Tip Tuesday: Paid software tools – “Not Free but Vital”

Paid Software Tools

A few weeks ago, I shared a post that listed some of my favorite FREE software tools. But there are times when free just won’t cut it and you need to jump in and pay for something that will do the trick. In this article, I will share some of the paid software tools I use in my own business.

Disclaimer: The links below may be affiliate links. If you purchase any products after clicking on these links, at no additional cost to you, Called to Design will receive a small commission for making you aware of these important resources.

Time tracking

This past year, I switched to using Harvest to manage how much time I dedicate to clients. While you might not have clients, tracking the time you dedicate to certain aspects of your business can still be helpful. For this reason, I track anything related to my business – not just client time.

For example, I discovered I spent too much time handling my finances last year. So one week, I sat down and figured out a way to streamline those.

I track my other businesses too – for example, when I’m writing articles for A Simple Homestead (it’s running right now while I’m writing this article!). Or when I’m working on a new knit or crochet design for ASH Fiber Arts. It helps me learn which parts of my business take up the most time. After that, I can review whether or not it’s worth it!

Office Tools

I have a love/hate relationship with Google. There are some tools I like – such as Gmail, but others I can’t stand. I’ve worked with companies that live out of Google Drive/Docs. And while Google has good search capabilities (duh!), if you’re not careful, things can easily get out of control and be hard to find.

Personally, I’m more of a Microsoft fan. Each year I purchase Microsoft 365 (Personal or Family), which gives me tools such as Word, Excel, One Note, and OneDrive with 1 Tb of data storage. Even if I didn’t use the Office tools much, that 1 Tb of data would be worth the price!

I drool over Excel spreadsheets (not really… ok, maybe). I use them for all sorts of business tracking, including activity tracking.

paid software tool: Microsoft Excel

I used to use toggl track to track my time, but I wasn’t satisfied with their reporting features, so I created an Excel spreadsheet to group by client, creating my own weekly reports.

Imaging Editing

I use two other programs for image editing. Snagit is a fantastic paid software tool that not only allows you to create screenshots for any documentation but it also has great editing tools. It allows for cropping, resizing, adding arrows and other shapes, and much more! It’s a one-time purchase with a small ($12.50) annual maintenance plan to get updates and support.

video screenshot using SnagIt
I took this screenshot using Snag it against a video created in Camtasia 🙂

If you need more editing options, Adobe Photoshop is a powerful choice. If you can imagine a way to edit or create an image, it can most likely be done in Photoshop. Plus, it’s commonly used, so not only does the Adobe Photoshop format work with other applications, but you can find LOTS of helpful videos and articles if you’re stuck. I signed up for the Adobe Photography plan, which is only $9.99 per month (plus tax). In addition to Photoshop, it also includes Lightroom, cloud storage, and a few other features I don’t use. I have a client that uses Photoshop enough that it makes sense for me to stay subscribed.

If you are willing to be a bit more of a DIY-er and/or free is more your style (instead of a paid software tool), check out GIMP. It has many of the same features as Photoshop, and again, there are plenty of helpful tutorials.

Video Editing

TechSmith, the same company that produced Snagit, has a beautiful video editing tool called Camtasia.

I was introduced to this by a client and am so happy I went ahead and purchased it! It makes it super easy to add, remove and edit “tracks” of video and audio, cut out all those bloopers, and overlay them with other images, text, or captions.

Storage

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have nearly enough space on my hard drive to handle everything needed. I use a couple of different storage applications to help me out.

One storage option is Dropbox. There is a free version, but to get “real” storage, I recommend using this as a paid software tool. My favorite feature about Dropbox is the shared folders. Yes, you can share with Google Drive – and many of my clients do that, but it can easily become a hot mess. I like viewing my files in Windows File Explorer and easily drag-and-drop them to keep them organized. I use Dropbox more for working with clients.

For my personal storage, I tend to use OneDrive, which is part of Microsoft 365 for the same annual fee! That means you get Word, Excel, and at least 1Tb of storage. Again, it appears as folders on my hard drive, or I can view it online in a browser.

Both Dropbox and OneDrive have the ability to let you pick and choose which folders and files should stay in the cloud and which should be stored in both places. However, see my note below about backups…

Backup software

Have you ever had a device die on you before you were ready to replace it? It can be enormously scary for that to happen if you don’t have regular backups!

I use Backblaze to ensure my laptop and connected external hard drive are all backed up. This paid software tool is a cloud-based backup, storing your files on their servers. Their file retrieval process is simple and easy to use, or if you have a lot of files, you can request a temporary hard drive be sent to you. I had to use this feature in 2020 when our {unknown age} external hard drive died suddenly!

One caveat to note: if you use selected files/folders for cloud storage (Dropbox, OneDrive), Backblaze will only back up those files stored on your hard drive! Something to keep in mind. You’ll still have your cloud storage; any deleted files will stay in the cloud (30 days after deletion for both Dropbox and OneDrive). But in some instances, I like to have multiple backups, so I make sure the files are stored on my laptop, a cloud storage service, AND backed up with Backblaze.

Managing logins

As you can probably imagine, I have hundreds of different sign-ins I have to manage with different clients. And many of them use the same applications – WordPress, Gmail, email platforms, Zapier, etc. Without some way to handle these, I would constantly be signing out of one login and signing in with another.

I tried handling these with Facebook containers, and in truth, I still use them – especially for privacy-sucking applications like Facebook and Instagram (they have their own container). Containers mean that cookies, logins, etc., are not shared between containers. It’s a fresh start each time.

However, last year, I found something even better! It’s a paid software tool called Wavebox. They have a 7-day trial to test it out before purchasing a license (use discount code INVITE_4digyldp3c for 20% off!). Wavebox is amazing in that it has Cookie containers like Facebook does, but you can also create Groups of applications. For example, I have a cookie container for each client, a group for that cookie/client, and under each group are all the applications and websites I frequently use.

I can easily switch between each of my clients throughout the day (or any of my own personal groups). Wavebox is smart enough that if I don’t use a particular application/group within 15 minutes (or whatever setting you prefer), it puts that application to “sleep,” so it doesn’t use your computer resources.

What’s your favorite tool?

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite software tools – both Free and Paid, I’d love to hear some of yours! Comment on this post or shoot me an email to let me know your thoughts!

Also, let me know if there are any of these tools you’d like to hear more about and I can do a full tutorial on it!

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