Managing multiple businesses means that you need exactly the right tools of the trade too to keep everything in control. Throughout the years I’ve tried several different software (and hardware) and by trial and error finally found the right ones which work perfectly for me. I’ve also found many that don’t fit my personal (or business) needs. Here are the ones I use the most.
I prefer keeping my files and ideas in some kind of order even I’m not that pedant type of a person. Especially when you work with several people and clients at once, it’s important to have a structure and hierarchy on things.
There have also been phases with too many new software, applications and systems at once which leaves just to chaos. The best way to see if the new system, method or application is for you is to check out if it gives more than takes. If it doesn’t, ditch it. No hard feelings.
Slack is chat-like (or #irc-like if you’re old enough) communication system, which allows you to use several channels and tag necessary people in the post. You can also share files and give different accesses to different channels. I use Slack in-house with the people that work for me (or with me) and with some bigger clients when there are more people involved.
I have both our own Slack workspace with several channels (one per project or client) and I participate in clients Slacks too if needed. I like the fast and conversation-like way you can communicate but sometimes it gets out of hand and it’s not that easy to separate the important stuff from the chitchat. In general, I like Slack a lot and use it daily.
Asana is a project management tool that we use to keep on track with everything that happens. It contains all the required information on projects and clients and the lists of tasks that can be signed for a particular person too. I tried several different project management tools before Asana and this was the first that made sense to me.
We use the free version of Asana and the board view only. It took some time to get it running but now it serves basically as our expanded intra. I can’t stand Trello, so Asana is my weapon of choice.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE stationery, real notebooks, calendars, stickers, and pens but if you have any more people than yourself included, you just have to have a digital calendar all your family (and work) members can see, share and edit. Google Calendar is simple to use, easy to share and supports multiple features and calendars. I have even the moon phases included in mine besides all the appointments, schedules, and deadlines.
WordPress (+ Woocommerce)
Building and designing websites and web stores started as a hobby but quickly evolved to be one of the main parts of my work. I have experience with different platforms but I prefer WordPress above all the other ones I’ve tried. We’ve specialized in a bit more complicated ensembles and I want to be able to moderate and alter almost everything if needed so WordPress is definitely my favorite. You can build everything you can ever imagine and a little bit more.
For the web stores I’ve used Magento, Shopify and a bit of MyCashFlow too but because of my preference for working with WordPress, nowadays my choice is Woocommerce without a doubt. I’ve lost count but I bet we’ve built over a hundred different kinds of websites, blogs, web stores or combinations of those with these two.
When choosing your platform it’s very important to pick the one that fits your unique needs. There’s no one above another, it all depends on what you’re building and what kind of functionalities are included. Reading comments and feedback is good but in the end, pick the one that feels suitable for your purposes.
Adobe is quite a predictable tool (or set of tools as it contains so many different software in one system) when working in the creative industry. I literally use it daily and sometimes it feels like Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator are some kind of artificial fingers of mine. I’ve started my vector journey with FreeHand but jumped in the Adobe wagon quite early.
My newest addition is Lightroom and if I need to make some serious video stuff, I love Premiere. With Lightroom I especially like the feature of syncing all the photos automatically to my phone too. For stock images I use several sites but Adobe Stock being large and quality proven is often the one I end up using.
When I need to do some quick retouching for the photos on the go, I prefer InShot application. That’s mainly when I’m on move and have only my phone in hand. It works both with photos and the videos and is super easy to use when reframing, adding some filters and trimming social media content. Almost all of my Instagram images on @ainoawashere account have been retouched via this app.
Managing several social media accounts for clients and for our own brands quickly escalated on a level where you need a special tool for managing, planning, and scheduling. I started flirting with Hootsuite, used to date Kontentino a bit over a year and now I’m happily settled with Tailwind which works both for Instagram and Pinterest. I haven’t had time to plan my Pinterest that much, let alone scheduling for it but for IG it’s super!
What I especially like is the feed view and auto-posting. I’m all in for authenticity and real-life but having almost ten separate accounts on IG only, a girl just has to have some help. Otherwise, I would be trapped 24/7 with my phone in my hand. Tailwind also suggests hashtags based on your text content and there’s an intelligent timeline sketching tool too.
I back up and archive my files on external hard drives but the files we need for the daily work are shared for our several people via OneDrive. I’m a file hoarder so nowadays we have a quite strict policy on keeping that place tidy and up to date.
Basically it means that if you are our client with a current, ongoing project, you can be found from our OneDrive. Otherwise you, your project and all the sketches, files, print files, photos and whatever it includes are archived on my yearly client folders. If you’re a mega client with several projects, your archive might have both several year folders (that’s really common) and/or several per project subfolders.
What I keep on my own laptop are the photos that don’t necessarily need to be shared or edited by someone else and I’m so proud to tell that those are also neatly organized both yearly and monthly in folders. (Naming the actual files is a completely different story, we all have worked with that finalfinal_fuckingfinal_FINAL_08.ai, right?)
As I said above, we use OneDrive to share files in-house but I use DropBox quite much too. It’s an easy way to share files with clients and we have our image banks for our own brands are available in DropBox. All the cloud platforms work pretty much similar way so picking one is based more on the sheer coincidence or in my case, sometimes on for example particular client’s preferences.
To be able to work anywhere and to keep all my heavy (mentioned above) programs running smoothly, my computer needs to be a super one. MacBook Pro is an awesome combination of both and in the office, I have an extra display to use with it. Other times I can establish my instant office anywhere. If Adobe programs are my artificial fingers, this is the limb.
This one is my third or fourth one if I counted correctly and we try to be efficient when buying and using laptops. We cycle them around, use also second-hand ones (with macs you can do that!) and use them in the very end. This particular one is Mid-2014 and still up and running like a clockwork.
Besides the artificial limbs, Adobe and Apple provide to me, one of them is definitely my beloved workhorse, Canon 5D Mark II too. The metal body of it has seen almost 1/3 of my whole life (including some concrete walls and other hard objects). Quite a journey together!
Sometimes I wish to have a bit lighter and smaller compact camera but then I always go back to this. At the moment I shoot almost everything with my 24-70mm Ultrasonic lens but I’ve always loved the 50mm too. And yes, we have a small range of studio lights and other sidekick gear too to use when needed.
I live and breath digital universe but I love to work with traditional tools too. I have quite a stash of pens, pencils, markers, paints, brushes, inks, papers, watercolors, and different pastels, charcoals, spray paint and well, almost anything you could imagine to be found from the average classroom of arts. Mostly I use different sized black markers, 0.38 gel pens from Muji and Pilot G-2 07s.
What I love the most is to combine digital and traditional mediums in surprising ways and that’s a big part of my signature style. I wish I had more time to experiment even more with the traditional mediums without any work-related strings attached. Make a mess and just create without purpose.
The last but not in any way the least and the most precious is definitely my combination of a bullet journal, diary and inspiration book. I use Aura notebook and that’s my most personal tool ever. It’s for my eyes only and it serves as my mental health helper too. Keeping my brain free from the mundane and giving me space both plan and to dream at the same time inside the same covers.
I use only weekly spreads for my meetings and for my to-do -lists as dailies are hard to handle when there are so many things happening at the same time and several companies, own brands and clients to work with. On the left page is my schedule (both work + private) and on the right page, I have 2 columns to-do -list. The first column are the tasks migrated from the last week and the 2nd one is for the new ones from this week.
Aura has ombre colored pages and colored 4mm dot grid and I designed it specifically for this purpose. To be both the tool for organizing your business and life but also to inspire you to chase your dreams. It has thick, non-bleeding and non-ghosting uncoated pages so in between the actual weekly spreads, I usually make collages, do watercolor paintings, calligraphy, sketches or other creative hacks that interest me at the moment.
Well, that’s it. For now at least. What kind of tools do you prefer? Do you share some of the above with me or do you have an ace up your sleeve?
Share your favourite tools. Feel free to comment in here or in Instagram @ainoawashere.
I’m always super happy to hear from you and I think you might have some cools tips and tools too that would help me and the other people on their journey, so share the love!