My friend Bill was lamenting a standstill in his creative process. He’d been working on a podcast for 5 years, had 2 episodes recorded, but stalled out on editing those conversations so he could publish the thing.
“Have you thrown the audio file into Descript to do the editing?” I asked.
OMG! It’s a stress reliever of an editing tool that saves tons of time, I told him, and makes me and my clients sound even more brilliant!
I explained how Descript lets me rapidly edit audio recordings by tweaking an automatically generated transcript. As easily as I can revise a Word document, Descript lets me remove ums and ers, eliminate conversational tangents, and rearrange ideas (individual words, even) to create a more orderly flow. The resulting audio file leaves no trace of my editor’s touch.
The effect is as seamless as my favorite yoga pants.
Bill’s energy lifted in an instant. He signed into Descript that day, uploaded his two recordings that weekend, and within 2 weeks unleashed his Thursdeighties podcast on the world. Check it out. His concept is original, his first guest is fascinating, and his voice is like buttah.
The moment his podcast went public, Bill thanked me for recommending a tool that energized his process and helped him get sh*t done.
“Here’s what works for me.” Say it!
In a few moments of conversation about what worked for me, Bill and I lit the spark that ignited his productive engine.
Imagine the energy and progress we could all generate by talking more freely and often about the tools and methods we use to make good work, manage time and ideas, and organize our lives.
So I started writing this post, thinking it was high time to shout about a few of the tools I depend on to run my business, serve my clients, and keep my imagination in gear.
My faves may include the app you need.
A couple paragraphs into my draft, this topic felt oddly familiar. “I’ve written this before,” I thought. Sure enough, a quick search of my own website confirmed the old adage that are no new ideas under the sun, much less in my brain.
In 2017, I wrote about 5 apps that help me run my small business. My focus then was web-based apps that deliver big-company results on a small-company budget:
- Freshbooks for accounting
- ToDoist for organization
- Canva for visual design
- Animoto for video production
- MailChimp for mass communication
Would you believe that 4 of those 5 apps remain essential to my workflows? The only tool I’ve abandoned is Animoto, largely because Canva has taken its place, and because I decided to take on more ambitious video projects with advanced software.
Given the pace of innovation in technology—and my healthy appetite for change—I’m surprised that these apps and I are still together. But when a product works, it works. Plus, the development teams behind these apps keep adding features and upgrades that make their tools increasingly indispensable. So, I remain loyal.
While my heart holds onto products I love, my eye wanders to the shiny and new (or at least new to me). And sometimes the attraction is strong enough that I adopt a new tool.
I’ll show you mine, and you show me yours.
Updated for 2024, here are 3 more apps that contribute to the creativity and sanity of my days as a small business owner and creative communicator.
I refer to Airtable as a spreadsheet on steroids. But that’s an inadequate metaphor. In truth, Airtable is a wildly flexible database tool that requires zero programming experience or technical skill. Whatever information you need to organize, Airtable can probably give you the framework to do it.
Airtable boasts 450,000+ customer organizations, and I guess my small business is one of them. Their website suggests this company is more interested in serving big names and huge enterprises. And yet, their product remains available, affordable, and applicable to my tiny agency. I’ve used this powerful platform to:
- Plan, draft, and keep a record of content campaigns for clients and for my own business
- Manage complex project schedules with many contributors, work streams, and dependencies
- Gather and organize survey responses
- Adapt a CRM template to suit my own needs and reasons for staying in touch with contacts
- Track and rate all the RV parks my husband and I have visited
Cost: For the most part, I’ve managed to work within the constraints of Airtable’s free plan. However, I have accumulated enough referral credits ($10 for every person who signs up) to upgrade to the Team plan (currently $24 monthly), which unlocks a lot more space and options. Super useful.
My teen daughter suggested I try CapCut last year when she watched me struggle with Instagram’s built-in editor for reels. I was already proficient with video editing tools such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Rush, Apple iMovie, and the growing capabilities in Canva. But I wanted to edit videos on my phone, quick and easy, like the kids on TikTok!
Privacy and data concerns made me skeptical at first. But a bit of research convinced me this app was no worse than many of the others I’m using. So, I downloaded CapCut to my phone. On a lazy Saturday afternoon on the couch, my daughter showed me the basics and even a few whiz-bang tricks that made me feel almost hip.
I still use Canva for animated explainer videos, and the Adobe editors for longer programs. But CapCut has become my go-to for:
- Composing personalized teaser videos to explain Story Mode programs to prospective clients
- Replacing lengthy emails with short video messages to clients, when a quick talking head is more efficient for both sender and receiver
- Producing social media content for my husband’s photography business
Cost: For months, the free version satisfied me. But a few weeks ago I caved when a promotion offered me a discount on the PRO version. I paid for a year of access, and I don’t regret it. The editing tools, professional transitions, and special effects make me feel good about the investment. Plus, when I’m paying for a tool, I use it, and my confidence and skill are growing every time I open this app.
Descript is the tool I mentioned to my friend Bill, and it’s blown us both away. In the thick of his podcast editing project, he texted me that it’s “the best editing tool I have ever used, and it is so freaking easy. WOW!”
Descript handles video editing as well, but so far I’ve only used it for audio. Among the projects it has helped me tackle:
- Distilling a rambling 15-minute interview down to a coherent 60-second clip
- Combing through virtual meeting transcripts for meaningful soundbites
- Recording off-the-cuff spoken drafts that I revise into polished scripts for me or a client
Cost: The free plan has been enough for me thus far, but if I ever get around to launching my own podcast, I’ll gladly invest in the Creator plan (currently $144 annually). Who knows? Maybe I’ll get way into podcasting and video production and step up to the Pro plan (currently $288 annually).
Are you also married to any of these tools?
Tell me! And let me know of other apps I might need to sample next!