Note: This blog post was edited and republished. Our toolbox has evolved over the years as we found better ways to get the job done.
We run a pretty tight ship.
Running a Web Design Company is no easy task. To build a website you have to tap into creativity, technological know-how, and business acumen. And as most of you know, running a business is not just about offering the services or products, but supporting your clients, bookkeeping, advertising, marketing, taxes, HR…. the list seems endless and can often be overwhelming. You need to be able to define your processes and find tools that help you do your job as well as run the actual business.
I hate wasting time as much as the next person. Over the years I’ve found tools to help make running this company more efficient and just plain easier. I thought it would be a good idea to share those tools and how we use them. Maybe you’ll be able to find something useful.
Website Development and Delivery Tools
This is the biggie of course. We use WordPress alldayeveryday. As of a couple months ago it was reported that 26% of every website in the world is powered by WordPress. This is the tool that we build all of our websites on. We have written a separate post on WHY we love WordPress so much, but basically this is our daily grind: WordPress.
Photoshop is pretty popular at this point. Everyone has a general idea of what it does. Basically we use Photoshop to manipulate photos (light, color, cropping, resizing, etc.); to work with icons and logos and web graphics, and also to design websites. We usually build a website in Photoshop using different layers, and then “unlayer” it to turn the various visual elements (graphics, images, etc.) into the actual website “template”. Then we apply the code necessary and POOF, it’s a website. (not quite that easy, but you get the idea).
Photoshop is the boss. It ain’t cheap tho, yo.
Adobe Illustrator is for more complex graphics. Most logos are actually built here, as well as some of the more complex graphics. Illustrator allows you to create “vector” graphics which means the graphic can be resized without losing any of its quality, and/or individual pieces of the graphic can be more easily isolated and worked on separately.
Illustrator is also not cheap but worth the cost.
Canva is something we started using recently, and I’m kicking myself for not diving in sooner. We highly recommend using Canva for high quality graphics such as the one that headlines this blog post. Another tool with a free version, Canva comes with pre-built templates for every kind of image you can imagine, from Infographics to eBooks to Social Media graphics and everything in between. Give it a try – pretty sure you’ll love it and it will help take your social media posts to the next level. In fact, the featured image for this blog post was slapped together in Canva in about 20 seconds.
I spent WAY too much time analyzing different Project Management Tools, and I eventually have settled on Freedcamp. I like it because it’s flexible. I can assign tasks to team members, give them a due date, and give detailed instructions, or link to more robust instructions. I can link to a graphic or image or text document within the “task” so the person working on it can get everything with just a few clicks. There are areas where we can communicate about the project, report on the project, interact with other tools such as our calendar or Slack, get notified of statuses, and a million other bells and whistles, and guess what….? It’s FREE! Freedcamp
Note – another that is getting a lot of press lately is ClickUp.
When we first started offering our Website Care Plans I knew I would need a tool to help us manage it. Based on too much research and some help from a colleague, I chose Teamwork Desk. It allows us to have specific email addresses for our different levels of clients, and allows the team to manage those tickets. It also allows us to integrate with Teamwork Project (see below) to manage the tasks that are created for each ticket. We can also build a customer portal which is for the exclusive use of our Care Plan clients, and lets them track the progress of their requests. If you are providing online customer service, do yourself a favor and get Desk.
I told you I spent a lot of time analyzing different Project Management Tools, right? One of those tools was Teamwork Project. I came back to this when we needed a slick integration with our help desk software (their Desk tool above). There are lots of options out there for both of these tools – but we use this combination because they are built to work together and they work well. We can access the ticket from within Project, and we can create tasks from within Desk. The only items we run out of Project right now are customer support. Freedcamp , as mentioned, is for development projects. But once the site is done, when a client requests support of any kind, it goes thru the Teamwork Tools.
If you’re interested in Teamwork Project click here.
Other than WordPress, we probably use Slack more than anything else. The team communicates using Slack. It’s basically a chat tool – but a bit more robust than that. Slack is a SaaS tool, which means it lives in the cloud, but there’s an app for your phone, and an app for your desktop – so you don’t have to have your browser open all the time. I can privately talk to a team member, or talk publicly to a team about a project. There are ways to invite clients and even the public in to share in one of your Slack “channels” (think chat-room). We have not needed to do that yet. You can upload documents and images, and all that, but we mostly use it to discuss everything and anything. We even have it set up to “ping” us when a client sends a support request – and also when those requests hit different stages of completion – which helps us cut down on the inter-team email back-and-forth.
As the owner of a company who has a team that is all over the place, and someone who realizes email is a time-suck, I couldn’t function without it. We use the free version of Slack. It has become the industry standard – and there are lots of copycats – but there’s only one Slack.
Video conferencing is the way to go – and recently with the Coronavirus pandemic more and more people are learing about and how to use Zoom. Zoom allows you to have video conferences – so more of a face to face thing, or you can share your screen. So when I want to demonstrate something to someone or a group of someones, we open up a quick Zoom meeting and with a click of a button they can see my screen as I describe a problem or a design or a process we need to follow, step by step. It’s just silly how simple it is. You can get away with using the free version if most of your calls are 1-on-1 and if group calls are under 40 minutes.
Nimbus is a tool we use to make screenshots with notes, arrows, etc – which helps us communicate because we all know a picture is worth 1,000 words, right. It makes communicating ideas, problems, design suggestions, and anything like that much easier.
Additionally, it also records videos. This is also great for communicating to the team AND to clients. We mostly use it for annotated screenshots – to put an arrow or a box to show what needs to be changed on a website for instance. We also use Nimbusr for documenting our internal processes.
You can create an image and send it – or even better you can store it in your “library” and just send a link – very convienient!
Best part – the free version is all you should ever need.
Loom is the BEST. We use Loom to record videos. Any kind of video. We’ve created videos for our clients so they can see how to make a change to their website, or a recorded walkthrough of a design. We use Loom to create training videos for the team, or just to show them what a website is doing wrong so it can be fixed. We use Loom to create videos to record our processes so we have those well documented – it’s really the best video tool I’ve used for these types of things.
Like Nimbus – you can either save the video in a standard format and share it that way – or you can keep it in your library and share a link. When sharing a link in Gmail or other tools Loom is smart enough to just go ahead and embed the video.
When I was hiring someone to do things like help with social media, design and develop websites with me, or help me write the newsletter, I used Process Street to document what I did. There are a million different ways to do something, and no way is necessarily better than another, except that consistency is an absolute must when working with a team. I’ve been doing this a long time, so I have a certain way I want things done which is efficient and best helps our clients. Process Street helped me document step by step, with images, videos, links, and detailed instructions. Then all I do is tell someone to follow the steps and we’re good to go. You can also assign the process as a task – something like “every Monday do this process” and the person will be notified and need to check off each step as they do it. We don’t use it for that right now, but it’s there. This is another tool that has a premium version, but the free version is all we need. Get it here.
Document and File Management Tools
Google Drive & Google Apps
Google Apps, which includes Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, GMail, Calendar, and a few other tools, is a powerful suite of tools available free from Google. You can pay for Google Apps for Business, and get more storage and features if you desire. And the paid version allows you to use your domain name for your email, while using GMail. A no-brainer for $50 per year if you ask me. (and if you ask me, I can help get you set up).
We use Google Drive for all document and file storage and sharing between the team. It’s just like your drive on your computer, but out in the cloud and more easily sharable. You can share it with your team, or you can share a document with anyone you wish. Simply sending a link to the document or file will allow that person to either view or edit it (depending on how you shared it with them).
Google Docs is a word processor, which means that anything you can do in Microsoft Word, you can do in Google Docs. This blog post was originally typed up in Google Docs and stored on Google Drive until I was ready to post it on my website.
Google Sheets is a spreadsheet application – so think Microsoft Excel. Anything you would do in Excel can be done in Sheets.
The whole point of Google Apps is that it is in the cloud and easily sharable, and also can be free. But I do recommend paying for it – very worth it even if you’re a team of one.
If you’re interested in Google Apps you can SIGN UP HERE
If you’re interested in saving 20% off of Google Apps email me directly at [email protected]!
Amazon Web Services (S3)
Amazon S3 is one of the services provided by Amazon in their cloud. S3 (real name: Simple Storage Service) provides secure and scalable storage solutions at a VERY affordable price. It is only one of the MANY cloud services offered by Amazon, and most of them are pretty high tech. We’re only using the Storage Services. If you are on one of our Care Plans, we back up your site and database to our Amazon S3 account for offsite safe keeping. (if you were not aware, Amazon is basically taking over the world.) If you are interested and know what you’re looking at you can go here: https://aws.amazon.com/?nc2=h_lg but it’s not really as simple to understand as maybe it should be.
DropBox is a convenient, and again: FREE, way to store and share files. We use Dropbox when we need to have a client send us photos, graphics and videos – anything with substantial size that might be a pain to email. It allows for easy organization into folders, and of course secure sharing so only the people you want to get it, actually get it. There’s a paid and more robust version of Dropbox, but I’ve found that if you keep it cleaned up and remove the items you no longer need, the free space is enough for us.
Interested in DropBox? Click Here
Share a Secret
Need to send a password, credit card, social security number, nuclear launch codes? This is your tool. It uses security that you won’t really understand (probably) on an interface that you will – to send private information ONCE to someone. For free. You go to the site and enter the private info. You then assign a passphrase and tell it who needs the private info. That person will get an email with a link. Nothing else. When they click the link they need to give the private passphrase – and they will see the private info. Easy (assuming you have told them the passphrase ahead of time. Don’t laugh. It has happened). I generally will tell the passphrase over the phone or via text – or maybe to a separate email address. Then send the link. Works well. Shhhhhh.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much time BookLikeABoss (Blab) has saved me since I started using it. You know that conversation you have every day about setting up a meeting. “Sorry, Monday’s no good, can you do Thursday at 2? – Nope, how about three Fridays from now at 10? – No? What about…”. You know you have that conversation daily.
BLAB to the rescue! As mentioned, we use Google Calendar as part of Google Apps (see above). There’s really not a better calendar for all the integrations and access methods – including BookLikeABoss. BLAB can read your Google Calendar and see what time slots you have available – and let’s people select the date and time that works for them. The appointment is then added directly to your calendar (and theirs if they use Google) and you get an email automatically (and so do they).
Cool, right? But that’s nothing. The best part is that I can set schedules for different types of meetings. If I want to have Care Plan Strategy calls only on Tuesdays or Thursdays between 10am and noon, or 1:30 and 4pm – I can tell BLAB not to book anything outside that time when people try to book that type of event. Want to have a networking 1-2-1 meeting with me? It will probably be in the morning and not on Mondays. And of course you’re never saying “no” – you’re saying “yes” by letting them pick a time. Here’s BookLikeABoss
To see it in action you can go here: https://www.wiltwyck.com/schedule-call-pete/
PLEASE NOTE – THAT IS LIVE. PLEASE DON’T BOOK A MEETING WITH ME UNLESS YOU MEAN IT.
You’ll notice that I can have different types of meetings – mine are based on length of call.
Again – do not book a meeting using this link unless you mean it.
Stripe is my payment processing tool. It integrates so nicely with my website and allows me to set up recurring or subscription payments (such as for hosting or our Care Plans). Same fees as most processing companies (such as PayPal) but just easier to use and automatically moves money directly to my invoicing tool… Get Stripe Here
We used a free tool for a long time and frankly – our books were a MESS. We moved to QuickBooks Online and it was a game changer. It’s the industry leader for a reason. Clear, easy to use tools and reports. And more importantly, it’s what my Bookkeeper wants me to use. Most of them do. It is my invoicing tool as well. You’ve heard of it – if you are not using it ask yourself why.
If you use this link you’ll get rewarded with up to 50% off and a $50 giftcard: QuickBooksOnline
Our toolbox is full of fun tools that interact with each other and make our day a little easier – and help us to provide great service to our clients. If you have a tool you love we’d love to hear about it.