resource guide Summer 2017In my role as Lead Troublemaker here at Sugar Five Design, I help high-performing businesses and individuals with web design, SEO and digital strategy. This is a multi-layered and complex offering and requires many moving pieces behind the scenes. I get more done in less time by using the best resources and services, with a pinch of automation. Here are a few of my tried and true favorites, and a few I have my eye on:


FreshbooksThey say the first thing you should off-load is your accounting, but I trained as a bookkeeper before my current career, so I’m putting it off a little longer. I like working with my numbers. I feel it keeps me super-aware of what’s going on. Freshbooks helps me keep up with all my numbers. I see my sales and expenses, at a glance. Doing my taxes is a cinch, since I can print off the year’s reports, with just a couple of clicks. It has its own time-tracking that easily associates with the appropriate client. I can send proposals (I actually use something else for this) and invoices quickly. My clients can pay my invoices right from the form. It is also semi-easy to set up recurring payments. My favorite feature is the notification I get when my clients look at their invoices, or make a payment. I like to know what is going on. I like that it is built with businesses like mine in mind. Many of the people I admire most use it. I actually started using it because

Downside: They are moving to a new platform that doesn’t support Braintree. I like using that payment gateway. It has been my excuse to not look around. I may use this change as a chance to look at other solutions. As a former bookkeeper, QuickBooks is appealing. I will eventually have to offload my books, and the industry standard is, undeniably, QuickBooks. They have a new invoicing solution: that looks promising. I know quite a few peers using 17Hats. I like the workflows and the way the invoices look. I’ll need a deeper look to see if it is robust enough for me.


BidsketchI like proposals that are short and to the point. As my services expanded, they started getting longer and needed structure and styling. Enter Bidsketch. It is a robust proposal service. I can create reusable modules that I can mix and match to create custom proposals, without having to start from scratch, each time. There is an electronic signature function that allows you to convert your proposal into a signed contract. Like Freshbooks, Bidsketch emails me when a client logs in to look at a proposal. That is super helpful when a potential client is on the fence. If you see that they’ve logged in a couple of days in a row to look at the proposal, you may want to reach out to that person with a value-add email, such as a compilation of helpful links. You know they are thinking of you, and this tactic can help them push the button.

Downside: It is an ongoing subscription, and it isn’t cheap at $29 a month. It isn’t a bad deal for what you are getting, if you don’t have a good proposal process in place. I HIGHLY recommend it for beginning freelancers. One of the upsides, for me, was that it is supposed to integrate via Zapier to Freshbooks. That would have made it worth its weight in gold. Alas, I have not been able to get that to work…so, downside.


If you have ever done keyword research, you know it can get addictive. If you are a fellow addict, I recommend checking out Jaaxy. It is one of the most feature-rich keyword tools out there. Some information you can get from Jaaxy:

    • how much total traffic a keyword gets
    • how much traffic you can expect if you get on the front page
    • the number of competing websites ranking for this exact phrase
    • keyword quality indicator – is this a good use of your time
    • ease of ranking
    • availability of exact match domain
    • related affiliate programs
    • where your site currently ranks for chosen keyword

I’ve been a Jaaxy user for around four years, now. It has been invaluable in helping me optimize my posts and find new niche areas to focus on. There is another tool, by the same people incorporated in a larger product, called Wealthy Affiliate. I have an in-depth article on how I use both of these tools on my personal blog:  I haven’t found a downside to the Jaaxy tool, yet, except maybe I’d like to sort my keywords by traffic. The WA tool does that. The two should have a baby.

For brevity’s sake, I’ll cap the post at three services. I may do an update, if I decide to move on to a different accounting/proposal setup. I don’t see myself ever leaving Jaaxy, so don’t expect that one. What are some of your favorite services that you use to run your business?

*some of the links included in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you follow the link and make a purchase, I may make a commission, without an additional charge to you. I never make recommendations to products I don’t love.

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