I don't have everything figured out for running an indie biz, but one of my strengths is organizing. (I am a true INFJ - emphasis on the J!) Here are a few of the best organizational tools for business that I use myself, and that have kept things running smoothly for Lesley Myrick Art + Design:
1. Wunderlist. I only recently discovered Wunderlist (thanks Em Henderson!) and I can't believe I didn't know about this amazing to-do list app sooner! I used to use Workflowy, and appreciated its simplicity, but I'm really enamored with Wunderlist and the ease with which I can use it on desktop, mobile, and iPad. You can "star" items to give them higher priority, as well as set up reminders and due dates. Plus, Wunderlist has a feature where you can share lists with others - perfect for collaborations.
TIP: Wunderlist currently doesn't hide "completed" tasks, which annoys the bejeesus outta me! (I mean, who wants to be visually assaulted with a list of unnecessary tasks they've already completed? I just want to know what I still have to do!) I've created a "Completed" list, where I drag all my completed tasks so that they don't show in other lists once they've been checked off.
2. The Invoice Machine. My freelance business isn't big enough to warrant fancy-schmancy invoicing software, but I do need something to track invoices and payments. Enter The Invoice Machine - it's free, it's simple, it's pretty. There are paid upgrade options, but if you create 3 or less invoices per month, the free version is all you need.
TIP: Invoices created on the free version are branded with The Invoice Machine's logo - if you want unbranded invoices it's worth the few dollars a month to upgrade.
3. Gmail. Duh. Only the most awesome email program ever. I fully believe in batch-processing emails, and having an empty inbox. (Yes, that is my actual inbox.) Here's how I do it:
1. I don't check my email unless I have a moment to take action (but really, just a moment is all that's needed).
2. When an email arrives, if I can immediately take action, I do! If I can respond to it or delete it, I take care of that immediately.
3. If I can't immediately take action (say, I need to confirm a date for a meeting, or print an Etsy order) I "star" the email, apply a label, and archive it.
4. Then, when I have time to tackle those to-do's, I simply check my "starred" folder.
5. Once the email has been acted on, I remove the star, and boom! Email is already labeled and archived, and disappears.
TIP: Create automatic filters to help speed up your email processing. Jess Lively has a great post with tips and instructions on how to do just that.
4. Google Calendar. Google Calendar has been such a great tool for my blog and business - and also my marriage, since Nate and I can access each other's calendars and know exactly what's going on. I've created 5 calendars:
1. Default - for appointments, meetings, and general "stuff".
2. Birthdays - so I don't forget 'em! Each birthday is set to repeat every year, making it idiot proof (and making me seem super awesome for always remembering important b-days. Score.)
3. Bloggity Blog - this is my in-progress blog editorial calendar. I schedule recurring posts (like Lovely Web Links and Try Something New), and then fill in other days as inspiration strikes and time allows. I love having my blog calendar as part of my regular calendar, so I can plan time to write posts and make sure my schedule allows for it.
4. Deadlines. Dum dum dum. These are hard and fast deadlines, intentionally in a bright pink color so they stand out. Most of my freelance projects and clients fall under this category.
5. Mosaic Cafe. On top of a full time job and freelancing, I also volunteer at Mosaic and lead the cafe team. This has its own organizational and scheduling challenges with a team of about 12 people, so I keep it separate.
Nate's class schedule and appointments are in here too, making it easy-peasy to know what's up with the hubs.
TIP: I've found that the Calendars app for iPhone is much easier to use than than iCal for syncing multiple calendars on mobile.
5. Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). Yes, I'm totally singing the praises of Google today. Seriously, they have some of the best free tools for businesses! I use Google spreadsheets to track my business income (invoices) and expenses (receipts) so that at tax time, everything is there. I've included a formula to automatically calculate totals, so I can see throughout the year profit and loss.(Note: if you track your income and expenses this way, it's helpful to set up a column for "In-State" and "Out of State" sales that you can filter. Come tax time, this will make the process faster!)
TIP: There's a mobile app for GoogleDrive - woohoo!
6. Hootsuite. We all know social media is crucial for businesses these days - and it doesn't have to be a time-suck. I use Hootsuite for scheduling Twitter and Facebook posts. Hootsuite has an "auto-schedule" feature that will publish your posts at the best times for your audience - that means you can create a handful of posts (or a million, whatever) in advance, and Hootsuite will buffer those posts and spread them out over a period of time. Genius. I also love that you can set up a column with keyword searches, and Hootsuite will display any tweets with those keywords. It's great for keeping up on industry news, and mentions of your name and business name.
TIP: It's important to check in with social media and be aware of current news and events, and not just auto-schedule all of your content. It's pretty tacky for a business to be self-promoting on Twitter without interacting in conversation with others, or to be pushing your blog posts or new product during a national tragedy or huge news event that everyone else is talking about.
Part of the reason I love all of these tools is that they allow business and personal stuff to be separate, but together. Work and life doesn't always separate perfectly, but with each of these tools, I can have work and personal information easily accessible. They key is to only look at what's needed when it's needed - for example, I don't look at my Lamps Plus Wunderlist from home, and I don't check my freelance Biz: Ideas list at work. Also, each of these organizational tools are web-based, meaning that you can access them from anywhere! Hello, modern business model!
These are the best organizational tools for business that I use and love, but there are many more options out there! I'd love to hear what's worked for you - leave a comment and let me know.
Wondering how to start a blog? It can be intimidating joining the blogosphere when there are soooo many established blogs out there, and so many options! (I mean, where do you even begin?) A friend recently asked for help with starting a new blog to go along with her home-based business, so I thought I'd share the same resources with you that I did with her.
Note: I'm assuming that you already know what platform you want to use, and what you want to blog about. These resources aren't so much for starting from scratch as helping you create and develop a blog once you have a vision in mind.
Blogs, Books, + Courses:
+ Blog Inc. by Joy Cho is a great read for those just starting out in the blogging world. I found it a little basic for my needs, but there is a lot of great info in it for beginners!
+ The Alt Summit blog is a must-follow for me, with lots of great tips on growing your blog and biz. (Plus, Alt sounds like it's about the coolest blogging event ever.)
+ A Beautiful Mess has a couple of blogging courses - one on blog basics, and the other focusing specifically on blog design.
+ Problogger is one of the best "blogging blogs" out there! I don't follow it regularly, but it's a great resource if you have specific questions about pretty much anything blog-related.
+ Gala Darling shares some of her blog tips on her new Blog On, Babe series.
+ Nubby Twiglet just launched a new series called Blog Log.
+ Nubby Twiglet just launched a new series called Blog Log.
+ Looking to really invest in your new blog? A workshop like Blogcademy might be for you! Or maybe Blogshop, if developing your Photoshop and graphics skills is priority numero uno.
Blog Templates + Design Resources:
+ I looooove Blog Milk's templates. My current template is from them, and they just released a new collection.
+ Here are some of my tips on how to design your own blog.
+ If you're ready to tackle some blog design elements yourself, Code It Pretty is a great resource.
+ Puglypixel TV has some great videos on both blog elements (like CSS and HTML) as well as Photoshop and design tips.
General Indie Business Inspiration:
+ Marie Forleo's weekly videos are fantastic for helping you grow and develop your blog and your brand.
+ Small Businesses Do It Better has great insight on how to use social media to promote your blog and business.
Still wondering how to start a blog? Leave a comment with your questions and I'd be happy to help. And if you have any great resources I've missed here, please share!
You guys, it's finally here - we're getting our new teal sofa delivered today! In anticipation of our living room makeover finally coming together, I've totally geeked out and put together this Olioboard to give you an idea of what I've been scheming design-wise. And since I don't often share photos of my currently kinda-lame living room, here are a few peeks at the current space: beige, bland, and boring! I promise, I'm not afraid of color and pattern, although you wouldn't guess that from those Instagram pics.
We moved to California eighteen months ago with just a coffee table in tow, so it's been a slow process to get our little rental apartment looking the way we'd like. I'm a big believer in creating a space that looks collected, not "decorated", so I've been happy to take it slow. Plus, when we moved, we were pretty broke. So there's that too. (Although I do love the challenge of creating a fabulous space on a budget!)
Stay tuned for a look at the final design soon! Be still my beating sofa-loving heart.
"The biggest mistake I made in my twenties was being too hopeful that dead-end roads would magically lead somewhere. It took me a while to realize that when you hit a dead end, all you can do is turn around and forge a new path." - Fashion designer Erin Fetherston via PaperMag