Amazing Creative & Organisation Tools To Help Your Blog Or Business

There’s little truth in the fact that blogging costs a small fortune; in reality all you need is a computer, an internet connection and the ability to type, even if the industry has got caught up in visiting super instagrammable locations or investing in cameras that cost more than two months rent. When I started writing about my favourite lipsticks back in 2010, blogging was about telling stories and connecting with women that were just like you – none of us had fancy equipment, knew how to take a decent photo, write code or edit to give pictures a few extra hot air balloons. It was trial and error, with investment in both our own development and equipment over a period of time, but now there are a whole host of tools that have been developed to make our life easier. From social media scheduling and accessible newsletter tools, to invoicing platforms and graphic creation sites, there’s always something to ensure your content looks super slick and your time is used efficiently.

PHOTO EDITING & GRAPHIC DESIGN TOOLS 

I’ve had no training whatsoever in taking photos or creating design elements for my blog and social channels; everything I produce is by trial and error, following online tutorials or stumbling across something great. Over the years I’ve tried many many different platforms, but the ones I rely on almost daily include a trio of complementary and easy to use tools that really help to create an aesthetically pleasing presence. Perfect for beginners, Picmonkey allows you basic editing functionality for free; it helps to brighten pictures, add contrast, sharpen, crop, layer text and even add graphics or filters. I’ve historically used this to create all my graphics, logos and edit my pictures, and to be honest I don’t think you’ll find anything easier to use.

I’ve since progressed to using Lightroom, which offers more professional editing capabilities and can really warm the look and feel of an image to ensure it looks super slick; I’m still getting to know it, but for £9.96 a month it’s already helped to improve the quality of my images with only a few hours to play. (FYI this is the tool the majority of instagrammers use!) Building on from that, Canva is a great tool if you want to create graphics for your social media platforms or even a media kit; it allows you to copy existing templates which can be personalised, or just get stuck right in with a pre-determined size or shape. I use it to create the Pinterest graphics you see at the bottom of every post without having to start from scratch – I just save the template and change the image / text every time, which saves a huge amount of effort. If you don’t have original images, then sites such as Picjumbo offer fab stock images for free too.

FINANCIAL & INVOICING TOOLS 

Probably the most laborious and annoying part of running your own business, but you really do need to get on top of invoicing and accounts. It’s essential to track all your incomings and outgoings for tax purposes, as well as having an efficient way of invoicing; even adding a unique reference code will help you track who has paid when, which simplifies the process no end when many brands have parent companies you’ve never heard of. If you need a simple, free and easy to use invoicing tool then Invoicely is fab; you can set up multiple businesses, establish a template and keep track of when invoices are overdue. The basic version is free, which is what I’ve used for the past five years.

If you need something a little more integrated and professional, then FreeAgent really is amazing. It offers the same functionality as Invoicely, but in a much clearer way; you can link it to your business account so it automatically imports when you’ve been paid and what your expenses are, even accruing tax as you go so there are no ridiculous surprises come the deadline. What I also love about it is that the platform is recommended by banks and accountants alike, so it’s set up to make everything super efficient and incredibly simple – both my bank and accountant recommended it and have been set up to have access, so they can get on with what they need to do without bothering me for endless reports and spreadsheets.

FUNCTIONAL OFFICE TOOLS 

Some
of the more essential tools I use on a regular basis are the ones I
don’t even notice; they’re the platforms that help me just get on with
the job in hand, and my Office 365 subscription
is definitely the most underrecognised. Rather than buying expensive
software for my MacBook, I have a monthly subscription set up that
ensures I have all the programmes I need – and they’re updated
automatically so they’re never out of date. I pay £7.99 a month and it’s
honestly one of the best investments I make, because I don’t know where
I’d be without an Excel spreadsheet.

Contracts are
also a huge part of what I do, and barely a week goes by when I’m not
signing something; not only do they protect you as a blogger, but they
outline what’s expected of you and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Rather than endlessly printing out contracts, signing and scanning them
back in like it’s 2002, I instead use online signing platforms including
Docusign and Hello Sign
which do it for me (both are legally binding.) Both allow you to import
a signature and store all previous contracts effortlessly, so there’s
always an easy place to refer back to.

COMMUNICATION & SCHEDULING TOOLS

Nobody
expects you to be online 24/7, so embracing scheduling tools will allow
you to always be present without phsyically being attached to your
phone. One of the tools I’ve relied on since I very first started this
journey is Tweetdeck,
which allows you to view your Twitter account across multiple streams
(rather than having to flick between your homefeed / mentions / DMs.) It
also allows you to follow hashtags and add additional accounts, as well
as scheduling content (which I do a week at a time.) Hootsuite
is a great alternative too, and one I use to manage my Facebook and
Google Plus pages; I simply schedule what I want to appear daily on a
Monday morning, and don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the
week! Tailwind
is also amazing if you have a Pinterest account, allowing you to monitor
and schedule pins so they appear in feeds at the most optimized time;
it’s changed the way I run my account and has enabled both my
impressions and engagement to increase rapidly.

A
newsletter can be a great way of extending the conversation beyond your
blog and social channels, but they can be tricky to manage unless you
have an effective tool to help. Personally I use MadMimi
to manage my database and allow me to create professional looking
newsletters, hitting my readers up with exclusive news and information
once a month. Its ‘drag and drop’ functionality makes it super easy to
design and edit newsletters, as well as creating easy templates that can
be replicated every time. You can look at insights and statistics after
an e-blast has been sent out, as well as sending it a second time to
those who haven’t opened it. Although relatively expensive once you
progress to thousands of email addresses, it’s free if you’re under
2000.

Running a blog (and business) is not as simple
as you may think, but these tools do make my life a million times easier
and keep my content looking hot. I hope they help you too!

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SHOP THE LOOK

Photos taken by the lovely Kirsty: fashionforlunch.net

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13 Comments

  1. The Makeup Aficionado
    May 5, 2018 / 1:51 am

    I'm such a massive fan of hootsuit – it's a game changer for twitter & I've heard lots of buzz surrounding tail wind & I really need to step up my game for pinterest so I definitely need to try it out. http://www.themakeupaficionado.com

    • Hayley Hall
      May 6, 2018 / 9:07 pm

      It makes it tonnes easier as you can do everything in bulk and not have to worry about being 'always on'!

  2. Erin Russell
    May 5, 2018 / 11:51 am

    I love this, and I find I invest in all the same things, the £10 a month Abdobe package is SO good! I don't know why I didn't do it a lot sooner now! Erin || MakeErinOver

    • Hayley Hall
      May 6, 2018 / 9:08 pm

      It's so worthwhile isn't it – and £10 a month seems a lot more manageable.

  3. Alice Megan
    May 5, 2018 / 5:12 pm

    I think scheduling tools are an absolute dream! They're the only way I manage to blog around my job! I use Socialoomph and tailwind mainly but they're absolute lifesavers

    • Hayley Hall
      May 6, 2018 / 9:08 pm

      They make juggling everything so much easier – who has the time to be on social 24/7, when there are so many tasks vying for our attention?

  4. Danielle Alexa
    May 5, 2018 / 5:18 pm

    This is such a great blog post, I really loved reading it. So many helpful tips!Danielle xxhttps://www.fashionbeautyblog.co.uk/

    • Hayley Hall
      May 6, 2018 / 9:09 pm

      I'm so glad it was helpful!

  5. theflairsophy
    May 5, 2018 / 9:50 pm

    Thanks for this post Hayley. My aim this year is to learn more about photo editing, and has been contemplating Lightroom for a while. I may also start venturing into scheduling post to ease the stress especially when I am away / busy at work as I have a full time career and blogging is something I do on the side. x

    • Hayley Hall
      May 6, 2018 / 9:09 pm

      Scheduling is so important – for sanity and juggling everything! So many tools allow you to bulk schedule so you don't have to worry day to day, and it really takes the pressure off.

  6. Miriam Hereza
    May 8, 2018 / 1:42 pm

    Thanks for this post! I am currently not making any money with my blog, but I am saving this post in order to consult it if I ever do. Keeping track of every transaction could become a headache and having something to help could be a life saver. Thanks for sharing! Miriam | http://www.theopiblog.com

  7. Andri Christodoulou
    May 9, 2018 / 8:07 pm

    I just found your blog and I have to say that you have very helpful tips!! I just pin it to save it for later xoxohttp://hiddeninbeauty.com

  8. Greatness Reinvented
    May 12, 2018 / 8:56 pm

    Some good tools you list there will be checking a couple out. GR | https://www.thegreat.uk

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