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The 11 Must-Have Tools For Growing And Running A 6 Figure Creative Business In 2023

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I'm sure you already know how easy it is to get bogged down by the day-to-day tasks and admin work that comes with running a freelance business. You probably don't know all of the amazing tools out there that (when used correctly) will help you focus on what you do best… Create.
By leveraging the right tools, you can increase profits, reduce frustration, and create a sense of calm in your workflow. From project management and invoicing tools to marketing platforms and collaboration apps, we'll discuss my top 11 favorite tools every creative freelancer should have in their toolkit.
Whether you're just starting out as a freelancer or you're looking to take your thriving business to the next level in 2023, this episode is for you.
Listen now to learn how these tools can help you streamline your workflow, stay organized, and grow your business.
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • Why you should invest in the tools you need
  • The toxicity of the blue-collar mindset
  • Solving internal communication for your team
  • Staying on top of client relationships the easy way
  • How to keep productivity high as a freelancer
  • Bookkeeping made simple
  • Choosing the best payment provider
  • Saving hours per week on audio/video editing
  • Using your external brain to stay organized

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Related Podcast Episodes


Brian's top 11 tools

  1. ClickUp
  2. Twist
  3. Loom
  4. Easy Funnels
  5. Dubsado/Pipedrive
  6. RescueTime
  7. Xero
  8. Stripe
  9. Descript
  10. Evernote
  11. Zapier

Other tools



[00:00:00] Brian: Hello and welcome to the six Figure Creative Podcast. I'm your host, Brian Hood. This is your first time listening to the show. First of all, thank you for giving the show a chance, checking it out at all. It means a lot that you would even trust me in the first place. Maybe I click baited you.

[00:00:11] Brian: Hopefully this isn't a clickbait episode for you, . I wanna deliver on this. If this is your first time listening this show is all about how to. Basically become a better business owner. As a creative creatives, were great at all of the creativity stuff, and that doesn't really translate well to business.

[00:00:23] Brian: So if you're trying to either crack six figures for the first time, or you're trying to grow to multiple six figures as creative, this show has a lot of great things for you. So check our backlog, like 230 plus episodes that are 100% free.

[00:00:32] Brian: Today's topic, if you couldn't tell by the title of it, is 11 Tools that I Use and Love that will help you on your quest to grow to six figures and beyond in 2023 and beyond. These are all tools that I use. These are all tools that I wholeheartedly endorse and recommend to everybody. and the roi, the return on investment is massive. If you use and implement these tools the way they should be used at. the mistake a lot of freelancers make when it comes to actually choosing tools and using tools as creatives we fail to invest [00:01:00] into tools.

[00:01:00] Brian: We look at it as a cost or an expense. And today I want you to push that notion aside. Get it outta here. It doesn't serve you. It's not helping anybody. It's not helping yourself. It's not helping your bank account. It's only helping you maybe today not spend money. But that's the wrong thinking.

[00:01:13] Brian: Get that out of here. think about this from the perspective of you're investing money now to make more money later as creatives. That's literally what we do. We, We invest into our skills so that we can make more money off of it later. We invest into tools so we can multiply our efforts into the future.

[00:01:27] Brian: if you can't get away from the mindset of spending money is bad, and instead get more to the mindset of investing money is good in the right circumstances, then you will cost your. Thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars per year in lost income and lost productivity in your business.

[00:01:41] Brian: and that's because tools are basically what has brought humanity to where it is today. Can you imagine if you didn't have running water in your house right now, That is not just a tool, it is a series of tools that created that entire system that you use every day to wash your hands, to bathe at the end of the day or beginning of the day, whichever type person you are to drink water, [00:02:00] to water your plants like that is a very important tool in most people's lives.

[00:02:04] Brian: Electricity It's a tool you use every day, and it took a lot of people, a lot of tools over the, the years to build and deploy that for everyone to use. Wifi. These are tools that you use you're paying for all these by the way. You're paying for your electricity, you're paying for your water, you're paying for your internet, or at least I hope you are

[00:02:19] Brian: Hope you have these things. Otherwise, it's gonna be hard to listen to this show.

[00:02:22] Brian: And you pay for these things because they're worth much more than you pay for it. I think I pay like 30 bucks a month for water. I think we pay $150 a month for our electricity. Depending on the month. we pay Google fiber. $70 a month for fast internet.

[00:02:34] Brian: And if I didn't have these things, I would be struggling massively. And I want you to think about these tools that I talk about today. they may not be as valuable as electricity and wifi, but they are going to be hugely important to your freelance business, your creative business, whatever your business is moving forward.

[00:02:48] Brian: If you don't have these things put into place yet.

[00:02:50] Brian: Now, way back in like episode, I don't remember what episode it was, but we did a replay of it on episode 154 of this podcast where we talked about the five toxic mindsets that can destroy your business. One [00:03:00] of those toxic mindsets is something called the blue collar mindset.

[00:03:02] Brian: and I'm from Alabama, so this is kind of the same mindset I grew up with. you feel like you can do everything yourself. You can do it better than anyone else. You don't need help.

[00:03:09] Brian: You don't need that tool. you don't need to buy a new thing. You can just fix it yourself. That sort of mindset. It works if you're broke, it works if you have really limited resources to an extent it works. If you like staying But it doesn't serve you in any business capacity whatsoever, and especially as creatives.

[00:03:25] Brian: We can piddle along, but we cannot thrive in the blue collar mindset. That's the thing that keeps us broke. That's the thing that keeps us unhappy. That's the thing that keeps us swamped with work because we refuse to hire help or to get help or to implement systems or tools. So if you want to get more done, you wanna get more clients, you wanna learn more, you wanna have less stress, et cetera, then the 11 tools I talk about today They're gonna be crucial to your businesses success, not just in 2023, but. Now this episode is airing the week after Christmas.

[00:03:52] Brian: it is that like calm before the storm. It's after Christmas, before the New Year's, like nobody does anything this week. Hopefully you're listening to the show this week. If you're listening to the show later [00:04:00] on, this, all this stuff still applies. But this is a really good week for you to, to take time away from the hustle and bustle.

[00:04:04] Brian: You probably don't have any projects going on right now. to look at these tools that I have to show to you today or talk to you about today, at least yes. This is on YouTube. Yes, this is the video, but I, I try not to do anything. This too visual on this show, we're just gonna talk about the tools today.

[00:04:15] Brian: If you want to like see visual things of this. YouTube has pretty much all of these tools by somebody has done some breakdown of each of these tools. But this would be a good week for you to look at these tools that I'm gonna talk about today and figure out which ones are the ones you're missing, And one of the things I do at my, annual planning retreat, which I'm doing next week, is, I actually go through our list of tools and we just do an, an audit of what's staying, what's going, what's changing?

[00:04:36] Brian: Anything that needs to change. We're gonna start the process of that, or at least plan out when we're gonna change. Cuz some tools are really difficult to change.

[00:04:42] Brian: But take this week and take some time away since people aren't bothering me right now. Hopefully, and you have a little time to work on your business and see which tool you need to actually implement. So, The first tool on our list today is a project management tool, and the one that I use, the one that I love, the one that I recommend after trying so many different ones out. I'll tell you the ones I've actually used, and then [00:05:00] I'll tell you the one I actually use. I've tried Trello, I've tried teamwork, I've tried Todoist.

[00:05:05] Brian: I've tried some like random ones I found off AppSumo. I can't remember the names of.

[00:05:09] Brian: I've tried Asana and I've tried a couple more that I can't remember the names of, but I've tried a lot of different ones and honestly, most of them would work fine for you, but the one that I, I finally invested time, effort, energy, and money learning and implementing in my business to great success over the last year actually took.

[00:05:25] Brian: All of January last year, this was like, the big overhaul is like, what's our project management system? I chose Click Up and that's the one that like so many people had recommended to me. it's a tool I love because it is so flexible and that breeds a little bit of complexity.

[00:05:39] Brian: Click up is one of those things that you cannot dabble in. It's not something that you can just go sign up for a free trial right now and just go like, play around with, and you're, and then you'll get it, it takes a lot of, time, effort, and energy on the front end, but it is more than worth on the back end.

[00:05:51] Brian: So click up. It's like the count I have is like 12 bucks a month, or it's actually probably less than that. It's 12 bucks a.

[00:05:56] Brian: And it is worth maybe a hundred x that price to me. But not only the [00:06:00] $12 a month was what I invested into, that there was actually a full month of learning and implementing. All of the systems that we've built out inside of there, because it gets really complex. It can be as simple, as complex as you want, but I want the route where I want it to be a really powerful tool for me and my team to utilize. every single software we pay for is in there listed, how much we pay for it, how often we pay for it, which credit card it's used on, the date that it renews. All of these things, like the link to the billing is all inside of. Everything from that to like our SOPs. Every team member that I have is in there with a full profile of them when they started, when they left.

[00:06:30] Brian: If they're not working with me anymore, they're addressed. So we can send notes and gift cards and things like that to them.

[00:06:34] Brian: It has all of what I call my content farms. On there I have, I I have a content farm for the podcast. I have a separate content farm for YouTube content. Whenever I'm doing YouTube videos. It is basically like where I put all of my ideas for content is in there. I will be also using it for next year, what I call my warm app , which is like my annual calendar usually, like there's a spreadsheet I use, it has like everything in a spreadsheet view, but now I'm trying implement all of that to click up because they have a wonderful counter view.

[00:06:59] Brian: I use [00:07:00] it for our podcast guest acquisition funnel. You can actually send emails out from click up. You can actually use it similar to a crm. And we use it to filter guests through our process for who makes it on the show, who doesn't? Who do we want on the show? what are the criteria we have?

[00:07:13] Brian: How do we reach out to them? Who are we nurturing to come on the show? Like we use it all the time for even this podcast, I use it for my software companies. I use it for my personal projects. There is very little in my life now that isn't touched in some way, shape, or form by click up at this point, and that is $12 a month.

[00:07:28] Brian: So it is an insane value. A lot of people listening to the show right now, you have a lot of projects you're working on right now.

[00:07:33] Brian: That means you're working in your business. Not on your business. You're not, building systems out and like making things more efficient and building out like a full funnel for your client acquisition machine. Like you're not doing any of that stuff. You're working in your business on projects most of the time.

[00:07:46] Brian: If you're full-time, even if you're not full-time, you're working on projects sometimes and you're working your day job most of the time, and that means you have very little time. That you can devote towards actually building out some of the things that we talk about on the show, like an example, Learning, click up.

[00:07:58] Brian: Putting it together is a [00:08:00] project end of itself. So that's one project you have going on. Maybe another project you have is setting up a crm, which we'll talk about CRMs later on. these are all different things that you have going on, and they might go at different paces. So to keep track of all of that and where you left off and when you come back three weeks later because you went on vacation.

[00:08:14] Brian: To know exactly where you left off. That's really hard to do if you don't have a really good project management system in place. So I recommend the start of the year Right now. January's a really good time to start putting these things into place if you haven't already, and I wholeheartedly recommend click up and I hate it cause I'm not sponsored by them.

[00:08:29] Brian: No, I'm actually not sponsored by any of these. this is just a show where a lot of companies are getting free advertis. that's the first tool that I recommend is click up, and it's wonderful once you get past a learning curve.

[00:08:39] Brian: The second tool, is one that I use for client collaboration. this really works well for longer term projects. So if you have your clients on a retainer where you're working with 'em every month, or you have them on like project that'll last a while, like at least a few weeks, and you need like a good central place to communicate with them that isn't an email inbox.

[00:08:55] Brian: Because I personally don't love email. And I just, In and on my business, I don't wanna touch email, I have to [00:09:00] separate any client work into something else, and I use this tool for that. And it's a tool called, not Slack, but.

[00:09:06] Brian: for those who don't know, slack is like the biggest chat app. It's like a a chat app for business owners. Mostly. That's kind of what they go for, and a lot of businesses use that to collaborate and a lot of freelancers use that to collaborate with, clients. They may have other clients and channels and so on and so forth.

[00:09:19] Brian: I don't love Slack because it's chaos. It's built for like live back and forth where you're like just chatting back and forth really quickly and it's also like scattered because there's no threads. If you look at something like I use just like a Facebook group for example. Facebook groups are, good for focused conversation because you have a central topic, a central thread, and then you have the comments under that thread.

[00:09:41] Brian: Slack has that feature, but virtually nobody uses it unless they're trained to use it, and you generally don't have time to. Train your clients on how to use threads. if you have your client in a channel in Slack, you end up having all these conversations that go nowhere or bounce back and forth between all these different topics because projects can get really complex.[00:10:00]

[00:10:00] Brian: the reason I love Twist is because it solves that it is like Slack, they have the desktop app, they have a browser app, they have a mobile app. It works the same where you have channel. Where those channels are all based on topics and you can even have a different channel for each client.

[00:10:13] Brian: And if you keep your clients in one channel, then they're free accounts basically. So most freelancers that I know, and they use this, every client has its own channel, and then you can have any stakeholders related to that project in the channel. And then within that channel, and this is where it's different from Slack within that channel.

[00:10:29] Brian: It's actually very thread based. it's like an old school forum mixed with Slack. And it's way better about not having people just do this rapid fire back and forth. It forces people to think out their thoughts and post a full thought and then press enter.

[00:10:42] Brian: Actually, you can't even press enter it's command enter or control enter on Windows to even submit it. So people can't just type and enter type and enter like you're in a live chat. it forces your clients to basically keep the conversation in the thread that's relevant to that specific topic.

[00:10:55] Brian: When you have a lot of moving parts in a project, that's really important, but it also forces them to get the [00:11:00] entire thought out before they hit enter or before they post the comment.

[00:11:03] Brian: This tool is $12 a month per user. and the way they define a user for Twist is people that are in multiple channels. So if you are the only person in your business who are in multiple channels in Twist, then you're the only one paying if every single client is just in one channel.

[00:11:19] Brian: And there's like as many threads as you wanna post in that channel. Just one channel, they don't have to pay. So it's only 12 bucks a month for solo freelancers. If you have multiple people on your team, each team member's 12 bucks a month. it adds up fast if you had a big team, but otherwise it's, really manageable pricing.

[00:11:32] Brian: My second tool is another collaboration tool, and this is one that I cannot live without. keeping your clients. While saving time and communication has been huge for me and my success over the years and the way I've been able to. get away from the dollars for hours pricing model is moving everything to kind of an asynchronous model. there's two types of communication styles. There's synchronous and then there's asynchronous. Synchronous just means we're having a real-time conversation. It could be us on like Slack chatting back and forth in real time.

[00:11:59] Brian: It could be us in a text [00:12:00] message chatting back and forth real time. It could be us on the phone or on Zoom, chatting back and forth in real time. We are synchronized in our convers. Asynchronous conversation and collaboration is when, when you have time, which for me is, great cuz I can batch things.

[00:12:12] Brian: When you have time, you can go through and address all comments, concerns, things that are related to you, and then, you can post those things or send those things to your client if you're using Twist to make this really easy. And then on their own time asynchronously, not at the same time on their own time, your client's time, they can.

[00:12:30] Brian: And then you can go back and forth. That way it slows down the communication cycle a bit, but the trade off is worth it because whenever you are doing things asynchronously, both of you learn how to communicate your entire idea in one succinct message.

[00:12:44] Brian: And Loom makes this even easier for me because I'm a talker, . That's why I have a podcast. I am not a typer. I hate typing. I will if I have to. I will bullet point things if I can and not actually think things out in full sentences, which is what I do for my podcast outlines if you saw my screen right now.[00:13:00]

[00:13:00] Brian: But I don't wanna have to type things out. So what I do with my clients, I use Twist and Loom, is I will literally create Loom videos in response to whatever their questions, concerns, or whatever we're working on in their specific project. And I send the Loom video. then they watch that and they either respond with their own loom video or they type out their response and we go back and forth.

[00:13:17] Brian: Asynchronously, not real time asynchronously until we are done with that specific part of the project are deliverable.

[00:13:22] Brian: And in case I didn't explain it well, loom is just a app that's on your phone and it's on your computer and they have a, desktop version that's not a browser-based app that allows you to record your screen and, or video, whichever one you like and easily upload it immediately and then copy and paste a link and send it, to your clients.

[00:13:39] Brian: It's way faster than any other screen sharing tool that I've found because I can screen share, I can reference something that I'm talking through. Or if I'm having like, a real conversation where I need to make sure I'm saying things tactfully and they can see my eyes, I'll do an on-camera video and I'll talk through my response to the client or potential clients.

[00:13:54] Brian: Sometimes I use this in sales as well.

[00:13:56] Brian: And then it uploads from, you can do it from your phone or from your computer and then [00:14:00] immediately send a link off and it, uploads basically as soon as you're done. I don't know how they do it even when I, before I had Google Fiber and I was like on a slower connection. It'll be like a full 10 80 p video in like seconds, and I don't, understand it, but I appreciate it. So that's a loom. it's either free if you are doing videos that are under five minutes or it's 12 bucks a month for like the plan that I have, I use the one that's $12 a month.

[00:14:19] Brian: So now we're onto the fourth tool, and that is the tool for building and creating your. , and this is the only one that I would consider a sponsor because this is my own company, , but it's called Easy Funnels. before you skip ahead or turn it off, the reason I recommend this is because I literally use it in every single business that I have right now.

[00:14:35] Brian: every website that I have uses Easy Funnels.

[00:14:37] Brian: And the reason I recommend this and use this over things like Wix or WordPress, or, Webflow is because I focus on conversions, I want clients. I don't want bells and whistles on my website, all the fun little animations that w, that Webflow can do.

[00:14:53] Brian: I don't want complexity like WordPress where I have to update every single day, some plugin, and then stuff breaks. I don't want to have [00:15:00] to. Cobble together 30 tools to run my business like I would with Wick. I wanna be able to track things properly so that I know the, health of my business at all times.

[00:15:08] Brian: Easy Funnels has been created and works to do all of these things to actually turn website visitors and strangers into clients. And it does it because it has not just a website builder, but a funnel builder. To where you can actually build multi-step funnels. You can actually sell products. You can have upsells and downsells.

[00:15:22] Brian: If you sell digital products or productized services, you can sell recurring subscriptions through easy funnels. your clients can book appointments with you, so you don't have to use things like Calendly haphazardly tied into other tools.

[00:15:34] Brian: You can build your email list on. You can send emails to your email list from Easy Funnels. You can do marketing automation, like whenever someone signs up for your lead magnet, they get that lead magnet delivered to them, and then they get a series of like five to 10 nurture emails over the period of five to 10 days.

[00:15:49] Brian: When it comes to having a tool for a freelancer, This is the best one that I have found and this is the one that I recommend anyone use. Now, right now, if you're a freelancer and like another creative niche, [00:16:00] you're gonna go to the site right now in it's position for recording studios.

[00:16:02] Brian: That's my background is audio production, music production. And so the biggest majority of our, followers and listeners are audio. Music producers and recording studios. So it's positioned for that, that doesn't mean it's only for them. So if you are a creative in another field, you can still use easy funnels.

[00:16:15] Brian: Go to Easy funnels.io, sign up for a free trial, no credit card required, and it starts at $12 a month. the plan that I recommend is our funnels plus scheduling plan, and that one is $29 a month.

[00:16:25] Brian: Most freelancers, if you're already successful, you have a website. I hope you do I imagine you do. But at a certain point, and it's probably been like two to three years since you've really set one up from scratch, maybe even longer than that, and really like seen what's out there. So I really encourage you to just go explore it especially if this is the one that seems like you need the most help in.

[00:16:42] Brian: And maybe you're using too many tools. You're using Calendly, you're using something for selling your productized service or selling a digital product, you're using something for. Emo marketing and marketing automation. You're using something else for building funnels out. Like if that sounds like you, this is probably the area you wanna explore in your time off so I'd recommend you check it out.

[00:16:57] Brian: Our fifth tool on the list today is a C [00:17:00] R M. This is a customer relationship management or client relationship management in our world system.

[00:17:05] Brian: This is easily one of the most overlooked softwares in the freelance creative world, and I don't really know why I'm not sure what the excuse is there. We have multiple episodes of this on the podcast. If you just looked through our backlog for the term c R m.

[00:17:19] Brian: But there are two that I use and that I recommend, I've used three for long periods of time over the years. I started off on close.com or close.io is what they were back then. And then I moved to pipe drive, and then I moved back to Close . now I, I use one called dto.

[00:17:34] Brian: We're not sponsored by any of these. I do have an affiliate link for Pipedrive. If you go to pipedrive.studio, I think they like double your free trial link. any of these will work. Any of them are fine. But there's a couple reasons, A couple things to note when choosing one. First of all, why would you need one at all when someone fills out your form on your website or someone reaches out to you for a quote request or a pricing request or availability?

[00:17:53] Brian: In most cases, people just send out a price and then you just hope to remember to follow up with people. A good [00:18:00] CRM helps you manage the entire process from, the first inquiry all the way to the final. And the really good ones, which is, this is actually where Dosa shines. It actually helps with the stages of the project as well, and actually a bit of project management built into it as well.

[00:18:13] Brian: And the reason I think this is so overlooked is because one project for many freelancers is worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. And if you're not using a CRM and you lose one project because of that, because you failed to follow up or because you didn't follow up when you said you would or something slipped through the cracks somehow.

[00:18:28] Brian: You miss one project because of that, you just lost out on potentially thousands of dollars and not just thousands of dollars. Any money that would've come from them returning to you later on, like a year down the road, any money that you would've gained from them referring other clients to you. the multiplying effects of losing one client could be in the tens of thousands for Ava freelancers, just from that one client over the lifetime of that potential client.

[00:18:48] Brian: So the cost of a CR r m, which is really not that expensive, is more than justified. So, DTO is actually $33 a month if you pick their annual plan. And pipe drive is like $25 a month,

[00:18:58] Brian: but it helps you manage and [00:19:00] close more projects. Now, I'm gonna say their strengths and weaknesses for both of these Pipedrive is really good at the sales portion. To me, it's a better CRM for, following up with people properly for. Keeping up with who I need to follow up with keeping up with what we last said a bit better with notes, things like that, like what our conversation was. It's better with analytics my close percentages and how many deals are in the pipeline, the total value of those deals, like a lot of nerdy, analytical stuff.

[00:19:24] Brian: But where Dosa Shines is its automations, it's an ugly app. Ndo is. To me, the user experience is horrible. The UI is pretty bad in almost all areas, but it is incredible at automation and particularly, it's actually to me, even more powerful and even better for client onboarding. You can automate many, many steps and this helps you eliminate so many tedious steps that CRMs tend to be.

[00:19:46] Brian: People don't use CRMs because you have to go in, you have to click things and move around and tap things and slide things over and whatever. The cool thing about this CRM is when someone fills out my form on my website, I can hit a button to either approve [00:20:00] it or deny it. If I deny it, it sends an email out, it changes the project status,

[00:20:04] Brian: and it gets it out of my, pipeline. If it's approved, then it will. Send the person an email. It will set up, the next steps for that specific project. you can send out a scheduler a booking widget, whether or not you use Easy Funnels. The cool thing about this is you can actually, send out their own booking widget or appointment scheduler, and on when the appointment date is.

[00:20:22] Brian: You can automate more things like sending a contract over or sending a proposal over. All of these steps are automated, and the more high volume your business is, meaning if you have a lot of leads coming in and you close a lot of deals, this sort of stuff becomes more and more and more and more important.

[00:20:36] Brian: I'd say if you're a productized service where you do the same exact process for every single client, Devoto is wonderful. Use it, learn it, implement it. It's a little bit of a. to learn and set up, but once you get it, it runs really well.

[00:20:47] Brian: But if you are a more like high touch, high price bespoke kind of freelancer, then I would go for Pipedrive. it's complex in its own way. It's a pain in its own way, but it is better at what I would consider like [00:21:00] high-touch sales.

[00:21:00] Brian: The next tool on our list is a productivity tool. This, I think this is the only straight up productivity tool that I have on the list, and I actually wasn't sure how to categorize this one, but as freelancers we need to make sure we, are as a productive as we can be because we have so much stuff to do and especially I'm talking to my solo Solopreneurs are out there that don't have a team or any freelancers that are helping them.

[00:21:19] Brian: You're doing everything yourself. you might be in the blue collar mindset, but productivity is important to us because the more productive we can be, the more efficient we can be. The more we get done, the more we make and typically the better things run in our businesses. the tool that I use and the one that I recommend to everyone is something called rescue.

[00:21:35] Brian: If you're a long time listener, you've probably heard me mention this on the show multiple times, but this is the thing that I've used to measure my time and my productivity over the last, since 2016 or 2017, something like that. It's when I first started using this, it's a tool that you install on every device that you have.

[00:21:49] Brian: They even, I think they even have it on mobile, but I don't use it for mobile. it is track. What I'm doing on every computer that I have. So if you, if you have privacy concerns, maybe not the best toll for you. I don't know what their privacy stuff is, but I just care about my own [00:22:00] efficiency.

[00:22:00] Brian: And this is actually one of the KPIs that I track yearly for myself, is my amount of productive hours spent. So this will actually give you a daily productivity score or weekly productivity score. You can look at your productivity score over a, a long period of time, Their productivity scores determined, as far as I can tell, by what percentage of your, time on your computer was, directed towards productive activities. this really works well for people whose most of their work is done on a computer of some sort. If you do a lot of in-person stuff where you're like working off of a computer, this won't be as effective of tracking your overall productivity.

[00:22:30] Brian: But pretty much everything I've done for the past decade or more is all computer. So this does a wonderful job of just tracking my productivity over time. And so it gives you a bunch of reports. So the, thing I track is during my, work hours, what's my productivity score? And I want it to be, I think my goal is like 65 or 70 or above, something like that.

[00:22:47] Brian: 70 or above. And I'm doing great. I'm happy it's 70 or above 65 is, I might dip down to that every now and again, below 60 I'm doing.

[00:22:53] Brian: But also, I just wanna know throughout the entire year, how many productive hours did I work? That's actually one of the KPIs that I [00:23:00] track in my business. Key performance indicators on a master spreadsheet on a year by year basis, since 2015 or 2016, what is my total income for the year amongst all my businesses?

[00:23:08] Brian: What are my total expenses for the year amongst all my businesses? What is my net income or my profit for the year amongst all businesses? And then what are. Total productive hour spent amongst all my businesses. And that gives me lot of wonderful things. But one of the things that gives me is what is my, earnings per hour?

[00:23:25] Brian: Because I'm not gonna like, count the hour I spent watching YouTube video during lunch as a productive hour on my hourly income. So at the end of the year, I can look for 2022. What was my productive hours for the entire year? And then divide that into my total, gross income and net income, and get a, the thing that really tells me how efficient I've been for the year, which is my dollars per hour or earnings per hour.

[00:23:46] Brian: the saying that I love to go back to, and this tool is like a really good example of is what gets measured, gets managed. I can't remember who that is, maybe Peter Drucker or something like that. So if I'm not measuring my productivity and my time spent and where it's going and where my efficiencies are and, so on and so [00:24:00] forth, then.

[00:24:00] Brian: I can't really manage to affect it in any real way. So this tool is one of the, that I'll just go back to again and again and again and assess things and see what I'm spending a lot of time in and where maybe I could spend more time. And it does it all passively. I just have to, every now and again, maybe once a quarter go in and, and look at the actual data to see what it's saying.

[00:24:16] Brian: Now we're onto tool number seven. And this is a bookkeeping tool. I won't talk too much about this cuz bookkeeping is boring as hell. It doesn't make for good content on the podcast, but it is a tool that I use. And I actually had to switch to this this year because the tool I was using just said, no, we're done

[00:24:32] Brian: And for anyone who's ever like used a bookkeeping tool, it has like all your data in there, expenses, invoices, things like this. To move is really painful, and to move in the middle of the year was really painful. So I use one now called zero x e r o. The reason I chose Zero, I think, over some of the others is because I looked at all the others that were kind of out there. There's, there's, FreshBooks there is QuickBooks is the one that a lot of people use. and there's a couple more that I analyzed and just none of them really did what I wanted to do.

[00:24:58] Brian: I don't like overly complex [00:25:00] software. Again, zero is the best I could find for simplicity, which the one I used before was called GoDaddy Bookkeeping. I hate GoDaddy, but I used that bookkeeping app ever since it was called outright. It was called Outright. It was a free tool.

[00:25:10] Brian: It was awesome. But then they were bought by GoDaddy and then I used it for seven more years, and then they shut it down in the middle of 2020. The reason I use it is cuz it was so dead simple. It was like the most simple bookkeeping app ever. I didn't have to think about it, , it just did what it needed to do.

[00:25:24] Brian: When I moved to zero, there was a bit of a growing pain. There was still a little bit more complexities than I would've liked to have seen, but it did all the stuff that I needed to do. and the big thing was, and this is the problem with things like wave, wave.app or whatever it is, or wave apps.com, which is a free tool, and I think even QuickBooks had this issue was like they just didn't integrate with PayPal very well.

[00:25:43] Brian: I'm not a fan of PayPal. I don't use it as much as I used to, but I still have it as part of my business. So I needed to be able to integrate with that and pull data in. think zero is the only one I could find that, did that. I might be wrong there, but that was, one of the big reasons I use it now.

[00:25:55] Brian: Zero is $37 a month for the plan that I use. They have cheaper plans, So it's worth [00:26:00] looking into if you don't have a bookkeeping app getting into one. Right. Especially for the beginning of the year, if you were like, Hey, 2023 is my year to go full-time, then absolutely you want to get a bookkeeping app, sooner or later, and zero is the one that I'd recommend at least checking out.

[00:26:12] Brian: The next tool on the list is all about getting paid. As a freelancer, you wanna get paid, right? , we gotta make money. So if you're trying to, collect payments from people many of these things that I talked about today will help you collect money. Easy Funnels will help you collect money.

[00:26:25] Brian: Zero. Their invoices will let you collect money. STO will help you collect money. All these tools, I will help you collect money. But they all require this tool to actually allow that. And this tool is called Stripe. stripe.com. I've used it for many years now, and the reason I recommend this over everything else, more than PayPal, more than I think there's Braintree or something like that, I forget.

[00:26:44] Brian: The other tool Because Stripe is built, to be an easy tool to integrate with other tools. They're built for software companies, so they integrate with pretty much every software company they integrate with. Both my software companies, file Pass, dot com, and Easy funnels.io. They integrate with just about every tool that I use [00:27:00] that accepts payments, including zero.

[00:27:01] Brian: And they charge the same fee that every single credit card processor on Earth will charge you, and that's 2.9%. This is a really important blue collar mindset moment for anyone listening right now. If you're a freelancer and you are trying to find some way to avoid the 2.9% fee that Stripe or someone else, like PayPal or any of these other credit card processors will charge you.

[00:27:19] Brian: You are. Asking the wrong questions. 2.9% is the tax that you will have to pay to survive as a freelancer. there are very few instances where you'll get around that, especially if you want a client payment online. Short of requiring your clients to send checks or wire transfers, which are very inconvenient for them to do, and I would never ask my client to do those things in most cases.

[00:27:38] Brian: But if you want to live in the modern era and you want to collect payments by all these wonderful tools, that save you way more than 2.9% when it comes to efficiency and productivity and closing more deals, then Stripe is the way to go.

[00:27:49] Brian: And one more area that Stripe excels at is it's analytics. showing you your income over time. this month versus last month, this year versus last year, this quarter, this year versus this quarter last year.[00:28:00] It can get really granular and for those of you who are like finance nerds or just like numbers nerds, like I am, it's wonderful to look at, to kind of keep the score.

[00:28:07] Brian: In some regards, money is a way to keep score in this game of, uh, business. So if you like looking at the numbers and using it as inspiration and ways to, affect the numbers, cuz what gets measured, gets managed, stripes, analytics and reporting is really, really good.

[00:28:21] Brian: And it also looks and feels really good.

[00:28:23] Brian: And it's really easy to use as well. Next tool on the list, this is number nine, is an audio video editing tool. And again, we live in 2023 now, or we're about to in like a week from the episode. This day this episode comes out. And what rules 2023 is content. That's the biggest marketing lever anyone can use.

[00:28:40] Brian: Specifically video, but even audio is better than nothing. It's better than written in my opinion, especially if you're pair. Good like copywriting with audio or video,

[00:28:49] Brian: But the audio and video editor of choice for me is something called Descript. You can go to script.com to check that out. Again, these are not sponsors. These are not even affiliate links. script.com. [00:29:00] And the reason I like this tool, and this is especially interesting coming from my background, which is like professional audio engineering and mixing and, and mastering where I've used pro tools my entire life.

[00:29:09] Brian: The script has shaved hours off of our edit time. And it's made my team so much more efficient. And just to give you a couple little tidbits of what Script does that's so cool is you upload a video or audio file, it will transcribe the entire thing. All you have to do is edit the text as if it's a Word document, and it will edit the audio and video file for you.

[00:29:27] Brian: On top of that, they have something called Studio Sound that is straight up black Magic you can use. You're like crappy webcam, microphone, and it'll make it sound like a studio quality microphone. It is insane. Now, if you actually use a studio quality microphone, It actually makes it sound worse, It makes anything that's awful sound amazing. We've used it on so many occasions with our guests where they're just like on a laptop, microphone in an echoing room. It kills the echo. It makes it sound high quality.

[00:29:51] Brian: It sounds like it's actually close to you, and it is again, saved the audio in so many interviews we've done on this podcast. On top of that, their higher end plan, like 25 or 30 bucks [00:30:00] a month, maybe 40 bucks a month. I dunno what it is, it will use machine learning to learn your voice. you can retype certain things and it will just generate your voice for those things. I used it for redoing a video where I was like, I had changed some things up since the last time I did it, or it was like an audio thing and I was updating the details of this video of what had changed and it just generated my voice for me And Leland, our editor, , if you can make this happen. I dunno if you have the setting on your version, but I, I do pay for the premium version. See if you're gonna use the studio sound to make me say something ridiculous. Preferably about

[00:30:31] Brian: Tax evasion. That's a fun one. Tax evasion. I do not evade my taxes, by the way. Never do that. if this works, then Le alone will have a clip here, .

[00:30:38] Brian: I'm Brian and tax evasion is bad So I have no idea how that sounded. If he did it, it works better. in the context of a sentence, you just replace like a line or a word or a couple words. In, in the flow works way better for that than trying to generate an entire sentence from scratch.

[00:30:50] Brian: But you kinda get an idea and that feature specifically can be like a, a life saver sometimes, like if you said the wrong thing or you needed to, change a date on something, or a detail on something, or a [00:31:00] price on something that you said in a video or an audio or a podcast, or, it can be really helpful.

[00:31:04] Brian: Now we're on to number 10. We got two to go on these, this tool list. And this is a tool for organizing your thoughts. I think of this as like an external brain. You can look at project management tools like click up as an external brain, that's a form of external brain, just things that get out of your brain somewhere else, so you don't have to think about it.

[00:31:18] Brian: That's great for projects, but where do you keep ideas, brainstorming things? processes that you do? Where do you keep

[00:31:25] Brian: all the things that don't really work in click up? OR projects like that. And I use a tool called Evernote. It's been around for ages. It's like $7 a month, but it is one of the most used tools on all my devices and it's because they have some of the fastest search features I can find.

[00:31:38] Brian: Pretty much any note I've made in the past eight years. By hitting two buttons and then typing, and it just shows up on my computer, and I have it organized in a really interesting way that I actually learned from a book. Getting things done, I think is the book title by David Allen, and he has a portion in there about how he organizes his files and I used his file organization framework for organizing all my notes and Evernote.

[00:31:58] Brian: the long story short, Evernote has a [00:32:00] feature called note stacks and that's essentially, if you visualize this, it's like a box to put all of your note notebooks in. So it's a note stack and I have a stack for each of my businesses and a personal stack. And then within that box of notes, the note stack have individual.

[00:32:13] Brian: And that notebook is just a collection of individual notes. So I'll have like a notebook for all my marketing for a business. a notebook for

[00:32:21] Brian: my sales calls, if I'm doing a sales call, I keep all my notes from that sales call in Evernote. I'll have a notebook for

[00:32:27] Brian: what I call just general reference. That's where most of the notes actually end up being. It's just as like a general note. within each of those notebooks, there's a individual note. So if you open up your notes app on your phone right now, like if you're an iPhone user, there's the Notes app.

[00:32:38] Brian: Every one of those little individual notes is like a note and ever note, but it just allows you to nest things in a really organized manner so that you can quickly and easily find the notebook or the note stack that you're looking for.

[00:32:49] Brian: And one more tip there if you're using Evernote, is I actually create, a notebook that's just archive notes that I no longer need. And you can just right click and move notes into your archive section so that they're just outta your way, [00:33:00] outta your hair, outta your mind. If you're just like kind of brainstorming something or it's like a limited thing that you just no longer need.

[00:33:05] Brian: Evernote is what I do my annual planning on. It's what I do. All my processes that I build out, like checklists for my team to follow. I draft all those in Evernote and then my team takes 'em and puts them into like whatever software we use. We use another tool that I'm not even gonna mention here cuz it's irrelevant to 99.9% of our listeners.

[00:33:21] Brian: But, another version of this that's similar to Evernote that's actually probably a lot more powerful, thus a lot more complex is something called Notion. If you're a notion user, you probably don't need to Evernote. I've tried Notion, I don't like their search function, I don't like the navigation in there nearly as much as I like Evernote.

[00:33:35] Brian: But another one to look into and one that's a lot more on the modern cutting edge and probably a better UI and UX for most people is notion, check that one out. And the final tool that I use and that I recommend people use a tool for tying all of your apps together. You have all these different apps and tools, and sometimes you need to talk to each other.

[00:33:53] Brian: And the problem with these tools talking to each other is they don't speak the same language. So this tool that I use is called [00:34:00] Zapier, or Zapier. Some people call it, I call it Zapier because it's sending Zaps between tools. And this one's 20 to 50 bucks a. Depending on which plan you use, it's a usage-based tool, so the more zaps you send, the more it's gonna cost you our plan right now I think is like 50 bucks a month, and we're sending around 2000 Zaps a month on average.

[00:34:15] Brian: Maybe a little less than that, but this tool is crucial for sending data from one app to another. An example to use in this would be if someone lands on your website

[00:34:23] Brian: and they fill out your form on your website, maybe it's easy funnels.

[00:34:26] Brian: And you want that form to create a new deal or a new project inside of your C R M. So if you use dto or you use Pipedrive, you can have Zapier send all of the data from their message to their email, to their name, to any other details about the project that they've put in their form. You can send all of that to your CRM through Zap.

[00:34:45] Brian: And that's just one automation. You can trigger automations when someone buys something from you to then create a project in something like File Pass, which is my other software, or creating a project in your project management system. Like Click up and automatically put all of the templates there so you know, every single step.

[00:34:59] Brian: [00:35:00] Automatically add the dates. This can all be done through Zapier and through click up automation as well. Click up has automation built into it, which is incredible, but Zapier is one of the best tools. I've ever used It is so important to so many businesses and I don't think many businesses would be able to survive if Zapier just disappeared.

[00:35:16] Brian: Now there are some competitors coming up that are not nearly as good, but Zapier has been excellent and it is one of the most, what I consider trustworthy apps. Their support's amazing and it is really good about not messing up and if it does mess up, if it ever messes up, it lets you know so that you can go fix.

[00:35:33] Brian: So those are my 11 tools, and I'm gonna talk about totals. I got some more stuff to talk about here, but just to kinda run through those again, my first tool was click up a project management app. My second tool was, Twist, which is a collaboration tool. My third tool was Loom, which is for client collaboration as well.

[00:35:47] Brian: My fourth was Easy Funnels, which is a website funnel, appointment scheduler marketing automation, like a really complex thing. So Easy funnels.io for that. My fifth tool was a crm, so either do OTO or Pipedrive. My sixth tool [00:36:00] was Rescue Time a productivity tracker. My seventh tool was zero x e r o, and that's the bookkeeping tool.

[00:36:06] Brian: Eighth tool was. So that's how you get paid. My ninth tool was script, and that was for audio and video. And also transcribing, so you can easily transcribe audio and video through the script. Number 10 was my external brain, which is Evernote or you can use Notion. And then number 11 was Zapier, which is like the big tool to tie everything together.

[00:36:25] Brian: Wonderful tool. The total for this, if you added all those up the average pricing for those, it's between 150 and $200 a month. stripes, fees could really push that up if you're making a lot of money. So I'm not including stripes fees cuz you don't have to pay that every month, but 150 to 200 a month I personally spend way more than this.

[00:36:40] Brian: I looked at my monthly bills for all my tools and it's like, probably close to $2,000 a month per month for my tools. honestly the majority that's actually coming from five different tools. Cause I pay a lot for a few really, really important, really valuable tools to my business.

[00:36:52] Brian: And again, not all of those are gonna be relevant to you. So I don't, I didn't talk about every single tool that I use here and some of the tools that I did recommend today, I pay way more than what I told you because they're [00:37:00] usage based.

[00:37:00] Brian: But I spend way more than this because I focus on return on investment. R O I I don't look at cost. I really don't even care about cost. I look at what's this going to cost me and then what am I going to get out of it? What will I gain from this? Just like your electricity, you don't think about God, I don't wanna pay my bill this month.

[00:37:16] Brian: I'm not getting anything for my electricity. I'm not paying my wifi this month. I'm not getting anything from my internet. There's no value gain from that. No. You look at like, I'm paying 70 bucks a month for Google Fiber internet. And with that internet I can then build a business online that makes me tons and tons of money that I love to do every.

[00:37:33] Brian: I'm willing to make that trade. I will pay that $70 a month every single month for Google Fiber, and you gotta look at each of these tools in the same exact vein. Now, not all of these tools will be relevant to you at this exact moment. And there's probably only one to three of these tools that you should be implementing anytime soon.

[00:37:48] Brian: But we never say no to a tool that's going to help our businesses grow because of the cost of the tool. we pay for it, and we get the benefit from it many multiples of what we pay for that. So again, focus on r o I, [00:38:00] not. Now if you want me to make any tutorials for these tools, maybe you're like, Brian, I tried Zappier.

[00:38:06] Brian: I don't understand it. It's really complicated. Or Brian, I've tried setting up a crm. I don't really get it. I love that you talked about this, but could you talk about that instead? Or could you talk more about X, Y, or Z? I really. Really wanna hear from you. Go to six figure creative.com/better.

[00:38:20] Brian: B e t t e r. And that is our feedback form that you can submit 100% anonymously. You can say nice things to me. You can say mean things to me. You can gimme suggestions, you can gimme feedback, you can say whatever you want. To me, please be nice, but be real with me. Like, gimme your feedback.

[00:38:34] Brian: Like what do you want to hear more of? What do you want to. See less off in this podcast. Where do you want me to improve things? And maybe what's missing, like gimme some ideas in that feedback form. It's just a few questions, a hundred percent anonymous. We don't know who submits what. And now you've gotten some of the best feedback so far from the people that have submitted it so far.

[00:38:49] Brian: So again, go to six figure creative.com/better slash better btt, e r. this goes for new people. If this is your first time listening to the show, gimme feedback. I'd love to know what you thought. if you've been listening forever and you haven't[00:39:00] given me feedback on this form yet, what are you doing?

[00:39:02] Brian: I've given you 232 episodes now of free episodes, free content. All I ask for you is just please gimme feedback. What can I do to make your experience better for this show? It is the least. selfish thing I could ever ask of you if you've been a long time listener of this show. So that's all I had for you today. I hope you had a really good Christmas. I hope you have a really good New Year, and I hope you use this little quiet time between Christmas and New Year to level up your business.

[00:39:25] Brian: And maybe you implement one of these tools. Maybe you built something else out that you know you've been needing to do in your business, but use this time wisely.

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