I am a sucker for programs and apps that makes my life easier and my business systems run more smoothly. After several years of trying (maaaaaany) different programs, I wanted to share my favorite tools for all of the administrative parts of running my web design business. (There are a few areas I haven’t settled on my favorite tool – project and task management, specifically. I think I’ve found my favorite, but I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, so I don’t feel confident enough to say it’s The One. I’ve literally tried a dozen task management apps…I’m a junkie.)
Getting inquiries, signing contracts, and issuing invoices:
Gravity Forms* – for my contact form and project planner ($39 for 1 site-$199 for unlimited). The first contact I get from a potential client comes through a form – and I love how powerful and flexible Gravity Forms is in creating those forms. You don’t need to know any code to create the forms (you do if you want to style them, though). If you just need a simple contact form on your blog (like this), then using Jetpack’s free contact form is totally sufficient.
Harvest* – for estimates and invoices ($12/month). I’ve gotten so many comments on my invoicing system and how easy it is to use! I thank Harvest for that. I send estimates for new projects and invoices for deposits, ongoing hourly work, and other design fees. I love that I can configure it to send reminders, use my own branding, and most of all, that clients paying via PayPal use business eCheck, so the fees are a mere 50 cents per transaction. For a $1000 deposit, that’s awesome, considering the fees would normally be $30 through normal PayPal.
Stripe – for paying with credit card (2.9% + 30¢/transaction). Most of my clients use the business eCheck option with PayPal (or send a paper check in the mail), but a few prefer to use a credit card. The fees are higher, but it integrates well with Harvest and gives my clients more options, which I want. (Thanks, Lisa, for recommending this!)
EchoSign – for contracts (free for up to 5 contracts a month). I like to have everything digital instead of paper, if possible. Being able to digitally sign contracts is fantastic because it’s faster (and thus, the project can start sooner!) and I don’t have to worry about filing paperwork. EchoSign doesn’t have the most modern interface, but it works perfectly for what I need!
Tracking time & money:
Toggl – for tracking time (free when I signed up – but $5/month now). I’m religious about tracking every minute of time I spend on work-related tasks and Toggl makes it so incredibly simple that I actually use it. Why do I track my time even though most of my clients are project, not hourly, based? It helps me price out projects (does this normally take 30 hours or 10 hours? Let me go see a similar project I did a few months ago…). Plus, I want to know how many hours I’m working a week. The reports tab has lots of ways to view the data – by project, by client, by time period, combinations of that, etc.
TurboTax – for doing taxes ($80 for business). Since it’s tax season, I figured I’d mention how awesome TurboTax is for taxes. Hooray for easy!
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It might seem like a lot of tools when several of them could do multiple things (I could track my money and time in Harvest, for example), but every all-in-one tool I’ve tried to use has had some clunky parts, so I’ve found what I think are the best tools for each job and can use Zapier to integrate them if needed.
I’m so glad tools like these exist to make running a business just a little easier!
*A few of the links are affiliate or referral links. As in, I get credit toward using the program for anyone who clicks it and signs up via the link. I wasn’t even signed up for the referral programs before writing this post – just figured if I was going to sincerely recommend tools I love, I might as well get a little credit toward using those very tools! So don’t worry, it’s authentic – I freaking love these tools.