Paper Laundry

Musings From the Washroom

The misadventures of two creatives starting a small business.

Software That Keeps us Hustling

Starting up, one of the greatest things you can get is recommendations. On everything. Business plans, agreements, printers—everything. And it’s so great. But today I’m happy about software. That’s right, the workhorses behind the scenes that have made our lives better. Ok, and some that weren’t everything we needed but kept us together till we could afford the next step.

So why is it so important? Brace yourself for a cliche, time is money. There’s so much going on when you’re starting up that any tool you can have to keep things going smoothly are worth their weight in gold. Not that you can afford anything with gold on it. We’re fortunate to have worked at some agencies who valued process and being buttoned up. Our mindset was already there. Ashlynn loved organization, I loved spreadsheets and charts, it was the right start. But how could we take it to the next level? There were two things we knew we wanted: a project management system and an accounting system. That last one was much less of a want and more of an ugh-we-have-to-have-this-so-we-don’t-go-to-white-collar-jail. We tried some things out, we had some wins and some days of pulling our hair out, and here’s where we’re at—for now.

 

Accounting

  • We started with QuickBooks and, for the price, it’s fine. Once we had the money, we started using a bookkeeper (Accountingprose, you own my heart) who recommended Xero (along with Box and Hubdoc which automate so many things I swear I’m sleeping better at night). Much more robust, much better for collaboration, much happier Cara.

Project Management

  • Everyone loves Asana right? Wrong. We hated it. It wasn’t intuitive, it wasn’t easy for us to set up, it wasn’t for us. However it did have animations of unicorns and wizards and we liked that a lot. We decided this tool was worth paying for so we started asking around for recommendations. Mighty Advertising (hey, guys!) recommended Function Fox. We did a demo, we got a month free to play around with it, we were sold. It’s the absolute perfect tool for where we’re at and what we can pay. Also, they sent us really cool schwag and we even have a dedicated account manager (email Tom, he’s the man) who checks in with us and cares about us like we were a big agency in Manhattan. Score.  

Collaboration

  • Slack. Do we even have to talk about this? It’s the best. We can collaborate internally, set up sharing with freelancers, create workspaces for specific clients, and there are gifs. (See above wizard reference). There are tons of integrations, most of which I am still blissfully unaware of. I can only handle so much technology.

Conference Calling

  • We admit to using free options for awhile. At the time we started it’s not like we had that many conference calls so, again, this wasn’t a huge priority. Now we have a join.me account. After some research, their pricing and options added up to just what we needed. Also, their hold music is so hilarious and fun it gets stuck in my head and I don’t even care. Boom. That’s how it’s done people.

Servers

  • If you’re in the creative space, you know file organization and sharing is crucial. Ashlynn’s design files can get big, I have weird documents and spreadsheets all over, and we have to know where things are all the time. So we tried Dropbox because lots of people use it and the price was right. Big mistake. Files would disappear on a regular basis. Just gone. Want to cause some panic? That’s how it’s done. Now we’re killing it on Google Drive. Granted, any of these systems are only as good as your organization skills but, for what we can pay for, it’s perfect.

So there you have it—my advice to you, grasshopper, because it’s the advice that we got which has helped keep us hustling. However, we’re always open to new recommendations. What’s your best software pick?