Five tools to kick start your web design business

Successful sales and marketing are a key component of your web design business. But as these are non chargeable it is important to work as efficiently as possible. That is where these five tools come in.

Since launching my own consultancy I have become precious about my time. Every minute I spend doing sales, marketing or admin is a minute I cannot be charging out my time.

Yet I also know how crucial the sales and marketing process are to the success of any business. A failure to invest in marketing will mean the leads dry up. While poor quality sales material will result in less jobs won.

My solution to this dilemma has been to invest in five tools that make me more efficient in handling these two crucial areas. I am not somebody who is comfortable with paying out for lots of monthly subscriptions, but each of these are worth every penny.

First are three tools that help with my marketing.

Buffer

Social media is a key component to reputation building. But managing many channels can be time consuming. It tends to interrupt work as you struggle to post updates throughout the day.

Buffer allows me to manage my social networks quickly and without interupting my workflow.
Buffer allows me to manage my social networks quickly and without interupting my workflow.

I avoid these problems by paying for a $10 a month account with Buffer. Buffer allows me to create a queue of social media updates that get released based on a pre-prepared schedule. What is more it will post to all my channels at once.

Buffer integrates with a range of apps and is available across all major platforms. It allows me to sit down every few days and schedule a load of updates at once, rather than interrupting my work.

Coschedule

Another key component of my marketing strategy is my blog. As well as the podcast, I try and write for my blog once a week. On top of that there are posts linking to my writing elsewhere.

Coschedule is invaluable for managing my blog and promoting old posts.
Coschedule is invaluable for managing my blog and promoting old posts.

Not only is this a lot to manage, but each post needs promoting on social media. There is also a need to re-share old posts to get greater value from them.

All this is time consuming and quite complex to manage. I used to manage it using my calendar so I could see what went out when. Then I discovered CoSchedule, a plugin for WordPress.

For $10 per month this gives me a calendar like interface that enables me to schedule posts and social media updates all from one place. I can also reschedule posts or updates by dragging and dropping them.

It provides me with great statistics on their performance. It even suggests old posts I might want to consider sharing again. In short it is worth every penny.

Mailchimp

The final component in my marketing strategy is my email newsletter. This is an invaluable way of keeping my name in the minds of my subscribers and engaging with my audience.

The downside of having an email mailing list is the hours you can waste managing it. Building HTML emails is a nightmare as is navigating your way past spam filters. Then there are dealing with unsubscribe requests and deciding what to write about.

Mailchimp makes running an email newsletter possible when time is precious.
Mailchimp makes running an email newsletter possible when time is precious.

Mailchimp helps with all this. Its detailed analytics allow me to see what my subscribers enjoy reading and that helps me tailor future content. It also has a superb email builder that saves me hours preparing the emails I am sending out. I don’t need to worry about whether the emails will make it to my subscriber or what they will look like when they get there.

I am currently spending £38 per month for this service. But that is only because my list has grown thanks to Mailchimp. You can have 2000 subscribers for free.

The three tools above help me generate leads, but managing the sales process has its own challenges. For that I use two other services.

Proposify

Proposify is the latest addition to my web apps arsenal. At $25 a month it has solved one of the biggest problems I face, writing proposals and contracts.

tour-tracksales
Proposify not only manages the whole proposal and approval process, it also provides valuable stats on your success rates.

There are two parts to Proposify that makes it such an invaluable tool.

First it makes creating proposals easy. You can use one of their default themes or customise it to better match your brand. But more importantly you can save content for reuse in future proposals. It will even switch the company names when you add it to a new document. This makes creating professional looking proposals that can be reused a pleasure.

The second aspect of Proposify I love is that you can include a signature section in the proposal. You can then send the client a web address and they can sign the proposal online. It makes everything official and keeps all your signed contracts organised.

Of course getting clients to sign a proposal is one thing. Getting them to pay at the end of the day is another. That is where FreeAgent comes in.

FreeAgent

I wouldn’t be running my business without FreeAgent. The financial side of running a company terrifies me, but FreeAgent makes it a pleasure.

FreeAgent solves the problem of sending and chasing invoices.
FreeAgent solves the problem of sending and chasing invoices.

FreeAgent handles everything from VAT and time tracking to bank accounts and income tax. But best of all it handles invoicing.

Creating a professional looking invoice in FreeAgent is a breeze. You can also add payment options to your online invoices so somebody can pay from the webpage. It supports Paypal, Stripe and GoCardless.

But my favourite feature is the automated emailing. It will send an automatic reminder email when an invoice is due and then chase if an invoice is not paid. It has saved me so much time in chasing invoices. Not bad for the £18 I am currently paying per month.

Looking for help to run your business? Check out my mentorship program.

False economy

Some maybe reluctant to spend money on all these different services every month. But I believe that is a false economy. These tools mean I spend less time managing my business and more time charging clients. Even if combined they only saved me an hour per month, I am better off.

Stop wasting time on tasks that don’t pay and you don’t enjoy.

  • Jack

    Proposify pricing plans look like they start from $25/pm >> http://proposify.biz/pricing ?

    • Doh! Why did I put $10? Thanks for spotting that. Have corrected now. Still worth every penny in my opinion :)

      • Jack

        Yeah definitely looks intriguing. Great post!

  • I love FreeAgent, not so familiar with the others but they look interesting. A couple I use – Asana for project management (free for small organisations) and Harvest – an Asana plugin costing about $7 pm for allowing time tracking and invoicing on Asana tasks.

  • Another proposal software service is Bidsketch. I’ve not taken the plunge yet but it’s between them and Proposify.

    • When I was deciding which software to go for a look that Bidsketch too. The functionality seemed almost identical but Proposify offered a better user experience overall which is why eventually settled on that.

  • Neil Dickinson

    Great post Paul, I’m looking to start my own business and these recommendations are very helpful.
    Neil

  • William Morris

    Thanks for the tips! I launched my small project due to a website template ( I found here http://www.webbuildersguide.com/website-builder-categories/website-builders-for-business/ ), just because I am not a specialist at this area and I understand the Internet maintenance is very important for every business.

  • Hanna Cutts

    Great list. Have you ever tried proofhub for your projects? I am using it for my projects. I’d like to know your opinion about it.

Boagworks

Boagworld