The tools I use to run my business

This post has been a long time coming. I get emails often about how to run a business, write with two little girls. And although I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the last 9 years of being an entrepreneur, I don’t feel qualified to tell everyone how they should do things. I really believe God has different avenues for us all.

I can, however, share the tools I use to optimize my time as much as possible because no matter what you may want to do, having time for those kiddos or side passions would be amazing, right?

I’m able to take home what I would consider a full-time paycheck while working about 20 hours a week. This took a lot of figuring out and when I started out 9 years ago, I remember taking home $7,000 my first year and living with my parents so that I could put as much as I could back into my business. 

I’ll add to this post as I get more questions so feel free to email me if you have any questions and I’ll try to include.

There are affiliate links on some of these (* denotes affiliate link), but please know I’m the girl who has no poker face and can’t hide if I don’t love a gift, so these are all products I love. Any commission is no added charge to you and will go to help us order our yearly inventory. And we tithe affiliate money for our Haiti kids too! 

GOALS & PLANNING

Powersheets * – This has been one of the biggest things that has helped me hone in on what’s most important and actually do it. Y’all have heard me talk at length about them here and here so check out those posts if you are still on the fence.

The Day Designer * – On the days I have my to-do on paper, I get more done. For me, it helps me focus! I normally write out what I’ll do only a day in advance besides appointments so it’s really accurate and not full of things I know I won’t be able to get done. I mentioned in my insta-stories why I’ve chosen The Day Designer among so many other planners. It’s beautiful, durable and the creator, Whitney English is a gem. They have their flagship brand as well as a less expensive line with Blue Sky and both are available on the website now! (The Blue Sky edition used to just be at Target, but I love that it’s online now so you can take time to look through the options without parking it on a Target aisle! 😉) 

Nozbe – This is where my ongoing to-do list lives. I shared how I use Nozbe to tackle my monthly goals and also my secret to praying every day for my husband in a Facebook Live. What I love about Nozbe is the ability to add time estimations to everything and then add items into your daily schedule. I’m able to be really accurate and not pile in too much on any given day. 

Trello * – I just recently started using Trello to manage projects and house my VMP handbook and I’m in LOVE! This has been really helpful to have a place to dump lots of ideas and processes. As I hire an office manager, I’m realizing having this info handy and accessible is super important. I do not use this for my actual to-do because I love Nozbe so much and tried to figure out the best way to do it in Trello, but didn’t feel it was as flexible with some things but as a project management tool, it’s amazing! Also, there is an app which makes it really nice to have such big concept things for my business at my fingertips as I get ideas on the go. I’m thinking of doing a post on how I use this. Leave a comment if you have questions or think this would be helpful. 

Evernote – I use this for blog posts and used this for what I mentioned above that I now do it Trello that’s an option too. I may phase this out as I use Trello more but I have so many posts already in Evernote, I didn’t want to move it all over just yet.  

EMAIL

Gmail – I fought my husband for years on switching to Gmail from Mac Mail. My argument, I hated that I had to open a browser to use it. And then suddenly I realize, why am I fighting to stay in my email?!? I switched over and now only open email when it’s time to work on email and y’all, I have so much better focused time. 

Text Expander – I know a lot of people suggest the Google templates, but if you repeat any text often, Text Expander is the way to go. You can create templates and literally create code slugs for each and type said slug out and it pops up! So for my signature, because I don’t want it in every email, just initial email in a thread, I type out “ssig” and my signature with office hours, title and more pops up! No copy and pasting and this works across all programs, not just email. It’s saved me just 12 hours in typing time much less time to think about what you are going to say. 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Planoly * – I love using Planoly to plan out my Instagram posts. I strive to plan a week’s worth of content out at a time for about an hour during work hours which is a far cry from what I was doing before. Sitting on my phone for 30 minutes with distractions from kiddos and being not present at all. I’m also to think better for some reason as I type out on the computer than pecking away on my phone. Then I can schedule posts with the app and can a reminder to post when it’s time to go live. The interface is beautiful too which makes it easy for this design lover to use. 

Tailwind – I had been using Boardbooster for a while and started hearing that Pinterest was changing algorithms that did not favor Boardbooster, so I just started using Tailwind as my Pinterest automation tool. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments! 

THE SHOP

Shopify – I moved from Etsy a few years ago and never looked back. Shopify is so easy to and manage and the options are endless with all the apps. Some apps I do pay for but many are free.

Shipstation * – If you ship products and are not using Shipstation, you might be wasting a lot of time. I know Etsy has likely upgraded the way they ship orders since I used it, but if you are doing more than a couple of orders at a time, the bulk options that you can do with Shipstation are invaluable and will save so much time in the future. We can create labels for about 100 orders in 20 minutes.

Refersion * – If you are looking to have affiliate links for your shop, Refersion has been what I’ve found to be the simplest and least expensive. I’ve researched a few other options and found some super confusing or designed for much bigger brands. (Also, if you’d like to be an affiliate for VMP, you can sign up here!)

WEBSITE

Station Seven * – For Website themes, I love this company’s simple and streamlined designs. I have to say, I wanted to leave this off the list knowing someone might recreate a very similar website, but am trusting y’all will do your own thing with it, right?! 😃 

WordPress – I’m a WordPress gal mainly because my web designer (my husband! 😃 ) is a WordPress man. I will be totally honest and say that I haven’t tried all the other options like Squarespace, etc but I love using WordPress! 

Convertkit * – I remember hearing people talk about ConvertKit for so long and didn’t understand the hype but I get it now! It totally stepped up my email game and I’ve more than doubled my list in the 6 months I’ve been using it compared to the previous 3+ years.  If you have a small list, I would actually recommend moving sooner than later if you can afford it. It’s harder to move the further you get. 

Thrive Themes – My sister turned me on to these. I didn’t think I needed it because I had Convertkit but there are just some things that ConvertKit is quirky about design-wise and I’m so particular that I liked the options with Thrive. I use their Landing Pages and Lead Pages but some of their other products look really helpful. I just haven’t had a chance to dive in too much! 

MEMBERSHIPS

SWHW – If you are a Christian business owner, definitely consider joining, or at the very least reading the blog posts from She Works His Way. It’s a membership site and the content is always refreshing to my business. It’s always content that keeps me focused on doing business differently than the world. 

HopeWriters – If you an author, I highly recommend this membership site! Check it out here! The blog and resources on the website are great but the Facebook group gives enough value on it’s own! 

MISC 

Surveying – Wufoo – I use this one and am honestly not sure if it’s the best option out there! It was the first one I landed on and have found it decently easy to use. 

Bluelight Blockers – Felix Gray *  – I have shared about these before but ever since hearing about the blue light from our screens and realizing there was a way to protect our eyes, I have been obsessed with wearing my glasses whenever I’m working on my computer and even watching TV at night. I have seen a difference in how much my eyes for strained after a long computer session and how I sleep at night. I got the magnification in mine and it makes what I’m looking at a little sharper and this actually helps me focus for some reason. When my glasses are on, I’m all business! 😃 

Cheaper Bluelight Blockers – Eye Buy Direct * – I looked into this option since they have them for much less! I did want the magnification (the EyeZen option) so it wasn’t as cheap as some of the other options. I actually still like my Felix Gray ones better (these have a bluish tint while the Felix Gray look like regular clear glasses) but if you are on a budget and want to protect your eyes, Eye Buy Direct is the way to go! 

And if you don’t use Ebates, definitely sign up. They have coupons (or a percent back) for some of these sites!! 

I hope this post is helpful!! I’m about to hire an office manager and will likely have a “team” category coming soon! If you have any recommendations or any other tools that help you automate or be efficient in your business, please share!!

Leave a Comment!!

  • Loved this post! Could you elaborate on why you love Shipstation vs printing labels off of Shopify? It doesn’t seem to take too long on Shopify, but I’ve heard so many people mention Shipstation… I think I’m missing out on something great! Ha
    xx, Katie Lewis (Dear Mushka)

    • Hey! From what I’ve seen there isn’t an easy way to ship a bunch at once. Like you have to print them and prep them individually? I haven’t honestly looked into it much but in ShipStation there are lots of hacks to group and put the weight, packaging, etc all at once. There are some other features I love but this is the main thing that helps me timewise!! 🙂 Hope that helps! I’m curious now if Shopify offers that too!