currencies and keep all our amazing clients in various corners of the world happy. While we do plan on hiring an accountant for the next financial year who will do most of the more complex tasks for us, I will say that I’ve been doing all the studio’s invoices, business statements and accounts myself for the past year and a half with ease, all thanks to Xero so it’s definitely doable. For those of you who take credit cards or are set up with a payment provider, you can also include a ‘Pay Now’ button on invoices sent through xero, allowing your clients and customers to pay directly from the invoice, to make things even easier.
On the topic of finances and accounting, if you work with clients and customers in different countries, Wise (Formerly TransferWise) is officially THE most useful tool you could ever need. We set up a business account with them, and then you create ‘pots’ for each currency you use to either receive or send funds. Each pot is associated with bank account details in that currency, allowing your clients to pay you in their currency. You then convert it to your own currency with a couple of clicks and a tiny conversion fee (in our experience no more than a $1 usually) and then send it straight to your bank account. You save a HUGE amount on conversion fees in comparison to banks and the whole process is fast, inexpensive and painless. *Side note – As with anything involving accounting, we would also recommend seeking professional advice to make sure you’re in line with your country’s tax obligations, particularly when selling products / services abroad*.
One of the most overwhelming aspects of running your business is actually finding the time to promote it! And with every instagrammer and influencer seemingly suggesting that you must build your email list, post on a variety of platforms multiple times a day, start a podcast, sell merch and make regular updates to your blog, you wouldn’t be the first to think ‘HELP! Where do I even start?!’. Full disclosure, to some extent this is us, still. But we are approaching it on a platform by platform basis, and only tackling a new platform when we feel ready to commit to it properly. A few months ago we started using Flodesk, realising that some of the platforms that we know and love can’t always be trusted not to change the goal posts in terms of their algorithms, or to be 100% reliable all the time (Facebook outage we’re looking at you). We realised that in addition to these platforms, we also need other options where we’re fully in control of our content, namely blog articles and our email marketing, and having fully integrated Flodesk with our website now, I can truthfully say I’m never looking back. The interface is so simple and easy to use compared to many email marketing programs, and while you can design all your emails from scratch their existing templates are also a great start design-wise. We also particularly love the workflow feature and segments, where you can set subscribers to a particular form to go into a specific segment or multiple, allowing you to tailor your customers experience to what they’re actually interested in. Workflows also allow you to automate certain processes, such as when subscribers are added to a particular segment, certain actions are triggered, meaning you can basically set it and forget it – one less thing to think about! If you’re interested in getting started with Flodesk, we’ve put a link below where you can get 50% off your plan 🙂
We’re all for finding shortcuts wherever we can when it comes to our own social media accounts, as like many businesses we don’t have our own designated social genius (yet!). Tailwind is one of those amazing shortcuts, allowing you to batch schedule pinterest and instagram posts from the same app. It has features for grouping selected boards together so you can post to all at once, allowing intervals so the same post isn’t replicated across multiple boards at the same time and has a handy calendar view that shows what you have scheduled for each day and at what time. The instagram side of the app is equally useful with the additional feature of enabling you to schedule stories at the same time as your feed posts. Tailwind has both a free and paid plans catering to those who just want to dabble in posting content all the way up to social media professionals.
We were looking at ways to optimise the client on-boarding process, ensuring that it was as seamless and easy as possible. After trying various options, including very powerful client management platforms like Dubsado, we realised we actually didn’t need most of the features available, and that a simpler and easy to use booking system that integrated with Zoom was more suited to our needs. Enter Calendly, which also syncs beautifully with Google Calendar – an added plus. Combining Calendly with both our work calendar and Zoom has allowed us a booking system that automatically sends clients zoom meeting details, after they’ve picked a time that suits them, and never double-books you because of the calendar syncing. You can also set which days and times you’re available in your time zone, meaning no accidental 2am calls with your clients on the other side of the world! Both us and our clients love it because it it saves so much time in back and forth emailing trying to find a time that suits everyone. Like some of the other services we’ve listed, Calendly also has both free and paid plans depending on your individual needs.
Now we know that everyone is likely suffering from Zoom-fatique after the pandemic, but hear us out. For clients who you can’t physically meet in person, or for those of us who are unfortunately still under lock and key here in Melbourne, Zoom is an amazing tool to get to know your clients / customers a bit better. After all, you don’t get much of a sense of the person through email or questionnaire. Clients are able to talk you through their ideas and goals so much better during a face-to-face discussion, be it digital or otherwise, and it is so helpful in building that raport with them and avoiding any confusion. Integrating it with Calendly as above has also made the whole process of client calls so simple, and has enhanced our process no end.