This week I wanted to share some of the resources and tools that I regularly call upon in my business, either to learn something, improve my workflow or simply to get a bit of inspiration. I use lots of these on a daily or weekly basis, so I know at least some of them will be useful for your creative business too!
Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker of Me and Orla
Sara is an Instagram expert, so her podcast is all about how to effectively use the platform to connect with your “right people”, through organic growth and authentic engagement. She also interviews other creatives who’ve seen huge success thanks to using Instagram in this way. Sara is really down-to-earth and offers excellent advice about social media and running a creative business.
Make It Happen by Jen Carrington
Jen is a Creative Coach and she uses Make It Happen to discuss topics such as intuitive working, overcoming fear and making things happen on your own terms. I love how Jen doesn’t shy away from talking about mental health and self-care, and offers really practical tips on how to run your creative business in a way that makes you happy and is sustainable.
Being Boss by Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson
Another podcast aimed at creative entrepreneurs, this one is hosted by Kathleen of Braid Creative and Emily of Indie Shopography. The two friends share a mixture of interviews with experts and episodes where it’s just them talking about topics including branding, positioning, content marketing, productivity and loads more useful subjects for self-employed creatives.
The Soulful PR Podcast by Janet Murray
Janet Murray is a PR consultant and coach and I really enjoy her podcast because the episodes are always packed full of practical tips and advice from her expert guests. I was unsure when I first started listening to it if it would focus solely on getting press coverage, but was pleasantly surprised to also find episodes covering everything from getting more engagement on social media to defining your personal brand and selling without being salesly.
Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon
This one is less of a learning resource and more of an uplifting insight into the lives and careers of some really brilliant authors, bloggers, influencers and other interesting guests that Emma has on the show. The episodes are short and sweet and often have a focus on how the internet and social media have impacted on the way we work today. Emma is a true feminist and advocate for talking openly about mental health, which I really admire and I always feel inspired after listening to her podcast.
Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert
This one is also more of an inspirational listen and, if it catches you on the right day, it might just make you shed a tear or two! Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert answers calls from creatives who are struggling with something, then asks her brilliant and often famous friends (like Brené Brown or Neil Gaiman) to offer advice to the callers. Some of the insights that they share about creativity and fear are quite profound and they trigger some very interesting conversations that will make you think, if nothing else!
This is a free grammar checker that you install on your browser and it underlines your grammatical errors (like missing commas, as well as spelling mistakes) and offers correction suggestions, which is really handy for writing emails, blog content and social media posts for your business.
Canva is a free graphic design web app that allows you to create professional looking design assets from a huge library of templates (you have to pay for some of them, but there is tons of choice amongst the free options so you needn’t ever spend money on there) including everything from simple Instagram posts or blog graphics to complex menus and multiple-page brochures. You can also make logos, business cards and vouchers on Canva, plus they have a useful tool for figuring out which fonts go together when you haven’t got a graphic designer to help you – Font Combinations Tool.
This is a free web app for ambient sounds to help you concentrate or relax. I choose their ‘Productivity’ option and move the sliders on each type of sound – such as birdsong, a trickling stream and a crackling campfire – to create the perfect combo of soothing background noise to keep me focused on the task at hand. You can choose to create a free account and save your favourite combinations, or just try a new one every time you use the app.
This is great if you’re anything like me and go down internet rabbit holes clicking from news article to blog post to website to social media profile to podcast, and before you know it you’ve got 25 tabs open and your wifi router is begging you to stop! OneTab is a free Chrome extension that allows you to save all of those useful pages you opened but don’t have time to read yet into, you guessed it, one tab! Then you can go back into it later and see all your tabs grouped by date, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
Buffer is a social media scheduling tool that you can connect to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts to all in one place. The free version lets you store a maximum of ten posts per account at a time, which is plenty for most solo creative business owners like us. The only thing to be aware of, as with any scheduling software, is not to just “set it and forget it”, but keep an eye on what you have scheduled in case anything happens in the real world that may make what you were going to post insensitive. Of course, you can cancel or change the date on the posts in your queue, but once they’ve gone out you will only be able to delete them from whichever platform they posted to.
Later is a great tool for helping you implement an Instagram strategy, because you can use it to set up all of your posts in a calendar, save and reuse sets of hashtags and even visually plan your feed with their preview function. Instagram doesn’t allow auto posting by third-party tools (I see this as a good thing, as that would take the “insta” out of it somewhat!) so Later actually sends you an alert on your phone telling you to post, then when you open the notification it will copy the caption and hashtags to your clipboard and prompt you to send the photo to Instagram. Once in the app, you simply paste your caption and publish the post, easy! The good thing about the web version of Later is that you can upload your photos directly from your computer, and also write longer form captions much more quickly and easily.
For any fans of the Pomodoro Technique (working in distraction-free bursts of 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks), this is the tool you need if you don’t have a real tomato timer and don’t want to use your phone’s stopwatch either. It’s just a simple countdown clock that beeps at 25 minutes and then you can set a new timer for your break. The technique really keeps you on track and helps boost productivity massively. (Disclaimer: it’s not for everyone, give it a try and see!)
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book is all about creative living beyond fear, and I loved it! It’s a very inspiring read about what it means to be creative and how we can move past the fear that’s holding us back from creating. Gilbert’s voice is candid and endearing, and she uses some funny analogies to get across her point that we are all creative, whether we think so or not. I highly recommend Big Magic!
Do The Work by Steven Pressfield
Although this book focuses on writing, the tools and insights Pressfield shares about beating Resistance and getting on with it can be applied to any creative endeavour. He’s straight-talking and funny and the book a really quick read that will kick you into gear to get on and do the work that you’re here to do.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
This one goes into much more detail about Resistance, fear and procrastination (they’re kind of one and the same) and I found it to be quite life-affirming. As creatives, we can face a lot of internal struggles and this book reassures us that we’re not alone. Not only this, but it actually sets out practical steps we can take to overcome these doubts and fears so that we can complete the creative work that we so desperately want to be doing.
This book is pure inspiration for me, I rave about it to everyone! It’s a gorgeous coffee-table book that I treated myself to in my last month at my old job, when I was actively seeking signs that it was time to follow my gut and launch my creative business. It certainly confirmed that for me! The book features beautiful photographic portraits of creative women along with interviews about what success means to them, the sacrifices they’ve made on their journey to doing what they love and other inspiring nuggets about living a creative life and blazing your own trail. Bonney was striving to showcase more diversity than she’d seen in similar career books and she does this wonderfully, it’s a truly great read.
Do Purpose: Why Brands with a Purpose Do Better and Matter More by David Hieatt
This is a really quick read, but a hugely impactful one. Hieatt discusses what a purposeful brand looks like (and what one doesn’t look like!) and how we can all strive to run businesses driven by a mission to create change, whatever that means to each of us personally. This book will make you think and inspire you to build a company on purpose.
How To Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone
I love this book because it’s full of gorgeous visual branding inspiration and I also really enjoy Fiona’s writing voice; it’s like she’s there with you, guiding you through the foundations of creating an impactful brand without every sounding patronising or overcomplicating things. Fiona’s website, The Brand Stylist, is also a wealth of helpful branding resources, including colour psychology and seasonal personality worksheets.
I became hooked on CreativeLive a few years ago when I first got into wedding photography, as there are some fantastic courses on the topic from huge names in the industry, as well as numerous workshops run by experts in the fields of art and design, craft and making, music and video. Their courses are all completely free when watched live, then you can buy them if you want to download the videos to watch at your own pace. You can see their upcoming live schedule here.
This a wonderful resource for creative entrepreneurs, with loads of amazing blog posts and downloadable guides covering topics like content marketing, paying yourself, SEO, self-care, productivity, branding, accounting.. the list goes on! My favourite thing about RTS is definitely their underlying philosophy; they’re true believers in a rising tide lifting all boats, and they don’t just say “Community Over Competition”, they really mean it.
I discovered Moz when I was working in digital marketing at my first job out of university, and always found their blog posts really helpful. They’re also fairly accessible to those who don’t know loads about SEO (search engine optimisation), particularly Whiteboard Friday which breaks it down into bite-sized chunks of actionable advice on ranking higher in search engines. The videos are short, sweet and perfect for people who learn best by listening or watching!
This is a wonderful social enterprise supporting UK startups, with a mission to create a more entrepreneurial society. You can become a member for £4 a month, which gives you discounts on their regular networking events, live workshops and online masterclasses, as well as access to online resources and even business mentors. You don’t have to be a member to attend the events and they run some really interesting ones throughout the year, including the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs, which I’m sure will be great!
I often use Eventbrite as a search engine because more and more people are using it to ticket their events and workshops (including lots of free ones). You can filter it by location and category and find some great things to attend in your area.
I’m sure you all know this one, but I couldn’t possibly leave it out! Pinterest is amazing for creating mood boards for photo shoots or branding exercises and just generally gathering visual inspiration (if you’d like to follow any of my boards, you can find them here). I also use it more and more like a search engine for useful blog posts, tutorials and resources, because so many great business owners now use it to get their content in front of a huge audience. The only thing to be careful of is getting sucked in and not being able to stop looking at all of the beautiful images (my personal weaknesses are dreamy interiors, turquoise sea photos and drool-worthy recipes that I will never, ever cook!) – it will keep scrolling until the end of time, so some self-control will be required!
This is a fun one for any colour lovers out there! Jessica creates colour palettes inspired by images submitted by her ever-growing community of social media followers (try it yourself – use the hashtag #SeedsColor on Instagram) and they are always a joy to look at and brighten up any feed! Follow along on Pinterest for regular colourful inspiration!
I hope some of these tools and resources will come in handy for you as you build your creative business. Let me know in the comments if you discovered something new here today, or if I missed anything that you’d add to the list!