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The Best Tools for Small Business Owners

A quick disclaimer: All the resources listed below are things I use and love in my business! Some of the links below are affiliate links, and I’ll receive a small commission if you sign up.

When I was just starting out in my business, I knew I’d need reliable resources to help me manage my workflow, provide fantastic client experiences, and find amazing images for websites. To figure out the best tools for small business owners, I tested out all of the top-recommended platforms, then narrowed the list down to the ones that created the smoothest client experience.

A lot of my clients already know their favorite platforms and services for everything from web hosting services to messaging apps. But there are just as many newer business owners who don’t know where to look for the crème de la crème of CRMs, email marketing software, or stock photo sites. Or maybe you’ve been using the same services for years and are curious about other options! After trying out most of the services on the market, I’ve curated a list of tools and systems I can confidently recommend to my clients.

People often ask about my go-to website and design tools, so let’s get to the good part: my list of the best tools for small business owners! Whether you’re looking for services to organize workflows, stay connected with clients, or provide the perfect on-brand stock images, keep reading for my picks! After all, your business can only grow to the level of your systems – so let’s talk about systems that can grow with you!

The best tools for providing a smooth client experience

With your first couple of clients, you can maintain project details in a Google doc and manage communications over email. But it won’t be long before it’s time to upgrade your processes for marketing, client onboarding & communication, and project management to keep your business operating like a finely-tuned machine. These are my can’t-live-without-’em software services I use to stay organized and make clients happy!


Whether you need to send a proposal that will wow potential clients, close the deal with a solid contract, or send invoices in just a few clicks, Dubsado checks all these boxes (and so many more!) It’s a one-stop-shop for keeping track of client information, forms, and invoices…and it’s what I use to automate initial communication and to manage onboarding with all of my clients!

If you want everything that Dubsado has to offer, but it seems like too much to set up on your own, Cait Potter is a Dubsado genius – she offers white-glove services that get small business owners up and running in just 8 weeks!

If you’re not ready to invest in Dubsado, consider Honeybook as a budget-friendly alternative. While you won’t have as many customization options, it has the same core features that allow you to automate and manage essential client paperwork and communication. You can always switch over to Dubsado if your business outgrows Honeybook!


Did you know that 99% of email users check their email every single day? It’s time to start building that email list and stay top of mind with potential clients by meeting them in their inboxes! I have two favorite email marketing platforms for this task: FloDesk and ConvertKit.

Flodesk makes designing gorgeous emails a simple process. Their templates are super easy to use, even for beginners! Small business owners also love Flodesk’s transparent, one-tier pricing structure. For a flat price, you get access to unlimited emails, subscribers, landing page forms, and workflows – all the necessary elements for launching successful email campaigns!

If you’re looking for next-level analytics, advanced automation, and more landing page options, ConvertKit is a great alternative.


Slack is my communication hub – I use it to stay in touch with team members and clients, no matter where they’re located. Rather than trying to manage a handful of different messaging apps, I handle all client communication in Slack to have everything in one central place.

Once you’ve set up Slack, you can add different channels for each project and invite clients and team members to join you there. It’s also easily adaptable to any communication preference, whether you’re partial to typing out messages in text or sending audio and video messages. Plus, everything is chronologically stored and searchable (so you don’t have to spend half an hour on a wild goose chase for that message where your client gave feedback about your last mockup)!


If you’re a business owner who stores project details and notes in your head or on random scraps of paper, then you NEED a project management tool! You’d be surprised at how much it can free up your time and energy to get everything out of your head and into one program. I personally use ClickUp to plan my projects and make sure they’re on track. It’s quick to set up all of the tasks associated with a project, attach or link any related files, and move each project through the stages of your workflow.

Once you’ve set up a project, you can switch between board, list, and calendar views, which makes visualizing workflow and workload effortless. You can also assign tasks to team members and leave comments within ClickUp, so information about a project’s history and next steps are always at your fingertips.

If you’re eager to get started with ClickUp, but feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the work it takes to get the tech side organized, check out Kaci Ackerman’s templates! They’re specifically designed to help service providers get set up in as little as 30 minutes.

The best tools for finding on-brand images

I always advise my clients to maintain a custom library of on-brand images by investing in brand photography. But what if you or your clients haven’t invested in brand photography yet? You’ll still want to find pictures and videos that seamlessly blend with your brand visuals, right? Enter stock photos! Here are my top three picks for finding on-brand images on any budget.

Haute Stock

Haute Stock is always one of my first stops for beautifully styled photos and flat-lays for social media content and websites. Their images, videos, and templates have a polished, designer feel that will set you apart from the crowd and blend seamlessly with your brand imagery.

Styled Stock Society

Styled Stock Society is another one of my tried-and-true sources for finding on-brand stock photos and videos for women entrepreneurs. I especially love how easy it is to search for different images or browse curated collections, like “purple workspace” or “navy office,” to really nail a brand’s vibe.


If you’re looking for awesome brand photos on a bargain budget, check out Kaboompics! If you want to find the perfect photo for your website or Instagram post without the price tag, this is one of the best tools for small business owners! They have thousands of images, so you’re sure to find something to match your aesthetic. Every image is available for free download and use, even for commercial purposes (yes, really!)

And there you have it, my best tools for small business owners! Whether you’re looking for ways to offer your clients a top-notch experience or images that align with your branding, these resources will help start your business on the right foot or take it to the next level. Streamlining systems and having proven resources in your toolkit will take work off your plate, so you can spend less time stressing about the details!

Want to read more about my top picks and tried-and-true resources for the best tools for small business owners? Head over to The Resource Toolkit! It’s where I maintain an up-to-the-minute list of my favorite websites, software, and apps I’m using in my own business and recommending to my clients!

Steph O'Keefe, SEO strategist and WordPress designer sitting at desk wearing a white shirt in Raleigh, NC.

I'm Steph!

I'm the Founder and creative Director behind Southern Creative, a.k.a. your SEO strategist and web designer.

My passion is crafting websites rooted in strategy so you can put your focus where your heart is while we launch your dream website that shows up online.