Hello Adulthood: Small Business Tools

I’m a little over a month into freelancing full-time (although I’ve owned my own business since early 2010) and I thought I’d share some of my favorite tools so far. While I love sharing advice + tips to my blog readers, you all must know that I often sit at my desk and think, “Oh my gosh I have so much to learn.” So while I am suggesting some small business tools today…I may change my methods next month or next year!

Finances, Taxes and Bookkeeping:

This is probably my least favorite part of owning my own business. I’m thankful that I’m extremely organized (in my own, weird way) but it’s justĀ not fun to pay bills, taxes and saving. When you’re billing a client, you need to keep in mind that you’ll immediately be losing about 30% of that fee upfront due to taxes. This entire concept has changed my process of pricing now that we depend on 100% of my freelance income. Before, I had my full-time day job to cover personal expenses and all of my freelance income was extra! Here are a few tools that I’ve used over the years:

  • CurdBee: I used this the first two years to invoice. It only costs $5 a month and you can customize the template.
  • Freshbooks: Extremely easy to use for invoicing and bookkeeping. I used the $30/mo package and it worked really well.
  • Upsourced Accounting: These guys are phenomenal and I currently use them for invoicing, bookkeeping and they help me file my quarterly taxes. If you’re a small business owner, I would highly recommend them.

Design Tools:

I work exclusively in Adobe Creative Suite 6 and subscribe to their monthly cloud service. For $30/month, I can access the entire suite and access InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and After Effects daily. It’s been such a great experience and don’t mind paying the monthly fee (versus the $1,500 fee to upgrade all at once from CS3). Some other tools that I use daily are:

  • Wacom Intuos 4 tablet: This has taken me awhile to get familiar with (compared to drawing by hand and scanning it in) but I love it.
  • Canon T2i: I just upgrade to this camera from the basic Canon DSLR and am excited to increase the quality of my photos here on my blog + create video content with clients.
  • Moleskine notebook (x-large, soft cover): I have one notebook for ideas and another for drawing. Perfect size.
  • Meeting notebook: I use this notebook for when I meet with clients. It keeps everything organized and I can establish action items that need to happen.


I am trying to constantly learn and as I learn…I realize how much I still don’t know! I recently joined Lynda.com and spend a few hours a day watching tutorials for CS6 programs. It is phenomenal and know that it’s one of the best investments that I could make. Some other great resources that I’d recommend to designers:


I don’t like to call this networking because really it’s all about relationships. If you treat people like people and meet your deadlines…you will do well. I use Contactually to keep in contact with people that I’ve connected with over the years. I would also suggest looking up Matthew Kimberley’s 5 Things You Need To Do Every Morning To Get More Clients in 60 Days. It changed the way that I approach social media and professional relationships.

Any resources or tips that you would recommend? Like I said…I still have lots to learn!

September 12, 2012