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4 Systems You Should Have in Place to Ensure You Never Lose a File or Email Again





So you’re working away on your latest line, you’ve got a market this weekend, and your online store sales are steadily growing.

You’re busy and time is of the essence.

You get a phone call from a newspaper who has heard about your incredible handmade creations and they want to run a story on you. All you need is your headshots, photos of your products and your full bio.

But you can’t seem to lay your hands on any of it. Maybe you emailed it to someone? It’s not in your sent items though… where is it?

You spend an hour looking for the documents and photos and then decide to rewrite your bio and take more shots. This takes you another couple of hours and you’re losing time that could be spent working on your products.

Does this sound familiar?

With my background in admin and banking, I am a bit fastidious when it comes to file management (both on my computer and paper) and it pays off when you need to find something quickly just like in this scenario.

Everyone does things differently but I highly recommend you figure out a system for YOU to file your business photos and documents so you can locate them quickly and efficiently.

Have a Place for Everything, and Store Everything in Its Place

Do you have a system for filing all the documents, images, etc. that you create/download every day? Or is your file storage system a huge mess?

Having a defined system for storage (and backup!) of your files will save you SO much time and stress in the long run, that it’s worth putting some thought and effort into – because no matter how messy things are now, they can be organised.

For instance, I work on my local C Drive with backup to Dropbox daily (or when I’ve been working on files) and have folders for my eight projects (yikes – I just had to count that and it’s scary!)

  1. Annerley Junction
  2. BrisStyle
  3. Classie
  4. Create & Thrive
  5. Handmade High Street
  6. Idle Zine
  7. One Thimble
  8. Weekend Notes


Then. under each of those I have folders for the types of projects I undertake in each one:


  1.  Annerley Junction
  • Blog
  • Coffee Nights
  • Community Plus
  • Events
  • History Group
  • Website

Under each folder, there are sub-folders etc.

Now, this all might be a bit of a yawn for some but I can guarantee that spending a little time upfront to get your file management in order can save you hours of time in the future.

If the idea of doing it all at once makes you break out in a cold sweat, start small. Just assign 5 minutes a day to do a little bit. You can do almost anything for 5 minutes, right? After a month of that, chances are you’ll have everything nice and neat, and you’ll feel the peace that comes from having an organised filing system.


Name It, Find It

Ever tried to find a file you KNOW you have, but it proved completely elusive because the file name seemed to bear no resemblance to what it was actually about?

You need a naming convention.

This is simply a system you use to name things in a way that makes it easy to find the most current file (regardless on when you last worked on it) or one from a specific time/project.

e.g. 20140412 Junction Jumble Sale Flier DRAFT V1

Year first (2014), then month (04), followed by day (12) and name of file makes it easy to find. Adding drafts help to see previous version numbers at a glance.

This is how I name my files as they neatly line up in date order then alphabetically when I sort by Name.

Every time you download a file to your computer, name it and file it immediately. Don’t just leave it in your email inbox, send it off to your folders and know it will be there exactly when you need it.

When taking a bunch of photos for your online store, as soon as they are off your camera, pop them into a folder which is easy to locate and explains what they are for. Once you’ve edited the ones you like, add a subfolder which says ‘Edited’ or similar so you have the originals and the edited shots all at your fingertips.

You know how you have been asked for ‘hi-res’ images in the past but after you edited your photos you saved them as lo-res for online? Now you can go back to the original photo and re-edit in a snap to keep it high quality and usable for that project.

Need to provide proof of payment to a supplies company who have lost your order? Now you have it filed conveniently in a folder where you can shoot it back off to them in an instant and get on with your day.


The ‘Paperless Society’ is Still a Myth

In regards to paper files – I recommend everyone either get a filing cabinet or at least a filing box.

I set up sling folders (those green ones with the little tabs at the top) for each of the Projects like before (Annerley Junction, BrisStyle, Classie etc) then manila folders for the sub-projects I expect to get paper for:

  1.  Annerley Junction (green sling file)

(manila folders)

  • Business Cards
  • Fliers
  • Invitations
  • Receipts

Each financial year, I bundle the manila folders up into piles and tie each pile up with string. Then I pop them all in a box with that financial year written on the side so I can get access to them if necessary.


Email – Never Lose One Again

Lastly, you can file things in your email inbox. No matter what platform you use, there is always a way to set up folders to hold your important emails.

Even though your emails are kept online and you can search for important documents that came as attachments, I still recommend downloading them and filing them on your desktop.

Recently I was asked if I had a quote for my retail store signage from 2011. I knew I had filed it in my inbox somewhere but no searches turned up the email it was attached to.

I realised that I changed email addresses around that time and the old email was now lost since I hadn’t logged in for over 3 years. Lucky I saved it on my old computer and backed it up on my Dropbox!


I truly believe that having a place for everything (and everything in its place) will make you more productive and more in control.

You will save time, be more effective and be more focused on your business.


Further Reading: Surefire Strategies for Organizing Your Life on Daily Worth

Images Marcus Spiske AnnieAnniePancake

No matter where you are, the Circle is for you. (12 hours left to register)





Hey Thriver,

During the last day, while Thriver Circle membership has been open, I’ve had a number of emails from people all over the world, asking me – ‘Jess, I’m not in Australia, is the Thriver Circle for me?’

My answer? Absolutely! The beauty of an online community like this is that it’s always available, no matter where you live or what timezone you’re in.

  • The workshops are available for you to watch and listen to whenever it suits you.

  • The times of the calls will be different each month to ensure everyone can join in (maybe not every month, but most months) no matter what timezone you’re in. And if you miss one, the recording will be available whenever you are. (I’m actually going to be over in the UK/Europe myself for 3 months in the middle of this year, running the Circle from there!)

  • You can jump into the FB group at any time – leave your questions, help someone else out by answering theirs… and catch up on what’s been happening while you were sleeping (or working, of course).


There are people in the Circle from Australia, NZ, the USA, Canada, the UK, Europe + more. Geography isn’t a boundary for our Circle!

The community is already 140+ people strong, but there’s still space for you to join us.

Remember – after this, membership won’t open again until the end of April.

And you’ll never again get the chance to try the Circle out for this low, Foundation Member price (just $30 for the first 3 months).

Membership Closes In…


You can join us here.

Jess xx

P.S. If you’d like to know more about how the calls work, visit the FAQ page here.

Thriver Circle Foundation Membership Is Open {For 48 Hours Only}




Hey Thriver,

It’s here.

A private, positive community of makers – just like you – who are serious about crafting thriving businesses.


I’ve opened the doors of the Thriver Circle to Foundation Members for 48 hours only. 


When you join the Circle, you get:

  • A private, positive community forum – full of fellow creatives who are there to help you and keep you accountable (and I’ll be hanging out there, too).
  • One exclusive workshop from me every month, covering topics like pricing, selling online, marketing, social media, photography, self-care… and more. Oh, and you can request workshops, too. These are not available anywhere else.
  • A monthly call with me, during which 2 members of the Circle get 30 minutes of one-on-one time with me in a Business Intensive + a Q&A session at the end.
  • Early notification whenever I launch a course or program. That means, if there are limited spots, you get first dibs!
  • Detailed Member Profiles, where you can list your website, social media links, and tell us more about you – to help you connect with your fellow makers and build strong relationships.


If you want to be part of the Circle, don’t hesitate.

General membership is only open 4 times a year, for 48 hours at a time. The next intake isn’t until the end of April, and membership will close on Wednesday the 28th of Jan at 9am Australian EST (convert to your timezone – if you’re in the US, this is Tuesday afternoon).

Become a Foundation Member today for just $10 a month for the first 3 months (paid upfront). Then, ongoing membership is on a monthly basis, for just $15 per month.

My goal is for you to be learning what you need to in order to turn that small $15 a month investment in to hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars a month income from your business.

Let’s make it happen, together.


You can join us here, or find out more.

Jess xx

P.S. Leave a comment if you have any questions!

P.P.S. Please don’t hesitate if you want to join. I’ll be closing the doors right before I get on a plane to New Zealand, so there will be no extensions or exceptions.

Meet the New Assistant Editor – Kath Chown!

So, as I told you all earlier in the month, the amazing Megan E has moved on from her position as my Right-Hand Gal here at C&T… because her own biz is just too successful now! I was happy/sad to have her leave us… but, as luck would have it, a certain awesome lady was ready and willing to jump on board and join the C&T team. You might recognise Kath from the How to Sell More at Markets & Shows e-course we collaborated on late in 2015. But I wanted to give you the chance to get to know her a little better, as you’ll be seeing more of her in C&T land from here on in. I’ll let her tell you more…



Hello! My name is Kath and I have been asked on board by the incredible Jess Van Den {Note from Jess: I totally didn’t tell her to say that, honest} to her Create & Thrive team. I feel so honoured and proud to be here and can’t wait to be a part of this great space where you can learn how achieve your creative business goals. It’s all very exciting!

My background is in retail, banking and administration and I have also owned my own successful bricks and mortar handmade store for three years in Brisbane. I have now closed the doors on Handmade High Street to follow a job for my husband to another city, but I still have a smaller version of the shop inside another local business. Through these ventures I have always aimed to help artisans find a platform for selling their work in a retail setting through subleasing space, taking commission or wholesaling.

While I also create handmade products to sell, my focus has always been on helping other artisans to achieve their business dreams. I have helped out in various capacities with lots of creative groups including non profit group BrisStyle as the previous President where I honed my skills and added to my business, markets, social media, teaching and marketing knowledge. I also wrote a whizz bang eCourse for C&T to show you How Sell More At Markets & Shows, where I shared some of my knowledge gained from 13+ years in the retail biz.

Since my B&M shop took up much of my time over the last three years, I am really ready to get stuck into the ‘creating’ side of my business again by stepping up my sales game with my handmade candles and soaps. I am also focussing on teaching hands-on crafts to keen students with my Beginner’s Crochet and Rag Rugging classes where I work privately and as a guest for other businesses.

I feel like it’s going to be a busy but really exciting year and I am so stoked to be here with you all as we continue on our creative business journeys together!

xxx K

8 Places to Get Help with your Handmade Business





Crafting a handmade business can be a lonely pursuit.

Usually, when we start out, we’re doing it on our own, because we’ve decided that we’d like to have a crack at selling this thing we love to create when we’re holed up in creative solitude.

The trouble is, of course, that we have limited time, energy, and knowledge.

The honest truth is that even though most of us start out as solopreneurs, there is no way we can make any significant progress without the help of others.

That help can come in many forms. It might be our spouse helping us lug heavy stuff to and from a market. It might be someone to bounce our ideas off because we’re not sure if we’re going in the right direction. It might be someone who teaches us that crucial piece of information that makes all the difference. Sometimes, it’s even just someone who will tell us that we CAN do this thing we dream of. We need mental, physical, and emotional support, because growing a business is hard, and we come up against so many obstacles on the path.

So, where do we find that help? Not all of us are blessed with people close to us that support and understand us. Even if we are, they might not know anything about handmade business, so we still need to connect with people who do to help us. There are also pros and cons to any sort of support we rely on – so it’s actually really important to find a mix of people and ways to help us.

Here are 8 places you can turn to find help on your handmade business journey.



Parents, kids, spouses… family is often the first port of call when we need help with our burgeoning handmade businesses.

If we’re lucky enough to have someone close to us that both has the time and the desire to help us out, we are truly blessed. These people love us, and they want us to succeed. They have the best kind of vested interest.

I got really, really lucky when it came to help from this particular direction. There’s no way I could have done what I have without the help and support of Nick – my husband and all-around super-helpful-and-awesome guy.

Not only emotional support – being my sounding board, having complete confidence in me that I can do anything I set my mind to (and being happy to go along with my crazy schemes) – but also the everyday, ‘mundane’ support of keeping our lives running. You know, doing the shopping, feeding me, and all those other domestic tasks. He is my absolute bedrock, and I’m incredibly lucky that he said yes when I proposed to him all those years ago. He’s also stepped more and more into the business over the years, and now he does a number of things – like the bookeeping, and a lot of the jewellery making – which frees me up to work on other things (like Create & Thrive!).

I also grew up with the inherent support of my parents. Sure, I did well in school, and they were always proud of my achievements – BUT, and I think this has had a HUGE impact in the fact that I felt free enough to choose my own path – they also brought me up to believe that I didn’t have to follow the traditional path.

Two things they used to say have stuck with me. The first is that Mum always told me to dance to the beat of my own drum. The second is they both told me once, when I was still in high-school and deciding what direction to take with my life, that I could be anything and they’d be proud of me.

Their point was, of course, that they were proud first and foremost of who I was, not what I do. This type of emotional support is not to be taken lightly. When we have it, we can sometimes take it for granted. And when we don’t everything can seem 100 times harder, because we’re not only struggling with all the regular challenges of growing a business, but with the doubt of those who are closest to us, as well.



Friends are the family you choose, right? So, our friends are often our greatest cheerleaders (and if they aren’t? Maybe it’s time to find some new friends…). Old friends, new friends, crafty and non-crafty friends – they’re all places to turn for support.

My best friend is unfailingly enthusiastic and supportive of all my dreams and schemes. When we talk, she never fails to ask me how my latest project is going. She also never fails to remind me that I can – and will – kick ass in everything I do. Even if I don’t believe it – she does, and that can sometimes make all the difference. She’s also hilarious, and always, always makes me laugh. That is not a skill to be taken lightly!

Think about your friends. Think about their skills and knowledge. Is there someone in your life who could help you with some aspect of your business that you haven’t reached out to? Maybe you’ve got a friend who’s a photographer, who’d love to give you some help with your product photography, or even take some shots for you in exchange for an awesome home-cooked lunch. Maybe you’ve got a friend who runs a different type of business, who you can ask about marketing and advertising. Maybe you’ve got someone who’s artistic, who you can bounce your design ideas off.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends – after all, friendship is all about the give-and-take of supporting each other in life, and people really do love to help those they care about!


Local Organisations + Classes

What if you aren’t lucky enough to currently have friends or family who can support you? If you’re a people-person, and you crave face-to-face interaction, then local organisations are the place to look.

Most major cities have craft groups and guilds you can join. Here in Brisbane, we of course have the awesome BrisStyle, and there are many, many different guilds for any craft you can think of.

Craft and business classes are also a great place to find like-minded people. Take a course in some aspect of your work that you could use more knowledge in. Really make an effort to connect with your classmates, and you might find a new friend (or a few!).

I’ve made loads of wonderful friends via being an active member of BrisStyle, and I’ve gotten so much help and support from those people over the years – not to mention collaborations (this year alone, I’m creating a course with a fellow BrisStyler, AND I got to know the new C&T Assistant Editor, whom you’ll meet later this week, via BrisStyle, too).

Find a class or organisation that appeals to you, and really get involved. You never know who you might meet, and how they might become part of your life and business down the line.


Teams + Forums Online

There are HEAPS of public forums out there online where you can ask questions and seek advice. The Etsy forums are one example of this.

These can be great places to find info and see what has worked for other crafters.

However, there are a few downsides of public teams and forums. The main one is that anyone (including your customers!) can see what you’ve written. So, if you’ve ever got any sensitive customer support issues, my advice is NEVER post them in these places. Same goes for any potentially sensitive business information, and rants. Let’s be honest – we all have problems and we all like a good rant now and again, but the best place for this sort of thing is in private, with people who understand we’re just blowing off steam because we’re frustrated. Don’t let a moment of frustration snowball into something that ruins your reputation (it happens).

You also don’t necessarily know the people who you interact with in these places, so you’ve got to be careful… because while I like to believe most people are inherently helpful and honest, some folks really aren’t going to tell you things that are in your best interest. There is also a LOT of envy, negativity, and snark in these places, unfortunately. None of which I have any time for, or any wish to expose myself to.

For these reasons, I don’t really hang out in public forums any more. I did when I started out, because I didn’t know better – but after getting burned a few times, I learnt my lesson.

Go there to read what others have written – you can learn a lot – but be wary about what you share.



I’m sure that during your journey, you have read a LOT of blogs (like this one, of course) that give advice on all things handmade business.

Blogs are invaluable. They are the hive-mind of humanity. They are where we share the lessons we’ve learnt, the pieces of wisdom we most want to share, the things that have worked and the things that haven’t.

I really don’t know how people coped before the internet! It must have been so much harder to learn about business – and, of course, much harder to grow a business without the worldwide platform for selling and marketing that the internet has gifted us.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to make a list of your favourite crafty biz blogs to refer to. Subscribe to their emails, follow them on feedly or flipboard – however you do it, craft yourself a treasure trove of knowledge (and don’t forget to plunder the archives of these blogs, either!).

Just remember, before you enact advice you’ve read on a blog, to consider the author of the piece. Who are they, what have they done, what are they doing, how have they come across this knowledge, and how applicable is it to you in your particular business and situation? All advice does not work for everyone – so it’s important to be discerning in what you absorb and enact, and what you let pass by. You could spend your whole life reading blogs and never actually DO anything.

Make sure that the doing gets done, and you don’t end up paralysed because you’re waiting for that perfect piece of advice before you start.

Don’t blog-crastinate!



Sometimes, you just get to the point where you can’t do it all yourself, and you’ve grown beyond the point where occasional help from your friends and family bridges the gap.

When that happens, you have two options. One – you pull back, re-asses, and cut down your workload. Two – you embrace the growth… and hire someone to help you.

There are lots of ways you can bring someone else on board your crafty biz ship. The best thing to do is to start by being honest with yourself. Which tasks do you know are vital to your business… but that you really don’t enjoy doing? Do you drag your feet when it comes to bookeeping? Do you think you might stab yourself in the eye with ribbon if you have to tie one more bow on a parcel? Do you REALLY just want someone to help you with your marketing?

Whatever those tasks are, they are the ones to start delegating to someone else.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. One – I can’t afford it. Two – they’ll never do it as well as I can!

Why hello there, fellow perfectionist. I feel your pain. But I have also pushed through it, and you know what? Some of the tasks I have let go of, well… that other person has ended up doing a WAY better job than I ever did, because they were either just more skilled, or they weren’t doing it begrudgingly.

Nick does an AWESOME job of packing up our jewellery orders. Seriously, that man knows how to tie a mean bow. Megan E – who has moved on to bigger and better things, but was my right-hand lady online for 4 years – was brilliant at reaching out and connecting with new people to interview on the blog. Of course, they both also have eleventy-billion other superpowers, but I hope you get the idea.

And, on the cost? Well, start small. Choose one, defined task, and hire someone to do it. See how it goes. Go from there.

But don’t let fear of expense or your perfectionism hold you back if growth is your goal. You will never be able to grow past a certain point if you insist on going it alone. On the flipside? If you WANT to keep it a one-person business, you’ll need to plan for that, and ensure you don’t take on more work that you can handle.


Mentors (& Coaches)

Mentors are absolute gold – but they’re also hard to find. A mentorship is usually a one-on-one relationship that is mostly one-way (at least when it comes to the sharing of knowledge and experience), and exists without any financial transaction. For this reason, most successful people have very little time for mentoring, and when they do mentor, they take it seriously, because they value their time immensely.

The best way to gain a mentor is to gain a friend, first. I often get emails from people asking me loads of questions, which I encourage. I might not be able to answer them all in detail, but I do like hearing what you’re doing, and what you’re struggling with.

I also get emails from strangers flat-out asking me to mentor them. My response is always (and will always be) no.

If I don’t know you, why would I choose to mentor you? Mentorship is built on trust. If I choose someone to mentor, it’s going to be because we’ve already built a relationship, and I already trust and admire them and their work ethic. We all have limited time, and so that time is best invested in someone who has already shown me that they are going to take what I teach them and action it.

If you know of someone who you would LOVE to have as a mentor, the best thing you can possibly do is help them first. Reach out, be friendly, help them in any way you think you can. Without expectations. Start with giving. Show them you are serious about your business, that you are honest and trustworthy, and that you care about them as a human being first. If you’re lucky, they’ll end up reaching out to you, and offering you help and advice. And so a mentorship is born.

If there’s not someone in your life whom you think could become a mentor, then a coach or advisor is a really awesome person to have in your corner. But they are going to cost you. A good coach won’t come cheap, and I know that most of you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on having someone guiding you. At least, you don’t yet…

I’ll be honest – I don’t have a coach or advisor. I’ve never had one. I see the value, and it’s in my plan to work with someone one day… but so long as I’m still kicking goals and happy with the direction my business is going, I’m going to wait on taking that step. I’ve always been extremely independent and self-motivated, so I don’t struggle as much as some people when it comes to getting stuff done. Some people, however, REALLY benefit from having that person to hold them accountable and guide them on their journey. If you’re one of those people, then a coach or advisor might be something to plan for.


Online Communities

Finally, we come to online communities. By an online community, I mean a (usually) paid membership that gives you access to a private community of like-minded people.

There are quite a few online communities for makers out there (I’m launching one myself next Monday) – all of which have their own benefits. The beauty of this sort of community is that it is full of people who are on the same journey as you – facing the same struggles and asking the same questions.

It’s also (well, it SHOULD be) a private, safe space to ask for help with sensitive issues (like difficulties with a customer). Most of these communities have other benefits, too, like ebooks or courses, workshops, group calls, etc. So, you both give and receive help and support from fellow makers, AND get guidance from someone who knows their stuff.

Again, just like blogs, before you join a community like this, get to know the person behind it – do they walk the talk? Do they really know what they’re talking about? Are they a good teacher? Do you resonate with their teaching style and personality? Who are the other people in their community? Have they already helped you via the free info they’ve put out into the world? Do you trust them?

Also consider what you are getting for your money. Can you afford it? Are you getting value for what you pay? Can you join or leave at any time, or are you locked in by having to pay a big up-front fee? What happens if the community isn’t a good fit for you?

Online communities can be a huge help on your journey. I know that many of my students from Set Up Shop have told me that having a private forum with fellow students has been immeasurably valuable to them, because there was just nowhere else they could turn to connect with so many people who understood them. Definitely consider this as one option – and as an investment in your business (membership should be tax-deductible, after all!) – if you find a community that you connect with.


I’d love to hear your thoughts, Thriver. Where do you turn when you need help with your handmade business?


If joining a private, positive online community full of like-minded and motivated makers appeals to you, I’m launching the Thriver Circle next Monday! For just $10 a month for the first 3 months you’ll become part of a vibrant community as well as receive exclusive monthly workshops and calls with me.

If you want guidance and support to help your business thrive, check out all the details here. Membership is only open 4 times a year, so don’t miss the 48-hour registration window if you want to become one of our Foundation Members.

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