The top 5 tools I used to grow my business in 2018

December 13, 2018


As the year comes to a close, I mean seriously where has 2018 gone, I’m in a constant mindset of reflection and analysis. I like to reflect on the past year—what worked, what didn’t—and I strategically analyze the tools that were a good use of my time and energy as I grew my business.

I look at things like: were they a good investment? Did I see a return in that investment? Is that something that didn’t really serve my business in the long run? What helped me be successful? And what didn’t work altogether?

The good news for you is that I’ve done all the introspection already! And I’ve found five go-to tools that I can hands down say helped me grow my business in 2018 and I want to share all of them with you.

The top 5 tools I used to grow my business in 2018 | b is for bonnie design #branddesigner #brandstrategy #workflows


Whether you are just getting started in your business or a seasoned pro, I cannot stress the importance of tools and systems on the backend of your business that will help you streamline things.

In the end, this frees up more of your time to do the things you love and gives you the energy to pour into your points of contribution within your business.

Whether it’s a tool that can help you streamline your workflow or a great email marketing platform that can get your content and sales out in front of your ideal clients with ease, there are a handful of great options that I highly recommend.

Over the years, I’ve done my fair share of trying out all the tools. Some paid, some free. Some worth it and some not.

So today, I just want to walk you through five tools that I use—a mixture of free and paid platforms—that are well worth your time.


The first tool that’s really helped me grow my business in 2018 is HoneyBook.

I know, this is not the first time you’ve heard me rave about this CRM and it’s certainly not the last. I am a huge fan of this client relationship management tool and 2018 has really been the year where I’ve learned how to make my CRM work harder for me.

The great thing about HoneyBook is there are so many great features, and they are constantly adding in new features, to help make this tool do a lot of the heavy lifting for me.

I like to say that 2018, was the year of workflows within HoneyBook for my business.

On top of managing invoicing to client contracts and client homework, HoneyBook is a great tool for me to create workflow templates that I customize based on the type of project I take on.  I have different workflows for my group coaching students, my mentoring students and for my custom 1:1 branding clients.

Once I take the time to set up those workflows within HoneyBook, I can easily replicate and apply them into each individual project. What that does is then auto populates a cohesive list of every single step and action I need to take at any point in any given project.

It creates this great checklist I can go through and even automates many of those workflow steps without me even having to think about it. That saves me time and energy as I’m able to immediately hone in on what action I need to be doing.

Once you nail down your workflow for each service you offer, especially as a designer, that saves you hours in the long run of figuring out what steps need to happen within the services you offer.

For example, within my branding services my custom brand development package looks different than my complete brand experience package. Some have more steps then others so having a custom workflow set up for each of those offerings allows me to stay on track and stay focused with each client project I take on.

Make 2019 your year of streamlining and workflows by using a CRM that works for you. If you want to try HoneyBook, you actually can get a totally free trial for 14-days using this link. And if you love it as much as I do, you can save 50% off your membership by signing up here.


The second tool I use to grow my business in 2018 is Asana.

As I’ve grown my team this year, we searched for a streamlined tool to use on the backend that can help us all manage the different projects we’re working on.

From internal projects to marketing initiatives to client work, Asana is a great tool for my team and I to keep everything organized.

It can also be a great tool to use for communication and project management with your clients. But I personally love to keep things simple for my clients, so I keep all of our client work in HoneyBook so they only have to be in one platform versus asking them to go into a million different places during the course of our work together.

Internally, Asana is a great way for my team and I to spend less time in our inboxes and helps us clearly see what tasks we are working on, assign due dates and responsibilities, and really keep things rockin’ and rollin’ along the way.

At this point, we use the free version of Asana—there is a paid version—but honestly we have seen so much benefit from the free version that we will continue to use that until we have maxed out the capacity of that free subscription.

3) Crowdcast

The third tool I’ve used to grow my business in 2018 is Crowdcast.

You may have noticed I’ve done a lot more video training this year. From free Designer Strategy Chats for fellow brand designers and strategists to webinars and paid trainings, Crowdcast is my favorite way to host a professional and accessible webinar and live-training experience for my clients and students.

I love using Crowdcast because there are so many great assets that are included when hosting through this platform. I’m able to have complete control over everything from the output of my video, the quality of the live stream to the great chat feature.

Crowdcast also has emails programmed into your account so you never have to think about sending a reminder before you go live for a training or take extra steps to upload the replay. As soon as you end a live training or webinar, Crowdcast automatically uploads the replay to the same link. So anytime someone signs up for one of my Designer Strategy Chats—even if they weren’t able to join me live—a replay will instantly be available to them at the same link they used to sign up. That means they will always be able to access that content and revisit it as needed.

The set up is incredible easy and doesn’t require any third-party downloads that my attendees need in order to tune in and join me. So if you are an educator or someone who does video trainings, I would recommend looking into Crowdcast.

4) ConvertKit

The fourth tool I used this year to grow my business was ConvertKit. Email marketing has really taken a bigger role in the overall marketing strategy I use for both of my businesses, especially for the Illume Retreat.

Having a great email marketing program I know I can maximize so my funnels work harder is such a relief.

I started using ConvertKit after making the switch from Mailchimp and I’ve been pleased with the level of service I’ve received at ConvertKit and how easy it is for me to create new sequences to get freebies out to my audience.

And I appreciate the full level of customization I have with sign-up forms within the email templates I send out so I can create a really beautiful branded visual experience for my email subscribers.

The tracker capabilities within ConvertKit are also very beneficial for me as a business owner so I can see things like: exactly how many people are signing up on each form, which ones are doing well, which ones need some fine tuning, etc.

I also have robust capabilities to heavily segment my list so I can speak very clearly to a very small group of people without spamming my email list with content that’s not relevant to them.

So if you are looking to take your email marketing to the next level in 2018, I highly recommend using ConvertKit and check out all the great features this platform has to offer.


And finally, the fifth tool I used to grow my business in 2018 is Social Squares.

As I have grown my business over the years one of the things I loved doing and had more time for years ago was styling and taking photos for my brand.

Now there are more important things for me to be doing with my time so I haven’t been able to style my own photos as much. But that doesn’t eliminate the need I have for beautiful styled imagery that is a cohesive fit for my brand.

Enter Social Squares—a monthly styled stock membership site that includes new professionally styled and visually optimized images each month as part of your membership.

Every month, new images are added to the library and I can go in and download as many images as I want to use on social media, on my website or throughout my blog. This has been really great for me and my team because it gives us a huge amount of really affordable, but really beautiful options to use for Pinterest and blog graphics, Instagram posts, you name it.

The best part about it is it’s really affordable. The membership is only $19 a month and you can cancel at any time which means it’s something that you can easily customize your needs and your budget.

Shay, the SC Stockshop, and the Social Square team really work hard to diversify the kinds of content and imagery they include in the library so there is something for everyone.

Although I’m a brand designer, I’ve seen gorgeous images that would work well for educators, podcasters, food bloggers, lifestyle bloggers and so many more.

If you haven’t given it a look, I would highly encourage you to head on over to Social Squares and see if this could be a solution to accessing beautiful high quality stock photos on a monthly basis to pepper throughout your online presence.


So there you have it friends. Those are the tools I’ve seen the most return on investment over the past year. From hosting online webinars to offering my clients an elevated experience to presenting a beautifully polished visual presence through styled stock photos. All of these tools have been well worth my time and money in the long run.

If you’ve been looking for ways to grow your business and you think some of these tools could check off some boxes for areas of growth then I highly recommend giving them a try and letting me know what you think.


If you are excited about the idea of learning more streamlined tips and tricks in order to grow your business, elevate your brand strategy and get your work out in front of your ideal clients then I’d love to work with you through my signature group coaching program, the Heartfelt Brand Society to help you hit your big bright business goals in 2019.

There are just a handful of spots left for this six-month long program and we are gearing up to kick things off with gusto in January.

This is for you if you are:

  • Looking to take your brand strategy to the next level
  • Tired of feeling like you only partially understand how to leverage your ideal client intimately as you offer products and services that they can’t resist
  • You’re excited to refine the core of your brand in order to leverage that to build a business that’s as purposeful as it is profitable
  • Your heart is thrilled at the prospect of walking alongside a community of like-minded women who will cheer you on as you break through what holds you back!

If this sounds like just the approach and community you are looking for to take your business to heartfelt new heights in 2019 then I highly encourage you to apply.

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I'm Bonnie -- a designer, brand designer + strategist, writer, wife, and pet parent to the most rambunctious golden retriever this side of the Mason-Dixon! I'm passionate about building authentic brands, encouraging small business owners to chase their dreams, and spreading joy through design. It's a delight to have you here, lovely! Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a comfy chair and stay a while, won't you?

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