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[109] The Digital Tools I Use to Run my Businesses – 2017 Edition

 

Do you ever wonder what digital tools and software other people use to run their businesses?

I do – and I get asked about various and sundry software solutions a lot, too. So, this week, I decided to do a big round-up of all the digital tools & software I use to run my own handmade business – and Create & Thrive, as well.

I discuss what I use and why in detail in this episode – covering social media tools, website design, shopping carts, time management, photo editing and graphic design, file storage, audio & video recording and editing, outsourcing, book-keeping… and more!

Take a peek behind the scenes of my businesses, and see how I keep everything running (mostly) smoothly!

P.S. While finishing these shownotes, I realised I left one or two things out of the ep. I’m sure more will come to mind, so I’ll update the links below if that happens!

 


 

Quotes and Highlights from this Episode:

 

FYI if I have (R) next to a link, this means it is a referral or affiliate link. This means that if you click that link and sign up to the service, I get some form of reward. If you’d prefer to avoid that, just google it.) I am only listing and recommending tools and software that I use myself and would recommend to others wholeheartedly.

 

Digital Tools/Software I use to run all my online businesses:

  • My main social media are Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. I used to love and use Twitter a lot (not so active on there now) and I have a Google Plus account. I’m also starting to use YouTube more.
  • Handmade sales venues: Etsy (R) (I’ve also sold on Hatch.co, Dawanda, madeit).
  • My own websites are created with WordPress self-hosted, and I’m currently transitioning to Divi Theme (and lots of plugins – I’ve used a free theme called Pinboard previously on some sites).
  • My web host is Dreamhost (R). I’ve been with them for over 10 years and have always been happy with their service.
  • My current shopping cart on my e-commerce website is Ecwid, but I’m moving to WooCommerce.
  • I use E-junkie & Paypal to sell my C&T courses, ebooks etc.
  • I use Trello to keep track of my work and life, and I also use the Cal app on my android phone as my appointment-keeper (as well as some paper in my office – a whole-year wall planner and a weekly desk planner).
  • I use focusbooster on my computer when I really need to get stuff done – it’s a pomodoro-style app. I schedule work periods of 45 min and rest periods of 15 min each hour.
  • I use Canva for all my graphic design.
  • I use Picasa (now transitioned to Google Photos) for most of my product image editing.
  • I use GIMP for any image editing I can’t do with Picasa or Canva (it’s sorta like a free version of Photoshop – and it’s open-source).
  • I use Snapseed on my phone to edit photos on the fly – especially for Instagram.
  • Insta Downloader is the app I use to repost another person’s Instagram post. It has awful ads, but it works!
  • I use Grum on my desktop to schedule up my Instagram posts once a week.
  • I use Dropbox to store all my business photos and documents so I can access them from any of my devices.
  • I use Google Docs for some of my business docs, too.
  • I currently use Xero accounting software for my book-keeping.
  • I forgot to mention my mailing list software! I use Mailchimp.

 

For Create & Thrive Specifically:

 

Download or Listen to this Episode

 

 

You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher

[102] How to Choose the Right Ideas to Action with Kez Tutton

 

As a creative person your mind is probably buzzing with ideas day in and day out. It can sometimes feel like your head might explode, and these ideas can keep you awake, obsess you when you’re trying to do something else, and generally leave you feel frazzled and frustrated because you don’t know which ones to run with.

So… how do you work out which ideas to grab hold of and which ones to let go.

In this episode I chat with Kez from The Handmade Biz Planner about this very topic. Kez ran her own handmade business for 5 years, and she’s also spent many years in the corporate world, learning about business and systems.

Kez creates online resources that help add value to your creative business through forms and processes that can help you beat that feeling of overwhelm.

The idea behind her business is ‘careful, gentle planning’.

So, let’s learn a bit more about her, and about what she calls the ‘Ultimate Brainstorm Process’!

 

Quotes and Highlights from this Episode:

  • Kez put together all her skill sets to create her business The Handmade Biz Planner.
  • Firstly there is the Creation phase.
  • Write everything down, every little (or big!) idea to help keep your mind clear.
  • Keep a notepad beside your bed to collect ideas as they pop up.
  • So, how do you decide which crazy ideas to follow? Enter the Prioritise phase.
  • Make sure you have a criteria to check the ideas off against.
  • Does the idea fit with your core values? Does the idea suit your ideal customer? Does it fit within your business goals?
  • Then comes the Planning phase.
  • You need to put these ideas into a plan.
  • Create a road map of what you want to do and where you want it to take you.
  • Then you need to work out the action steps.
  • Do it now, do it later or don’t do it at all.
  • Don’t become trapped by the processes, make it work for you.
  • ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the result of other peoples thinking and don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become.’ {Steve Jobs}

 

 

Download or Listen to This Episode

 

You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher)

[59] 10 Tips for Established Handmade Sellers {Part 1}

Ep 59 - Create & Thrive Podcast

 

This episode (and next week’s!) are aimed at handmade business owners who’ve been around for a while – because once business is growing, you’ll start coming up against a whole new set of challenges.

If you’re still new to handmade business, don’t skip these eps, though! While the tips might not yet be relevant to you, they might help you avoid some common pitfalls in the future, and set you up with good habits that will stand you in good stead as your business grows.

This ep got long – so I split it into two parts! Tips 1-5 this week, and tips 6-10 next week.

If you have any tips for fellow established sellers, share them with us in the comments below!

 

 

Ep 59 quote - Jess

 

Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • I often focus on people transitioning from hobby to business – this episode is for those who have been running their businesses for a while.
  • 1. Streamline your order processing.
  • This will save you time and stress, as if you have a rock-solid system in place, you won’t make mistakes (like sending the wrong order to the wrong person!).
  • I share our system in this post.
  • 2. Reduce & simplify your inventory.
  • When you’ve been in business a while, you often have ‘old’ products that might not fit with the direction your business has taken.
  • It’s scary to let go, but it can be a huge weight off, and can actually result in MORE sales as your shop is more cohesive, professional, and easier to navigate for your customers.
  • 3. Get strategic with social media.
  • It’s time to stop wasting time and faffing about on social media.
  • Pick 2 to focus on, and do them really, really well!
  • 4. Hire help!
  • You will eventually hit the upper limit of what you can do on your own.
  • If you want to grow, you need to get help – either in your business, or in other parts of your life, so you have the time to focus on growth.
  • 5. Schedule breaks.
  • This is crucial to avoid burnout and maintain your passion and enthusiasm.
  • Work breaks into every day, or focus on having a chunk of time off each week, with longer breaks when you can.
  • Stay tuned next week for the second 5 tips!
  • P.S. I introduce something pretty epic I’m working on for you at the end of this episode…

 

Download or Listen to This Episode

(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)

[54] 5 Ways to Increase Your Profits

Ep 54 - Create & Thrive Podcast

You could be eating away at your profits without even realising it. However, there are lots of ways you can make little tweaks to your handmade business in order to increase your profit margin.

I ran a week-long free course a few years back on this topic, and I thought it was time to bring these ideas to you in the podcast.

By following these five steps you will be able to cut out wasted time, reduce your expenses, and therefore increase your profit margin.

For more detail on each point, the links to the course lessons are in the show notes below.

If you have any other ideas for ways that we as makers can cut expenses and increase our profit margins – while still maintaining the integrity of our business – please share them below!

 

Ep 54 quote - Jess

 

Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • 1. Streamline and organise
  • Disorganisation will eat into your profits.
  • Decrease the time spent to make the same amount of money by being streamlined in your work practices.
  • This includes organisation of your digital life.
  • Work out what you can do today to become more streamlined and organised.
  • Pinterest is a great resource for finding ideas to create a more organised space.
  • 2. Plan your packaging.
  • ‘Packaging can put a huge dent into your profits.’ {Jess}
  • You need to make sure you account for your packaging costs in the cost of your postage or the item itself.
  • Make sure you always have what you need on hand and try and buy in bulk.
  • Don’t forget to add in the time it takes to package the item.
  • 3. Do your calculations and price your work properly.
  • ‘You don’t want to be leaving money on the table.’ {Jess}
  • It is important to get realistic about how much it is costing you to make your products.
  • You need to cover the time you spend marketing and planning not just making.
  • 4. Can you make it reproducible?
  • This is especially important when selling work online.
  • Can you recreate your item?
  • If you can it will increase your production capacity saving time on each item.
  • These items can then become your bread and butter range.
  • Make sure you keep detailed notes so you can easily reproduce work.
  • Think about minimising materials used across your product range.
  • 5. Buy in wholesale or buy in bulk.
  • This will usually involve planning ahead.
  • Do your research, are there things you can cut out?
  • ‘We always have to place our creative and business integrity above our profit margins.’ {Jess}
  • Only you can decide where you can reduce expenses and save money.

 

Download or Listen to This Episode

(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)

5 Ways to Ensure Clear Communication with your Customers

clear customer communication

Thinking of our art as a business can be a challenge for some of us.

While we may be experts in our craft, we are often still learning many of the aspects of running a business – especially customer service.

It is super important to protect ourselves and our businesses. We need to keep our reputation intact. We need to be organised enough to avoid mishaps. And we need to make sure us and our customer are 100% on the same page about their order.

It’s such a compliment when someone wants to buy our work or commission a custom order or supply their retail outlet, but we can’t let emotion lead us to making a poor business decision.

As creatives we often think with our hearts first – but it is important to remember these 5 steps in order to keep your business mind ticking away when it comes to customer communication.

 

1. Keep and Save

Emails, sales, conversations, whatever has transpired between you and a customer needs to be kept or taken note of. It becomes a resource for fact checking, confirming details or even just contact details. Keep everything on file for a certain amount of time to ensure you have all information available to you if needed.

Action tip:  Keep a general folder on your computer/in your email program for all customer communications and individual ones for each commission. That way any conversations will be easy to find.

 

2. Get it in Writing

So your customer wants you to make 100 of an item? Get them to email or write the figure down so that you have it on paper.

It is so easy to confuse quantities or dollar amounts. We all mumble sometimes or hear wrong. Be sure to avoid any misunderstandings.

Action tip: After you have had a phone or face to face discussion regarding an order, a commission or a sale, send them an email outlining the details. That way they can reply with a yay or a nay and you know you are on the same page.

 

3. Always Ask

If you are unsure, ask. No one will ever be annoyed that you want to confirm details. This is just you making sure you can deliver on exactly what is wanted.

Keep communication channels open at all times, build the relationship and enjoy the customer relationship.

Action tip: Keep your customer in the know at all times, that way if they have a question they can askwhenever required. Share photos of progress on social media (unless of course it is private), email photos to them, give them a call. This way there will never be any surprises.

 

4. Don’t Over-Commit

Work out realistic time frames, costs and materials. Over-committing will only cause stress and pressure to both us and ultimately customer. If you over promise you will never get anything done!

Action tip: Have a commissions schedule. Depending on what you make they can take hours, days or weeks so have some rules about how many you do a month, or even year. Customers won’t mind being on a waiting list if they are serious.

 

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5. Avoid Disputes

If you follow all of the above tips you shouldn’t end up in any disputes. If you do – fix it immediately.

You don’t want to have to leave a bad taste with anyone when it comes to your business. There will always be someone unhappy – we can’t go our whole lives avoiding conflict but a quick resolution is best. Prioritise sorting disputes. Letting them drag on is stressful. You want to be always moving forward in your creative business.

Action tip: If you get a complaint, first things first – stop and think. Don’t jump straight back into it without taking a moment to look at it from both points of view. Draft correspondence and check before sending. We all know that non verbal communication can often be taken in the wrong tone.