Over the past few months of taking my business full-time, I’ve had to streamline my processes as much as possible so that I’m more efficient so that I can spend my precious time on things that are most important to propel my design business forward. After running a creative business for quite some time now, I’ve tried a lot of different systems and over time I’ve found some amazing platforms that I use on a daily basis that I can 100% recommend. In today’s post, I’m rounding up the top 10 tools I use to run my creative business.
Illustrator & Adobe Suite
I design in Illustrator all day every day. It’s my favorite design program in the Adobe Suite although I do recommend having knowledge in Indesign and basic Photoshop as well. I design branding, newsletter graphics, print collateral, surface patterns, mood boards, and website graphics all in illustrator. I’m self taught in all of these programs and there is a definite learning curve in illustrator but after being dedicated to learning and designing in the program for about a year- I could do everything I needed to do. Learning on the job has always been huge for me but also knowing that you actually don’t have to master every single feature in a program to be successful is so important.
Whenever I’m designing a website for a client I design it on one of these three platforms. I’ve found no matter what line of work the client is in, their needs can be fit by either Showit, for a fully custom designed site, Shopify for e-commerce, or Squarespace for a user friendly drag and drop site design. I will be writing an entire post dedicated to which website platform is right for your business since it is by far the question that I’m asking the most often.
Pinterest is quickly becoming my favorite platform to market myself as a designer. Not only is it a great marketing tool, it’s an amazing collaboration tool we use when pulling project direction on the design teams I work on. If we are working on a large project where multiple people need to get on the same page, we’ll create a secret board and all contribute pins for inspiration and direction for the project.
This year I started using Tailwind for scheduling out my pins and my account has grown from 20K views per month to 400K+. Tailwind will automatically post your pins when your account’s followers are the most active. I also use Tailwind to plan out an instagram feed I manage for a client and it allows you to see the grid, preschedule hashtags and see what time of day you should schedule your posts based on insights from past posts. You can either have Tailwind auto post to Instagram or you can get a text notification that it’s time to push your post out.
I finally hired out my bookkeeping for my business and am SO THRILLED to have this task off of my own plate. This has always been a spot of frustration for me because I simply am not a numbers person and I would much rather hand this off to the pros who know exactly what they’re doing. It has given me such peace of mind so far and I’m love being able to use that time and energy to serve my clients and stay in my magic.
Dropbox is one of my most used platforms as a designer. I have a folder for each one of my client projects and it keeps everything safe and organized. One of my favorite features is the ability for the client/designer to highlight portions of the design and write a comment with their feedback for revisions. This has cut down on emails and made my life so much easier on client calls to note things that need to be changed on the design.
Loom has been a complete game changer for the level of experience I offer my clients. If I’m presenting a solution to a Shopify issue I’ve solved for a client and need to walk them through the work that was done or teach them how to maintain the change, I’ll record a quick video on Loom and send it over to the client via email. I also use this screen recording tool if I’m walking my branding clients through a direction board and I want to explain each of the elements and the strategy behind the design direction.
Zoom is the video conference platform that the teams I design on use when we have our weekly calls and I also use it when I’m doing a discovery call with prospective clients. There is a trust factor that comes with talking with someone and seeing their face when they’re selling you a service that you just can’t do over email. This has worked wonders for my business because I can share my genuine passion
8. Marco Polo
Marco Polo is a video recording app on your phone where you can record short messages for another contact or group of contacts. This has really helped the workflow with a design team I’m on and we use it on a daily basis to communicate ideas and questions we have for projects we’re working on. This has made project timelines move so much faster because we’re no longer emailing back and forth and trying to schedule team calls.
Mailchimp is a platform I use weekly for my client’s email marketing. One of the major perks that keeps me on this platform is that it’s free. I definitely have some more research to do when it comes to email marketing, segmenting lists, and targeting certain customers. For right now, I mostly focus on the design side of email marketing and making sure my client’s emails are on brand with the rest of their collateral.
There’s a reason Instagram is at the very bottom of my list. This has become a necessary evil in my business as it has become increasingly harder to reach people on this platform. A few years ago when I was transitioning from being an artist to a brand designer, I took a hard look at where most of my clients were coming from and to my surprise almost none of them were coming from Instagram. This was a huge wakeup call for me to think of Instagram as a marketing tool that I try to use consistently to share my work on. I now use it as more of a place to share about my design philosophy, behind the scenes looks at what I am working on, a place to connect with other creatives and business owners, and even a place where I can keep up with my clients on a more personal level.
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I’m Katie, the brand strategist, designer, dreamer, and entrepreneur behind Artful Brands. Dreamy typefaces, clean layouts, and soft color palettes are my love language— but more importantly designing strategic brands that book.