These are my top 10 FAVE tools that I use to run my Creative small business varying in need: Organization, Metrics, Shipping, Website & store, Bookkeeping & more.
*Dream Studio pic via Pinterest/Abduzeedo
1. Sales & Pricing Toolkit for Creative Businesses 3 Excel Templates & a How-To Booklet to track your sales & price your products. Shameless I know, but I stand behind it. Pros: See which products/services or retailers/clients are your top performers. Track your monthly & annual revenue: overall, per product, & per sales channel. See what your margins are per product, month, and year. Track styles per product. Automatically see sales tax and transaction fees & so much more. I've done the work for you & with a recent revamp by 4 amazing MBAs at Ross Business School, these templates are amazeballs, at an affordable price (as a small business I know how important this is, and they provide boatloads of vital biz info at your fingertips. It's taken me six years to get these sheets to this point, I want to save you the time & frustration that I know firsthand. At our intro price of $55, these are a great value. Cons: A little learning curve if you haven't used Excel. But, in my workshop I will teach you the basics & show you how to use our templates! ($75)
2. Teux Deux An online to-do list Pros: Beautifully designed (from the maker of tattly & swissmiss), affordable ($2/month), desktop & app versions, you can cross of your to-do list (gratification is important!) & if you don't check it off rolls over to the next day (accountability, yasss). I use this as my daily/weekly checklist and to add don't forget items/ideas when talking w/ folks and out in the world and away from my computer. I love the humor in their support & FAQ section too. Cons: Make sure that when you are entering an item on your phone, that you click 'Done' 2X, otherwise it won't save : /
3. Square Easily accept Credit Cards Pros: Affordably accept credit cards in your store or at markets. Easily see sales by item, month, or year; search for transactions; and see how much tax you paid or discounts given. *Tip - I create a different square account for use at markets & in my brick & mortar sales, to easily track sales in different locations. Cons: The chip card readers are slow & sometimes don't work : /
4. Shopify Online shop, website, 'buy buttons', payment system, & payment reader Pros: Beautiful themes, great interaction with customers, automated order order, shipping, and other customizable replies. Shopify card reader with slightly lower transaction fees than square (like .02% lower, but still a teeny bit lower). Also, slightly lower transaction fees for your online orders if you use their payment system. New 'buy buttons' allow you to incorporate a place to purchase a product anywhere on blogposts, webpages, etc. Awesome control of shipping options, discounts, and the interface is easy to use & looks nice. Bonus, the app makes a cha-ching sound when you have an online sale : ) Cons: Their in-theme blog does not autosave or have a drafts folder, beware, I learned this the hard way & lost an hour of work. My workaround is to create blogposts in Evernote (see below). Different features are offered at varying monthly fees, for example, I use the $29/mo. for example, and don't have access to full sales/traffic reporting which is a big leap to $79/mo. However, the 'Buy button' option is only $9/mo.
5. Ordercup Purchase shipping labels online Pros: Ties in directly to my shopify account, thus orders are already entered in my ordercup account & ready to print a shipping label for. The whole process often takes less than 1 minute per order (much faster than many I've used). You can set up profiles for your frequent package sizes/weights so that it makes purchasing the shipping label a breeze. Also, as a designer, I appreciate that their interface looks nice. Awesome customer service & discounted shipping prices! Cons: It takes maybe 20-30 minutes to get set up, to link to your shopify account, create shipping profiles, etc. However, I don't really see this as a con since it saves you so much time in the long run. If you run into trouble, call their customer service, they will walk you through it.
6. Calm Meditation App Pros: Helps you focus, relax, fall asleep, feel inspired, etc. This meditation app has many different guided meditations varying from 2-25 minutes & on a variety of issues. The free version has a fairly limited amount of varieties, but is still really useful. As busy, always on creatives & business owners, I so greatly value the 10 minutes each morning to sit still, try to quiet my brain, and only focus on breathing in & out. Cons: The paid version is kind of high, about $40/ yr., they recently did a price hike. I've used both the paid & free versions & think there's great value in both.
7. Evernote Organization & Information Storage Pros: A really versatile note taking, image saving, link gathering, information storage place. You can organize things into notes, notebooks, and also with tags. I use both the app & desktop version as a place to keep product and strategy ideas, blogpost organization, notes from phone meetings, and so much more. Free & paid versions are available, I use the free version. Cons: Sometimes I will open a second window so that I can see my notebooks without leaving the notes page, wish that I could hover on the notebooks icon to see a list of those, but this is definitely not a dealbreaker to me.
8. Google docs / Calendar,ICal,& Tiny Calendar Organization, Office Tools, Calendar Pros: Inexpensive, Easy to share Information with others. Cons: As web-based tools you can lose your work when auto-save or save don't really save. The google calendar sends wonky times when you invite folks for a meeting (A meeting is at 10am, it will say 1pm - something to do w/ time zones).
*Workaround, I prefer to use ICal to schedule meetings, track my appointments, and weekly schedule. I then use a third party calendar app on my phone, Tiny Calendar to link google calendar & ICal, since ICal doesn't always sync between phone & laptop. Anyone have a less redonkulous method?
9. Quickbooks Bookkeeping/Accounting Pros: Pretty universal, as most accountants use & if you use the online version, you can provide your bookkeeper and accountant with a login, which is a great timesaver. It also links with many banks to automatically pull your banking transactions. Once set up, it is easy to categorize your transactions into their proper bookkeeping bucket (rent, sales income, services income cost of goods sold, etc.). It also remembers your selections, so that you can just click accept on regular transactions. I also use Quickbooks to invoice and track my wholesale accounts. It's easy to search for invoices, customer info, individual transactions, & to run reports for profit & loss, balance sheet, etc. Save 20-50% with the link above, btw. Cons: Hello Learning Curve. It took me some time to get used to use Quickbooks as someone with a creative brain. In the beginning, I hired a Bookkeeper to set up the initial categories for me & now it's easy for me to track my expenses. I would also recommend, if you can afford it, to hire a bookkeeper & accountant for the time and frustration saved.
10. Smart Phone / Instagram Swiss Army Knife/Social Media Pros: I use an Iphone & it is the vehicle for all but three of the above tools. Camera, organization, focus & relaxation, credit card machine, communicator, & more all in one. It's an amazing business tool. I put these together because sometimes I feel like my Iphone should be called Instagram. I'm better about limiting myself these days.. Insta is my fave social media as I love to take photographs and appreciate its simple interface, awesome way to stay in touch / meet new people. Cons: Iphone - expensive upfront. Instagram-please don't let Facebook mess it up.
Which tools are your faves? Do any of these help you?
Louisiana has been experiencing devastating flooding from an inland tropical depression, dropping 600% more than normal levels of rain since August 12. This is a .1 percent chance in happening, also known as a 1000 year rain. Southern Louisiana has received over 6.9 trillion gallons of rain and the rain still hasn't stopped. Some locations are still flooded and some are expected to re-flood.
We are part of a group of 12 New Orleans businesses that are using their shop & restaurant spaces as drop off spots for donations. Yesterday, we brought 3 carloads of flood relief supplies to a small donation & flood rescue center in New Iberia. 4 additional car/van loads were brought to Baton Rouge. We estimate that these donations helped 400 families. (see more below)
This does not end our collection and delivery. The following businesses are continuing to collect and deliver donations to remote locations in Acadiana. This will be to small towns, folks in rice and sugarcane fields, and crawfish workers as well. These people are in need and aren't receiving donations from the larger donation centers. It will take a long time for our neighbors to be back on their feet, thank you for your help.
Cafe Reconcile, help prepare meals and they are also requesting: Chicken, Beef, Fish, Mac & Cheese, Mashed Potatoes, Rice, Gumbo, Green Beans, Mixed Veggies, Corn, Red Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Bread and Cookie
Hugs & smiles from the wonderful folks at this church/flood rescue/donation center in New Iberia brought me some tears, as well as the generosity & quick reply from the New Orleans community to help our neighbors in need. One woman at the shelter has to boat from her home to town, her now watery front yard currently filled with swimming alligators & snakes. It's going to take a while ya'll, we'll need to bring them more soon. But, they are thrilled with everything that we brought them & asked them to keep us posted as to what they are needing. We will update this blog post with needs for the area. This is one church in one town, we know there are others that are still needing donations and that haven't received help yet. Thank you for making this happen!
We drove through some pretty bad storms, blaringly loud flash flood warnings, and when we saw helicopters above at one point, I had a moment of wondering if we would get stuck. But, we made it A-OK, all was fine, and we are happy to do it again and thrilled to have been able to bring so much.
I also learned a new term, one woman volunteering at the shelter said she had lived in New Orleans and had relocated to New Iberia after Katrina. She said, thanks for having our six, then explained that also meant got your back. But, the phrase was originally - got your six, we googled it later - It originated in WWI with fighter pilots, the back of your plane is known as the 6-o-clock position, thus people would say I got your 6.
Through our partnerships with local businesses, by Sunday we will have gotten 19 car loads of donations deep into impacted areas. It's hard to quantify how many people we have impacted or will be impacted by this effort. At the Church we went to yesterday, they said that in 3 hours they were able to service 80 families. So 3 car loads in 3 hours and 80 families. They were nowhere near done with the items we brought. I think it's safe to say these 3 cars will have helped at least 200 families. Drivers into Baton Rouge also had 3 carloads, that's another 200 families. 400 hundred families with about half of the items we collected in 4 days is a safe estimate.
Big thanks to all that are bringing donations and to the following businesses that participated in our initial partnership. Big love to you all & biggest thanks to Renée Blanchard for starting this collaboration with one post on facebook!!
We just got back from an awesome trip to Colorado, for our first time at the Firefly Market in Boulder. Firefly wrote the nicest feature about us on their blog too btw, thank you Firefly! My mom traveled from Virginia and helped me at the market, we also spent some time before and after the market on a mother/daughter vacay!
We had the best time meeting folks and spending time in Denver, Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Fort Collins. I also visited with a dear friend of mine Lori Lou who I hadn't seen in 15 years and met her two teenage sons! We also happened upon Robbie and Tricia Vitrano who are working in Boulder for several months - what a treat!
My mom & I are both beer fans and we found lots of delicious beer made in Colorado, we visited a few breweries in Denver: we loved Renegade, Breckenridge, and Prost.
When we went to Fort Collins, we also popped into rain in FC's pretty downtown. It was wonderful to see Kristin again, she has carried our BirdSoaps since 2011! We also met several people at the Firefly Market who had purchased our Birdies from rain over the years which was so cool. Her shop is beautiful, don't miss it if in Fort Collins.
And, I can't forget to mention two wonderful Museums in Denver! Both are absolutely beautiful, the Denver Art Museum, whose new building is designed by Daniel Liebeskind and the Clyfford Still Museum, whose architect is Brad Cloepfil.
Go to both, they are right next door to one another, you will be inspired. My mom & I especially loved the Women in Abstract Expressionist exhibit at the Denver museum and we loved everything about the Clyfford Still Museum, a wonderfully peaceful spot.