The Ultimate List of Business Tools for Creatives?
When you run your own business, you need the tools to do the job. But, it can be a HUGE chore to even figure out what you need.
Below are the best business tools for creatives.
Our list includes everything to help you get established and grow.
Find WHAT you need and WHY with less headache using this guide and its quick descriptions.
These crowd favorites range from free to paid. With these tools and resources, marketing and managing your business will be so much easier.
Managing your inventory is an important best practice for creatives with physical works.
If you’re using spreadsheets, it’s time to take a look at some of the inventory software available to artists today. There is both free and paid online software.
ArtLogic has many features and with that comes a higher price.
The features ArtLogic offers are website integration, the ability to invoice, marketing tools, a comprehensive inventory database, contact database and the ability to provide private views for your clients.
Artwork Archive gives you the ability to catalogue images of your work with categories and tags. You also have a hosted site and promotional materials like pricing lists, information sheets and catalogues.
Artwork Archive offers location tracking, invoicing and search, sort and filter tools. Their pricing starts at $6/month. Use their free 30-day trial to decide if it’s the right fit for you.
ArtCloud is free for their basic plan. Using their free option allows you to keep track of your inventory. Integrate ArtCloud with your website. Use private sites for your clients or the ArtCloud mobile point of sale POS capability and ecommerce shopping cart integration.
You can also create sub-lists to track pieces in various locations, and there are some helpful features like batch-editing to make life easier.
Their paid upgraded plan is quite a bit more than other options out there.
Dropbox is great for your large artwork files or videos. Have large files or videos of your artwork? You’ll be able to store images up to 30mb on Artwork Archive, for example, but for larger raw image files, Dropbox is a better choice.
Dropbox is simply a storage option, but doesn’t offer an inventory system with cataloging and artwork information.
If people don’t know you exist, then you can’t be profitable. That’s one of the reasons you need the right business tools and advertising tools are a must.
Advertising is a key factor in driving traffic to your small, creative business. And there are ways you can start doing it for free.
Here are a few places to start growing your presence so your brand can get better digital visibility.
5. Deviant Art
Deviant Art is one of the top art sites in the world ranking #371 in the U.S., #454 in the world with over 66,000 sites linking back to it. That’s why it’s on the list as one of the best places to advertise.
You can set up a free account, post images of your work and link back to your website. With millions of visitors, it is worth your time if you’re looking for places to showcase your work.
ArtSpan is a marketplace that offers your own art website starting at $9.92/mo. But you can try it for 30 days for free.
If you’re looking to grab more eyes on your work, then using ArtSpan’s traffic may be a good choice for advertising your work and linking to your own site.
Redbubble is a marketplace. They offer a free artist website and take a percentage of sales.
All you need to do is upload your work and they print it on over 70 high quality items and ship it for you.
Their pricing is flexible and they offer an anti-piracy watermark to protect your creations. It’s worth lookin into.
If your creative business isn’t listed on Google My Business yet, then consider doing it today. It’s a free tool offered by the #1 search engine in the world.
You can post your hours, location, and pricing information as well as share pictures on your Google My Business profile which will show up on Google’s search engine results.
By fully completing your Google My Business profile, you can boost your website’s SEO ranking.
Yelp is a great free tool for local advertising.
Use your free Yelp business profile to post all of your business information including upcoming events and photos.
Yep. The good ol’ tried-and-true Yellow Pages has now moved online and is called YellowPages.com.
The YellowPages app is also available.
Yellow Pages is another great way to help people find you online for free.
You can also respond to customer reviews of your work. Set up your business profile today.
11. MapQuest + Yext
MapQuest has partnered with Yext and allows you to do a free scan of your business listings on 50+ online services to see where it’s missing.
You’ll find this feature offered on other local listing sites as well, but to use the MapQuest scan, visit their homepage and scroll down to “Claim my Business”.
Enter your business name, address and phone number and scan it to get the results.
To use their local listing service it will cost you, however.
Listing prices start at $12/mo. But the scan is free and allows you to see which platforms determine which of the 50 online directories you want to list your business i.
It’s goo,d free information.
You can add your creative business for free on CitySquares by going to CitySquares.com.
CitySquares was built around solving a problem. They wanted it to be easier to find neighborhood businesses online.
CitySquares helps small, independent businesses reach their local consumers.
Their site has high traffic and provides content to users in a hyper-local context which means searching by neighborhood and other relevant localities.
Before the internet, the Chamber of Commerce was the place you went to get business information.
The Chamber of Commerce is now online and lists companies by industry and location.
Call your local Chamber of Commerce or visit them online to find out if they allow free listings.
Some charge a fee for membership which allows you to list your local business.
Getting your creative business out there takes some effort and time.
After all of that, you want to know what’s paying off, where you should double down and what you need to improve on.
There are some great free business tools for deciding whether or not your efforts are getting you the traffic you want.
Use these amazing analytic tools to understand your audience and improve your online presence.
14. Google Analytics
To know if your marketing efforts are going well or not, you do need to know how customers are finding you.
You need to know how they’re finding your website, where they are spending most of their time on your site and also what types of devices they’re using.
Google Analytics offers free tools that help you see what’s working.
It’s a great way to evaluate your marketing plan and understand your web traffic and how they behave.
If you’ve checked your numbers on Google Analytics and don’t like what you see, Unbounce may be able to help.
Sign up for their 30-day free trial to design landing pages optimized for increased conversions.
Do you wonder whether all of the time, energy, and money you invest into marketing your creative business online is even working?
Hubspot offers a free marketing grader tool to show you whether or not your marketing efforts such as social media posts and blog posts are generating leads.
You can also see how you compare to your competition. 😉
Everyone agrees that marketing anything (including your art) with written content or video content is one of the most important ways to grow your small art business brand awareness.
Make more of your arts blogging or vlogging efforts with these business tools:
Wordable is a tool we use that instantly exports Google Doc content into our site.
It works with WordPress (and soon will work with other site builders).
There is a cost, but if you’re blogging often to drive traffic, it may be worth the price.
The Wordable low cost tier option of $19.00/mo. is a small price to pay if you’re posting 10 or more content pieces a month.
As mentioned, soon Wordable will be compatible with many more popular website platforms.
It saves valuable time by cutting out the manual labor it takes to export, upload, format, and optimize each of your posts.
For several articles each month, we’re talking lots of time saved.
WordPress.org is a free platform.
You can sign up through your web hosting service and create a wonderful blog site for your creative business.
The nice thing is, they have thousands of third party add-ons to help you manage your site.
For your art business, using blogging to drive traffic is a great tactic and the CoSchedule WordPress add-on can be a huge benefit.
You can plan your blog content months in advance, work with other writers on posts, and collaborate with hired help seamlessly for writing, editing, and social sharing, all from CoSchedule.
Try it for free for 14 days.
ART BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
From planning to financing to day-to-day management needs, launching a small business involves a steep learning curve.
Take advantage of these free resources and business tools to gain the knowledge you need as you develop your business idea into a thriving enterprise.
Here at Arts Row, we’re dedicated to serving you the best information on creative business growth available.
Check out our knowledge base that’s growing everyday for guides, reviews and news on running a successful art business.
For art business development, one of the best places to get help specifically for artists is Americans for the Arts.
Their resources are endless and it’s a great site to bookmark for continued reference.
From people to programs to tools & resources, you’ll find helpful links and info for getting support with your art biz.
The Art Business Journal has an artist business plan that is helpful in establishing your small company.
Their plan covers defining your mission, vision and goals, creating your marketing plan, establishing goals, creating an action plan and implementing it all.
Take a look for more guidance on creating your artist business plan.
Searching online for information about developing your business idea can result in a lot of conflicting information.
For straightforward business education and advice with no agenda, start at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website—SBA.gov.
Here you can find information about writing business plans, tips for entrepreneurs, and trustworthy information about how to finance your business, and more.
SBA is an incredible resource for rookie and veteran entrepreneurs alike!
Your Local Small Business Development Center is sponsored by the SBA.
Reaching out to a local entity can help you meet the small business challenges of your region specifically.
They have centers throughout the United States and have helped thousands of entrepreneurs navigate business startup with free education, consulting, and mentoring.
Find your local center here and call to request support.
SCORE is a non profit business organization. They’ve been providing business education and mentorship for small businesses for over 50 years.
SCORE.org offers free online learning as well as in-person mentoring from volunteer entrepreneurs who have years of business experience.
ART BIZ PLANNING
Whether you’re just starting your new art business or honing your business, these tools can set you on the right pathway to planning.
It goes without saying that we’re here to help you get your business solidly set up and running profitably at Arts Row.
Our business plan for artists, The Lean Art Startup Canvas, is a great tool for setting up your creative business.
Use the Lean Art Startup Canvas tool as a visual roadmap for your business.
Check out Bplans.com for sample business plans. They have endless resources for all things business as well. It’s another good site to bookmark for later reading.
This is not an actual downloadable business plan, but it is a step-by-step guide that walks you through the entire process for artists.
Check out this guide on Superfine to write your creative business plan.
Starting with a blank word doc or pdf to write your business plan is overwhelming. Use Enloop to create a professional business plan with financial forecast goals and more.
With Enloop, the first business plan is free. After that, continue with low cost rates to make additional plans and use their added features.
Unless you’re already profitable, figuring out how to fund your small venture may be the biggest challenge you’ll face as a small creative business.
Most artists don’t need a ton for startup costs, but some do. If you need to secure some working capital, you might want to check out these money-generating business tools.
Indiegogo may be just the place if you’re an artist looking for help to get your project off the ground.
Their Creative Works category includes artists in the following:
You can find just about any kind of creative on Indiegogo.
Indiegogo states that while they are the leading crowdfunding platform for tech products, they are also the only full-lifecycle platform for art projects.
When you think of GoFundMe you might think of it as a fundraising platform only for those in medical need or those helping to raise money for a cause.
However, GoFundMe also has a Creative Fundraising category.
There are a wide variety of artists with campaigns on the platform from visual artists to filmmakers to musicians.
While many are groups asking for support to keep city centers or theaters afloat, you’ll find individual artists as well. GoFundMe might be a fantastic support.
32. Seed and Spark
If you are a film maker, a comics writer or musician, you might find Seed & Spark a great platform for getting support.
They have an extensive subcategory list which includes: film, feature film, short series, music video, comics, artist residency, art & photography, collective, dance, games, music, radio & podcast, orgs & companies and venues & spaces.
If you sell your works on a subscription model or if you have a digital media business such as a podcast, web series, or blog, then a monthly subscription-based payment model may work best for you.
Patreon was designed as a crowdfunding platform specifically for digital creators.
Instead of getting a single upfront investment from backers, Patreon lets you collect funds by offering specific tiers to your customers at different price-points for your followers to subscribe to.
You can offer exclusive content, merchandise, access, and other works of yours that gradually increase in cost or quality, which allows you to determine what your buyers want and don’t want on a continuous basis.
It’s a great platform for building and connecting to your customers.
Want to crowdsource your small creative business? Launch a funding campaign with Kickstarter.
It’s free to sign-up and is a crowdfunding platform that helps you get access to micro-donors.
On kickstarter, you can also incentivize your donors the way you can on Patreon with future works or gifts.
Kickstarter takes a small percentage only if your campaign is fully funded. It may be worth checking out if you need capital to fund your projects in order to get going.
With an abundance of free tools online, creating a professional and visually stunning digital presence has never been easier.
Check out these free tools to generate high impact eye-candy for your brand.
We use Canva for almost all of our design needs at Arts Row.
You can use it for free or get a pro account.
With a pro account you’ll have access to all the templates, images and fonts you’ll need. If you want the look of professionally designed graphics for your vlog, blog or posts, Canva is (in our opinion) the best choice.
Their pre-formatted templates help you create banners, graphics, flyers and a lot more.
Canva will make any amateur look like a pro. We use Canva for ALL our graphics needs.
Pablo by Buffer is a great place to start as well.
You can make your social media stand out with images and text in just seconds.
It’s a great tool for beginners and advanced alike.
Have you seen amazing infographics and wondered how people make them?
You can create similar ones for your business for free.
Piktochart has lovely templates and easy-to-use tools for non-designers. Give them a try. Start sharing information that’s visually appealing.
More than anything, when you’re a small creative business owner you’ll be doing a lot of emailing.
From communicating with clients and buyers to marketing to possible customers, you are going to get super friendly with your inbox.
Take a look at these email tools to make your inbox life a whole lot more manageable.
Gmail is a tried and true choice. It’s one of the best there is in email communication.
You’ll have the choice to use their standard free Gmail account or get a Gmail business email account.
It’s easy to use and to organize with folders. You can also archive your emails and manage.
If you need to follow up on an email a week from now or communicate with someone or if you need a reminder about something then Boomerang can help.
Boomerang is a 3rd party add-on for Gmail.
You can use it to schedule your sending and for follow-up reminders.
It’s free for the first 10 scheduled messages per month.
And there’s a nominal subscription for unlimited messages and additional features.
Zoho is one of the least expensive email hosting choices.
They have an app for easily checking your email on the go and their pricing starts at only $12/year.
They support POP/IMAP and email forwarding.
With their paid version you’ll get 5GB of storage and a custom domain. With their upgraded plans you can even take advantage of their Zoho Office Suite and Zoho Docs cloud storage.
Check out this easy guide by Cloudways on how to set up Zoho mail.
Being a small creative entrepreneur, email marketing may be new to you. We use MailChimp because of its ease-of-use and reliability.
MailChimp offers several plans and a list of awesome features, including templates, analytics, one-click personalization, and more.
42. Constant Contact
Constant Contact is another option that many small business owners try.
Sign up for free to see if you like what they have to offer.
They can be a little pricier than MailChimp, but they have great customer support and a large self-serve Knowledge Base along with chat, phone, or email.
43. Campaign Monitor
With Campaign Monitor, you can bring your art business to life with a powerful yet easy-to-use email builder and library of professionally designed templates.
Connect your online store to drive more art sales. Plans start at $9 a month.
Inbox clutter is a real thing, right?
With Unroll.me, you can manage and unsubscribe from what you don’t need, and roll the rest up into a once daily summary of all your subscriptions.
If you’re looking for more ways to save time, this could be the right free tool for you.
No matter what kind of communicating you need to do, we can agree that streamlining communications is a good investment.
These tools will help you stay in touch with your whomever from wherever.
The first internet calling service, Skype, set the standard for all video conferencing between computers that has come after.
If you need that personal face-to-face connection with employees or clients from far away, free video conferencing between Skype accounts is the perfect tool to use.
Between keeping track of all the things… social media accounts, text messages, email, and more, the numerous ways people communicate can get confusing.
Use Slack to manage conversations with those who work with you across devices and accounts on one platform. Send an email, receive a reply over text—and no one misses a thing.
Getting legal assistance is expensive. If you’re a new, small business, hiring someone for your basic legal documents can be too much.
LegalZoom is legal assistance for the average American. LegalZoom now has over 4 million users and has been backed by attorneys.
Arts Row uses Legal Zoom for some of our legal practices and needs. We suggest that artists look at Legal Zoom for employment contracts or basic service agreements and more.
If you hire anyone to help with your art business you may need to use employment contracts or basic service agreements. Check out Docracy.
They have an open source collection of legal documents that can save money on attorney’s fees.
The documents will need to be reviewed by a professional if you want to be 100% sure of their legality, but using Docracy is a step in the right direction.
Docracy also offers free digital signing of legal documents, replacing subscription services for getting client contracts signed.
One of the more difficult tasks of running your small art business is keeping track of your money.
From accepting credit cards to tracking expenses to payroll, there are tons of resources for managing your art business finances.
But how do you know which platforms will work best for you?
Use the free trials for these tools to find the money management workflow that fits your creative business.
Expensify, is an expense management platform.
With Expensify, you’re able to simplify your expense tracking with smart scanning of receipts and mobile tracking of expenses.
Expensify offers a free basic plan.
If you’re not accepting online payments, your business is being held back.
Paypal allows you to use online credit and debit card transactions. You can even offer recurring payments with no sign-up cost and no direct fee.
PayPal is a trusted platform that’s worth adding to your toolkit.
If your art business is growing and you’re hiring hourly workers to help out, you’ll find that tracking their time spent working is a big job.
That’s where TSheets comes in.
TSheets is an app that lets your workers track time right from their cell phones and it aggregates timecard reports from everybody who’s on your team. It takes very little effort from you.
They have a 14-day free trial so you may want to give them a try.
If you employ regular employees, then you may opt to use a payroll platform such as ZenPayroll.
They simplify the payroll process letting you run weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly payroll with just a few clicks of the mouse.
However, if you hire freelancers periodically, paying them without payroll services is probably a better bet.
If you opt to try out ZenPayroll, you can get started with their free trial.
You have big ideas, a plan, a logo and your talent. Now you need to get to work and get things done.
These crowd favorites can boost your productivity and move you forward smoothly.
Many busy entrepreneurs swear by Evernote for keeping track of thoughts, plans, and ideas.
With the Evernote free app, you can clip content from the web, create notes, share them and comment on documents.
Enjoy a seamless integration across all your devices and work from anywhere.
54. Google Drive
Google Drive is another product that syncs with its other platforms.
They’re similar to Microsoft Office, but the big benefit is that you can access from anywhere you have online connection.
Collaborate on documents with others, track spreadsheet changes as you edit, and share with clients quickly without ever waiting for uploads or worrying about compatibility. And it’s all for free.
Google Drive is an essential for almost everyone.
Trello is free and flexible.
Trello a visual way to manage your tasks or projects and organize them. It’s trusted by millions of people from all over the world for personal and business use.
We use Trello to manage our content here on Arts Row.
If you have clients, or you work with team members or you have partnerships, keeping track of the who, what, when, where and how can be a BIG pain.
Whether you’re scheduling conference calls or meetings, these awesome tools allow you to streamline the process, saving you time.
Artists can use Doodle to coordinate rehearsals, jam sessions, collaborations, meetings, events and so on.
And starting at $5.99/mo. it’s a good choice for small business.
Avoid the chaos of trying to connect with multiple people who all use different calendar platforms.
From appointment scheduling, to meetings, to 1-on-1s, Doodle is the tool for the job. Book a time with anyone, on any calendar platform.
Use Doodle to send out a short poll with available date and time options. No more back and forth.
Need to speak with clients about customizing artwork? Or do you provide an online creative service or offer 1 on 1 teaching of your skill?
Use YouCanBook.me for a simplified scheduling system. Integrate it with your website so visitors can book services right from your booking page.
YouCanBook.me allows you to set your preferences and session lengths for different services. Their app also integrates with your Google Calendar to automatically take into account any appointments or scheduling conflicts.
The YouCanBook.me standard scheduling service is free.
Need more features to handle your bookings? GigaBook comes with a variety of features that may just fit your needs.
You can make use of their project management tool and to-do lists. You can also view and download reports, accept payments through Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.Net, or Braintree.
GigaBook also integrates with QuickBooks, and you can sync your calendar with Google Calendar, Office 365, or Outlook.
You can even offer clients add-on products to your appointments.
There’s not a lot you CAN’T do with GigaBook.
Being on social media is a given, but managing your brand presence can be the tricky part.
Try these free tools to make the job easier and maximize your social media ROI.
As I’ve said before, publishing each individual social media post in real time is a drain on your time.
Hootsuite helps you manage your social profiles from a single dashboard.
Schedule posts, track your mentions, engage with your followers, and measure how effective your social media content is for free. I
t’s the best tool for managing your social media accounts.
If you use Twitter for your brand, then ManageFlitter is a great tool for improving your usage of the platform.
With ManageFlitter’s free plan, you’re able to unfollow abandoned or dormant accounts, boost your relevant followers, and use their analytics feature.
If you’re managing several social media accounts for your creative business, you know the headache of editing. Especially when trying to do it on mobile for different apps.
With InstaSize, you can format and edit all of your images and videos for IG, YouTube, Twitter and more. Plus, it’s easy.
The Instasize app allows you to include text and filters, retouch, and make collages that help you highlight your posts in the best ways possible.
Beautiful images help your brand stand out and create visually compelling content.
Sometimes you want to use images other than those of your own works. But finding images for posts, emails and your website doesn’t need to be like searching for a needle in a haystack.
These free stock images sites offer thousands of images for your needs.
Unsplash is our personal favorite resource for stock imagery here on Arts Row.
Many of the images on Unsplash have a candid feel as opposed to a stock image look. Unsplash’s ever-growing collection is free to use and requires no attribution.
Great imagery conveys your brand’s overall message. You can use images to give your website, email newsletters or flyers an overall perception of your brand.
Images can help create a personal connection without words and they allow your tribe to resonate with you in a whole new way.
Pixabay was founded in Germany and is a great resource for finding just about any type of content you might need for free. In addition to images, they offer vectors, illustrations, video and music.
Pixabay has nearly 2 million stock images and videos alone. Their content is provided by a talented community of artists.
Flickr is a user-generated photo sharing site with 10s of billions of photos and over 2 million groups.
With tons of images available for free with or without attribution, you’ll find what you need.
See the creative commons section of Flickr to read their terms to ensure your photo usage is allowed.
While not on the top of our list, FreeImages is worth keeping in mind for anytime you need a more generic image or background image.
STORAGE AND FILE SHARING
External hard drives and computer networks are no longer the necessity. Cloud storage resources are here to stay and their ease of use makes them impossible to ignore.
Sharing files and collaborating has become as easy a few button clicks.
For creatives, this is an essential. Here are a few of the products you might find useful:
WeTransfer is more than file sharing. They have a suite of products that makes “creativity easier for everyone”.
We use WeTransfer to send large files anywhere for free. WeTransfer Pro increases the sending size to 20 GB and allows you to add your own branding to every transfer.
You can use Dropbox for so many things, but if you need to share files for collaborations or clients you can do that with Dropbox.
You can save your documents to the cloud to get access to them from anywhere.
Share files via email invites with customers, clients, partners, galleries or whomever.
Your 1st GB of data is free.
Box is a cloud storage and file sharing SAAS similar to Dropbox.
Box allows you to store up to 10 GB of data for free.
For solopreneurs such as creatives, this free cloud storage could be a better option for you.
69. Google Cloud
If you already use a number of other Google apps , Google Cloud may be a great choice for backing up your creative files, documents, images, and other content.
As you might have guessed, it integrates seamlessly with all the other Google apps.
Complicated computer networks and external hard drives are so 2005.
Try these cloud storage resources to share files and collaborate on documents without a drawer full of USB cables and fifteen phone calls to your cousin who works in IT.
Gumroad is shopping cart software for digital products.
It is checkout software that installs on your website. It utilizes checkout processes that are highly converting.
The software automates delivery of your digital works and also can support pay-what-you-want pricing.
It is free to set up and you pay 5% of each transaction.
We have experience with WooCommerce and find it a fantastic product especially for those who use WordPress.
The WooCommerce site sums it up best:
“WooCommerce comes bundled with the ability to accept major credit cards, bank transfers (BACS), checks, and cash on delivery. Beyond the basics, there are 140 region-specific gateways to choose from and integrate with, including Stripe, PayPal, Square, and Amazon Pay. Apple Pay, Google Pay, subscriptions, and deposits are also supported.”
Their software is tried and true and worth a look if you’re going to set up an online shop.
72. Big Commerce
Well, we hope our comprehensive resource list will help you take your business to new heights!
Do you have a favorite go-to business tool or resource? Share them with us in the comments below.