This week I’m shedding light on start-up solutions for your small business. These 4 tools have made a big difference in my business, and I’m willing to bet they’ll do the same for you. I credit them for keeping things running swift & smooth ’round the HQ. Dare I say it, I wouldn’t have a business without them.
As you may have already discovered, there’s a whole page dedicated to my favorite freesources & paid tools, but I’m pulling out the most critical. While starting up & operating kvh. creative, I’ve learned the importance of a lot of things, but if I really had to narrow it down, it would be:
a) a solid CRM/bookkeeping software, b) clear contract templates that look out for both my business and my clients, c) stellar web design, and d) clear & compelling copywriting.
Below I’ve broken down what I use for each of these and why.
There’s quite a few options to choose from when it comes to finding your perfect CRM – (Honeybook, 17Hats, etc). So, before you read on, if you’re happy with yours, save yourself the read and move on to the next paragraph! Dubsado gets major points in my book because it was created by creatives for creatives. They’ve pretty much thought of everything – from invoices, proposals, forms, notes, client portals, financial reporting, and more. They’re always looking to improve or add new features. But mostly, I feel 100% confident in the client experience Dubsado allows me to create and that is everything. Try out Dubsado for yourself and use the code “kvhcreative” for 20% off your first month!
I mentioned Christina Scalera’s The Contract Shop around the holidays, but I wanted to give it another shout-out in case your inbox was on overload around that time. Having a contract will ensure you rest easy at night and have an answer for any number of the crazy things that can occur over the course of servicing a client. I know it’s tempting to Google a free one and just copy and paste. That works, right?
Of all the web platforms out there – WordPress, Showit, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc. – my heart really goes out to Showit and WordPress. My kvh. creative site is on the Showit platform, while kaitlynhiltz.com is a WordPress website. I love both for different reasons, but today, I’m going to focus on Showit. If you’re really looking to set yourself apart with design that can pretty much do anything – and still be managed by you – Showit is the way to go. I’ve been blown away at what I’ve been able to create on Showit, while feeling as intuitive as ‘cut & paste’. I know they talk about being the web platform for “photographers” but they can totally work for any creative business owner.
Shop Showit themes/templates here or some of my favorite Showit site designers are GoLiveHQ, Tonic Site Shop, and The Palm Shop. These themes are definitely a premium investment, but if you want the look of a custom build without the full price tag, they’re it.
If you have questions about which platform is best for you, I’m happy to consult you on this! I can also assist you with theme selection, install, and customization services.
IF you’re sold on going the WordPress route, I’ll always be partial to themes by StnSvn – I’m currently swooning over their Paloma theme!
04. Clear, Compelling Copy (with a Brand Messaging Style Guide)
When I first started my business, I was more anxious to get everything up and going – I wanted all the pretty! – but I think a little bit of patience would have allowed me to hash out my brand messaging in a way that would have allowed me to attract my ideal client sooner.
Separating my personal and professional sites was a crucial decision for me and largely, that decision was based on the struggle I was having with my copy. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to explain how many things I was doing, interested in, and passionate out. The only answer was to do less (on each site), and therefore, make each of them much stronger.
I just finished reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown (so good!) and he hammers the concept of “less, but better”, based on the German phrase, “weniger, aber beset”, coined by Dieter Rams. This FOR SURE applies to your brand messaging.
Even the best web design in the world will only be as successful as the words on its pages.
Does it clearly offer a solution to its visitors within the first couple seconds? Does it cleverly help them navigate the rest of the site and approach inquiry?
So if you’re steaming full force ahead and haven’t even thought about how to clearly, consistently articulate your brand across every medium, let me offer a word of advice. Slow your roll, connect with a copywriter (hey girl, hey!) and get that brand messaging scribed on paper. It will serve as a foundation for everything else you do and say.
I guess I don’t really have one tool for this one (although these are some in my wheelhouse) but hands down, a Brand Messaging Style Guide including things like brand identity, brand voice, a words + phrases bank, etc. has been critical.
I know I mentioned giving you a template for ^this one and I’m still working on getting it to you. But for now, it’s reserved for 1v1 client use only!
Another thing that’s stressed in Essentialism is the amount of noise in the world today – and it’s 100% true. You could spend all day long reading other entrepreneur’s emails, downloading freebies, testing out tools, and pouring all your time and energy into things that don’t bring home dollar signs or give you the sense of a job well done.
Figure out what your 4 (or so) tools are and run as lean & mean of a business as you can. Create a tech/systems wish list on something like Trello and add to it when you come across things that look relevant to you. When time and budget allows, add one new tool/system at a time.
Honestly evaluate the purpose every tool/system serves. Decide whether it contributes to your efficiency or customer service and cut the clutter.
By streamlining your systems and you’ll have more room for what matters most. Fancy systems don’t make you successful. Smart, focused decision making does.
What about you? Just starting out? Well-versed in creating systems? What are your best start-up solutions?