Why I chose Dubsado as my business management system? Read how it can help with your productivity.

Why I chose Dubsado as my business management system? Read how it can help with your productivity.

Okay, let me tell you one thing right now.

I am a super messy person, especially when it comes to any systems. I hate systems. My creativity hates systems. But my business was barely alive without them.

About a year ago I was really struggling with my productivity, but really I didn’t want to believe that having the right systems in place is all it takes to go from a struggling business to highly profitable one.

I mean, it can’t be that simple, right?

I was relying on my creativity to save the day, but one thing started to be really clear. I felt like I was doing the admin work half of the day. And I didn’t like that either.

I was sending contracts as a pdf, I was writing all emails from scratch (will talk about email templates later), all leads from my contact and inquiry web form were sent to my email address only and it was really hard to keep track with every single email…anyone? I could continue but you have the picture.

Automatization was the magic word that worked for me.
That was the system I was willing to try.

AUTOMATIZATION

That was the magic word that worked for me. That was the system I was willing to try.

I wanted to automatize tasks like contract signing, invoicing, partial payments, emailing – and so I started with the research. I was looking for something suitable for the creative business owner, something that will help me with all the different business tasks. 

My main requirements were:

  • Great customer service
    (Yes, this is the first one. Don’t get me started on all the struggles that bad or non-existent support can cause.)

  • Lead management
    (Lead forms, Custom lead tracking, Automated follow-ups)

  • Workflow automatization

  • Google Calendar integration

  • Hourly tracking

  • Payment Scheduling & Recurring invoices

  • Client Portal
    (So they can access all their files and invoices, so I don’t have to re-send it all the time)

  • A place to save and easy load all the contracts, forms, and email templates

  • My branding on all documents

I compared 5 different tools – 17 Hats, Accelo, Tave, Honeybook and Dubsado. I signed up for their trials so I could test them.

I am not going to make you guess, I chose Dubsado.

But before I share why, let me tell you about the other options.

17 hats

Pros:

17hats is a good client management system. It was recommended to me before so I wanted to really try it. It has great workflows, and it reminds you if you didn’t complete some step.

Cons:
First of all, 17 hats has few features than other systems. It appears that it does not have any accounting features which makes it more difficult to stay in the finance loop and you have to do the accounting elsewhere. More importantly though, it seems that you can’t let clients have multiple payment options. You can connect Stripe, or PayPal, but not both. Not cool!

Here you can see a detailed Dubsado vs. 17Hats comparison made by Dubsado team.

HONEYBOOK

Pros: Okay, Honeybook is pretty good. It’s intuitive and easy to use. It even has a great iOs app so you can be fully productive when on mobile

Cons: There is honestly not many things I would mention here, except the pricing. And because this was my very first system, their pricing was beyond what I wanted to pay for it. (400/year, 40/month)

Here you can see a detailed Dubsado vs. Honeybook comparison made by Dubsado team.

accelo

Pros: It looked like a great tool especially for teams. You can also pick a pricing package according to what features you need, which is pretty handy.

Cons: Accelo is literally packed with features. Which means it gets confusing as well. It felt like I would spend more time there than saving it. It can be just me, but I lost the interest pretty quickly because of that.

tave

Pros: Okay, Tave interface is gorgeous. It is created for creatives as well, originally for photographers but it is possible to be used by anyone now. I also liked how you can track your own records by generating fun charts and monitoring your business’s performance. I am not going to lie, thanks to the reasonable pricing it was a runner up.

Cons:
If you’re using CMS (like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix etc), make sure the theme you’re t seems Tave don’t have the hourly tracking feature as well as the appointment booking options.

Here you can see a detailed Dubsado vs. Tave comparison made by Dubsado team.

DUBSADO (totally biased but honest)

Pros: It is clean and easily understandable. I was frustrated anyways (as always when I am learning something new after all) but their free 1:1 introduction call and great supports helped me quickly. It has every feature I need and they are even adding more.

They just added perks like live proposals that you can integrate into your site and the customer/client can book you AND sign the contract without leaving the site. Stuff like that. 🙂

Cons: The only problem I was able to find so far is when I needed a custom tax field on the invoice for my international clients. However I was able to go around that, even though I contacted the support and let them know it should be added in the future.

Now, let’s finally take a look at all the reasons why I ended up choosing Dubsado as my business management tool of choice.

the ultimate business management suite

To give you the idea of how my process looked like before:

  • G Suite – Client correspondence & pdf contracts
  • Paypal – Invoices
  • Gravity Forms (WP plugin) – Contact & Lead forms
  • Quickbooks – Bookkeeping
  • Toggl – time tracking

And even though neither of these tools were bad, I knew I could do better.

That I could connect it all somehow. And here are the reason why I chose Dubsado for this task.

#Reason1 – Client Management System for Creative Entrepreneurs.

Dubsado was built directly for creative entrepreneurs that are feeling overwhelmed by all the admin work and who would rather focus on their creativity instead.

The founders Becca & Jake ALWAYS have their users in mind. Which is why they’re polling their audience, asking for the feedback and improving based on their audience incentive.  

#Reason2 – The Lead Capturing.

Lead capture is one of the most important things for service based businesses. It’s the way the customer contacts you, and you should make sure you ALWAYS receive that message. No matter what.

The problem with standard contact form plugins for WordPress or forms on Squarespace or other CMS platforms is following. The lead is sent to your email address. And sometimes stored on the website. Now, how many emails do you receive per a day? Is it possible you can overlook some of them? YES, absolutely. It happens to me all the time, especially with all the promo email I receive.

Which is why having a reliable lead capture system is so important. 

With Dubsado, the lead is sent directly to the platform. It can even create a client’s profile based on the information received, and it will also send you an email notification. And even if you miss that email, once you open Dubsado (which I do every day), it will show you a new lead directly in the dashboard, the first page you open after signing in.

#Reason3 – The Amazing Automated Workflows.

I think I am becoming a little bit obsesses with these automated workflows. I mean who doesn’t want to have their emails sent without even knowing about them? Imagine having a system that sends the first response emails, questionnaires or contracts on its own before you actually have to take any action.

And the best part? The exact steps are completely up you. You can really play with it until you perfect it.

Here’s an example of Cold Lead Workflow. 

Medley Tip: You can also sync your emails! It’s called a Conversation mode and it allows you to send an email out through the platform and when your client replies, it goes to your email AND it gets logged in Dubsado. No more searching through your inbox looking for some email!

#Reason4 – My Custom Template Library.

Weirdly, the section with Templates and Canned emails is the one part I love the most. It’s the place where you can store form & contract templates, and more importantly email templates!

And the really awesome part is that you can also customize every single file and add your branding to it! No more pdfs, online customizable files are the new black!

#Reason5 – They Know How Important Your Brand Image Is.

Dubsado gives you the option to put your branding on everything. Quite literally. That means no more confused clients with questions where their invoice or form are coming from. No more logos of another companies in your emails or on your forms.

Dubsado wants you to really connect with your customers. They leave no trace of their branding so all your clients see is your brand. 

#Reason6 – The Client Portals.

Speaking of the client portals…the clients LOVE them. They are super clean and easy to work with. They are safe, hidden behind the custom password you set up, and you can create a custom branding for them as well so they really feel like part of your brand. 

#Reason6 – The Invoices and Online Payments.

Okay, so I love Dubsado’s invoices that allow you to set up a partial payment plan. That means I can give only one invoice to the client, but the payment can be divided into 3 sections  the deposit, second payment and the final payment.

Not only that but the online payments allow the client to pay directly either by credit card through Stripe, or by Paypal. (There is more options but these are my favs). Plus, you can select different payment options for each client   no more default settings for all of your clients!

MedleyTip: Do you run a membership? Do you need recurring payments? No problem, with Dubsado you can set up recurring invoices as well. Easy peasy. 

#Reason8 – The Community.

Dubsado’s commitment to community is one of it’s best features. Their Facebook Group is an amazing source of tips, tricks, tutorials and generally answers to any of your questions. It’s a community of photographers, designers, bloggers and other creatives.

It’s also the #1 place to find all the updates or upcoming features. 

Final Thoughts.

To be completely honest though, there are still features that I don’t use yet. Plus, they are releasing new features quite often so there is always something to improve about my process. Which is actually pretty exciting!

Upcoming features:
I am really excited that they are sharing not only the planned updates but even the ideas they only brainstorm so far. The overall transparency is definitely attractive, take a look!

to be continued…

I plan to describe exactly my process which can give you the idea about how productive you can get from using service like this. That means we will talk about connecting from lead magnets/contact forms with the system, how the client profile is created from it, automatic responses, the hiring process, the actual project workflow and more.

In the mean time, comment below if you want to know anything specific! Also let me know if this article helped you!

xo, Zuzana

Your ultimate business strategy (is your business screaming SOS?)

Your ultimate business strategy (is your business screaming SOS?)

It took me over 2 years of running my business to realize that something does not work the way it should.

Okay, let me rephrase.

I *knew* something was not working, but it took me this long to admit it’s not the marketing strategy, my customer service or the current position of Venus.

Don’t get me wrong, I was doing alright with my business, but I felt stuck.

I kept asking myself “How is it possible that others are growing so fast?” That their follower number on Instagram grows daily the same number as for me annually?

>> And so I re-did my website. Five times in 3 months.

>> I changed my Instagram feed theme. Three times in 1 year.

>> I purchased courses. Haven’t seen half of the content I paid for and did not implement a single thing they were supposed to teach me.

 

Every single week I had a new project in mind, I got super excited about it and started working on it immediately. Because that one thing was supposed to change everything, right?

Riiiiiiight.

It’s a few months back when I finally admitted that the problem is something else. And it’s called Shiny-Object Syndrome.

Or as I call it…

the sos.

Here’s a fact. Us entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable to shiny-object syndrome because we have a lot on our plates, we are constantly creating something new, and we’re brainstorming new ideas.

Plus we get inspired by new people or situations all the time.

And although there is nothing wrong with that, the problem is that sometimes we get too excited about some new idea we just had, that we can’t stop thinking about it. It is very similar to dating.

Being attracted to someone new can cause that you can’t sleep, you forget to eat and you can’t focus on anything else than your new crush.

Which makes you highly unproductive.

Simply put, CEOs and company leaders that suffer from Shiny-Object Syndrome will likely cost their company time and money.

Not only that, but leaders that constantly change their minds will cause their employees or contractors to go crazy as well.

So yes, SOS is a real problem. But don’t worry, there is a cure for this illness.

I can now present you 5 steps that I personally implemented a few months ago. All these small changes can bring you big results by making you more focused, interested and in the end…productive. It will also give you the confidence in the ideas that you choose to pursue.

Medley Tip #1

Schedule an “inspiration time”.

This is the very first change I implemented in my business and it really helped me to be more focused and less distracted by my own thoughts.

Because I tend to be inspired randomly every day, I keep my notebook close so every time some new idea pops up in my head, I write it down. And that’s it, I keep working on whatever I was doing after that.

Once a week, I come back to the notebook with a clean head and I go over all notes and select ideas that still feel attractive, realistic and doable. I take about an hour of just writing additional notes and brainstorm additional visions.

This process will also help you overcome the urge to start working on it immediately because of the fear that someone else may have the very same idea as you just had.

Well look, even if that’s the truth, nobody can build a house in a week anyway.

Medley Tip #2

Select ideas based on information, not emotions.

This sounds very simple, right? Like even obviously simple. Of course, you should choose something based on the actual facts.

Sure. Now let me tell you something.

Selecting a specific idea in your brain is very similar to purchasing some item in the store. You have many options and you need to make a decision. Preferably educated decision.

And now let’s be honest.

When you’re browsing the internet researching something totally business related, how often do you happen to buy new shoes, dresses…hell if I see a pretty ad for a toilet paper, I may buy it at the spot too! #guiltyascharged

A psychological study done by Sabine Kastner, a professor of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI) says, that “When we are overwhelmed, the limbic system in our brain drives us to do what feels right, but not necessarily what is right. This sways us to be more impulsive in embracing new ideas we haven’t fully vetted out.”

So instead of thinking, our brain starts feeling. Can you see the irony?

And let’s face it, making decisions based on our gut feeling when you are distracted and/or overwhelmed does not sound like a smart idea.

So what to do instead?

Pause. Breathe. Look behind the excitement and answer these questions first:

  • Is it aligned with the overall plan I have for my business?

  • Do my customers want/need this? Are they willing to pay for it?

  • Do I have the time, resources, and energy to put into this?

  • Is this more important than all the other project that I am currently working on?

  • Do I plan to commit to this and finish it?

  • Am I willing to let go something else in order to work on this instead?

Medley Tip #3

Bounce your ideas off someone skeptical.

Yes, this is one is the actual gold.

After you did step 1 and 2, and you ended up with a business idea you think might be a winner, go tell others about it and watch their reactions closely. Not only that though. Make sure at least one person is the skeptical one. Someone that is bold enough to tell you all possible disadvantages he/she sees. Someone you will have to explain everything into details for them to be sure the idea is valid.

For me, this is my husband 😄

He is the one that is not afraid to tell me what he really thinks. And no matter how I may dislike his comments, I sort out my thoughts and end up with only good ideas in the end.

If you don’t have anyone to talk to, don’t worry though. From my own experience, even talking to myself is very helpful.

Or better, did you hear of Teddy Bear technique?

Bear with me here, I swear this won’t be weird!

What happens is that you take some stuffed toys and place them in front of you as if they were actual people. Then, you tell them about your ideas like if you were explaining it to someone real. What happens for 9 out of 10 cases is that you’ll actually solve your problem.

So yes, it is the same as talking to yourself, but the thing that you’re talking to something else in the room will bring your brain closer to the feeling of actual conversation. (Seriously, google The Teddy Bear Problem Solving Method)

Medley Tip #4

Be comfortable with whatever you choose to do.

This one will be quick but no less important.

Don’t start working on something only because others do it. What works for others won’t necessarily work for you for several reasons. Pick only directions that you feel comfortable with because only that way you will be able to stick with them.

I don’t say you shouldn’t step outside of your comfort zone.

But if you do, you have to mean it. You have to be ready to face the struggles no matter what, or you’ll end up back in your shell while feeling totally incompetent.

And we don’t want that.

Medley Tip #5

Get organized. Select your strategies. Measure results.

This last tip is one I was fighting with the most. Well, I still kind of am.

Because I am a really disorganized person. In the way that I can’t find my keys 4 days out of 5. #thestruggleisreal

So it really hurt me to start using any actual planners, task management tools or even Google Calendar. Yes exactly, I used to be one of those that have all their meetings, project deadlines and even daily tasks in the head only. Which was slowing me down a lot!

Over the last months, I started to use several tools that are helping me on daily basis. All of them are tools of choice, some of them paid (*affiliates), some of them free.

MindMeister* – for visual mind maps. Instead of drawing it on paper and losing it in the next few days, I have all my thoughts online, safe in the cloud.

They have a free and paid versions, so I encourage you to try at least the free one!

Dubsado* – this is a client management tool of my choice that I cannot praise enough. It stores all my contracts, project questionnaires, invoices, it collects my website leads and manages my current client projects. I am even considering writing a separate blog post about this tool, that’s how much I love it!

It’s a paid service, but I have a 20% discount for you!

Preview.App – I love playing with my Instagram and this app helps me to keep my feed looking like a mosaic. It also has a great hashtag search function and it can store your hashtag groups so you can easily mix and match them with your posts.

Ok, and it’s FREE for unlimited uploads per month!

Tailwind* – amazing scheduler for Pinterest which is my website #1 traffic source. Tailwind is actually the main reason why I fell in love with Pinterest since it makes the whole process much easier. How? Well, it tells you the best times to pin based on your content. It also has Tribes, which are groups you can join and where Tribe members will happily re-share your content. That means quicker and larger reach of your content.

It has a trial and paid version, and I have $15 off for you as well!

Trello – this task management tool is my online TO-DO list. Or more like TA-DA list as I really enjoy the process of moving the tasks from “in progress” to “heck yeah, you did it” column

As for the marketing platforms, select one or two and stick with it for some time.

>> Be consistent and stop looking at what others are doing.

>> Learn strategies from the best and implement them.

>> And when you do, don’t stress about immediate results.

No marketing result is ever immediate. So be patient and start really testing what works and what doesn’t. There is no shame in changing your strategy if you really know it does not work, but you need to really know it based on real data first! #truthbomb

FINAL THOUGHTS

Whatever you do, stay faithful to your brand and customers.

Before you start implementing anything new, make sure it works with your overall business mission and values. Listen to your customers, poll them if necessary to think what they think about your ideas. After all, they are the reason why you do what you do. No matter how shiny your ideas may be, they need to be wanted and needed by your audience.

Because if you’re creating just for yourself and not for your customers, you don’t run a business but a hobby. #sorrynotsorry

So what do you think? Is your business screaming SOS?
Do you get distracted easily? Share your experience and let me know if these tips helped you focus on what actually matters <3

Learn How To Make Better Decisions. Your Business Will Thank You

Learn How To Make Better Decisions. Your Business Will Thank You

Disclaimer: I am writing this article because I currently work on my own decision-making process. And even though I already improved it quite a lot, it is not an easy change to make especially if you are visionary and dreamer as I am. So I decided to write down the why and how to make better decisions. Hopefully it’ll help some other small business owners to realize that there are much better ways than jumping from one idea to another or randomly trying things and much more likely failing. Think smarter, not harder. ❤ Zuzana

If you are an entrepreneur or business owner of any kind, you for sure are forced to make some very important decisions.

And while sometimes you simply KNOW that you’re choosing the right way to go (based on your skills or previous experience), more often you THINK there is some chance it may work (especially since it is working for your competitors).

And so you take the risks. And you hope. Anyone?

Why Poor Decisions Are So Easily Made

You’d be surprised how small amount of companies are actually making data-driven decisions (you know, based on some actual research and strategy). Unfortunately, the truth is that even the most important decisions are sometimes done under the pressure. Not enough resources. Deadlines. Limited information. You name it. All of these can lead to bad choices.

What makes it even worse is that the decision-making person is often the highest paid person in the company, but even then their decision are still often driven by opinions, personal preferences or even moods.

Here, I said it. The CEO title on your About page does not mean you are making better decisions than others.

Bernard Marr called it a HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) effect.
“A study from the Rotterdam School of Management found that projects led by senior leaders failed more often while projects led by junior managers were more likely to be successful. The junior managers had the benefit of critiques to their project plans from others that helped them build a stronger plan, while employees didn’t feel as able to give critical feedback to high-status leaders.”

Isn’t that interesting?

But when you think about it, it really makes sense. Would you tell your boss that he/she is not correct and that you (an intern/junior) would do it differently? And if so, would they really listen anyway? Or even let you make that decision?

Why Exactly is This Opinion-Driven Decision Anyway?

Simply said, its a decision base on your current opinion or mood, not on real data and research. It is not reliable in any way and may be constantly changing together with your opinions and mood changes.

The most common showcase is when you are positioning yourself in your customer’s shoes and THINK that what you like = what they like. The huge problem is that you, as a business owner, are not necessarily your business’s target customer.

Shocker? Let me give you an example.

If you’re a coach, you already know everything you are teaching (obviously). And since you are most likely targeting people who do not know anything about that topic yet, you can’t think that you have the same preferences, pain points and reasons to buy as your target customer.

Therefore, if you base your decision on your personal preferences/opinions instead of on real research of your target audience, you may be creating an offer for yourself instead. But people like you already know all the stuff you are teaching… do you see my point?

So, How Can You Start Improving Your Decision-Making Process Right Now? 

Follow these 5 steps:

Step 1: Identify Your Goal.

Identify the importance of the goal as well.
Ask yourself: Do I want, need or have-to-have/do/buy this?

Want = something that would help you personally (by making your job easier for example);
Need = something that is important to get the job accomplished (if you don’t have/do/buy this, you cannot do your job);
Have-to-have/do/buy = something that is necessary for the success of the operation (if you don’t have/do/buy this, your whole business is not working).

Step 2: Set Expectations.

Instead of daydreaming, set some reasonable, short-term and long-term goals for your business based on your top values. Create a hierarchy and define some logical steps leading toward the final goal.

Step 3: Consider All Consequences.

Develop a list of pros and cons for each possible action. Be fair and include all pros and cons no matter how upsetting it may be (in case there are more cons than pros).

Step 4: Make The Final Decision.

Make the final decision based on the prior steps and stick to it. You’re more likely to get where you want to go if you set a goal and commit.

Don’t forget that especially with big decisions like when you are changing your whole business model, adding/changing services, targeting new customers etc., you need a longer time to collect objective and reliable feedback.

What works very well is 90-day period of time, where you focus on one main goal only and you commit everything to it. This will not only give you the time to really execute the goal but it will help you not to jump between fifty different goals.

Step 5: Evaluate The Decision.

After a certain period of time that you set (for example those 90 days), evaluate the data you collected. It does not really matter if you feel or do not feel that what you are doing is working until you have the numbers in your hand.

Final Thoughts

Remember that feelings and moods are not a reliable decision making factor in business, especially because they are changing every day 🙂

If you are tired, not feeling well, upset, or feeling impatient, wait a day or two (or until you are back to your normal self) before you make an important decision.

Creativity is the new black. But why?

Creativity is the new black. But why?

Creativity is the new black. But why?

What exactly is this mysterious thing we call creativity? Apparently, in 2017 the word creative was the 9th most used word on LinkedIn profiles. Sounds like a good thing, right? So many creative people! Oh boy, I wish!

Unfortunately, this word became just another buzzword that everybody uses. Why? Probably because every other job now requires it. However, only some people are actually able to show any creative thinking.

Here’s the thing though. If you label yourself as a “creative person”, you better prove it by some action too. Because otherwise your CV/proposal ends up in a trash right away. #sorrynotsorry

The real question here is, why would you even want to be this “creative mind”. Isn’t it for artists? Your profession does not require any handicraft or artistic eye so why do they want to you to think creatively?

Before I answer – and sit tight because I will – let me break some common misconceptions here.

1. Creativity is NOT a talent or a gift you are born with.

Absolutely not! Its a skill anybody can learn!

2. Being creative does NOT mean that you have to be an artist.

It means that you are able to think about things in a different way (out of box thinking if you will). It also means being original. And last but not least having a courage to express your unique point of view.

“Giving the world something it didn’t know it was missing.”

– Daniel Pink

Now, to answer your question… Why would anyone want to be creative?

Because creativity is a superpower available for anyone.

Yes, even you! It’s very likely that you are not using its whole potential or that you even believe you’re not creative at all. Not true!

It is also a skill of the past….

No invention would be possible without a creative and innovative thinking. Right, here you have it, there was no artist present when electricity was invented and yet Thomas Edison had to be creative to come up with the idea. Call him smart (or lucky) but the truth is that there was no electricity before. Actually, we can call ourselves lucky that he didn’t say “I wish I was more creative but unfortunately I don’t have this gift” like some of us do. More importantly, Edison himself described a creative genius as a combination of 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!

….And for sure, it’s the skill of the future!

Whoa, what? Yes, you heard me. Creative skills help us to become better problem solvers, communicators, and collaborators. It is also no secret that technology is replacing human jobs. In some cases, computers are able to learn from our past actions and base their decisions on it. But what computers cannot do? Exactly, they cant think on its own. They are not able to produce original ideas because they have no creative thinking. So, who will be needed? Exactly, creative humans!

And by the way, I am preparing a list of 9 Proven ways that will boost your creative thinking. Let’s get the creative juices flowing!


HI, I AM ZUZANA!
The creative mind behind MedleyThink design studio! A brand designer who loves helping others fall in love with their own brand.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links for tools that I use and I am really satisfied with. My recommendation means no additional cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase. 

Get free photos each month

Want to get ***FREE PHOTOS***?

Take a look at our Stock Photo Membership business and sign up for colorful, bold and fun stock photos!

WANT TO SEE THE TOP 10 TOOLS WE USE TO RUN OUR CREATIVE BIZ?

Enter your info below and we'll send you our Medley Toolbox, weekly tips & once in a while some juicy discounts!

You have Successfully Subscribed!