Tools

Tools to replace the old way of doing things and give you time back

Vincent Haywood
Tools to replace the old way of doing things and give you time back

10 Tools to replace the old way

I’ve been in the Marketing industry for over 25 years and have been running my own consultancy for nearly 10. During this time I’ve worked with brands and agencies and have seen how they are all using the same templates, the same tools and just plain wasting time. 

I use all the tools mentioned in this post to run my company and get shit done faster and easier.

Here are 10 tools that can replace the old ways of doing things and make work life a little bit easier, lets get into it: 

PowerPoint sucks - create decks quickly and easily with pitch 

Pitch is amazing, I have been using it for talks, client presentations and more for some time now. The templates are really nice, and it’s ease of use is so cool. PowerPoint is so bloated and takes ages to get stuff done.

Yes, PowerPoint allows you to collaborate on decks, but Pitch takes this to the next level. You can assign slides and tick off when done or approved, add notes for fixes, plus you can video conference in whilst doing it. (your mouse has your video on it). 

Pitch allows you to select your fonts and colours and layouts from a central place so every new deck stays on-brand for you. I have a number of templates set up for various presentation types that I just load up and crack on.

The main reason I use it though is the editing, it’s so simple, click, move, type, job done. - I unsubscribed from Microsoft office after signing up for Pitch. Try it, I think you’ll love it

Automate your timesheets with Harvest

One of the most time-consuming things in freelancing and consulting is managing your time and then reporting on it for billing and whatnot.

The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to use Harvest. You just set up your projects and rates and it’s good to go.

Either start a timer when you commence work or quickly add time later to its desktop or mobile app. If I remember correctly back in my agency days we used to use something called Paprika or basic spreadsheets - usually spending a good few hours filling in the time and project details. (I once added ‘filling in time sheet’ as a chargeable line - didn’t work out)

Harvest also integrates with a number of other apps. For one I use it with Xero. At the end of the month, I run a report and then click ‘send to Xero and it automatically creates an invoice. 

You can even send over as grouped projects or task breakdowns. Harvest has saved me so much time and really helped with the boring admin

Replace Adobe with Figma

I recently cancelled my Adobe creative cloud subscription. I still love what Adobe does, and their software is amazing but it was complete overkill for what I need right now. Granted there is Canva too to help create social posts and many people are flocking to that but my personal choice these days is Figma.

It’s a great graphics tool with amazing community support. It’s mostly used for designing and mocking up sites and apps but I've found that I can set up a canvas as a branding area. For instance, I can have logos, colours reference images and all my social templates in one place on one screen.

Plus there’s the collaboration, in a perfect world, your client would have access too and feed back on designs. I reckon this one is more a personal preference but once you go through a bit of a learning curve, Figma is great for your simple graphic needs. 

Get rid of MS office and use Google Workspace

This is already happening, I'm seeing a lot more agencies embracing Google docs, sheets and slides. They are simple to use and you can export to Docx if need be - the export to PPT can come with its problems.

Google Workspace is great for its collaboration functionality. I find the whole Office 365 from Microsoft a bit of a pain in the arse plus I've yet to see collaboration in real-time. (Maybe I just set it up wrong, or my collaborator is slow)

I like seeing the team working away in the various apps in Google Workspace, seeing a cell light up or a slide because someone is working in there. I also find that it’s not as top-heavy as the Microsoft equivalents. Plus it all saves on Gdrive by default so you can grab those docs anywhere. Microsofts One drive is okay but it’s not the default to save on the cloud.  

Automate everything about your finances

I've only started using financial tools since going out on my own so can't really comment on any of the older tools. I do know that some people are still using spreadsheets and dodgy filing. The following are the tools I use to make sure my finances are in order and could replace the old methods you are using. 

Go Cardless: Some of my clients are on retainers and used to always be late with payments. On my accountant’s advice, I negotiated to get a debit order set up to make sure I am paid on time. I used GoCardless for this - easily set up automated payments, plus it integrates with Xero 

Talking about late payments, in some instances, clients do not use debit orders and still pay late - you know who you are - so I use Chaser HQ. Connect this to your accounting software and it will look at due dates and then start nagging your client for payment automatically with each mail getting a little bit 'sterner' - I have found I have never gotten past email three (there's seven) and the client has paid - this is a great tool, chasing money is one of the most demotivating things when trying to run a successful business. 

Writing proposals is so boring but has to be done in order to get new business. I'm all about the execution of great campaigns, the paperwork does my head in. Using Practice ignition, over time I've been able to create a library of my services and what I usually charge for them. Now if a new brief comes in for me to quote on I can tick and select what’s needed for the project and it builds a great online proposal with all project details and costs. On top of that, once the client signs off, online, it automatically goes to Xero or your accounting package and generates all the invoices needed. From prepay, to the end of the project.

Finally, to make all these financial tools work together you need a good accounting product and that where Xero comes in. This just does the job - get a decent accountant that uses Xero too and your books will be sorted. 

Enough about money, lets get back to the cool tools... 

Automate your reporting

Do you work in an agency? How many Fridays have you spent a significant part of the day generating a report? In most cases it will be you exporting some data and adding it to PowerPoint, then sending it to the client at about five o clock - which the client has demanded but probably won't read. You should not be doing this, number one is that you probably cannot bill for the hours it takes to compile that report. And two, you were hired for your expertise, not to sit in front of a deck with pretty charts just to appease some micromanager. 

Add all your data points to live dashboards. That way you can send the client a link - you want a report, look at the live site. Or, click export and you have a branded report done.

To do this, check out Whatagraph or Dashthis. - both help you create amazing dashboards that make reporting a breeze. (Super metrics + Google data studio is good too) - now you can spend your time looking at the data and making decisions rather than hours building a 54-page deck that no one will read. 

Remove monotony and get back your time with automation 

If you sat down now and thought about how many things do you repeat in your job? Do you have to set up a folder structure every time there’s a new client, are you having to do that reporting I mentioned above, is there a status doc that needs to go out every Tuesday? 

One of the reasons I got out of agency land is the boring monotony of these tasks - which take up too much time. Did you know you can automate most of them? You can make a task list update a clients status doc just by clicking a check box, you can schedule reports to be delivered. You can work in one doc internally whilst a client-facing doc is updated and so much more. This deserves its own blog post but if I were you I would look into the likes of Zapier or Integromat. Plus if you have a Microsoft Office subscription, you probably have access to Power Automate

These are tools that help you easily build conditional automations. I’ve created a few of these automations for a number of clients and my own business runs on hundreds of them. You get so much time back and the necessary tasks are still getting done. 

Replace WordPress with Webflow 

This site is built on WebFlow, I used to run it on WordPress but since discovering the ease of use and absolute freedom WebFlow brings I'm trying to move a number of my client’s sites over.

Don't get me wrong, WordPress serves its purpose and it’s usually the go-to when building a blog of sorts. But wow, WebFlow is a pleasure to use.

If you are building sites for clients or setting up a blog, you can build a CMS branded with your company and the clients so it looks bespoke. Their online training is great too - don't worry about learning code (it helps somewhat) but you can get away with a quick and beautiful site on WebFlow with a complete CMS. 

Quickly edit podcasts and even video with Descript

Just remove any audio editing software you have right now and install Descript - especially if you have a podcast. If you are an audiophile and all about the gains and whatnot, skip this part. 

Descript lets you record your podcast and transcribes it in real-time. What’s so good about that you ask? Well once you are done, you can edit that transcript like you would a word document and it edits the sound. Instead of going through waveforms, you edit the text and it reflects in your audio. It gets better, you can tell Descript to remove any filler words like 'um, 'yeah' 'er' and more - one click and they are gone. 

Another amazing thing is that you can teach Descript your voice, it uses AI to then create your voice saying words you have typed and not recorded. You can use this to make quick corrections instead of having to re-record. (By the way, this same functionality is available for video editing) 

Bonus: I use Descript to create blog posts too - dictate whatever your topic is then use the transcription to edit and then export to your blog.

Plus, use its screen recording functionality to record your meetings - it transcribes them too 

There you have it, for now, a couple of tools I'm using to replace the old ways and make work life a little easier.

Let me know down in the comments if there’s any you would recommend.

Hope they help and see you next time!