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C&T Q&A – How do you Track your Income and Expenditure? (+ Bonus FREE Spreadsheet Download)

Free Download - Income Expenditure CreateAndThrive

This week’s question is from Liya:

I wanted to ask you if you could e-mail me a copy of the spreadsheet that you keep for your income and expenditure, as I’m new to this, will be eternally grateful if you think it’s not too much to ask!!

Many thanks in advance for your help!!

Kind regards,
Liya

I’ve gotten a few requests like this, so I thought it might be a good idea to talk money here today. Specifically – how do you stay on top of your business income and expenditure so you don’t have a massive freak-out come tax time?

Okay, first of all? You should NOT be leaving this sort of stuff till tax time. If you’re serious about running a business, you NEED to know where your money is coming from – and where it’s going.

I know it’s a tedious task, and something we’d all rather avoid (and I’ll be completely honest here – I was SUPER-happy the day I handed this task off to Nick to take care of for me – he’s kept the books for at least 2 years now). However, I kept on top of it myself before that, and it was extremely worthwhile.

Money is Motivating

I don’t know about you… but I find keeping track of my biz money very, very motivating! I LOVE looking at my income at the end of each month, knowing that I made that money by sheer force of will – because every dollar I earn in my business I have WORKED for. Not like the old days where I got my salary in the bank every fortnight no matter how hard (or not) I worked at my job.

The more I earn, the brighter that happy glow of achievement burns. For me, that’s a super-motivating feeling!

I also need to know how much of that money we have actually kept – comparing the gross income each month to expenditure is the only way to know just how much money I have actually made.

Money In – Money Out = Money Kept

If you’re not tracking this on a regular basis, how on earth will you know how successful (or not) your business is?

Are you Running your Business into the Ground?

When we start off in this whole crazy caper, most of us are a little bit addicted to buying supplies. Come on, you’re among friends, you can admit it 😉

I dread to think how much money I spent at Spotlight in the bead section before I learned that there were better places to buy stuff from! If I go back and look at my income/expenditure for that very first year – when Epheriell was a hobby business that I ran in the down-time from my full-time job, I think I spent around $500 more than I earnt from it. At the time, I was pretty damn happy about that!

My only aim at this point was that the sales I made supported my ‘habit’. (Read, craft-supply-buying addiction…)

They did, and I was pleased… but I soon wanted MORE. And so the business turned from a hobby business into a ‘real’ business.

If I wasn’t tracking all of my expenses from the start, I wouldn’t know where I stood. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to grow my business, because I wouldn’t have had any idea how well I was doing.

Knowing where your money is going helps you to modify your business practices.

Maybe you need to cut back on buying supplies until you make a few more sales. Or maybe you’ve earnt more than you think, and you can re-invest that money into your business in the form of buying tools/materials or advertising!

It will also help you to avoid the pitfall of running your business into the ground by vastly over-estimating your income vs. your expenditure. There’s no way to really know where you stand unless you can see it in black and white.

An Example Spreadsheet (Free Download)

There are all sorts of fancy money-tracking programmes out there. To be frank – I’ve never used one because I don’t want to devote the time to learning, and the super-simple ones are always US based so don’t work with my Australian bank accounts (you know, those ‘automatically add paypal/bank income/expenses for you’ type programmes).

To this day, we just use a simple, straightforward spreadsheet to keep track of our business finances.

I thought I’d help you all out by creating a downloadable spreadsheet for you!

It includes an example page where I show you just how we use it, as well as all of the months of 2013, ready and waiting for you to just pop your numbers right in there.

Example Spreadsheet for Handmade Business from CreateAndThrive.com

Click here to download the spreadsheet

As you can see, it doesn’t have to be complicated!

The hard part is keeping up with it regularly.

Don’t leave filling this in until the end of each month, or it will be an onerous task that you dread. Break it up into tiny pieces – make it a habit!

My advice is to fill it in at the end of each day – or, failing that – weekly at the absolute least.

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Homework

  1.  Download the spreadsheet above
  2. Spend time today getting this month up to speed. As I publish this it’s the 8th of February – so you’ve only got 8 days to catch up on for this month. Start there!
  3. Share your thoughts in the comments – do you use a similar system? Something different? Do you have any questions about this spreadsheet, or tracking finances in general?

_______________________

Do you have a question for Jess? Just click the ‘Feedback’ tab on the left of screen and send it in!

How to Make Decisions in 1, 2, 3 (Easy) Steps

Pied-Piper-Necklace-Liana-Kabel-650x690

{image by Liana Kabel}

Being able to make decisions quickly and confidently is a real bonus in running a business. Actually I’d say it is an essential skill. It is one that you can learn and get better at.

I’ve been working on that one myself lately.

Transitioning back into full-time self-employment has honestly been making my head spin. There are just so many darn decisions to be made.

Although I have been operating my jewellery design business for 10 years, I’m at a point where I want to develop new areas and again derive a full-time income from it (my part-time job as a business coach ends this April).

Since I need to achieve so much within the next three months, there isn’t room to make too many less-than-great decisions. Generally I’m fine with making mistakes and learning from those, but I just haven’t got time for that now.

A few weeks back I felt so overwhelmed by it all I simply gave up and went to bed. At 3.30 in the afternoon! Maybe that was just what I needed, because the next day I woke up and thought, I need to get on with making some clear decisions – NOW. Once I’ve done that I can get moving and start making things happen.

So I devised 3 steps that would help me with that. I hope they help you too.

 

1.    Be clear about your goals and boundaries

This can take some time to work out, I won’t lie to you, but it is time well spent. In the long run you will save yourself time and a whole heap of anxiety and stress, as well as knowing that your decisions are in line with your beliefs and vision.

There are a few ways that I like to work out what my goals and boundaries are.

Brainstorming can be great. Just write down everything you want to achieve (and everything that you don’t want to do). If you find it difficult just to launch into list writing, instead take some quiet time first and visualize how you imagine your business. Then write down what came up for you in that. Vision boards are helpful too. Simply cut out images and words that appeal to you from magazines.

Don’t overthink it. Let your intuition guide you.

That brings us to the next step.

 

2. Trust your intuition.

Sometimes you can list all the reasons you should do something, but it just doesn’t feel right. Listen to that feeling, it knows you better that you do

 

3.  Be brave

You’ve made your decision – congratulations! Now you need to stick with it. This may mean saying no to someone, changing paths or asking for help. These are things that can be hard to do. So if you still aren’t sure at this point I’d say go back to steps one and two, for some reassurance and to know you are on the right path.

A few of my friends have said to me “you always get what you want”.

Now I don’t think that is completely true, but I do know that when I have made a really clear decision and then committed to it, it generally has happened.

A big part of getting what you want is knowing what you want, and that all starts with a decision being made.

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Liana Kabel -

With a Tupperware Lady for a Mother and a Jeweller Father, what else was I going to be but a jeweller obsessed with plastic.

As a self-employed arts practitioner and business coach, I’m keen to share these aspects of my knowledge to help build strong creative communities.

Liana Kabel

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Grow Your Business With Pinterest: (1) Get Your Images Right

Pinterest-Get Your Images Right

This is the first in a four-part guest post series by Caylie Price about how to use Pinterest to effectively market your business.

Are you still relaxing after the New Year or back into the full swing of things? Wondering how you will ever get it all done? Couldn’t take on another thing? If you are that’s brilliant. It says you’re producing fantastic work.

The crazy festive times are starting to settle. The pre- festive rush is past and you can catch up on some well-deserved rest. There’s nothing as wonderful as chilling out with family and friends in the New Year.

BUT…

Be very careful not to lose all the momentum you’ve worked so hard to create in your business. The last thing you want to hear is crickets as all goes quiet in your business.

Pinterest is perfect to keep the momentum without huge investments of time when you are flat out filling orders or recovering from the rush.

The beauty of Pinterest is its visual AND viral nature.

You can really showcase what your brand stands for and share your creations with audiences far and wide.

With Pinterest it’s super easy for potential customers to search for images by topic and find the original source (unlike Facebook).

To make the most of the opportunities Pinterest presents (with minimal effort) there are a few things you need to do:

  1.  Get your images right – probably not in the way you are thinking.

  2. Optimise your boards and descriptions – not nearly as scary as it sounds.

  3. Use the tools available to streamline your efforts – it makes good sense.

  4. Evaluate and refine – continual improvement garners the best outcomes.

Let’s start with images.

When preparing any image for pinning you want to make sure it tells your peeps a story and the action you want them to take. Is it a new product? A special? A giveaway?

Here is an example, using a competition I ran for Jess’ ebook How to Run a Rockin’ Mailing List a while back.

I could have just used and pinned this image:

Clock Tower

Yes, it’s a nice enough image but what is it telling us to do? What is the article it relates to all about?

Now have a look at this:

Clock Ticking

You can see the correlation between the clock tower and the story you’re telling. You could also include a copyright icon or web url.

To improve it further you could add “Click To Enter” or a similar call-to-action like this:

WIN - Rockin-Mailing-List-Cover

Now you might not be able to afford Photoshop to improve your images but don’t worry. (I don’t have Photoshop either).

Let me introduce you to PicMonkey!

Being creative peeps you might be using it already. If not, oh boy you will love it. I am completely addicted! PicMonkey is a FREE image editing and collage creating tool. It is very simple to use and offers a variety of design functions. {Jess’ note: I use Google Picassa for a lot of my image editing, which is also free and awesome. Also, if you want to get a bit more serious – try GIMP, it’s basically the free version of Photoshop.}

You can turn drab to fab!

Action: This week spend as little as fifteen minutes improving images in PicMonkey. Make sure you tell a story and include a call to action.

Once you’ve got your image, upload it to Pinterest as you normally would, add a description (including a link that you want your peeps to follow) and pin it.

Mission critical is the next step!

Now your image is uploaded, click on the image’s edit button. You will see a box like the following appear:

Edit Screen

See how the link box is empty. If someone clicked on your image currently they’d be shown a bigger version of the image. You want to direct them to a specific location instead. Maybe your mailing list opt in, your store, a new blog post, to enter a competition.

Wherever it is make sure to add the specific link in the box and save the pin. When someone clicks the image they will be taken directly to your chosen destination. This is what you want – after all, you are using Pinterest to drive momentum for your business.

Let’s recap!

  1. Pinterest is an awesome tool to maintain or build momentum for your business.

  2. Always make sure your image tells a story and includes a call to action. (PicMonkey rocks!)

  3. Edit the image once pinned and add a direct link that takes your peeps where you want them to go.

Easy isn’t it! You’ll love the results!

Action: When you’ve completed your first image in this manner leave a link in the comments so I can have a look.

Next week’s Grow Your Business With Pinterest post will focus on verifying your account and how to convert to the new business accounts.

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Caylie Headshot

Caylie Price is the founder of Better Business Better Life.

A social strategist, copywriter, SEO consultant and all round great chick, Caylie helps you blast your business to success so you can live the life you want.

Sign up now to be first to know when she releases her new Pinterest For Business ebook!

C&T Q&A – How do you Break Up your Day so Everything Gets Done?

floral clock wooden

{image by say hello shop}

This week’s question comes from Elisa Mardegan of Dazzling Dezignz.

Right now I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have a family so I only have about 6 hours a day that I can be really productive. With all that has to be done I don’t know where to start to get it all finished and I’m waiting for some new tools to arrive so I can learn a new style of jewelry. How do you break up your day into everything that needs to be done so it will actually get done?

Great question, Elisa, and a very thorny one, too!

Can I be honest? I STILL haven’t figured out the best way to do this! I think it’s an ongoing, organic process. However, I will share a few strategies that work for me (when I remember to use them…).

The 45/15 Rule

I won’t go into detail about this here, because I wrote a whole post on it. The gist is that you work in 1-hour chunks – 45 minutes of absolute focussed work followed by 15 minutes of play. This is really useful when you have a lot of work to get done, and you have trouble focussing for a long time (which seems to be all of us in this world of social media distraction).

I use this when I’ve got a deadline or just want to be really productive. I can focus on my work for 45 minutes with the knowledge that I’ll get to check FB, twitter, and email in the 15. The trick is to use a timer that dings at you so you don’t lose track of time. More on that in this post.

Chunking

Chunking is what I call the practice of doing one particular task in a big chunk of time. I tend to be a ‘day chunker’ – that is, I break up my week into days that focus on different things. One day is a making day, another day is an admin day, another day might be a planning day… This helps me focus on one thing, rather than flitting too much and splitting my concentration.

You can also apply this in smaller bursts – such as devoting 2 hours to making, 2 hours to admin and 2 hours to planning in one day (if you only have 6 hours to work). Another day you might change the ratio depending on what work is pressing.

Prioritising with a Week-to-a-Page-Diary

It is SO easy to get distracted and just attend to things as they come up – crisis-management, if you will. This is the perfect way to get yourself stressed, flustered, and left with that nagging feeling of ‘what did I actually achieve today??’ Not a fun feeling.

Prioritising tasks or types of activity can help to overcome this. I love to use the Rocks/Pebbles/Sand method that I read about in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when I was a teenager. (If you’ve never read it, do – it is full of fabulous wisdom). Imagine a big jar – you have rocks, pebbles and sand to put into it. What order do you do that in?

Basically, you look at your week as a whole – maybe on Sunday night, maybe on Monday morning. Assess the tasks you have to get done that week. What are the really vital, key tasks? They are your ‘rocks’. You schedule them into your week. Next come the less urgent by still important tasks – they are your ‘pebbles’. Finally, all the other little niggly tasks are your sand – they get scheduled into the cracks.

This combines really well with the Urgent/Important matrix from the same book:

ui-matrix

{image from here}

This is a really helpful way to prioritise the oodles of tasks you have to do.

It helps you to realise that there are a LOT of things in your business that are urgent but not important… and concurrently, a LOT of things that are important, but not urgent. These are often the things that get forgotten in the blur of keeping up – things like business planning, long-term goal setting, PR etc.

I hope those strategies help you, Elisa!

I’ve given you all some homework to do – take a few minutes to consider and answer the questions in the comments below. Don’t just read this and click away – devote 5-10 minutes of thought – RIGHT NOW – to your business time management strategies.

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Homework

Reply to the following questions in the comments:

  1. How effective is my current time management routine? 
  2. What aspects of my business have I been neglecting due to poor time management?
  3. Which of the above strategies will I find most useful? Can I commit to trying it for 1 week?

_______________________

Do you have a question for Jess? Just click the ‘Feedback’ tab on the left of screen and send it in!

10 Tasks to Do in the Quiet Months: learn to use the times of slow sales to your advantage

don't panic and carry a towel - hitchikers guide to the galaxy eye chart

{image by the Pressing Pigeon}

This post is written by Katia Donohoe.

Didn’t have sales for a few weeks and wonder what’s happening? Are you asking yourself if it’s happening to your shop only or is it like this for other shops too?

Most likely it is. There are at least two months a year when the sales drop. Depending on what you sell, it can be January – February or June – July.

So what do you do?

Do you try to buy tons of advertising, discount your creations or get out there Facebooking and Tweeting like mad?

Definitely not!

All those things need to be consistent and time appropriate. It’s not going to make you look professional by overwhelming your reader/followers with tons of updates in their newsfeed and you don’t want to look desperate by selling your creations at a super low prices.

The fact is, it can be quiet for so many reasons – holidays so everyone is away, tax time and, if you are selling overseas, it can be weather, different public holidays and festivities.

After a 3 years in business, I did calm down a little.

I used to think that every sale was my last, got nervous and anxious when there were no sales for a week/two/three, started questioning why am I doing this, stare at the screen, go in circles checking my Facebook page, Twitter, mailbox every 2 minutes…

Sounds familiar? Then read on…

After a while, you will discover that there is no such thing as a quiet month in handmade business.

There might be no sales but you need to learn to think long term. There is always so much to do and there are always areas that you overlook while busy.

Remember, all business owners are going through the same, just at a different time of the year.

Here are a few areas that you might want to have a look at while there are no email popping up in your mailbox:

  1. Check you listing descriptions for mistakes, and maybe add more information about the item and the creative process behind it.

  2. Make sure you use all the tags in your Etsy shop.

  3. Take fresh pictures. After looking at some of my product pictures a few weeks later, I often find that the light wasn’t good enough on that day or I forgot to upload all 5 pictures in the listing…

  4. Pre-make packaging. It is always great to have all envelopes stamped with return address and have all the promotional information that is included with an item in one place, ready for the busy times.

  5. Look at your stock: what is underrepresented? My goal is to have 5 of each creation in the shop in different designs/colours (note: I sell only items in stock, no custom orders) If you take custom orders, then check if you have enough materials for all the items. You might have run out of certain supplies but forgot to take the listing down.

  6. Make new stock! There is no better time then now to create new things. Put them aside and release the slowly when there is just not enough time in the day to make anything.

  7. Tidy up the paperwork. All of us guilty of putting paperwork in a pile and moving it somewhere where nobody can see it. Go, take it out and at least sort it by month and file it.

  8. Research new supplies. Shopping for new fabric/beads/buttons is always fun! If you are not yet ready to buy, at least you will know where to find it.

  9. Research new ways to promote your business, and evaluate your promotional efforts up to date. Can a lack of advertising or marketing be the contributing factor to the slow sales?

  10. Visit those blogs that you love and leave comments.

In conclusion, don’t fixate on slow sales. Instead, use this time to concentrate on the other areas of your business that need attention.

{image by Katia}

Remember that you are in this for a long term and building a successful business takes time and determination.

If you have all those things mentioned above in place and keep adding a new stock to the shop, sales will come in and you will pat yourself on the back for using the slow months to your advantage!

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katia

Katia Donohoe is designer and maker behind Plushka’s Craft brand.  Being of Russian heritage she treasures handmade crafts and love spending time creating things by hand.

She cannot live without hand-stitching, hot chocolate and Mr. Plushkin, bright tights and suede shoes.

She blogs at Plushka’s Craft where she writes about Plushka’s handmade creations, inspirations as well as her main craft passions – cross-stitch and crochet.

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