Running a business as a creative can prove to be a daunting task. Not only are you focused on conceptualizing and directing your artistic projects, but you are faced with the challenge of marketing, bookkeeping and archiving your work. Even though this requires a balancing act, there are plenty of programs that can help you run a successful photography business. Here are 10 free (or relatively cheap) tools you need as a professional creative.
As a photographer, we are constantly sharing and sending images. WeTransfer is a file sharing service that is simple to use and is guaranteed to send images in high resolution. For the free version, you can send up to 2 GB at a time. If you need more space, you can either send multiple transfers back to back or upgrade for the ability to share 20GB at a time with additional storage. This plan costs $12/month or $120/year. In my opinion, when you’re starting out – keep your expenses low and send multiple transfers. The best part is that you are always sent an email confirming the transfer as well as notified when your recipient downloads the files.
A key element in tracking and maintaining business activity is through the utilization of CRM, customer relationship management. Whether you’re storing the information of clients, publications or vendors – you need a centralized database that houses your important contacts. Insightly is a great platform that will keep your business organized. The service is free when you keep it simple – managing contacts, sales and projects all in one place – and allows up to 2 users. You can upgrade to their more intricate plans that start at $29/month based on your business needs.
Receiving payment is a key aspect in project and client relations. With issues such as individuals having different banking options or banks charging fees for wire transfers – programs such as Stripe and Paypal are ideal solutions to maintaining a streamlined financial database. With both Stripe and Paypal you can work under a business account, which allows you to create invoices and receive payments seamlessly. These are both free to use, but each takes their own fee depending on the payment being processed.
Sending your clients their final images is easy with Pixieset. A visually appealing and user-friendly gallery, you will upload the images, share the download pin with your client and email them the link to the images. It is one of the simplest ways to share your images and also offers the option for clients to order prints from within their gallery. The site has a free option which can usually hold up to around 600 images – after this, you can upgrade for more storage for a monthly fee.
If you’re considering creating an email subscription list for your clients, you will need a platform that is customizable and provides analytics for your subscribers. MailChimp offers a “forever” free plan that is aimed at new businesses. You can customize your campaign with text, images, and links and send your email by choosing the list of subscribers. Additionally, you can view information such as open rate, engagement and who has unsubscribed from your list.
Canva is an online free graphic design program. Whether you’re looking to create marketing materials, social media posts, blog headers or build your resume – Canva offers free templates to build your design. The platform is user-friendly with its drag and drop capabilities. You can also import your own logos and photos while creating your work. Once you finish, you can download as a JPEG, PNG or PDF straight to your computer and Canva stores all of your past designs on your account page.
Accounting and bookkeeping is never a simple task when you’re self-employed. Since you will need to keep track of personal and business expenses – it is best to use a program that allows you to track your income, charges, and revenue all in one place. Wave is a free program that allows you to create a streamlined list of revenue and expenses that include the project, date, amount of money as well as an added description for future reference. You can create a personal folder and a business folder to separate – allow you to outline your calculations for each month. Wave marks itself as the free accounting software. In addition to tracking your expenses, you can invoice clients, scan and keep track of receipts and accept payments. Payments have a small fee associated, but will still be less than using a traditional bank transfer.
Dropbox is another program that can be used to share and send images to clients. Although this is a great function, I prefer to use Dropbox as a place for organizing your work and for documents that can be easily shared such as templates for contracts and invoices. You can create several folders and to send, you simply enter the email of your recipient – this works well on sharing projects and documents while collaborating. Dropbox offers a free option with limited storage and as usual, you can upgrade for a fee to unlock more.
Another free business management tool is StudioCloud. This software is a catch-all for scheduling, invoicing, bookkeeping, marketing campaigns, task management and accepting payments. It is free for a single user and more complex plans begin at $35/month. It is a popular option for photographers with companies such as Rangefinder Magazine, AfterCapture, and Shutter using the program for their businesses.
This is the only tool on this list that does not offer a free subscription but is definitely worth the price. The Adobe Creative Cloud is a monthly subscription-based program that allows you access to all of Adobe’s programs. The price for this subscription is $53/month. Although this seems expensive, you have access to 20+ apps such as Lightroom, Photoshop, Indesign, Premiere Pro and more. In all, it’s a relatively good deal for someone who is using these tools within their business. You can opt for a simpler plan, such as the photography only plan of Lightroom and Photoshop for $10/month. If you’re looking for a money saving hack, the creative cloud full subscription can be used on a total of two devices – so, if you have a family member or close friend who is also interested in using the programs, you can sign up together under one account and split the cost of the monthly fee.
Do you have any programs that have helped you stay organized, be productive and grow your business? Share with us in the comments below.