The Tools I Use to Run My Online Business
The software, tools & equipment I use every day in my business.
For the most part, running a small online business like mine certainly can be less complicated and have less costs than a physical business or one that requires stock and physical products. I don't have any overheads like office or factory space, and because I work on my own without any staff, I don't have to deal with payroll or those associated costs either which is nice!
But my business doesn't just come out of thin air; there are still costs involved with being freelance and running a brand/website design business that some may not realise - I'm more than just a laptop!
I wanted to share the tools I use, not only to give an idea of what my set up looks like to clients and fellow designers, but also to remind people what you can class as business expenses when you're self employed in the UK, as it's easy to forget that some of these things can provide you with tax relief!
Obviously some kind of computer is required to run an online business. I personally use a laptop because I like to be able to move around the house while I'm working, and I like knowing that I can take it and work from anywhere! I have an old iMac (desktop computer) too but I only really use that as a second screen occasionally to test websites.
I recently also invested in a LaCie external hard drive*, as I needed somewhere to store older files and keep my Macbook clean and speedy!
IPhone & Olympus Pen Camera*
I use my mobile phone predominantly for work; not necessarily for phone calls but for social media marketing while I'm on the go! I used to do some commercial photography too, so I do own a camera and some lenses because of that, and also for my other business, The Cornish Life.
Sketchbooks & pens
I mostly do all my design digitally nowadays, but sometimes nothing beats good old pen and paper for sketching out logo ideas and making notes during client meetings! It seems like a simple thing but I always forget that these are business tools/expenses.
As well as my external hard drive, I also use Cloud storage to back up my files and keep everything safe. It also means that I'm able to access my files from anywhere too! So if my laptop dies or gets stolen, or if I'm just out and about without it, I can login from another computer and do what I need to do from the Cloud.
My byRosanna website is on Squarespace, so naturally I pay my monthly plan with them, plus to my domain provider each year to secure my domain names. I also have hosting with Siteground* for my other website, The Cornish Life (which uses Wordpress), and domain payments for that as well!
As a designer, I need software to create my designs and work with vectors. There are free/cheaper softwares available compared to Adobe, but nothing really competes in my eyes, so I pay monthly for my Creative Cloud subscription which allows me to use all their programs, including Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro etc.
Canva is a free online tool that I use to create social media templates for clients so that they don't have to invest in Adobe software to be able to edit their templates. I personally pay for the premium Canva software as it has some great features for designers like me who are creating multiple templates for clients, but most people only need the free version!
> Watch my tutorial on how to create social media graphics with Canva
I use Google Drive to create easy spreadsheets and also to share files with clients sometimes. It's a very flexible tool to use because most people have it and it's simple to use!
WeTransfer allows me to send large files (branding and logo files can get super big!) to my clients for free instead of blowing up peoples' inboxes with huge files or filling them up so they can't receive anything else. It turns the files into a temporary download link so nothing has to touch your inbox!
Before booking a project with a client, I always arrange an in-person meeting or (most of the time) a Skype call so we can meet and chat through what they need for this project. Most of my clients are from overseas (the US, Europe, UAE, Australia... you name it!) so Skype allows us to speak over the phone for free!
I begrudgingly pay for Microsoft Office on their monthly 365 plan. Because I have an Apple Macbook, I really only need Pages, Slides and Numbers for my own documents, but occasionally my clients need me to design document templates specifically for PowerPoint or Microsoft Word, so it's important that I have it just in case! They have the worst tech support though so I wouldn't recommend this unless you have to...
I've been using Buffer for several years now and I love it! I'm on their Awesome Plan which allows me to have up to 10 social media accounts that I can schedule posts to from the desktop tool or from the app on my phone. I use up all 10 of those as well with my various accounts for both my business and The Cornish Life blog!
> Read my Buffer review & tutorial
I recently published an article about how I use Recurpost. You can basically create an evergreen library of content that gets recycled on your Twitter feed, so you only have to schedule a post once and it will repost again and again at different times so you don't have to keep scheduling stuff over and over! Plus it's free, so there's that.
> Read my Recurpost review & tutorial
I don't know where I'd be with Boardbooster* - this is another scheduling tool but specifically for Pinterest, and it has other features such as 'pin looping' and posting campaigns to Group Boards at specific times... it's wonderful and eventually I will be including more info on how to use this in my Pinterest online course!
> Read some of my Pinterest tips
For email marketing I use Convertkit*, simply because I outgrew Mailchimp with my list and because it has some awesome features that Mailchimp couldn't live up to. It's such a fantastic tool but gets very expensive once your list starts growing, so this is actually my biggest expense at over £100 per month! Having that price tag does encourage you to utilise it wisely though... something I have lagged on a little this month...
When I send contracts to clients, I use a digital signature software called Docusign. It's free and easy to use, and it saves me the hassle of printing, signing and scanning contracts every other day! It also means I don't even own a printer and am pretty much totally paperless, which reduces clutter for me.
> Read more about running a paperless business
It would be such a headache to keep all my client and project details in my head, so I use a CRM system called Capsule to organise all of my clients details and to remind myself when to follow up on enquiries. It's such a useful system that lets me tag organisations, set myself notifications, and store initial enquiries and emails with ease - plus it's free!
Alongside my CRM, I also use Trello (another free tool) as my project management system. I use it to keep track of what projects I'm working on, as well as using it for my Lean Business Plan and as a blog editorial calendar too.
Run an online business? Share your favourite tools below!
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