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20 Business Programs + Tools I Can’t Live Without

20 Business Programs + Tools I Can’t Live Without

Hey y’all! This one’s for all my fellow business owners, creatives, entrepreneurs, you name it – any of you who love finding new programs & tools that you can use to help your biz thrive. I am alwayssss getting asked about what business programs I use to manage my clients, to organize my time, to stay productive, to edit photos. . .the list goes on. So I thought I’d compile a list for y’all of my top 20 favorite business programs + tools I can’t live without, ranging from client management programs to backend tools & more. I hope these can help you run your business as efficiently + effectively as possible so you can spend more time living your best life!

Table of Contents:

  • Client Management 
        • Dubsado
        • Honeybook
  • Communication 
        • Slack
        • Zoom
  • Backend Tools
        • Calendly
        • WordPress
        • Showit
        • Canva
        • Milanote
  • Marketing
        • Flodesk
  • Education
        • Kajabi
  • Finances
        • Quickbooks
        • Mile IQ
  • Photo Editing 
        • Lightroom
        • Photoshop
        • Narrative Select
        • Photo Mechanic
  • Mobile Apps
      • Lightroom Mobile
      • Tezza
      • InShot

    Client Management 

    1. Dubsado

    If you’ve followed me for a while, then you might know I preached Honeybook for yearsss (talking more about that next) – but I actually switched over to Dubsado recently! It’s one of the most popular client management systems out there, designed to help you keep all your clients in one place and minimize the amount of work you have to do for every client. I freaking love how easy Dubsado makes it for me to handle all my client communication within one program, including sending emails, invoices, contracts, questionnaires, and organizing all my clients based on what type of client/project it is. I can even set up automated workflows that’ll send out questionnaires, invoices, or certain emails automatically throughout certain parts of the inquiry/booking/working process, which takes sooo much work off of my plate!

    One thing to note is that Dubsado doesn’t have a mobile app yet, but honestly the web version of it is super mobile-friendly and works just great on my phone browser!

    Top features that Dubsado offers:

    • Customizable forms
    • Proposals
    • Online invoicing
    • Automations
    • Built-in scheduler
    • Financial reports
    • Labels & statuses to organize projects
    • Integrations with Quickbooks, Xero, Zapier, & more
    • Customized client portals
    • Multiple brands

    Free plan? No

    Starting cost: $20/mo or $200/year

    Free trial? The trial lasts as long as you want it to, but there’s a limit of 3 clients

    Use this link (or code “dawnphoto”) to get 20% off your first month or year with Dubsado!

    2. Honeybook

    So before I switched to Dubsado recently, I used Honeybook for years! It’s a similar client management system that offers a ton of great features, and I switched mainly due to personal preference & the slight difference in features that Dubsado offers. Since they’re so similar, I’d recommend trying both of them out and seeing which one you personally like using better so that you can compare the interface, the user experience, the client portals, etc. 

    Top features that Honeybook offers:

    • Online invoicing
    • Easy-to-use contracts
    • Built-in scheduler
    • Automations
    • Customizable forms
    • Proposals
    • Integrations with Quickbooks, Zapier, Zoom, & more
    • Mobile app

    Free plan? No

    Starting cost: $19/mo or $192/year

    Free trial? 7 days

    Use this link to get 35% off your first year with Honeybook!


    3. Slack

    Moving onto one of my favorite communication tools, Slack! Slack is a super great app for communicating with team members, clients, your business coach, etc. If you prefer communicating with your clients or team members via a quicker, more casual way than via email, I definitely recommend checking out Slack because it’s easy to send text messages, voice messages (which even have transcripts if you don’t have time to listen to the audio!), files, links, images, & more. Plus you can pin messages in your conversations that you want to be able to easily look at in the future, or save messages that you want to refer back to later!

    Top features that Slack offers:

    • Channels to organize your conversations
    • Text, audio, & video messages
    • Integrations with Zoom, Google Calendar, Loom, & more
    • Support for large & small teams
    • Ability to connect via audio & video, and share screens with teammates
    • Automated actions
    • File sharing

    Free plan? Yes!

    Starting cost for paid plans: $8.75/mo/user or $87/year/user

    4. Zoom

    I don’t think this one needs much explanation – we’re all pretty familiar with Zoom ever since 2020! Zoom is the platform I use for all my video calls, and I don’t even know what else I would use or what other options are out there.

    Top features that Zoom offers:

    • Virtual meetings (duh!)
    • Chat
    • Online whiteboard
    • Calendar integrations
    • Online webinars
    • Free version

    Free plan? Yes!

    Starting cost for paid plans: $15.99/mo/user or $149.90/year/user

    Backend Tools

    5. Calendly

    In my opinion, Calendly is one of the BEST platforms out there for online scheduling. It makes scheduling meetings (virtual or in-person) a super easy & smooth experience for all parties, whether you’re the one hosting the meeting or booking a time! It’s also a great way to offer paid sessions/meetings, as Calendly has a payment feature that requires a customer to pay for a meeting – i.e. if you offer mentor sessions, you can have Calendly invoice the customer for the payment in order to schedule their session. 

    While Dubsado does have a scheduling feature, I sometimes prefer to use Calendly because of how simple & easy it is to set up! You can totally make Dubsado work as your only scheduler, but Calendly’s automations, workflows, and variety of options are pretty hard to beat.

    Top features that Calendly offers:

    • Automations
    • Integrations with Zoom, Stripe, Zapier, & more
    • Paid sessions/meetings
    • Analytics dashboard
    • One-off & repeated meetings
    • Email & text reminders
    • Automated event notifications

    Free plan? Yes

    Starting cost for paid plans: $10/mo or $96/year

    6. WordPress

    Since my website is through Showit (coming up next), my blog is connected to WordPress – my website itself is designed through Showit, but my blog is through WordPress, meaning I get to use both the Showit design/aesthetic capabilities & the benefits of WordPress blogging at the same time! I’ve loved using Showit & WordPress together for my website. Basically, you set up your account with a domain host (e.g. GoDaddy, Google Domains, etc.), and then connect that to your Showit. You can learn more about how blogging through WordPress works with Showit in this article!

    Top features that WordPress offers:

    • Yoast SEO plugin
    • Thousands of plugins
    • Private & public pages
    • Flexible design
    • Simple blog workflow
    • Media library
    • User-owned

    Free plan? Yes! Downloading WordPress itself is free – you’ll have to pay for your domain host and will have to connect it to a paid Showit account.

    7. Showit

    Now Showit is the platform my website was actually designed with, and both my designer and I have loved it! Showit offers sooo much creative freedom, especially compared to many other website platforms, and makes it easy to design exactly the website you want. You have a ton of flexibility when it comes to design, colors, fonts, moving elements around, creating layers, etc. and won’t be limited by anything. There are even a ton of FREE starter templates you can choose from, or you can purchase a more in-depth template through expert Showit partners!

    Top features that Showit offers:

    • Complete freedom over layout & design
    • Free & paid templates
    • Drag & drop design
    • Custom fonts
    • Color palettes
    • Blogs published through WordPress

    Free plan? No

    Starting cost for paid plans: $29/mo or $288/year (for the basic starter blog plan)

    Free trial? 14 days

    8. Canva

    Canva is an absolute lifesaver y’all, and you should NOT be running your business without it! If you’re not a design pro and don’t know how to use some of the fancier programs like Adobe Illustrator or InDesign, then Canva is going to be your go-to design tool for everything in your biz. You can create literally anything, from social media graphics to presentations to posters to logos and MORE. There are thousands & thousands of templates you can use to kickstart your designs, you can add your custom brand color palette, upload your logos, use custom fonts, and sooo much more.

    Top features that Canva offers:

    • 100+ million images, graphics, & audio available to use
    • Branded templates
    • Brand kit
    • Background remover
    • Animations
    • Premium video
    • Content planner
    • Folders & storage

    Free plan? Yes!

    Starting cost for paid plans: $12.99/mo or $119.99/year

    Free trial? 30 days

    Don’t want to spend the time creating graphics for your biz in Canva? You don’t have to – my friend Maggie & I created client guide templates and social media templates for you to use and customize to fit YOUR brand! It’s super easy to customize these in Canva and they will make it sooo much easier to get amazing, beautiful guides out to your clients + share gorgeous content on your social media platforms. Check them out here!

    9. Milanote

    If you’re like me and have a hard time keeping all your ideas & projects organized, then you need Milanote! It’s a tool to help you compile all your ideas, lists, brain dumps, and projects into visual boards where you can add notes, images, files, links, & more. Milanote is super great if you’d rather see your thoughts laid out in a visual form where you can drag & drop elements and have photos added into the mix, than write out text in a Google Doc or on a notepad. 

    Top features that Milanote offers:

    • Text
    • Photos
    • Videos
    • Links
    • Files
    • Drag & drop design
    • Shared boards
    • Templates

    Free plan? Yes

    Starting cost for paid plans: $12.50/mo or $119.88/year

    Free trial? The trial lasts as long as you want it to, but there’s a limit of 100 notes, images, or links, and 10 file uploads


    10. Flodesk

    If you do any sort of email marketing or have been wanting to grow an email list, Flodesk is such an amazing program! It’s one of the only platforms I’ve seen that really allows you to create beautiful emails with aesthetic design, rather than just using plain formats with simple text & images. You can create totally on-brand emails, organize your audience into segments, create stunning landing pages, and choose from one of their many starter email templates to help make your design process faster! They even just added a sales page & checkout feature for digital products. 

    Top features that Flodesk offers:

    • Unlimited emails & subscribers forever
    • Automated workflows
    • Landing pages
    • Embedded forms for your website
    • Intuitive builder
    • Flat rate
    • No platform fee for product sales
    • Integrations with Shopify, Zapier, Instagram, & more

    Free plan? No

    Starting cost for paid plans: $38/mo or $420/year

    Free trial? 30 days

    Use this link to get 50% off your first year with Flodesk!


    11. Kajabi

    If you sell any sort of digital products, courses, or memberships, and you have the budget for a complex platform that will serve you for the long haul, Kajabi is 100% the way to go. I use Kajabi for all of my courses and for my Basecamp membership, and it’s honestly such an incredible platform that has SO much to offer. You can create so many types of products, sales pages, landing pages, and forms, you can keep track of your customers & sales easily, and so much more. Whether you want to sell a one-time course with an automated email funnel, or you want to create a long-term membership, or ANYTHING else you can dream up, Kajabi can help you do it.

    Top features that Kajabi offers:

    • Website builder
    • Built-in funnel templates
    • Custom domain
    • Unlimited hosting
    • Landing pages for your email list
    • Integrated checkout
    • 1-click upsells
    • Free trials
    • Coupons
    • Subscriptions
    • Abandoned card recovery
    • Payment plans for customers
    • Drip content
    • Course insights
    • Quizzes
    • Kajabi University

    Free plan? No

    Starting cost for paid plans: $149/mo or $1,428/year

    Free trial? 14 days


    12. Quickbooks

    I’m not an accounting or bookkeeping expert, so I can’t teach you a ton about the specifics of handling the financial side of your biz, but what I can tell you is that Quickbooks has been such a useful tool for me personally! It’s a great way to track your business income, expenses, and make your prep easier when tax time rolls around. Plus, you can use it with your accountant and share all your info with them, which will make it easier for the both of you to know what’s going on behind the scenes! You can choose from different types of subscriptions depending on what’s best for you & your biz, such as Quickbooks Self-Employed.

    Top features that Quickboks offers:

    • Free guided setup
    • Invoicing
    • Auto-track income & expenses
    • Categories
    • Payroll
    • Detailed analytics & reports
    • Time tracking
    • Mobile app
    • Bill management
    • Mileage tracker

    Free plan? No

    Starting cost for paid plans: $15/mo

    Free trial? 30 days

    13. Mile IQ

    For all you photographers who spend 75% of your time driving around in your car to get to shoots, you needdd to be tracking your mileage – and Mile IQ is one of the easiest ways to do it! This will be important when it comes time to do your taxes every year and you might be able to report how many miles you drove & use it as a tax deduction.

    P.S. even if you aren’t a photographer but you do drive for your business, you should be tracking your miles with an app like this!

    Top features that Mile IQ offers:

    • Automatic tracking
    • Accurate reports

    Free plan? No

    Starting cost for paid plans: $5.99/mo or $59.99/year

    Free trial? 40 free drives

    Photo Editing 

    14. Lightroom

    Moving onto the creative side of things – you probably already guessed, but I use Adobe Lightroom to edit all my photos! Chances are you already use it too, but if you’re a new photographer, then I highly recommend using Lightroom as soon as you can to professionally edit your photos. It’s by far the best program out there for editing & organizing your clients’ photos, whether you prefer to edit from scratch or use presets!

    Top features that Lightroom offers:

    • Desktop & mobile app
    • Step-by-step tutorials
    • Adobe portfolio & Adobe fonts
    • Cloud storage

    Free plan? No

    Starting cost for paid plans: $9.99/mo or $119.88/year

    Free trial? 7 days

    Did you know I sell my own Lightroom presets?! They’ll save you a ton of time when it comes to editing your photos, and will help you create BEAUTIFUL edits. Check out my Open Roads Presets & Campfire Presets in my Shop!

    15. Photoshop

    I also recommend investing in Photoshop for the times you need to make more complex edits, remove objects or people from photos, do face swaps, retouch skin, etc! You can actually save money by purchasing Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which includes BOTH Lightroom & Photoshop for just $19.99/mo.

    Top features that Photoshop offers:

    • Desktop & mobile app
    • Step-by-step tutorials
    • Adobe portfolio & Adobe fonts
    • Cloud storage

    Free plan? No

    Starting cost for paid plans: $31.49/mo or $239.88/year

    Free trial? 7 days

    16. Narrative Select

    You may have heard of Narrative for blogging, but have you heard of Narrative Select?! It’s a fairly new image culling software that totally changes the culling game. If you don’t want to spend your precious time manually culling your photos (which you can do in PhotoMechanic, next on this list), you can use Narrative Select instead. It’ll review your images almost instantly, so you won’t need to wait forever for your large files to upload, and then it’ll assess each photo to see whether it’s in or out of focus, if somebody’s eyes are closed, & more. It literally does the hard work for you so that you spend way less time second-guessing – and you can even use the tools inside of Narrative Select to manually cull FASTER if you do want to be a little more hands-on, such as the Close-ups panel. You can even import your culled photos quickly into Lightroom directly from Narrative Select. Talk about a game-changer!

    Top features that Narrative Select offers:

    • 3-second image import
    • Fast image rendering
    • Smart face zoom
    • Advanced image filters
    • Eye & focus assessments
    • Close-ups panel to see face details faster
    • One-click import to Lightroom and Photoshop
    • Change capture time
    • Rename images
    • Crop & level

    Free plan? Yes, for 4 projects/mo

    Starting cost for paid plans: $20/mo or $180/year

    Use this link to get 15% off of Narrative Select!

    17. Photo Mechanic

    If you’d rather cull your photos manually, Photo Mechanic is one of the best programs to use. You can import your photos into Photo Mechanic super quickly, label & rate them for more organization, rename them, add captions, and quickly export them once you’re done. Viewing photos in Photo Mechanic is crazy fast and the keyboard shortcuts are amazing – you’ll build muscle memory super easily!

    Top features that Photo Mechanic offers:

    • Rating system
    • Color labels
    • Captions
    • Keywords
    • Copyright
    • Rename files
    • Fast viewing & culling

    One-time cost: $139

    Free trial? 30 days

    Mobile Apps

    18. Lightroom Mobile

    If you want to edit photos on the go, you have to download Lightroom Mobile! It’s a free photo editing app for your phone, iPad, etc. and allows you to use basic editing features wherever you are. I use it to edit all of my iPhone photos without needing to pull out my computer, and even to edit BTS photos/iPhone sneak peeks for my clients! You can snag mobile versions of my Campfire Presets & Open Road Presets, too. 

    Top features that Lightroom Mobile offers:

    • Basic edits – brightness, contrast, highlights/shadows, etc.
    • Presets (native presets & imported custom presets)
    • Step-by-step tutorials
    • On-the-go editing

    Free plan? Yes

    19. Tezza

    Tezza is another mobile editing app that’s great for quick + unique phone edits! You can use it to edit photos AND videos on the go, and it’s less complicated & more user-friendly than Lightroom Mobile, plus it’s faster to use on the go. There are tons of built-in presets you can choose from, in addition to making basic edits!

    Top features that Tezza offers:

    • Collages
    • Photo & video edits
    • Built-in presets
    • Premium editing features
    • Film frames & effects
    • Video special effects
    • Texture overlays
    • Story templates

    Free plan? Yes

    Starting cost for paid plans: $3.99/mo or $19.99/year

    20. InShot

    Last but not least, InShot is my favorite phone app to use for editing videos for Reels, TikToks, etc. It’s super user-friendly, easy to use, and has tons of basic video editing features that makes the process quick so you can get your videos posted ASAP!

    Top features that InShot offers:

    • Basic video editing – trim, split, etc.
    • Sounds & music
    • Filters
    • Effects
    • Stickers

    Free plan? Yes

    Starting cost for paid plans: $3.99/mo or $14.99/year

    Free trial? 3 days

    There you have it y’all, my top 20 favorite business programs + tools that I could NOT run my biz without! I hope at least a few of them help make running your business easier, and take some of the workload off your shoulders!

    Want Further Help With Your Photography Biz?

    The Shop

    If you’re looking for more educational content to help you grow your dream photography biz, check out my Shop for tons of PDF guides, client guide templates, senior portrait posing guides, and even a self-paced client experience course! These guides will all help you create a cohesive presence in every touchpoint of your brand & client experience, and will help you create a smoother workflow for every client you work with. 


    I recently launched what’s possibly my FAVORITE business venture yet: the Basecamp membership! Basecamp is an online platform that helps photographers like you build a thriving business through powerful courses, accountability, and insight from industry experts. You’ll enjoy new content every month as well as a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, with lessons from incredible guest speakers such as:

    • SEO Friendly Blog Posts with Danielle Johnson
    • Film Photography 101 with Brady Bates Photography
    • How to Shoot + Edit a Variety of Skin Tones with Heart + Seoul Photo
    • Finances for Small Business Creatives with Kirsti Dory
    • Pricing Mindset with India Earl

    And did I mention it’s only $39/month?! I’d love to see you in this community – join us in Basecamp here!

    Business Coaching

    Or, if you’re looking for somebody to be by your side, hold you accountable, and help you create the business you’ve been envisioning, I also offer business coaching! I can tell you right now that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the amazing mentors & coaches that have helped me along the way, and I want to be there to support YOU as you take the steps to make your business skyrocket, to build your confidence as a business owner, and to make your dreams reachable. 

    We can cover a ton of different topics in our time together, including (but not limited to):

    • Blogging + SEO
    • Goals + task accountability
    • Marketing strategy + creation
    • Email correspondence and help
    • Brand Strategy

    Take a look at my coaching packages on this page, where you can also inquire and start this exciting journey. I can’t wait to be by your side and cheer you on every step of the way!


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