The 2 Programs I Use to Keep my Business Organized

Most of us just starting out in small creative businesses have no idea where to start.

And when we start figuring it out, we're a little all over the place.

Scratch, that, we're a lot all over the place!

I was tearing my hair out over how disorganized I felt. "Seriously," I thought, "There HAS to be a better way!"

Lucky for me, there was. And there can be for you too! Today I'm talking about the 2 programs that have revolutionized my business. As in, saved time, less stress, and more money!

*** In order to help keep the lights on in this little corner of the internet, this post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive compensation for anyone who signs up using my links. However, I only ever affiliate with products I use and love myself and think would benefit my readers***

 
Most of us just starting out in small creative businesses have no idea where to start.  And when we start figuring it out, we're a little all over the place.  At one point, I was tearing my hair out over how disorganized I felt. "Seriously," I thought, "There  HAS  to be a better way!"  Lucky for me, there was. And there can be for you too! Today I'm talking about the 2 programs that have revolutionized my business. As in, saved time, less stress, and more money!
 

Trello

Trello is the integral program that keeps the backend of my business running smoothly. I had previously fiddled around with Trello and found I had no idea how to use it. It ended up sitting on my home screen gathering dust for a long time until I found Trello for Business by the lovely ladies over at Think Creative Collective! Their low-cost course completely changed the way I organized my business. Now I use it on a daily basis, and I have never felt more in control!

So what is Trello anyway?

I’m so glad you asked! Trello is a Project Management Tool. It consists of boards, lists, and cards.

For those of you who have never stumbled upon Trello, you may have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s okay! Take a look at the screenshot below and I’ll explain.

 
Trello board
 

The screen you’re looking at is a board. This particular board is named “Editorial Calendar” and it functions as a way to keep track of all of my blog posts in order.

The grey tabs across the board (labelled PLEASE READ ME FIRST, Brain Dump, Outlined/Drafted, etc.) are the lists, and the little white rectangles on cards.

You can organize boards any way you want, but most of the time the organization of boards falls into 1 of 2 categories: lists with a common theme, or lists that follow steps in a workflow. This board follows the latter format (more on that below).

Goal Tracking

I have a board in Trello dedicated specifically to my yearly and quarterly goals. I break them down further in different lists on that board so that I always know what I need to do on any given day. By looking at this board, I’m able to see if I what I’m doing today is actually bringing me closer to the goals that I set for myself, or if it’s just busy work.

I love this board! It keeps me on track like nothing else has! I truly recommend adding this board to your library.

Editorial Calendar

Remember that workflow method of organizing a Trello board? Look back at that screenshot I showed you earlier. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

See that card under Outlined/Drafted? You can see that “Blog Post Idea 3” has come out of its beginning stages of Brain Dumping (both the blog post and any notes related to the blog post), and is now being outlined and drafted. Once those tasks are complete, I can move it into the Scheduled list, so that I know the post hasn’t gone live, but will soon, and so on and so forth!

A great feature of cards is to assign them due dates. In this case, I would assign “Blog Post Idea 3” to be due the day it goes live once it has been scheduled, so I know when to check back!

I know this doesn’t look like much, but when you have a ton of ideas bouncing around in your head and some half-written blog posts that you want to come back to, this board is a super handy tool to have. You’ll never wonder where you are with any given blog post!

Daily To-Do List

Similar to my Goal Tracking board, I have a board dedicated to my everyday to-do list. I actually end up copying a lot of cards from my Goal Tracking board to my weekly board so that I can pull it up and know what day I have to do everything.

The way I organize my weekly board is a little different than how I organize most of my boards. I have a list for every workday of the week and I drag and drop my copied cards to the appropriate day, so when I’m getting a bird’s-eye view of my week, I know exactly what has to get done on what day and plan accordingly!

Having a place to put all of that nitty-gritty is really helpful, especially because regular to-do lists function more as braindumps, and nothing makes me more anxious than looking at just how much I have to do without any kind of further organization.

Calendar

The cool thing about Trello is that they have a feature called Power ups. While they offer a ton of different integrations and automations, I usually stick to the same one: Calendar. Calendar gives you the ability to see all of your due dates on a board in calendar form, so even if you’re not using a weekly spread, you can see what is due on a specific day.

The unfortunate thing is that this doesn’t work across boards, but I have a super handy workaround for you below!

Automation

Who doesn’t love saving time? Automation is the cornerstone of saving time in Trello.

I use one automation tool on all of my boards and it has been an absolute game-changer!

It’s called Butler for Trello.

Butler for Trello is a bot created specifically to do things automatically for you in your business. It’s simple to set up and once complete, it runs in the background without any work on your part!

The first step is to invite Butler to your board. Press the “Show Menu” button in the top right of your Trello board. Press the Invite button and type in “butlerbot”. You should see a blue icon with a bell (like the kind you find in a hotel) on it.

Once invited, Butlerbot will set up a list on your board named “Butler.” The first card will be labelled Instructions. Click into it and you’ll see something like this:

 
Instructions Card in Butler for Trello
 

Click the Command Builder link in the description and it will pull up the Butler Command Builder:

 
Butler for Trello
 

In this example, I’m going to show you how to have Butler automatically copy any card in which you set a due date to your weekly spread.

 
Setting up Commands in Butler for Trello
 

There will be two columns labelled, “Triggers” and “Actions.” On the Triggers side, you’ll set the condition that will tell Butler to do something. In this example, you’ll see that the trigger I chose is “when a due date is added to a card”.

On the Actions side, you’ll choose what you want Butler to do when the Trigger occurs. I have set it to “copy the card to list To Schedule on board My Week”.

Once you’ve done this, a box will appear at the bottom with your completed command. In the bottom right of this box is a copy button.

Now this is super important. This command won’t work unless you copy it to the Butler list in the board you just set Butler for Trello up on. And the command won’t work if the list and board you specified in the command is spelled exactly as you wrote it into the command. It’s not too hard, but it can happen.

I love Trello, and I hope you see the value in using it for your business.

For my service-based ladies, though, a back-end organization system is great, but it’s really just one piece of the puzzle. If you’re looking for something that’s going to help you keep track of everything related to your clients, Dubsado is for you!

Dubsado

Dubsado is the only CRM I recommend for creatives running a small business. If you feel like you have to buy programs left and right for invoicing, contracts, and anything related your client workflow, I want you stop and open a Dubsado account. It’s free for your first 3 clients. There’s purposely no time-limit enforced on your free trial, because the lovely couple behind this program would rather you have a firm grasp on their product before investing in it. How incredible is that?!

What is Dubsado?

Dubsado is a Client Relationship Management tool. It keeps track of everything related to your client work. If that doesn’t make you sigh in relief, then I don’t know what will!

Just like Trello, Dubsado saves you a ton of time and even has a task list visible from your dashboard, along with a weekly calendar that shows all of your upcoming appointments.

If you can’t tell how much I love Dubsado yet, let me tell you a little more about what it has to offer you!

Lead Capture

From the moment a potential client reaches out to you, Dubsado gets to work. Their forms offer a Lead Capture form that is fully customizable and embeddable on your website, so when your lead hits that submit button, they are automatically added to your Leads tab in Dubsado. I used to use the Form function on Squarespace, and while that was nice, I was still having to do annoying filing for each client to make sure everything was in one place. Dubsado makes it easy-peasy by seamlessly loading all of that information into its system, so that there’s no hunting for the information on your own.

Another great function of the Leads tab is that you can assign different statuses to leads who are working through your sales funnel. I like to do this similarly to a Trello workflow board, each status being a step towards the sale! This way I always know where a lead is in the process.

 
Lead Statuses in Dubsado
 

Every Form in One Place

Dubsado lets you create forms galore: contracts, subcontracts, questionnaires, lead captures, proposals, and more! Their customization process is out of this world, so every form looks beautifully designed to fit your brand.

After setting up your templates, all you have to do is assign them to a lead or client, and it will always be attached to them so you always know where everything is.

You can even change a form once it has been assigned to a lead or client without affecting the template. You’re in complete control, and you’ll save all that time you were spending tracking down all of those forms or files you had for clients before using Dubsado.

Boards

While I will be using Trello until the end of time, making your client sign up for Trello when they don’t already have one just to dedicate a private board to them is just a ton of extra work. Luckily, Dubsado has a board function!

While it doesn’t have all of the amazing features Trello has, You can assign boards to your client to help them keep track of their different deadlines and tasks. You can also assign boards to the client that only you can see so you can keep track of all of your deadlines for their project.

The best part? The client doesn’t have to sign up for anything! All they need is the password you assign to them and they’re in! Don’t worry, I’ll explain more in a bit.

Automation & Workflows

This is one of my favorite parts of Dubsado. Workflows are an integral part of our business, because most of the time we’re doing the same things over and over.

The team at Dubsado recognized this, and so created a way to automate your workflows for you! All you have to do is load your workflow into your Templates tab, and Dubsado will automatically follow the steps at the moment you assign the workflow to a client.

It’s as easy as set it and forget it!

 
Workflow in Dubsado
 

Client Portals

Here’s where everything comes together. Remember how I said your client doesn’t have to sign up for anything? This is why that works!

When you go into the information for your lead, there’s an option to activate a portal for your client.

 

 
Dubsado Portal 1
Activating a Client Portal in Dubsado
Activated Portal in Dubsado
 

Here you can set a password for the portal if desired. It isn’t required, but if you deal with private information, it’s definitely a good idea.

Once you’ve activated the portal, you can send it to your client in an email, with a link to the portal and their password. Dubsado has an automatic email template that makes it a cinch!

Once your client gets the email and clicks into their portal, they’ll see a screen like this

 

 
Portal Sign in for Dubsado
 

After entering the password you have provided them, they’ll enter their portal. It will look like this:

 
Client Portal Dashboard in Dubsado
 

As you can see, everything relating to your client can be accessed here: appointments, contracts, forms, etc. If you look at the tabs at the top, you can access projects for the client, emails between you, and even your client’s profile, in case their personal information changes while you work together.

If you click into the Projects tab, you’ll see a screen like this:

 
Project Page in Dubsado Portal

You may be doing more than one job for a client. You can access the contracts, invoicing, appointments, and more for each project by clicking into the dropdown menu at the top.

You might notice that there is a board at the bottom of the screen. That’s one of the boards I mentioned. If clicked, it will open a screen that looks like a very basic Trello board.

 
 
Board for Dubsado Client
 

Your client will be able to add, delete, and modify anything they want in a board assigned to them. So if they complete a task, they can check it off a list, or they can add to a list as they choose!

Dubsado has been a godsend for my service-based business. It took so much off of my plate that I can focus more on the actual client work and bringing you amazing content!

And there you have it! The 2 amazing programs that allow me to stay organized and on top of all of the things. These tools will help you get your business and yourself in order so you can get back to the important stuff! And who doesn't want that?

Where to Next?