My toolkit

These are the tools I use for running my business and website. I'm usually trying out new things alongside my basic kit, and I update this page when something new makes the leap from experimental to essential. The last update was June 2017.

Something that's radically changed how I select software is my Setapp* subscription. This service charges a flat fee for access to a huge library of apps. When I need an app for a specific thing I look at Setapp first. That might mean I don't always pick the perfect app for the job but I can usually find something good enough.

Email

I use Gmail for my email service and assorted clients on my Mac. I quite like Postbox - the filters and keyboard shortcuts in Postbox make dealing with my email nice and zippy. I also like the Send Later add-on. Recently I've been experimenting with Unibox from the Setapp* collection. It organises everything by sender - a much simpler way to view email.

Notes and documents

Evernote is where I keep notes, links, sketches, drafts…everything. If you sign up with this link, you get a free month of Evernote Premium.

I mostly write in Ulysses now (available through Setapp*). This editor hits the sweet spot for me between simple markdown tools like IA Writer and Marxico, and super-sophisticated writing apps like Scrivener. Because Ulysses exports in so many formats I can send docs out as PDFs, Word, or anything else, without needed to switch tools. I have the iOS app as well as the MacOS version, and finally feel able to edit blog posts on the move.

For anything even vaguely important, I use Grammarly*. It's a Chrome plugin and web editor that helps you find and fix spelling and grammar errors virtually anywhere in your browser. No more misspelled emails! The basic version is free and well worth handing over your email for. The premium version is even better, like a writing coach whenever you need one.

I use both Google Drive and iCloud for cloud storage. Google Apps are so very handy when you have several people working on the same spreadsheet, but so many of my Mac apps work really well with iCloud, so when it’s just me I tend to go with the Apple flow.

Finances

Xero is my cloud accounting service. There's a mobile app for recording payments and expenses on the go, and you can share your files with your accountant, so it’s easier for her to do her job. I work with Sestini & Co for accounting services, and they also set up my company for me. The whole thing was a doddle.

I also use Cushion for forecasting. It connects to Xero so I can see my budget turning into cash when invoices get paid. Very cheering. The workload planning feature is useful as well - so I don’t over-commit.

Social Media

I’m mainly a Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest girl, and I generally use the native Twitter and Pinterest sites and apps for keeping up with what’s new, including notifications for retweets, new followers, etc... I did splash out on Tweetbot for iOS, which is much better than the native app, especially as it lets you avoid the algorithm nonsense messing up Twitter.

Feedly is my main newsreader, for articles from bloggers, news websites, etc. I could probably pick up the same items by following those same bloggers and sites on Twitter, but by using Feedly I keep Twitter clear for real people. I save anything I plan to read to Pocket so I can read articles whenever I have a few minutes to spare.

For scheduling posts to Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest I use Buffer, so I can get all the things I want to share out there without drowning people. I particularly love the power scheduler for setting up all my shares for a blog post in one go. Sign up via this link* to get an extra scheduling space on the free plan.

Web hosting and content management

I use Squarespace to manage my site. This gives me hosting, a domain name and a template all in one place. It’s easy to create something pretty, but you still have a fair bit of customisation if you want it, and the admin tools are a pleasure to use.

I use Google Analytics - I'd be mad not to, especially as it plugs straight into Squarespace with no coding needed. I do need to do bits of custom coding to track downloads and forms, but nothing particularly scary.

For newsletters and emails, I use ConvertKit. It’s not super cheap, but it has fantastic support for things like email courses. I've written more about why I switched from Mailchimp in this post.

Images and other graphics

I use Affinity Photo and Designer for graphics. It's a set of properly professional graphics tools at a really friendly price. The suite is Mac only at the moment, but it's coming to Windows soon. Sign up for the beta here.

Librestock is my first port of call for good free stock photos - it searches several sites in one go, saving me loads of time. I also subscribe to photo packs from Unsplash and Death To The Stock Photo.

Planning and tracking

I use Asana for project management, and when I need a timeline view, I plug in Instagantt. This is the Gantt chart tool I always wanted. It doesn't make you type in all your dependencies to give you a decent timeline. You just drag and draw. Saves me hours.

I also use Trello for a lot of my client projects, because most clients have heard of it and it's easy for them to learn if they haven’t. I love the calendar view, though not many people seem to know about that feature. I'm still amazed that such a great tool is available for free.

I use Calendly to schedule meetings and calls. This lets people book a time to suit them, and automates all the diary management. If you're a Gmail user, try Assistant.to, a simpler plugin that's perfect for setting up meetings quickly.

I’m currently tracking time with Timely*. I like the ability to plan how I will allocate time to different projects through the week. Another useful tool to counter the freelancer’s tendency to over-commit.

In case things go wrong

I have professional indemnity insurance with Hiscox, in case a client sues for damages as a result of advice I gave. I feel a lot more comfortable recommending things to clients, as a result.

I use Time Machine for my onsite backups, to keep handy at home. I've actually restored from Time Machine when my hard disk failed. It was super easy. Crashplan is my belt and braces offsite backup. If your home or office backup is damaged by fire, flood or a badly placed cup of tea, you need a plan B. Crashplan means my stuff is on a server in California somewhere. You can also configure CrashPlan to backup to your friend’s computer for free.

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links; that is, I earn a small reward if you follow the link and subsequently sign up for the service. In some cases, you can also get a reward for signing up via my link rather than directly through the product's website.

I only use affiliate links for products that I've used myself and would recommend to a friend.