My Business Tools

My Business Tools

Before I give you the rundown of the business tools I use and how much I spend, let me offer a little food for thought. If you’re still bootstrapping #AllTheThings in your business, consider this:

Not spending money may be costing you more than you realize. Let’s say your hourly rate is $50. If it takes you 5 hours to manually post to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, that’s $250. If a social scheduling tool costs you $20 a month, and a VA would take 2 hours to load it up for $60 a month, that’s $80. So … $250 vs. $80 …  the decision now seems like a no-brainer, right?

It’s hard to part with money, especially for something you could do yourself. But if you actually think through the time you spend vs. the low costs for automation tools, it quickly becomes clear these programs are worth their weight in gold.

Here are the 7 tools that I’m willing to hand over money for every month (that’s saying a lot because I love my money!).

Also, I’m totally transparent. There are affiliate links for each of these business tools. You’ll pay what you would anyway, but if you sign up using my link, I get a small reward (typically in the form of a free month or discount on my fees).

7 business tools worth every penny

 

The 7 Business Tools I Use & Recommend

1. Podia

launched my first course in 2017 and thought about bootstrapping it using YouTube and a password-protected page on my website, but then thought better of it after chatting with other more experienced course creators. I started on Thinkific, but in 2018 I upgraded to Podia. You can read here why I made the switch, but in short I’ve become a die-hard Podia fan. It allows me to host my courses, sell digital downloads, and manage my membership community. It does more than the competition and costs less. You can’t beat that.

Investment: $79/month

2. Honeybook

It took me years to finally admit I needed a customer resource management (CRM) tool. The truth is, though, I was so sick of manually sending my coaching clients applications, welcome emails, invoices, contracts, homework assignments, and more. Honeybook now automates all of it. I have a custom workflow that handles everything from the point of a client inquiry to their end-of-engagement survey. I can’t even tell you how much time this saves me each month, so it’s absolutely ridiculous that I waited so long to spend a measly $40 to do it (and it’s less if you pre-pay for the entire year. If you need a CRM, use my link to get 50% off for your first year. No more excuses!

Investment: $40/month (or just $20 with my promo code)

3. QuickBooks

I finally stopped my Excel spreadsheet madness this year and started using QuickBooks like a grown-up business owner. It integrates with my business bank account/debit card so I don’t have to remember to manually track expenditures anymore. I can categorize income/expenses and it adds repeat items automatically. I also use it for invoicing, which is leaps and bounds better than my old-school method of making them in Word and tracking them in Excel.

Investment: $10/month

4. Acuity Scheduling

I really resisted paying for a scheduling system. Why pay when I can just add events into my iCal? The truth is I have a ton of appointments—virtual coffee dates (integral to growing your network), interviews for my podcast and for the masterclasses for my membership community, and discovery calls for my coaching work. Managing all of that was cumbersome back when I had to go back and forth via email to nail down times with people. Now I can just send a link and they can book themselves into my calendar. The system sets different available times based on the type of appointment, and it integrates with my iCal and my Gmail, so I can easily block off time without having to go to the Acuity site.

Investment: $15/month

5. ConvertKit

When I started my email list in 2016, I used Mailchimp because it was free and easy. As my list grew, I wanted to do things like automatically send my opt-ins, create automated welcome and sales sequences, and segment my list based on purchases. That’s when I switched to ConvertKit. I paid someone about $200 to help me set everything up, but now it’s pretty straightforward to add new opt-ins and sequences, write regular newsletters, and manage my subscriber list. Also, paying for a list based on its size has made me more inclined to prune cold subscribers on a regular basis (something I never did before because I was so caught up on vanity metrics). Now my list is more engaged than ever, with an average open rate of 40%.

Investment: $49/month (I was paying $29/month, but recently moved up to the 1,000-3,000 subscriber plan)

6. Zoom

For the longest time, I used Skype (free) for video calls. The problem, though, was figuring out how to record those sessions if needed. Also, they didn’t allow for group calls. I like to provide recordings of my coaching sessions so my clients can review them as needed. Also, I host virtual co-working and masterminds for my membership community, so I need to be able to host dozens of people. Enter Zoom. This very cool, and super affordable, tool solves all my problems. I’m also using it to record my podcast interviews.

Investment: $14.99/month

7. SmarterQueue

I don’t know if I have the words to describe my love for SmarterQueue. I’ve been using Hootsuite for free for years, and I hated the idea of paying to schedule social media posts. I only switched to this program recently, and it’s already my favorite tool. It replaces everything I managed on Hootsuite (Facebook page, Twitter, and LinkedIn), plus can manage Instagram and Pinterest. What’s so great about it? You can create content categories—tips, blog posts, quotes, as examples—and fill them up with evergreen content. Then you can let those posts recycle as many times as you want. There’s also a cool drag-and-drop calendar where you can plot out which categories will be used at which times on which accounts. Like, seriously, this thing is so incredibly robust for the price. I can’t get over it.

Investment: $19.99/month

In all, I spend $227.98/month on tools for my business. At a billable rate of $100/hour, I’d have to handle all of those tasks in less than three hours a month to make it worth the DIY route. Impossible.

If you’re reading this thinking, “Oh boy, that sounds familiar. I am totally DIYing things I shouldn’t,” then take my advice and start investing in your business. It’s really true that you have to spend money to make money. Just be sure to spend it wisely!

Oh, and if you’re a paper planner kind of person like me, check out this list of my favorite planners.

Planners for 2019: 12 Must Haves

Planners for 2019: 12 Must Haves

This is third year in a row that I’ve run this list of the best planners made for creative women business owners by creative women business owners. These lists are—far and away—the most popular posts on my blog. If you’re finding me because of this post, I’m so happy you’re here!

I’m a coach for women business owners. When I start working with my clients, almost all of them feel overwhelmed and scattered. They have so many ideas, but lack a clear plan of attack. Sound familiar?

I love a pretty planner (I mean, I’m like a giddy school kid when I work on these best planner lists!), but it’s unlikely to help you much if you don’t first get clear about your goals. That’s why I highly recommend you download my free checklist to help you create strategic goals (instead of a random to-do list) before you dive into your shiny new 2019 planner. It will help you get clear about what matters most, and finally develop a system for prioritizing your ideas.

Okay, now let’s get to it! I hope you have as much fun reading about these 2019 planners as I had pulling this list together. This year’s list includes some of my favorites from previous years, along with a few new ones.

Among these 12 planners, I’m hopeful you’ll find just the right one for your organizational and inspirational needs!

 

This is the comprehensive list of the 12 best planners made for women entrepreneurs by women business owners.

(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase via a link here, I may receive a commission. The price is the same for you whether you use my link or buy directly from the vendor.)

 

The Day Designer Planner

Whitney EnglishWhitney English Day Designer faced an overflowing email inbox, a hand-scribbled to-do list, a pile of meeting notes, and felt overwhelmed and disorganized back in November 2011. She needed a solution—quickly. That’s when she came up with the Day Designer™. It was my first “real” (non-drugstore) planner, and I remain totally smitten with it.

The Day Designer PlannerThe Day Designer ($59) is the original daily planner. It’s a simple and easy system created to help women find balance and productivity. There are yearly and monthly glances, but this one is all about the daily pages. There is a focus on the top three things you need to do each day (my favorite part!). There’s also a ton of space for events, to-dos, notes, meal planning, gratitude, and more. I really love the inspirational quotes. If you’re a daily planner user, I doesn’t get better than this!

Learn more/order: DayDesigner.com


The Refresh Weekly Planner

Jenna Murillo Planner RoundupJenna Murillo has felt a sense of magic with paper since childhood. She’s energized by turning a blank canvas into something beautiful. That’s what led her to planner design. “Designing a product that’s a stunning and functional tool for others was always a dream,” she says. “In 2015, fueled by the encouragement of friends and family and a fire inside of me to create, I fulfilled that dream.”

Refresh PlannerThe Refresh Weekly Planner ($39.95) is back for 2019 slimmer than ever before, and featuring three cover design options (I don’t know how to choose among them!). The Refresh Planner includes an updated pocket design, goal-planning pages, monthly and weekly spreads, and a notes section. It’s all beautifully bound with hard covers in a new, lightweight design. Plan for progress and take some serious action on your goals with the 2019 Refresh Weekly Planner. This one always makes my list because it’s so pretty and practical!

Learn more/order: WorkSpacery.com


Inspired Year Planners

Kathy Pine Planner RoundupKathy Pine started her first company at age 25. After navigating the challenges of balancing entrepreneurship and early motherhood, Kathy realized she had a passion for helping women pursue their dreams and she began making inspirational and practical paper products. She created her first planner with a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017. Now the Inspired Year planner is the flagship product of her One Love Paper Co.

Inspired Year PlannerThe 2019 Inspired Year Planner ($49) is the ultimate goal-setting calendar for busy creatives who are juggling it all. Its no-nonsense approach, functional design, and roomy pages provide everything you need to stay organized and inspired. It’s designed with goal-setting and work-life balance in mind. It’s uniquely suited to manage your busy days while making space for your dreams. My favorite part of this planner is all the incredibly helpful and inspiring annual, quarterly, and monthly goal-setting exercises. The “wheel” activity really opened my eyes!

Learn more/order: 1LovePaper.com


The Life Planner

Erin Condren Planner RoundupErin Condren left 12-hour days in the apparel industry to become a stay-at-home mom of two. She developed a case of cabin fever, and searched online for career opportunities she could do from home. She began making cards for friends, as birthday gifts, new baby announcements and hostess gifts. Her friend encouraged her to sell her designs at a “shopping party” at her home in June 2004. The rest is history.

The LifePlannerThe LifePlanner™ ($50+) is the ultimate planning system to get organized, achieve your goals, and preserve memories in one stylish space. This feature-packed planner boasts two-page spreads per month, three layouts (vertical, horizontal, or hourly), stylish design elements and inspirational quotes, coiled-in stickers, and a two-page goal setting spread. It’s ideal for anyone who loves scrapbooking or is otherwise artistic. There are so many accessories you can use to personalize your planner and make it a true reflection of you!

Learn more/order: ErinCondren.com


Perfect Project Planners (digital download)

Eve TokensEve Tokens Planner Roundup says she created a planner to keep her life on track. “I was using a bullet journal for managing my personal life, Trello for my online business, and my phone calendar to keep track of both and random other appointments,” she says. “It was too much, and I found I was getting less done than ever before.”

The Perfect Project PlannerThe Perfect Project Planner (£27 or $34.91) is designed for bloggers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs who need a planner that does all the things. Download and bind this planner and use it to track everything you need for your blog/business. Key features include a 2018 review, goal planning for 2019, important dates, book list, 2018 and 2018 Google Analytics overview, weekly stats tracking, quarterly financial goals, project idea areas, 90-day sprint planning, and more. I love this one for bloggers (or any business with a blog) and for anyone who hates lugging around a heavy planner.

Learn more/order: Gumroad download


The Bulletproof Business Planner

Yvonne “Yvi” HeimannYvonne Heimann Planner Roundup set out on a mission to integrate her work and life passions fully, simply, and in a way that would do what “planners” are actually meant to do—magnify our greatness! After years of trying to find the perfect planner, app, or productivity tool, Yvi decided to revolutionize the planner industry. The Bulletproof Business Planner (formerly known as ProtoPreneur Planner) empowers us to cultivate our life’s The Bulletproof Business Plannerpassions and bring our deepest desires to life.

The Bulletproof Business Planner ($59) empowers you to design (not just dream about) your destiny. It helps you become the most clear-minded, productive, motivated, inspired, and kick a$$ version of yourself. It’s like a best friend who remembers and reminds you of your most important projects and dreams, encourages you to track and be proud of your personal accomplishments, workouts, and everything in between. I love this one because it’s undated so you customize it to fit your schedule. Plus, the leather-look cover is GORGEOUS and durable. This is a beast of a planner!

Learn more/order: AskYvi.com


The Happiness Planner

Mo Seetubtim always dreamed of having an inspirational brand that people love. Her dream finally came true in March of 2015 with the launch of The Happiness Planner. It’s a beautiful journal designed to help people become happier and more fulfilled by embracing positive thinking, mindfulness, gratitude, and self-development.

Happiness PlannerThe Happiness Planner® ($46-$59) will help you not only manage your to-do list, but also live a truly happy and fulfilled life in alignment with your core values, personality traits, and strengths. There are four main elements: the Happiness Roadmap (become more self-aware and set fulfilling goals), the Planning Pages (stay focused and motivated on monthly goals), the Daily Pages (fill your days with inspiration), and the Reflection Pages (learn from the highs and lows of each week/month). As a mindset coach, I absolutely adore this comprehensive approach to a planner!

Learn more/order: TheHappinessPlanner.com


How to Craft Strategic GoalsTired of checking things off your to-do list,
yet feeling totally stalled?
Use this free checklist to craft meaningful goals
that actually move your business forward.


The She Plans Planner

Ashley StaumAshley Staum Planner Roundup‘s dream started late one evening while in grad school. In order to avoid studying for a few hours, she decided to design her own planner to stay on top of everything on her plate. She fell in love with the process of designing that first planner, and continued to make her own planners each semester and later for co-workers. In early 2013, she began selling digital versions and now physical planners.

The She Plans PlannerThe She Plans Planner ($20-$46) had some big changes for 2019. There are now daily, weekly, and monthly versions so you can choose the one that fits the way you plan. There are full 7×9-inch sewn notebooks in monthly ($20), weekly/quarterly ($38), and daily/quarterly ($46) offering the size of a traditionally bound planner with the ease and simplicity of a sewn notebook. This year’s layouts include extras like a unique 4-page weekly spread in the weekly planner, and both week-at-a-glance and full Sat/Sun pages in the daily planner. New this year is a loose daily planner with tabs for those who love a binder system.

Learn more/order: ShePlans.com


Rule The World Planners

Ilana Griffo Planner RoundupIlana Griffo decided to make a planner when she couldn’t find one that fit her needs. “As a design student, I wanted a place I could doodle, take notes, and stay on track of my classwork,” she says. In the last five years, Griffo’s planner has evolved to reflect her creative journey and her customers’ needs. Rule the World Planner

The Rule The World Planner ($36) is full of goal-setting tools bound to help you crush your goals. From budget-planning worksheets to inspirational quotes, this planner is bound to make this year your best yet.

Learn more/order: IlanaGriffo.com


The Ashley Shelly Planner

Ashley ShellyAshley Shelly Planner Roundup started designing planners soon after creating The Budget Notebook, her first official product, because customers asked for it and she felt the time was right. “I’ve been a planner user for years, but I always wanted to improve on the designs I saw,” she says.

The Ashley Shelly PlannerThe Ashley Shelly Planner ($44.95) helps women create their best days by planning on paper. It features the perfect combination of organization and inspiration. This functional planner includes special features that guide you through organizing and staying inspired throughout the year. It includes a weekly layout with schedule and to-do list sections, and a spot for due today and dinner, equal space for all days of the week, and a hard, glossy cover (7.25×9.25 inches including binding).

Learn more/order: AshleyShelly.com


The Anchored Press Devotional Planner

Anchored Press is part of the comprehensive list of the 12 best planners made for women entrepreneurs by women business owners.Deana Uhrig created a planner to help women keep organized and help them find daily time with God. Her biggest prayer is that her planner keeps people focused on God as they plan their days.

The Anchored Press Devotional Planner ($49) is a Christian planner full of Bible verses and devotional content. Each weekday includes a devotion written by a different (godly, gifted, and inspiring) contributor that focuses on a specific theme. Following each, you’ll be guided through a full week of reflecting and growing in that area of your life. Also included are meal planning, goal setting, notes pages, prayer request pages, pockets, and other organizational tools.

Learn more/order: AnchoredPress.com


Fulfill Your Dreams Life Planners

Anung VillayAnung Villay Planner Roundup is the mastermind behind Courageous Creativity, a place for introverts and homebodies to go on with their life and live with some adventure.

The Fulfill Your Dreams PlannerThe Fulfill Your Dreams Planner ($9.99 – $14.99) will help you plan and prioritize your dreams. You get pages to mind map life goals. Each step is spelled out for you so you can take your time. There’s plenty of space to add new ideas (and even add you own little designs). Everything gets broken down from your big ideas, all the way down to what you need to do this week to get there.

Learn more/order: CourageousCreativity.co

This is the comprehensive list of the 12 best planners made for women entrepreneurs by women business owners.
This is the comprehensive list of the 12 best planners made for women entrepreneurs by women business owners.

 

There you have it! My list of the best planners for creatives and entrepreneurs. I hope you loved this list of planners for 2019, but if you know of one that you think should be included, just let me know in the comments below. I love finding new planners to include in the future. Also, if you found this post useful, please share it with your friends and on social media. Help me spread the love for these amazing women creatives who are making beautiful tools for us all!

Thinkific vs. Podia

Thinkific vs. Podia

Thinkific vs Podia for online course and membership hosting

Last fall, I launched my first online course. I’d been wanting to do it for at least a year prior, but two things held me back—what will I teach and how will I figure out the technology?

The answer to the first question came to me during a mastermind call. I spent 10 minutes telling a fellow business owner how she could use LinkedIn to grow her photography business with corporate clients. Then she said to me, “you should really teach a masterclass on LinkedIn” and a lightbulb went off. Duh! I know LinkedIn incredibly well, so why not make that the subject of my first online course?

That thing you know so well and you assume everyone else does too?
That’s probably the prime topic for your online course.

The answer to the second question about technology wasn’t as simple. There are so many course-hosting platforms available, and every online educator I asked felt passionately about a different one.

After hearing the same answer from several people and doing a little online research, however, I settled on Thinkific. It seemed fairly intuitive to set up and the costs and fee structure looked similar to other platforms.

In the span of one week, I wrote, recorded, uploaded, and launched my first course. I earned a little less than $2,000 from my initial launch, and a few thousand more in the months following.

I was perfectly content with Thinkific … until a few months ago. At that time, I was preparing to launch my VIP membership community and wasn’t sure if Thinkific was the best platform to host it.

That’s when my business coach introduced me to Podia. She and many of her clients were using it to host courses, sell digital downloads, and run memberships. She promised me it was cheaper and more robust than Thinkific.

I’d never heard of the nearly 4-year-old company, and I was immediately skeptical. I’m from the Show-Me State; I have to see things myself to believe them. I did some research and talked to others using the platform. Turns out, my coach (as usual) was correct and I made the switch.

Thinkific vs Podia for online course and membership hosting

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase via a link here, I’ll get a commission.
The price is the same for you whether you use my link or buy directly from the vendor.

Thinkific vs Podia

Here are the top 5 reasons why I chose Podia over Thinkific, and why (several months later) I’m so glad I did.

 


Have all the ideas, but not sure what to do or when?
Tired of spinning your wheels and wasting your time?
Sick of bouncing from one shiny object to the next?
Stop the confusion and find clarity!
It’s time to Crush Your Goals… (a free course)


1. Lower prices*

I started on Thinkific’s free Starter plan. I was happy to not pay a monthly fee when I wasn’t sure if I’d sell a single course. The problem? I had to fork over 10% of every purchase to Thinkific. Plus, at that time, the basic plan didn’t allow students to pay via Paypal (that’s changed since then) and I couldn’t offer coupons. I also didn’t get a custom domain, couldn’t do much with email integration, couldn’t have affiliates, and tons of other limitations.

Within a month or two, I was on the Business plan at $99 a month. This took care of all the shortfalls mentioned above, but it represented a pretty big investment for my business.

For $79 a month on Podia (less if you prepay for a year like I did), you can host courses, sell digital downloads, and have memberships. You can have a custom domain, easily integrate with ConvertKit (or use Zapier to convert with Mailchimp), create coupons and discounts, set up affiliates for your programs, allow students to pay via Stripe or Paypal, and so much more.

2. No transaction fees

Best of all, neither of Podia’s programs include transaction fees. Even if you only pay $39 a month, you never have to fork over a percentage of your earnings to the platform. Paypal and Stripe still take their fees (there’s no way around that), but that’s all. Pay a monthly fee and nothing more.

Thinkific, on the other hand, takes 10% transaction fees when you are on the free plan and 5% when you’re paying $49 a month. No thanks.

3. More options

As I mentioned earlier, the impetus for me looking into Podia was the launch of my VIP membership community. Podia is set up to host memberships as one of its core offerings. Thinkific, on the other hand, added basic membership capabilities but that’s not it’s primary business.

I love that I can use Podia to host courses (like Thinkific or Teachable), to sell digital downloads (like Gumroad), or to house my membership (like MemberFul or Kajabi). It’s like a one-stop shop.

Of course, my guess is Podia isn’t as complete in any of those three areas as the task-specific sites I mentioned as alternatives. But for now my course, download, and membership needs are all fairly basic, so I love the convenience and affordability of housing everything in one place.

4. Easy switch

What really sealed the deal for me was when I learned Podia would migrate all my content from Thinkific at no extra cost. They do this for all of their Shaker ($79/month) users, regardless of where your content currently lives. Plus, Podia’s founder, Spencer, offered me a 30-minute video call where he walked me through exactly how to use the platform.

The tech piece is what typically keeps me from trying something new. They eliminated that issue and made the switch a no-brainer.

5. Unbelievable service

As you can probably guess from what I just mentioned about the migration and initial call, Podia has incredible customer service. And it doesn’t end after you’ve paid them.

I’ve used the site’s chat feature to ask dozens of questions in the last few months. Every time, I’ve received a quick response, usually within minutes. When they don’t know the answer, they quickly find out. When I asked questions about membership billing, they did some research and got me answers—and then turned them into a helpful resource on the site’s FAQ section. Even more, they have offered to fix problems or make changes on my behalf rather than simply sending me instructions or directing me to the FAQ section.

This former skeptic is now a believer. I understand why my business coach raved about Podia. It’s easy to use, pretty comprehensive, reasonably priced, and the service is truly second to none.

This is the first time I’ve written an endorsement of a single product. I don’t do this lightly, but I really believe Podia could be the perfect solution for many of my readers’ needs. If you’re preparing your first online course offering or wanting to start a small membership, Podia may be the most affordable option. As a bonus, you can make more money by selling digital downloads (you can turn old blog posts into an ebook using Canva).

Want to give Podia a shot without making a big commitment? You can by signing up for their free 14-day trial. If you try it, let me know how it goes. Share the link to your Podia offerings in the comments below this post!

* Edited 11/1/2018: Since this post was originally written, Thinkific has changed their pricing structure. They’ve eliminated their transaction fees, but it still costs $99 per month to get the same features that Podia offers for $79 a month.

My Business Tools

My Business Tools

business tools

From time to time, people ask me about the various tools I use to run my business. There aren’t many, honestly, because I’m cheap! I only invest in a tool after a lot of research and when I absolutely need it. In fact, I went years with DIY’ing all sorts of things, like using an Excel spreadsheet for “accounting” and manually adding content across my social media platforms.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized my stubbornness about spending money was actually costing my business big time. As an example, at my hourly rate of $100, I easily spent $500 or more per month marketing my business on Pinterest. I could spend of that on Tailwind and automate most of that process. No-brainer, right?

Sadly, I had a-ha moments just like that about each of these tools and regretted waiting so long to invest. I think a lot of us solopreneurs make that mistake. It’s hard to part with money, especially for something you could do yourself. But if you actually think through the time you spend bootstrapping things vs. the low monthly fees for the various programs, it quickly becomes clear that many tools are worth their weight in gold.

So, here are 6 must-have tools in my business. The ones I’m willing to pay to use every month (and I promise, that’s saying a lot because dayum I love money!).

Also, you know me—I like to be totally transparent. I’m including affiliate links for each of these. If you sign up, I get a small reward (typically in the form of a free month or discount on my fees). If you’re going to sign up anyway, why not let us both benefit, right? And again, you know me—I wouldn’t recommend something I don’t use, believe in, and recommend. That’s why there are only 5 things listed here…I’m only telling you about the tools I actually use each month.

business tools

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase via a link here, I’ll get a commission.
The price is the same for you whether you use my link or buy directly from the vendor.

1. QuickBooks

I finally stopped my Excel spreadsheet madness this year and started using QuickBooks like a grown-up business owner. It integrates with my business bank account/debit card so I don’t have to remember to manually track expenditures anymore. I can categorize income/expenses and it adds repeat items automatically. I also use it for invoicing, which is leaps and bounds better than my old-school method of making them in Word and tracking them in Excel.

Investment: $10/month (you pay only $5/month for the first six months)

2. Podia

I launched my first course in 2017 and thought about bootstrapping it using YouTube and a password-protected page on my website, but then thought better of it after chatting with other more experienced course creators. I started on Thinkific, but in 2018 I upgraded to Podia. You can read here why I made the switch, but in short I’ve become a die-hard Podia fan. It allows me to host my courses, sell digital downloads, and manage my membership community. It does more than the competition and costs less. You can’t beat that.

Investment: $79/month

3. Acuity Scheduling

I really resisted paying for a scheduling system. Why pay when I can just add events into my iCal? The truth is I have a ton of appointments—virtual coffee dates (integral to growing your network), interviews for my podcast and for the masterclasses for my membership community, and discovery calls for my mentoring work. Managing all of that was cumbersome back when I had to go back and forth via email to nail down times with people. Now I can just send a link and they can book themselves into my calendar. The system sets different available times based on the type of appointment, and it integrates with my iCal and my Gmail, so I can easily block off time without having to go to the Acuity site.

Investment: $15/month

4. ConvertKit

When I started my email list in 2016, I used Mailchimp because it was free and easy. As my list grew, I wanted to do things like automatically send my opt-ins, create automated welcome and sales sequences, and segment my list based on purchases. That’s when I switched to ConvertKit. I paid someone about $200 to help me set everything up, but now it’s pretty straightforward to add new opt-ins and sequences, write regular newsletters, and manage my subscriber list. Also, paying for a list based on its size has made me more inclined to prune cold subscribers on a regular basis (something I never did before because I was so caught up on vanity metrics). Now my list is more engaged than ever, with an average open rate of 40%.

Investment: $49/month (I was paying $29/month, but recently moved up to the 1,000-3,000 subscriber plan)

5. Zoom

For the longest time, I used Skype (free) for video calls. The problem, though, was figuring out how to record those sessions if needed. Also, they didn’t allow for group calls. I like to provide recordings of my mentoring sessions so my clients can review them as needed. Also, I host virtual co-working and masterminds for my membership community, so I need to be able to host dozens of people. Enter Zoom. This very cool, and super affordable, tool solves all my problems. I’m also using it to record my podcast interviews.

Investment: $14.99/month

6. SmarterQueue

I don’t know if I have the words to describe my love for SmarterQueue. I’ve been using Hootsuite for free for years, and I hated the idea of paying to schedule social media posts. I only switched to this program recently, and it’s already my favorite tool. It replaces everything I managed on Hootsuite (Facebook page, Twitter, and LinkedIn), plus can manage Instagram and Pinterest. What’s so great about it? You can create content categories—tips, blog posts, quotes, as examples—and fill them up with evergreen content. Then you can let those posts recycle as many times as you want. There’s also a cool drag-and-drop calendar where you can plot out which categories will be used at which times on which accounts. Like, seriously, this thing is so incredibly robust for the price. I can’t get over it.

Investment: $19.99/month

In all, I spend $187.98/month on tools for my business. At a billable rate of $100/hour, I’d have to handle all of those tasks in less than two hours a month to make it worth the DIY route. Impossible. Now I’m here kicking myself that I waited so long to invest in my business. That I spent all those years pulling out my hair trying to do things I hated, found overwhelming, or just plain sucked at (not to mention struggling to find free bootstrapped workarounds) rather than spend basically 2 hours of income each month on them.

So, if you’re reading this thinking, “Oh boy, that sounds familiar. I am totally DIYing things I shouldn’t,” then take my advice and start investing in your business. It’s really true that you have to spend money to make money. Just be sure to spend it wisely!

Oh, and if you’re a paper planner kind of person like me, check out this list of my favorite planners.

12 Must-Have Planners for 2018

12 Must-Have Planners for 2018

Ultimate list of 2018 Planners

NEW: 2019 PLANNER ROUNDUP (CLICK HERE)

I’m so excited because it’s time to share my annual roundup of awesome planners! The 2018 planners I’m including here are made for creative entrepreneurs by creative entrepreneurs. Plus, they are all kickass women. I think that’s pretty freaking cool.

When I put this roundup together for the first time last year, I didn’t know if anyone would read or care about. In fact, that 2017 planner roundup became the most popular post on my blog (wow!). It still gets hits EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

I’ve been working on my 2018 roundup for many weeks, and now it’s finally time to share it with you! This year’s list includes some repeats from last year, along with a few new ones I’d not seen before. Isn’t it great there are so many planners to help us stay on track in 2018? No matter your organizational needs and personal style, there’s something out there that’s perfect for you. Hopefully, you’ll find a great match in this list.

(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase via a link here, I may receive a commission. The price is the same for you whether you use my link or buy directly from the vendor.)


The Inspired Year Planner

Kathy Pine started her first company at age 25. After navigating the challenges of balancing entrepreneurship and early motherhood, Kathy realized she had a passion for helping women pursue their dreams and she began making inspirational and practical paper products. She created her first planner with a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017. Since then, the Inspired Year planner has become the flagship product of her One Love Paper Co.

The Inspired Year Planner ($49) is the ultimate goal-setting calendar for busy creatives who are juggling it all. Its no-nonsense approach, functional design and roomy pages provide everything you need to stay organized and inspired. Designed with goal-setting and work-life balance in mind, this planner is uniquely suited to manage your busy days while making space for your dreams. Thoughtful prompts allow you to reflect, so you can focus on meaningful work and be intentional with time for family, home and self-care.The get-down-to-business planning pages allow you to reflect on what matters most to you, balance your priorities, and get organized. Warm and inviting, with beautiful quotes and loving inspiration throughout, it is like opening up a piece of art every day to allow you to create your own life masterpiece.

Learn more or order at 1LovePaper.com.


The ProtoPreneur Planner

Yvonne Heimann created the ProtoPreneur Planner after spending hundreds of dollars on other planners that never seemed to “do it all”. Life, business, goals, gratitude – all those things in a thousand different places. Nothing coherent and totally inefficient.

The ProtoPreneur Planner ($53) is your DIY Life & Business Coach, helping you self-coach or boost the 1:1 work you do with your coach. A fully integrated business plan, areas for project planning, finances, personal goals, social media, gratitude, and even workouts helps you balance your life and pay attention to the things you know you should do to kick A$$ in this weird thing we call life. All wrapped up in a nice vegan leather sleeve you can use for years to come, just slip in a new insert.

Learn more or order at AskYvi.com


The Day Designer

Whitney EnglishWhitney English Day Designer faced an overflowing email inbox, a hand-scribbled to-do list, a pile of meeting notes, and felt overwhelmed and disorganized back in November 2011, She needed a solution—quickly. And so the concept behind the Day Designer™ was born.

The Day Designer ($59) is the original daily planner. It’s a simple and easy system created to help women find balance and productivity. There are yearly and monthly glances, but this one is all about the daily pages. There is a focus on the top three things you need to do each day, and there is also a ton of space for daily events, to-dos, notes, meal planning, gratitude, and more. If you’re a daily planner user, it doesn’t get better than this.

Learn more or order at DayDesigner.com.


The Refresh Weekly Planner

Jenna Murillo has felt a sense of magic with paper since childhood. She’s energized by turning a blank canvas into something beautiful, and that’s what led her to planner design. “Designing a product that’s a stunning and functional tool for others was always a dream,” she says. “In 2015, fueled by the encouragement of friends and family and a fire inside of me to create, I fulfilled that dream.”

The Refresh Weekly Planner ($39.95) is back for 2018 in the same portable size you know and love, with weekly, monthly, and yearly overview layouts, a goal planning section, and lined pages for easy tear-out notes throughout the year. New this year—the inclusion of December 2017 so you don’t miss a beat when transferring planners. The weekly layout section now features “focusing on” and “grateful for” sections, designed to keep you in a focused, positive frame of mind.

Learn more or order at JLynnDesignery.com.


The Rule the World Planner

Ilana Griffo decided to make a planner when she couldn’t find one that fit her needs. “As a design student, I wanted a place I could doodle, take notes, and stay on track of my classwork,” she says. In the last five years, Griffo’s planner has evolved to reflect her creative journey and her customers’ needs. She’s an illustrator and designer, and founder of Sugar & Type. She’s fueled by puppy kisses, dessert, and beautiful typography.

The Rule The World Planner ($36) is jam packed with tools to help keep you on your toes. Each month has a monthly overview, a weekly list for goals and to-do lists, budget pages, coloring pages, and hand-lettered inspirational quotes. The daily spread helps you prioritize and get sh*t done! You’ll have access to free printables to add to your planner when you purchase.

Learn more or order at SugarandType.com.


The Happy Balance Planner

Hillary Alberta got into planner design because she struggled to find balance with work, school, and time with friends and family. “My better half asked the simplest of questions one night before going to bed, ‘Why not make your own planner?'”, she recalls. “That was the start of Happy Balance Planners.”

The Happy Balance Planner ($36) is a goal-planning system that helps the dream chasers frame their day through the lens of their goals. It includes a Goal Funnel that helps you break down your big goals into smaller, actionable steps that will add up with the help of yearly, monthly, and weekly goal worksheets. Choose between a daily or weekly layout and multiple cover options.

Learn more or order at SherbertShop.com.


The liveWELL Planner

Tonya Dalton started her first business in 2009 and in just two years the company flourished, but something was missing. In the summer of 2014 she closed up shop to start inkWELL Press. Tonya helps women use productivity to pursue their big goals and end each day feeling satisfied and successful.

The 2018 liveWELL Planners from inkWELL Press make organizing your busy life easier. The three different styles of weekly planners you can choose from will help you set your goals with intention thanks to sections like the monthly goals focus, the daily habit tracker, and more. Their flagship 2018 liveWELL Planner | Wood Chevron ($54) is the original goal-setting planner. It’s designed to help you live a life focused on your personal priorities and goals. After all, productivity isn’t about getting more done, it’s focusing on getting the important things done. It’s about living with intention.

Learn more or order at inkWELLPress.com.


Perfect Project Planner

Eve Tokens says she created a planner to keep her life on track. “I was using a bullet journal for managing my personal life, Trello for my online business, and my phone calendar to keep track of both and random other appointments,” she says. “It was too much, and I found I was getting less done than ever before.”

The Perfect Project Planner ($40) is a simple 8×10-inch, undated planner (inspired by the Epic Blog planner from Regina Anaejionu.) It covers everything in your personal and your business life—Google Stats, bills and income, books, goals, and more. Taskmaster pages break down every project through completion, and there are simple tick boxes to mark off when tasks are complete.

Learn more or order on Amazon.


Annual Focus and Goals Wall Planner

Helen Jerlach is a parent of three and an entrepreneur with a couple of businesses. “There’s always more to do than there’s time to do it,” she says. “I’m always looking for the perfect system that will make juggling all the different parts of life seem easy and effortless. Even with the best of intentions, I have realized that I need to see everything on the wall in front of me to see how everything fits together.”

The Annual Focus and Goals Wall Planner is a well-designed 90-day planner that looks good enough to hang on your office wall. It allows you to keep the big-picture view. It breaks the year down into months, and breaks each month into your specific goals, focus, and results. It keeps things simple and keeps you moving forward.

Learn more or order at DesigningaHappyLife.com.


Anchored Press Devotional Planner

Deana Uhrig created a planner to help women keep organized and help them find daily time with God. Her biggest prayer is that her planner keeps people focused on God as they plan their days.

The Anchored Press Devotional Planner ($49) is a Christian planner full of Bible verses and devotional content. Each weekday includes a devotion written by a different (godly, gifted and inspiring) contributor that focuses on a specific theme. Following each, you’ll be guided through a full week of reflecting and growing in that area of your life. Also included are meal planning, goal setting, notes pages, prayer request pages, pockets, and other organizational tools.

Learn more or order at AnchoredPress.com.


The Freedom Planner

Tiana Gustofson struggled for years as a work-from-home entrepreneur in the music and media businesses. She had to-do lists but felt like she wasn’t getting anything done. She also struggled with keeping contacts organized. She did some research on the habits of successful people and used what she learned to create a planner.

The Freedom Planner ($30) is an all-in-one undated 90-day planner, contacts manager, and success and goal organizer for the sales person, entrepreneur, or network marketing professional. It includes a daily calendar, social media checklist, and self-development and weekly goal setting.

Learn more or order at YourFreedomPlanner.com.


Fulfill Your Dreams Planner

Anung Villay is the mastermind behind Courageous Creativity, a place for introverts and homebodies to go on with their life and live with some adventure.

The Fulfill Your Dreams Planner ($17.99) will help you plan out your goals and break everything down into small steps so you can actually can get it all done. It’s laid out in bite-sized tasks that will help even the laziest, most unmotivated person take action.

Learn more or order at CourageousCreativity.co.


The Daily Planner

Ashley Staum spent the last year working with Pace Creative to make her designs more simple and classic. “A slower, more mindful version of the designs we’ve offered in the past,” she says. “This goes along with our message of setting fewer goals; setting goals you have a true connection to, and shifting your focus away from their outcome and towards the journey, the actions you take in working towards your goals.”

The Daily Planner ($46) is for those who like to see their days planned out from beginning to end. the 6-month planner provides all the organization you crave along with the portability you need. It provides space for daily appointments (including half hours), daily to-do lists, notes sections each day, an action plan each quarter and month, and monthly pages for future planning.

Learn more or order at ShePlans.com.


The Ashley Shelly Planner

Ashley Shelly started designing planners soon after creating The Budget Notebook, her first official product, because customers asked for it and she felt the time was right. “I’ve been a planner user for years, but I always wanted to improve on the designs I saw,” she says.

The Ashley Shelly Planner ($49.95) combines logical planning with inspiration. The 2-page Creative Spread at the beginning of the month helps you identify what make your days the best. It also has thick inside pages, a built-in bookmark, monthly overviews, weekly layouts, two notes pages each month, 10 notes pages in the back, and icon stickers.

Learn more or order at AshleyShelly.com.

How to Run a Minimalist Business

How to Run a Minimalist Business

Minimalism isn’t a new concept. The idea of scaling back and living with less first gained traction in art and design of the 1960s. The pendulum swung toward more lavish living in following decades, but now many people are finding a renewed interest in the minimalist lifestyle.

I’m one of those converts (*sort of). For nearly a decade, I’ve been focusing on collecting memories rather than stuff. Each time I haul another bag off to Goodwill, I feel lighter and happier. Ridding my home of clutter not only frees up physical space—it also clears room in my mind and heart for new experiences, which bring me more joy than any handbag or knickknack ever did.

*To be clear, I’m not a perfect minimalist. While I make efforts to scale back and get rid of things I don’t need, my home isn’t stark white and my wardrobe includes far more than a perfect 33-item capsule. I think minimalism is about doing with less where it makes sense for you.

In all that time of scaling back, however, I hadn’t considered how minimalism might help my business. When I found out I was pregnant in 2015, however, I immediately knew I’d need to make some big changes to prepare for the juggle of being a business-owning mom. So, I decided to apply minimalist concepts to my work life.

Make your business (and life) less stressful by running a minimalist business. Learn 5 ways to apply minimalism as an entrepreneur from https://beckymollenkamp.com

Here are few changes I made that I think can help any entrepreneur (parent or not). Even if you’re not a minimalist per se, if you’re looking for ways to scale back, do less, and reduce stress, give these a try.

Dump the stuff

Look at everything sitting on your desk or crammed into your briefcase. How much of it do you actually need? Touch each item and honestly assess whether you’ve used it in the last month and if you could survive without it. Say goodbye to anything that doesn’t make life easier or happier. I’ve whittled my workspace down to a desk, laptop, microphone, external hard drive, a couple of thumb drives, and a pen and planner.

Clear mental clutter

Facebook groups, email lists, social media, and the like can be great resources, but they can also quickly lead to information overload. Analyze every list, group, and site you’ve joined and leave those that don’t provide job leads, valuable networking, or useful education. After this exercise, I stopped investing energy in Google+ and Twitter, and left a handful of Facebook groups and most email lists.

Streamline systems

Are you one of those people who always have 20 tabs open in Chrome, an inbox with 1,000 unanswered emails, or a computer desktop littered by document icons? It’s time to clean up your act! I store everything on Google Drive (using logically labeled folders) and use Trello to organize my projects and to-do lists. Whatever tech or paper tools you prefer, the point is to find a system that provides a place for everything and helps you keep everything in its place.

Set a schedule

Simplifying your business isn’t a one-time fix. It requires constantly checking in with yourself to be sure you’re not falling back into old habits and losing focus. I set aside time on the first day of each month to review and renew my minimalist efforts. I delete old data/documents, return my inbox to zero, unsubscribe from any new unwanted emails, etc.

Just say no

This one is hard for many of us, but it’s so important to living simply and peacefully. Don’t agree to tasks that are unnecessary or that don’t fit your area of specialty. Dropping bad clients and rejecting tasks I hated not only relieved stress, it made room in my schedule for the types of clients and work I really wanted. Win-win!