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7 critical business tools every designer needs in 2023

As a designer, your brand is more than your awwward winning website and the final_final_v2 assets you deliver to your client.

It’s the entire client journey from start to finish.

Unfortunately, designers are forced to use tools that are dated, clunky, and give clients an experience far from “designer”.

The good news is that there are tools you might not know about that can fix this. See for example this free invoice generator that was created for creatives.

To build a brand that enables you to raise your rates, you have to connect every client touch-point in an experience that is beautiful and intuitive.

To do this, every designer must decide if they will use individual tools or an all-in-one platform like Bloom. While individual tools will give you more features, they are far more expensive and require a full-time job to connect and maintain. In this article, explore the business tools designers need in 2023.

✏️ Thanks to our friends at Bloom.io for sponsoring this blog post!

👋 1. Lead capture

Wherever your clients find you, they need an intuitive way to get in contact. Most designers have a website and email link on their portfolios. But this is far from ideal and isn’t professional. Imagine if Amazon did this when you wanted to buy something.

Furthermore, traditional contact forms feel like you’re filling out a service request because your fridge broke. They inspire zero confidence and don’t build your brand.

Instead, consider using lead capture forms which allow the client to answer one question at a time in a conversational format.

The best lead capture tools are:


bloom


🗂️ 2. Lead management

Once you start capturing leads, you need a good way to organize them and make sure that no opportunity falls between the cracks.

Your Gmail and DM’s aren’t a CRM. Sometimes leads need a follow-up in 1-2months. Some need more nurturing and selling before you can send a proposal.

Unlike e-commerce, a designer’s sales-cycle will average 1-3 months, which means you need robust tracking tools to know the next step for each prospect.

The best lead management tools are:

  • Bloom - All-in-one Studio CRM for $33/mo
  • Pipedrive - Starts at $19.50/mo
  • Monday - Freemium with limited features


🗓️ 3. Scheduling calls

Most of your clients will need to schedule a discovery call to discuss their needs and project requirements. The most inefficient method is to play ping-pong on Gmail until you can nail a time that works for both sites. During that time your client may change their mind or find a different designer.

It’s far more intuitive to use a scheduling tool that allows you to set up your hours and send a universal link to your clients for them to select a date.

The best solution will have a Zoom integration so that you can easily get on a call when the time comes.

The best scheduling tools are:


💸 4. Sending invoices & Getting paid

Once your client is ready to be booked they’ll need a proposal/quote, or if you’ve already discussed a price, you can go straight to an invoice.

In order to maintain a designer brand, how you send the invoice matters. Using a word processor or excel isn’t professional. Similarly, there are many tools with invoices that feel dated and have no built-in payment options.

The best invoice software will integrate all of your payment options. This is how you get paid fast because every client will have their own preference of how to pay.

Currently, the only solution that integrates mobile payment options into an invoice is Bloom. When using Bloom, every invoice gets a payment page that offers all the payment options you offer.

Even more, you can also add contracts to the invoice to combine these steps into one link.

The best scheduling tools are:

  • Bloom - All-in-one Studio CRM for $33/mo
  • Hectic - Freemium with limited features
  • Bonsai - Starts at $24/mo


bloom


🤝 5. Signing contracts

Signing contracts is a good way to ensure that you are protected in case a project goes south. But adding a contract to your client onboarding and payment process can be annoying for everyone.

Some designers are still requiring their clients to print, sign, scan, upload, and send the signed document. This is an incredibly unprofessional experience for both sides.

Instead, consider using digital signatures to make this process faster and easier for all sides.

The best contract-signing tools are:


✨ 6. Onboarding & Client portals

Once your client has paid they need to be onboarded so that they can be part of the design process. Some designers simply use Gmail to correspond during the design process, others use Slack, while others turn to task management tools.

Each option has ups and downs, but the best tool will give you a client portal that will include the project overview, payment, project progress, assets & documents, and communication.

The only tool that will combine all of this inside a custom-branded client portal is Bloom.

The best client portal tools are:

  • Bloom - All-in-one Studio CRM for $33/mo
  • Notion - Freemium with limited features
  • Kustomer - Starts at $29/mo


⚙️ 7. Project management & automation

Finally, if you’re growing an agency or taking on more projects you’ll need a workflow system. This is the key to scaling.

A workflow allows you to outline all of the key tasks every project must accomplish, set up tracking of progress, and automate communication when possible.

There are many fantastic project management tools but most of them are designed for large teams and include complicated features which aren’t needed for designers.

The project management tools for designers are:

  • Bloom - All-in-one Studio CRM for $33/mo
  • Monday - Freemium with limited features
  • Asana - Freemium with limited features


bloom


Invest in your creative business

As a designer, having the right tools is essential in order to maintain your brand, get paid on time, and scale your business. With the tools above, you’ll have everything you need to take your creative business to the next level in 2023. If you aren’t already a Bloom user, try it for free today!

Find more Process stories on our blog Courtside. Have a suggestion? Contact stories@dribbble.com.


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