When you work (partly) online, there are lots of available tools that are both cost-efficient and effective.
Perhaps more importantly for us HSPs though, they also shouldn’t be overwhelming, right? No bright blinking buttons and thousands of options, dynamic content that moves around and confusing interfaces. Our brains have plenty of stuff going on, the last thing we need is cluttered tools that add to the noise!
So in this list I’m including some of my tried-and-true favorite tools, with a few notes on why I like them so much.
1. A Tidy Mailinglist: Mailerlite
First off, you know it’s important to have an email list of people interested in your work, right? Even if you’re very active on social media, you don’t control those algorhytms and you don’t control the potential clutter on those platforms (what starts out as a great platform can change over time, and if people leave or tune out, how will you contact them?)
If you don’t do much online and work with clients locally, it’s still helpful to send out a newsletter from time to time. Sending an informative email sure beats calling a list of people on the phone. It’s easy for people to keep an email to refer back to later, as well as forward it to friends. It’s also a very cheap way to share your news and services and try which approach works best (without running to the printer’s to make flyers each time!)
I have tried a variety of newsletter services, including Mailchimp, Getresponse and MadMimi.
I was with Mailchimp for quite some time but as they kept adding functionality, their dashboard just seemed to get more and more confusing. I longed for my newsletter dashboard to be more like a yoga room: tidy, and when you walk in, your mind clears, ready to write and edit.
Why I chose Mailerlite:
- Very clean and simple dashboard
- It has a lot of extra functionality but if you’re just starting out, it’s easy to ignore that (like leaving the fancy silverware in the drawer, tidied away).
- Mobile friendly. The standard template is simple and adjusts well to any screen (without any work from you)
- Cost-efficient: both due to price overal and because you pay for unique subscribers, you do not pay for every “copy” of an email address that is added to an additional sub-list.
- Friendly and very quick chat support. (so you don’t have to freak-out all by yourself when something doesn’t work as planned)
2. Create Scheduling Boundaries with Acuitity Scheduling
I admit, it’s not the prettiest scheduling service on the planet. BUT for what you’re paying, it goes far and beyond other schedulers in functionality. You can start out on the free plan and upgrade as needed.
Here’s how I use Acuity:
- Block off time between appointments automatically (No back-to-back meetings if I can help it! I want to be really present for my clients, and that requires a little tea-break inbetween calls)
- Have a max. number of appointments per day (Acuity takes care of this for me, even if I technically “have open slots” on my calendar, they show as unavailable when I’ve hit my max)
- Send customised appointment reminders with all the things that experience taught me is helpful to remind clients about.
- Clients can pay for appointments in the Acuity Scheduler. I can also create discount codes or session packages easily. (I don’t use this as much, but still, it’s cool!)
- Clients can schedule and reschedule appointments themselves and I can also do this on the back-end (For whatever reason, many schedulers are either/or about this)
- All my appointments have customised booking forms where I can make sure someone read my terms (required to tick a box), provides their skype info etc. The only thing that would make this even more awesome is conditional logic (A girl can dream, right?)
The very best thing about Acuity is that it gives you lots of practical ways to create boundaries:
- Boundaries as to when you’re available and how much
- Boundaries to require particular info upfront
- Boundaries by sending clients reminders so they can’t say “but I didn’t know!” (Well, they can say it, but when it’s included on the booking page, in the confirmation email, in 2 reminder emails and potentially a text message, then you’ve certainly done your due diligence)
Boundaries give you peace of mind, and ensure that you show up for your clients as your best self.Click to tweet
3. No Message Lost: Cognitoforms
If you google contact plugins, you’ll probably find Contact Form 7 for WordPress, and Gravity Forms – presented as the bees knees of forms.
Sadly, both those options have major issues along the lines of a girl I knew from softball practice in High School. (This is a diversion with a point!:) This girl, let’s call her Tess was a mailwoman in her spare time. But she was also kind of messed up. On Valentine’s Day, she threw away half the packages and cards in a fit of “I don’t give a shit”. And then she bragged about it (that’s how I know).
Yeah, you don’t want that happening to your mail. You definitely don’t want that happening when potential clients contact you via the form on your website. It doesn’t matter how things get lost. It doesn’t matter if the service itself has the best intentions. If some weird internet Tess-glitch creeps in, you have a big problem (and you’ll be forever wondering if a message went missing that day, because…it happened before!).
And yet, that’s what kept happening on my site with Contact Form 7 and Gravity Forms. Messages just.. disappeared. The only way I knew is because people would tell me that they filled out a form and didn’t hear back. Then I’d look for their message to see if I’d overlooked it, but it was nowhere to be found. Not in my inbox and -with Gravity Forms – not on my website backend either. Not cool. And kind of scary.
So – as I’m wont to do- I went on a 3 day obsessive hunt for a solution. I compared endless forms and then tested them. When I settled on Cognitoforms, I asked subscribers to test the form for me and I got over a 100 test-users. All of the forms arrived perfectly. So yeah, I’m sticking with Cognitoforms.
And if you’re thinking, “oh, but I don’t use a contact form anyway!”… think again! If you’re asking people to just “contact you” and you post your email and that’s it, you may think you’re being super approachable, but it’s kind of like standing in a bar and expecting people to come up to you spontaneously with a great opening. Even if you don’t expect anyone to do that, many people will still be intimidated. (“I want to talk to her, but I don’t know what to say!”)
A contact form makes it easy for people to reach out. All they have to do is fill out the boxes. Its also a way of making sure you have the info you need upfront. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I hate more than having someone be super casual about “just reaching out” and then when I do (“Hi! Just reaching out…”), I get an email back with a whole list of required info. Now I need to sit down and email again (sigh) and it makes me wonder how many more times this will happen…
Besides being reliable, cognitoforms has great functionality (for free):
- Conditional logic. This means you can give people different boxes to fill out, depending on which box they tick. You’ll need to sit down for this one, but it really helps streamline things if what you need to know “depends on x”.
- Customised confirmation emails. You can send people a copy of the form they filled out or pretty much anything else you want to send them.
- People can download their filled out form as a PDF right after sending. This means that even if their form didn’t send they don’t have to fill it out again and can forward you the PDF instead. Like I said, this service is reliable so technically you don’t need this option, but I always like my back-up plan to have a back-up. So if clients took the time to send me detailed answers to something, I encourage them to download that as a PDF just in case.
- You can easily embed the form in any website, but you can also just give people a link. Cognitoforms will then show a page with just your form on it. (So if you have an email list, a scheduler and no website, you can still create forms and link to them in emails).
There you have it! My 3 crucial time-tested tools that I think you need if you have any kind of web presence.