Keeping your business or freelance hustle organized is a hot topic. If you are on the ~creative entrepreneur~ side of Instagram, you’ll spend no less than 5 minutes scrolling down the feed before you happen upon a post about this very thing. There really are countless systems & programs that we can rely on to help us keep our lives in tact! And as someone who has tried at least 80% of them, I thought it was finally time to weigh in. Here’s how to keep your business organized with four easy tools.
A quick & cute disclaimer before we begin—if you’re reading this 6+ months from now, there’s no guarantee that I’m still using any of these systems. My toxic trait is switching up (and improving) my systems all the time, which makes sense, because I was also the kid that bought a new journal every month and was so excited to break in something new. Keeping my business stuff fresh and new and exciting is necessary for me to feel enlivened by it. So. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Now, onto the juicy stuff.
Speaking of being that kid who bought a new journal every month, let’s start with my favorite pen-and-paper moment….
There really is nothing quite like pen and paper. And science is on my side with this fact, as there have been countless studies proving the effectiveness of physically writing things down (as opposed to typing them out).
Enter Golden Coil.
Now, if you’ve been following me for a little while, you might know about my love affair with Golden Coil. Not only have I been a dedicated customer of theirs for 4+ years, but I also accidentally helped them go super viral on TikTok in November 2020. The 2 lovely women who run the company then hired me on this past holiday season to help promote their brand again.
And with all of that said, I feel compelled to tell you that this blog post is NOT part of our contract—simply a genuine recommendation—so you can read ahead knowing that I’m not just out here trying to sell you stuff.
Sooooo, what’s the hype? Not only are they beautifully made & gorgeously minimalistic, but you can customize the entire thing to your liking. When you order a planner on their website, you don’t just add to cart — you go through their countless layouts, choose which ones you like the best, and stack them in the order that feels right for you.
As I was creating my planner this year, I also had the idea of using Golden Coil to create a business-only planner. I’d combine the goals, budgeting, project planning, and social media layouts to create a one-of-a-kind-tool for my business. And while I didn’t actually end up doing this (because of Notion, which you’ll read more about below), this would be perfect for the right kind of person and right kind of projects.
I will also add: a lot of people ask me whether I keep my stuff in my Golden Coil now or if I use more digital tools. When I was simply auditioning for shows and working at a restaurant, I lived and died by my Golden Coil because I was in the physical world, working on stuff. Now that I work from my computer, it’s a mix.
Which brings me to my other love affair with….
Imagine if Google Docs, Sheets, Calendar, Notes, and your favorite to-do list app had a baby. That’s Notion. You can use Notion for anything. Habit tracking, goal setting, content creation brainstorming, finances, inspiration, brand guidelines, and more. You can even use it for client project management, which is the main reason I use it.
If you don’t know where to start, Notion has built-in templates that make it easy to figure out how you might use it. And the Notion community itself is bustling. It seems like anyone who’s anyone has created (and promoted) a Notion template. There’s also Facebook groups for free templates, as well (this one has 18K members!!!).
While Notion and most of their templates are free, there are also paid ones. (I recently purchased this template from fellow designer M.Bird. It helps me organize my entire design process with clients, receive feedback, and keep the project on track. 5 stars from me.)
If you’d have asked me about how to keep your business organized 6 months ago, I would have pointed you to Trello. Trello is another great organizational tool—especially for creatives.
Some people use Trello for their weekly to-do lists. I used it for project management. And though I have since switched to Notion for this exact process, Trello worked just as well.
On Trello, you can create “boards” that have “cards” inside of them. Each card could be a separate part of your process or to-do. While I found Trello to be a super easy and visual way to guide a client through a process, you can do a lot of this stuff on Notion too. (And I do love to have everything in one place.)
The problem with Trello, though, is that you can only use this one kind of board-and-card layout. Which is not a problem on….
Here’s a screenshot of a board I was playing around with for fun:
Milanote works like Notion, but has a drag & drop aspect that is unlike most other programs like it. The main hub is a big board with grid lines. In order to create new content on a grid, you drag and drop different elements and place them where you’d like. They’ve got to-do lists, videos, hex codes and even a sketch option! If I wasn’t in such a love affair with Notion, I would probably give Milanote more of a shot.
Alas, new, beloved habits die hard.
So, how to organize your business? In conclusion, the choice is really yours.
Of course, with anything in life and business, you have to find what works for you. Other notable programs that I didn’t even mention in this blog post are Asana and ClickUp, both of which I haven’t dived into enough to even be able to tell you about them with any certainty. And of course there’s always Google Workspace, which has all of this stuff broken up into their separate Google apps.
The best part about all these digital systems is that they are all free (up to a certain number of collaborators). So if you’re using it for your own internal stuff, you won’t be spending any extra income.
And of course, Golden Coil costs $$— but it’s customized, gorgeous, and beautifully packaged, so, what more could you ask for?
I feel lucky to live in a time where we have so many options. Now, go find your fave and start setting up your year!