7 web apps to start & run a profitable web design business

This is a collection of web apps that are particularly useful to anyone running a web design business (and many other types of business I imagine!).

CapsuleCRM

Getting sales is obviously crucial to running a profitable web design business and to sell websites you need to know who your customers are. Capsule’s main strength is its simplicity. There are LOADS of alternative CRMs out there (Batchbook, Pipedrive and Insightly to name just a few I have tried but I prefer Capsule because of its simplicity and wealth of integrations. If you are interested you can read my post exploring the best small business CRM web apps.

CapsuleCRM integrates with Mailchimp, Xero, Quoteroller, Zendesk and several other apps. While not all of these integrations are quite as smooth as they could be what it does give is many of the strengths of a much larger more enterprise level CRM without all the complexity, cost and customisation.

I wrote a full review of CapsuleCRM last year.

Quoteroller

One of the lost time consuming parts of my role is writing proposals for potential clients. While I endeavour to build relationships first and send proposals only to confirm a deal that is already largely done, they are not always possible to avoid.

In this context Quoteroller is a massive time saver because it automates huge elements of the quote writing process.

Zendesk

If, like most web design agencies, you provide some kind of ongoing support to your clients then the quicker you get out of emails the better. Emails sap productivity and the last thing you want to do is encourage a reactive and disorganised approach to customer support.

Zendesk, as well as letting you keep support requests out of email inboxes, also allows you to track and assign tickets and measure how well you are keeping on top of all of your support requests.

We tried a couple of Zendesk competitrs (namely desk.com and Freshbooks) but in the end we were won over by Zendesk’s usability. It’s a really well thought through platform.

Teamwork

My approach to project management of website design projects has changed significantly over the years and this has also changed what I look for in project management software. I have tried probably getting on for 50 different project management tools over the years but never quite found the perfect system and always come back to Teamwork.

Teamwork’s killer feature is its workload forecasting. I wrote previously about an experiment we did using Teamwork to manage agile sprints. We have since dropped to a much simpler approach, pushing much of the detail to Trello, but we still us Teamwork for managing project milestones and studio workload.

It’s a bit old now but you can check out my original Teamwork review for some of the reasons we were originally convinced.

Trello

I won’t say much about Trello because there has been so much said already and the web is full of neat tricks and case studies. We use a Trello board for each stage of our projects and often give clients full visibility. We have found this to work really well and facilitate healthy collaboration.

Harvest

We used to use Teamwork to manage time and, to be frank, it was a bit rubbish. Then we found Harvest, were thoroughly converted, and have never looked back!
Harvest is probably the web app that has made the single largest impact on my web design business. Once set up sensibly it provides an amazing range of useful reports that allow you to really understand what is (and isn’t) happening in your business.

We all know that reports are only as good as the data on which they are based and this is where Harvest’s biggest strength comes into play. It is a dream to use. I used to be a lawyer and experienced the life sapping experience of accounting for the day in 6 minute chunks. For this reason I have always been loathe to introduce time recording into my business but Harvest makes it a real dream to use. Once you realise its power to improve productivity you will be converted too!

Clearbooks

Clearbooks saves SO much time. It will automatically pull in your transactions using its Yodlee integration and you can set up rules to automatically recognise transactions from common clients and suppliers. Even better, it fully automates VAT and payroll, doing all the calculations and all the tax submissions. The only bit of manual labour left is to actually make the payments from your bank account.

You can read my full review of Clearbooks here.

Xero looks like a pretty good alternative with more international coverage. In the UK I don’t think they have quite as neat payroll integration.