apps and programs I use daily for my calligraphy business
Sometimes it's hard to figure out what website hosts, email marketing programs, CRMs, and social media schedulers to use out of the plethora of options.
Maybe you don't even know what some of those are and why you need them?
I'm here today to share all the programs and apps I use daily over the course of my business (and the price tags that come with them), because a solopreneur isn't actually a solopreneur. Or, I'm not anyway. If you count all the people behind the programs I use, I've got a lot of partners in my business ;)
(Be aware, some of the links are affiliate links that we both get to benefit from!)
Convertkit: Email Marketing - $40 per month
I started off using Mailchimp and it definitely worked for me to start. You can use it for free for quite a while, but as soon as I wanted to up my "email marketing game", Mailchimp just didn't cut it anymore.
There are a lot of technical reasons behind my preference for Convertkit, but the biggest reason is that it is subscriber-based over list-based. This means that, unlike Mailchimp, you aren't working on building your LIST, you're working on building up SUBSCRIBERS.
How is this different? When you use a list-based service, you typically compile one list where everyone in that list gets the same emails. The problem however, comes in when you start offering more than one category of interest. I sell prints, I offer wedding calligraphy, I teach calligraphy, AND I'd like to start offering some business tips (although I feel completely unqualified to do so).
Here's the issue... not everyone on my list is interested in all of those things, and sending them all to everyone on my list risks losing subscribers who would be happy with just PART of my offerings. Convertkit gives me the ability to tag subscribers with their interests (according to the forms the sign up with and the links they click in my emails).
Some helpful links if you're interested in working on your email marketing...
Later: Instagram Planning - $12 per month
My relationship with Instagram changed when I started to schedule content ahead of time. I sit down every Monday and schedule my posts for the whole week, and when it's time to post, Later sends me a notification and it simply opens in Instagram and my caption is copied and I hit POST. (It also can auto-publish for you if you have a Business account, but I've opted to keep my account "personal" because I don't trust the system, haha!)
Benefits of scheduling:
- Consistent posting! (Ahem, not forgetting to post for 4 days, not that I've ever done that.)
- Helps you sit down and think about posting with intention, adding thoughtful captions, and staying true to your brand.
- No posting in real time! This means you get to just live your dang life and not worry about posting something RIGHT NOW.
Squarespace: Website - $15 per month
I've never used anything else, and I probably won't for a while. Squarespace is affordable, simple to use, easy to customize, and beautiful. Some other programs may have better natural SEO, but I've found that the ease of use outweighs everything else for me right now. One day, I might switch to Showit for Wordpress, but for now I'm happy here.
I use the template "Keene" and you can check out all templates (and compare how I've customized mine) here.
Dubsado: Client Relationship Management... but also just the entire running of my business. - $30 per month
I wrote a whole blog post all about why I love Dubsado a few weeks ago... You can read it here!
What do I do with Dubsado? Send out contracts and invoices, keep track of project timelines, automate my workflows, keep track of my finances... etc. It is worth EVERY penny.
Airtable: Spreadsheets and Data Management - $0!
Airtable is a sort of spreadsheet program like Google Sheets, but (IMO) better. It has really cool sorting, organizational, and collaborative abilities. I've been organizing my finances, sales stats, content plan, and product development here.
Etsy: Product Sales
Lots of people have mixed feelings about selling on Etsy. In fact, so do I.
There's a lot I don't love about selling on Etsy. It feels less professional and there's a lot of competition and over-saturated markets. But, it actually seems to work for me best these days, so I've chosen to make it my selling program of choice for now!
When I first started selling, I began on Etsy but it didn't seem to be doing anything for me (and I heard "professionals" say "DON'T SELL ON ETSY"). After selling on Etsy seemed to fail, I switched to selling exclusively on my website for a year. That didn't really work either, so in August I started to overlap between selling on my website and Etsy. I thought I'd try until Christmas and then choose to stay on one afterwards because managing two shops was too much work.
In those 5 months, I made 8x times on Etsy what I made on my website in a year and a half.
Why do I think that is? Etsy generates traffic for me that I haven't been able to generate myself. Although I have a decent sized Instagram following (about to hit 4k as I write this!), that doesn't necessarily generate sales.
Moral of the story: Don't listen to professionals who say you shouldn't do something a certain way. Do it in the way that will actually generate profits for your business.
You Need a Budget: Budgeting - $75 per year
I like keeping track of my finances here as well to make sure I'm allowing money into certain "savings accounts" without needing to open new bank accounts. I map out all the money in and out of my account in certain categories, which makes it easy to be certain I'm saving up enough money through the year to pay for my payments (ugh) and my personal income tax every year.
PLUS we actually use it mostly for personal finances and it has legitimately changed our relationship with money in our personal life. We used to not really know what what going in and out of our account and how much we were spending in areas or saving. Now we know how much we spend on groceries, gas, and personal goods, etc - AND we can make sure we're saving and not overspending. It's my favourite, and it also keep track of all your debts and helps you pay them off faster.
Kate Max Stock: Stock Photos - $130 quarterly
Product photography ain't easy, so I love to use her photos of frames and cards to place my designs on for all my product shots for Etsy and social media. They are beautifully styled and edited, and it's been so nice to have it so that I can update my product photography whenever I feel like it without needing to setup a full shoot.
Procreate: iPad Calligraphy - $14
I do most of my designing on the iPad Pro now and I can't tell you how much time it has saved me. Procreate is the PERFECT app, and it can do so much more than just calligraphy! An actual lifesaver.
Adobe Creative Cloud: Design - $40 per month (Student plan)
I use specifically Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. Until now, I've been the most comfortable with Photoshop but I'm trying really hard to utilize the other two a lot more for layouts and design. I know they have a lot of benefits, so I'm learning to push myself out of my comfort zone!