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are you ready to learn how to automate your small business?
I'm Dolly — a Nashville based family and branding photographer & a Dubsado educator for family photographers who want to be more streamlined with Dubsado. I'm here to help you look awesome (for your photos) & feel great about workflows!
If you are a small business owner, I want to share some of the most helpful resources that help me automate and run my business successfully! Having the business tools you need for your small business will help you save time and serve your clients better. There is a learning curve to some of these tools, but they are all worth the effort! (Even though I am a photographer, a lot of these tools can be used for ANY small business. Also, note, there are tools similar that may be a better fit for you and your small company!)
NOTE: I’ve shared my personal links to some of these tools so you can either get a discount by using my referral code or a certain percent off! Win-win!
This is a must-have for any creative small business owner, but it’s also helpful for most business owners as well. If you don’t want to outsource your design work/editing work/ and pretty much any type of creative work, Adobe Creative Suite makes it a lot easier to do your own graphic design. There are even tutorials to teach you how to use the basic tools. The yearly subscription is probably your best bet!
This is a CRM (customer relationship management) that automates all of your workflows and processes. You can brand and store everything from client contracts to intake forms and invoices. This is a cost you may wait on initially, but once you have a substantial client base it will save you tons of time! (Other similar tools are 17 Hats or Honeybook.) I do know that Dubsado is free for you for the first 3 clients, so feel free to test out the waters and see if this is a good CRM tool for your small business! I cannot stress enough about the importance of having workflows in place for your specific business, because if your business grows you’ll need to onboard your new employees to understand the behind the scenes process of your small business. Dubsado is a great starting point for figuring out a good workflow that could work for your business!
I don’t use QuickBooks, but instead have invested in my own accountant and I’m so happy I made that decision! (If you’re based in Nashville, you can find my accountant here.) If you’re looking for a small business accountant local to you, do your research and get some trusted reviews before investing in someone. While on the topic of money, I hope that you have opened up your own business bank account (meaning you are keeping it separate from your personal finances) and that you are setting aside a certain percentage of taxes every month from your income earned from your small business. If you are a service-based business, you’ll also need to factor in sales taxes and the specific taxes for whatever state you reside in. This is why hiring a knowledgable accountant is key because they will help you navigate the waters during tax season because the last thing you need to do is go to a Facebook group and ask what your peers are doing (because they may be in different seasons or stages then you and you need to actually talk with a professional! Okay okay…that is just my 2 cents!)
Even if you have a professional accountant, you still need to manage your own basic bookkeeping (just in case it is not covered by your accountant or it is an extra expense your business cannot afford). Stay on top of this task by creating an over-head cost/spending and earnings spreadsheet. You can easily create this in an Excel Spreadsheet.
CloudSpot is my favorite gallery storage tool for photography. If you aren’t a photographer, you’ll still want to back-up your work in a safe, secure location other than an external hard drive. A free resource could be Google (for the first 15GB) in case you are looking for an affordable resource while you build your business. Remember, you should be backing up your computer and files to at least two different sources, three at least, to be on the safe side.
This is my favorite website platform, especially for creatives! It’s got a simple drag-and-drop feature that makes it super easy to design a website that looks professional. Many small business owners also use Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress (which is also a great blogging resource as well!) In the past I have used Squarespace and Wix and found they were not the best fit for me and my business, but I do know from speaking to other business owners, they enjoy those platforms. So honestly it is all about preference and what fits your business’ personality!
My ShowIt site uses WordPress for the blog section of my site. WordPress is designed for professional blogs and allows you to create a customized, sharp-looking blog within your own website. You don’t have to pay additional hosting fees (through Showit), which is an added bonus! There are many blogging resources for you to use, so please do some research and see what would be the best fit for you and your small business. If you believe that blogging is dead, I strongly disagree with you. Blogging is a way to build up your SEO (search engine optimization) over time, plus blogging gives you more credibility with your audience. (I have mentioned this before, but I will be sharing a specific blog post about BLOGGING in a future post, but I wanted to let you all know the website I use primarily for blogging.)
If you’re a service-based business that incurs any kind of liability, you should make sure you are fully covered for any kind of damage or accident. Photographers should all have liability insurance, as you’re on-site with people and expensive equipment. If you would like more information on who I work with in Nashville, please feel free to reach out to me so I can share their name/number with you!
This email marketing service is especially user-friendly and allows you to create visually appealing email templates. You should focus on building your email list from the very beginning, and Flodesk will help you organize and segment your subscribers. (Other popular email marketing services are Mailchimp and Convertkit.) I have used Mailchimp in the past and did not enjoy the user experience, mostly because it was not designer-friendly and not very visually appealing. But, keep in mind, Flodesk has been a HUGE game-changer for me and how I keep in touch with my clients! I am a huge advocate of building your own email list because social media is not a guarantee and could literally go away tomorrow (and you could lose ALL of your social media following) so having a good email list where you can constantly be communicating with your clients is ideal. (I will be sharing more about email lists and how to grow your email list in another blog post!)
Tailwind is an app that lets you schedule your pins for Pinterest and interact with “tribes” of other pinners in your industry or niche. Pinterest is a super valuable tool for free marketing, but I’ll get all into that in another blog post soon! Tailwind will automate everything for your Pinterest and help you consistently promote your content without having to physically be on Pinterest 24/7. Let’s just say that I am a huge believer of marketing your business on Pinterest (in addition to Email marketing, and on social media) because my Pinterest Engagement has grown 12X (TWELVE TIMES) the amount since November of 2019, all because of some simple techniques I have implemented for my business (and Pinterest is a FREE resource you all…like it’s crazy to me that people don’t consider using Pinterest for their business!) (and no, it’s not just a platform to find the perfect recipe or plan your secret wedding…it’s so much more!)
The second to last business tool you need for your small business is a support network of other business owners! Joining a local networking chapter will help you meet other business owners and interact with other adults, which is especially beneficial if you’re home with a baby all day like I am! In Nashville, I have a membership to Femcity. If your city doesn’t have an active networking group, maybe this is your sign that you should start your own!
And before you roll your eyes at me because you are introverted, let me share with you that I am an extreme introvert as well! Yes, a lot of people assume that I am super extroverted, but that is not the case. I am a highly sensitive 3 wing 2 (on the enneagram) and an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs. So even though the 3 in me wants to continue to push myself and grow my business, the introvert in me can be a bit on the shy side and I have to remind myself that I can have a balance of quiet (introvert) time, but still value relationships and build new friendships.
I encourage you to attend at least one meeting a month where you can find other like-minded business owners who will encourage, uplift, and walk alongside you in your own business journey! Life is not meant to be lived alone!
Finally, if you are having trouble with content creation for your Instagram and Facebook Business profile captions, I highly suggest looking into The Social Curator. Seriously, Jasmine Starr (J.Starr) is the QUEEN of all things Instagram and social media and the lady knows how to best explain to ANYONE the power of social media connection with your specific content! You should def check this out. I do know that her prices change every few months, so the earlier you decide on a plan, the better (let’s just say it used to be $25 a month, and I waited too long to decide on joining and I pay more than that amount, but it has paid off for me in the long run-so this is an investment I am happy I purchased!)
PSA: I know that I am in no way, shape, or form a business coach, so please be certain to seek wise counsel and financial advice from an established source you know and trust when you are making bigger decisions about your small business. But I do hope that my own personal story helps encourage someone today! I am trying my best to use my platform to help encourage other small business owners, so I hope whoever is reading this knows I am rooting for you and that I am giving you an interwebs fist-bump and high five! You’ve got this!
Dolly DeLong is a Nashville-based family & branding photographer and a creative business owner who educates on all things Pinterest, Dubsado, Lead Magnets & Email Marketing (aka pretty much all the fun automation stuff centered around those business systems)! Dolly loves serving families, and business owners with her timeless, radiant photography. She loves capturing the joy and emotion in both digital and film photos.
She also has a heart for serving the larger business community. Dolly shares her knowledge of tools like Pinterest, Dubsado, email marketing, and business systems with new creative business owners in an encouraging and supportive way because she believes that even muggles can become automating wizards!
Dolly’s faith and love for her family motivate her to help other business owners find the joy and freedom she’s found in running a successful small business.
Whenever she has a spare moment, she enjoys watching TV (i.e. Survivor), loves eating way too many sweets, and listens to podcasts while running or walking. To work with Dolly DeLong Photography LLC, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out her contact form here.
Interested in learning how to best automate your small business but have NO clue where to start? Click here (or on the image below) to get started with learning the foundations of automating your business with Dolly DeLong Education!