Do you ever feel like you’re always on our phone throughout the day? I sure think so. Like many of you reading this is, I’m usually not doing anything but business-related! Especially those who own their own business, you don’t have time to think about much else during the day. Here are 5 apps that I use on a daily basis that seriously changed the way I run my business for the better. 1. Instagram. Let’s start with the obvious one. Insta! I’m always on and off this app throughout the day... (probably more often than we all should be, am I right?!). I use this social media channel most often for business. I schedule my posts and use hashtags strategically. If you’re a business, I encourage you to switch your business handle profile from a personal account to a business account. When using your new business account, you’ll have access to insights not available for personal accounts. This way you’ll know your audience even better than you do now: their age, location, gender, and even what time they’re online a/k/a when the best time for you to post. The key to instagram for business is photo quality, which leads me to my next app below.2. Snapseed. I love this photo-editing app. It’s by Google and it’s like a mini Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. It takes a little while to get the hang of if you’re not familiar with the Adobe photo editing systems, but to me it’s been the best photo editor. You can concentrate on a particular area to brighten, erase a part of a photo (i.e- an addresses on an envelope you don’t want to share), and even use portrait modes to highlight faces. I have heard of bloggers using other apps, such as Color Theory, VSCO, and After Light, which gives a predetermined filter of your choice to use so your photos and in turn your feed looks consistent every time; however, in my industry I’m constantly getting photos from professional wedding photographers who do not like it when their photos are edited for social media, so I only edit photos of my own. 3. Google Sheets. I feel like I was late in the game with Google Sheets. It took my younger team members to really educate me on what Google Sheets is, but oh my goodness I’m glad I know! Now I don’t know what I would do without. Google Sheets is similar to Microsoft Excel and lets you update the spreadsheet in real time and other members of your team can also view the same spreadsheet without having to email back and forth. We use our client list in Google Sheets, so we all know the status of each and every client. I can also view the spreadsheet anytime, anywhere via the app so if I need to open or edit a spreadsheet, I don’t have to wait until I get back to my studio… I have it on my phone! This is the same for Google Docs (similar to Microsoft Word) and Google Slides (similar to Microsoft PowerPoint). 4. Notes. This app is automatically downloaded on your iPhones and Mac computers. I’m always writing in my notes app. I have my hashtags I copy/paste to instagram when I post, my to-do lists for business and personal life, random thoughts I have for media, bible verses I want to remember, etc. I use this app every day and have so many notes. I encourage you to take advantage of this one!5. Calendar. If you’ve read our previous business and marketing posts, then you know how much I love our calendars. I check it every morning and every evening so I know my upcoming schedule. I schedule meetings, personal appointments, workout times, and client deadlines. Everything is color-coded so I know my schedule at a glance. I personally use iCal, which is automatically on your iPhones and Mac computers, but Google calendar is also a great choice I’ve heard and it also has the color-coded feature. These calendars are also free. Who doesn’t love free?!Bonus: Later or Planoly. I wanted to give you these bonus apps I recommend for social media. These scheduling apps are the best, yall! Do you find yourself saying "hang on, I have to post" way too often? That was me! Anywhere I was, I would pause my life to post when I thought the time was right according to my Instagram Insights. No more! It takes the pressure of figuring out a photo and caption to post every day when the time comes. I schedule all my posts about a month out. At the beginning of each month, I lay on my couch in the most comfortable of clothes, turn on Friends or a favorite show, and take a couple of hours scheduling out which photos to post, when to post them, and what to write for each caption. These apps let you preview your scheduled posts so you can easily drag/drop the order of photos to see what looks best for your feed. In both Later and Planoly, you can plan out majority of social media apps: Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. I primarily use it for Instagram, but encourage you to explore the other options, too to see what works best for you and your schedule.
Talking with fellow women in business, one of the top topics of conversation is how to stay productive with a crazy schedule. We're doing all the things!! It seems like there is so much going on in our lives and sometimes it's hard to stay on course. So here are my top 5 tips to stay productive for your weeks ahead.
. I don’t know what I would do without my digital calendar. I love all the colors and every time I look at it I just feel more organized. Google Calendar, Apple iCal, Outlook Calendars… they all have color coding options for events. I have different colors for each category in my life: Client Deadlines, Client Event/Wedding Days, Work Events, Personal Events, and Scheduled Tasks. I can simply view my calendar colors and know exactly what’s going on this month.
I also have a physical calendar and planner. My current one is from May Designs. I love it because it lets me look at the month as a whole and also weekly. Each week is scheduled according to our daily tasks. You will see we have a client design and production schedule for each client, which I pencil in each day. (I use pencil since this does tend to change from time to time.) Every time I accomplish something, I loooove to cross it off.
2. To-do Lists.
My physical calendar and planner also acts as my to-do list. I’m obsessed with to-do lists. As shared above, you can see each client is assigned certain days for design and production. This helps me know what days I’m working on what and exactly what I need to focus on that day. The weekly pages are also part of my to-do list but a little bit more specific. They tell me my daily to-do’s other than client work. At the end of each day after I cross off my accomplishments, I review what’s coming up the next day as a way to prepare. Can’t get more productive than that!
3. Turn off notifications.
Yaaas. This changed my life. Now I can’t
any kind of notification. Even text messages. Your turn: Turn off notifications from your email and social media accounts on your phone. You have to now open the app to see your email messages, who liked your photo, who commented on your snap story, etc. This eliminates the distraction of our crazy over-stimulated life and allows you to concentrate on the task at hand to lead you to be much more productive.
Having a morning and evening routine is important to me. I’ve always loved a good routine for as long as I can remember. Routines can be as little as making your bed every morning to strategically planning your days each week. If you’ve read our post from last week, you know allll about how I plan my weeks and why. (Read more about this in our previous post
.) Routines make daily tasks much more efficient and you’re way more productive than when you’re relying on brain power or motivation. Examples include waking up early, exercise, eating healthy, checking your to-do lists, etc. and then in turn, you are more mentally organized and you free up room in your day for more planning ahead.
5. Plan ahead.
Planning is the key to being successful in organization. I like to be able to look at the weeks ahead and see when I will be the busiest and when I will be able to take a little break. This helps me determine if I have time to take on any other projects, if I need to kindly decline proposals, and when I can take a vacation! I like to plan ahead on a smaller scale, too. I always look at my schedule for the next day before I close up shop at the end of the day to see what’s on deck for the next day. This lets me plan accordingly for the next day, even if it’s just mentally preparing.
After I graduated college, my first job was a legal assistant/receptionist at a Dallas law firm, specializing in small business. As the firm grew in size, so did my role and responsibilities. Eventually becoming senior legal assistant, I oversaw all paralegal and legal assistant work, deadlines, and drafts. I felt like I was an attorney (without the ethical responsibility riding in my shoulders) with the workload, drafting, courthouse filing, and stress. Ahh! Eventually I moved on, but not before learning a heck of a lot about the legality of small businesses. So I wanted to share the top 3 things I learned and observed all my years in the legal world and with my own small business.1. Incorporate. Make yourself legit! File your company with the state to make your company a legal entity, such as an LLC. When I worked at the law firm, this is the first thing I would get assigned to do for our small business clients. Each time I would fill-out a Certificate of Formation (Form 205), complete a $300 check for the filing fee, and mail it to the Texas Secretary of State to be filed. The state will file it and return it to you with a pretty file marked stamp. Violia, you’re official!So why incorporate? Simple answer: protection. Forming this entity protects you personally. For example... Let’s say that you’re a wedding photographer and you’re shooting engagement photos and you tell the bride and groom to stand on a cute dock overlooking a lake. While they’re posing, that dock has a loose plank and breaks (heaven forbid), and the bride breaks her leg. She then tries to sue you since you told her to stand on that dock. Scary, right? If you’re incorporated, no need to over-worry since you essentially have a protective barrier around you. The bride can sue but since you’re incorporated, she can't get her hands on your personal assets; your house, your bank accounts, your cars, etc. are all safe. Chances are this type of thing will never happen, but it’s nice to know you’re protected. And let’s be honest... some people are just crazy.A few things to note about incorporating to an LLC:
It’s $300 to file the Certificate of Formation. That’s it! (It may be different in different states, but in Texas, it’s just this flat rate to file.)
You need to keep your personal finances completely separate from your business finances. No sharing business bank accounts and credit cards with your personal accounts.
You're required to file Franchise Tax Report annually every May. This is actually simple to do and you can file it online when it's due.
Our law firm incorporated companies into LLCs 90% of the time and my own company is an LLC, so this what I’m most knowledgeable on. If you’re operating as a corporation (S-Corp or C-Corp), there’s a whole lot more that goes into a corporation than an LLC. I'm not as knowledgeable on the subject of corporations, but stay tuned for an interview with a professional coming soon!2. Record Keeping. Get a bookkeeping system. It will seriously change the way you view your company financially. My bookkeeping system started in Excel, but I quickly realized I needed more. I personally use Quickbooks Online, and I also hear FreshBooks is also a good system. It’s about $20/mo and keeps track of everything for you (expenses, invoicing, balance sheets, income statements, etc.) so you can worry about more important things with your business. It also makes tax time so much easier. I repeat: IT MAKES TAXES SO MUCH EASIER. You can see your P&L (profit and loss statement) with a click of a button. This is used by you or your accountant at tax time, and also should be viewed by you often to get a good feel where your company stands financially. Here’s a copy of our P&L for last year (redacted in all the right places of course), but I want to show you the basic layout of a typical income statement.All my business bank accounts are linked to QBO so every transaction is automatically recorded. Every other Friday, I log into my QBO account and categorize each expense: COGS (cost of goods sold), shipping expense, automotive expense, contractor expense, and so on. Then at the end of each month, I reconcile these accounts.I’m no where near a professional accountant or CPA, but I was actually an accounting tutor in college so I'm comfortable with balance sheets, profit and loss, reconciling, etc. BUT I also use an outside bookkeeping service, Steadfast Bookkeeping. They pretty much take over my reconciling, confirm I’m categorizing my expenses correctly, and they're always there if I have any questions. They have options and pricing for all levels, depending how much you'd like them to handle. I started doing everything myself, but quickly realized my time was better spent on other things in the business, so I'm glad I have help with my record keeping.3. Contracts. Have a signed contract with every client, even small jobs. Everything should be in writing. Like an LLC, this protects you and your business. Having a contract also confirms to your clients and potential clients that you are a professional business and should be treated like one!Since I wrote and edited my fair share of legal contacts in my past life, I drafted ours myself, but there are some great resources out there for templates. I hear great things about The Contract Shop by Christina Scalera. She has a template for pretty much every creative profession to download.My contract started as just a single page, and included the simple outlines of the job and payment schedule. Now it’s over four pages and I’m always adding to it. Even the smallest of issues, such as the way we ship items and usual timeframe of our production schedule is included. It's better to include in your contract than not add and regret it later!If you have any questions, I advise you to contact an attorney. Again, I’m not an attorney and don’t have my law degree. There are some small business attorneys more than willing to stand by your side. I hope this helps you with your own small business!
For years I thought I was organized. I have always been Type A - super organized, clean freak, and list maker. Even as young as elementary school, I would clean my room every night before bed without being told and make a list of what outfit I would wear on each day of the week. Yup… that was me. So when I transitioned from student to employee to business owner, I still had the same method of organization and I thought I would have it all under control. HA! Joke was on me. Organization is a whole new breed when you own a business. You do it all: Bookkeeping, marketing, accounting, business development, emails, and even janitorial...just to name a few. I wore so. many. hats. and had so many balls in the air, I would look at my never-ending to-do list and almost get a panic attack (and I don’t use the term panic attack lightly). It took me years after starting my business to learn a new way of organization. Now I not only schedule my time weekly but also daily and even hourly. It may seem like a lot of structure at first, but trust me, it makes #girlboss life SO much more manageable. So I want to share with you my schedule and how exactly I organize my time to hopefully inspire and help you! In a nutshell, Mondays and Wednesdays are design days, Tuesdays and Thursdays are production days, and Fridays are administrative days.MONDAYS. I start my Mondays with checking emails. I usually have a lot of emails to check on Monday mornings since I don’t work weekends unless I absolutely have to (more on work/life balance in an upcoming post). This takes a few hours to do, so I’m usually done by late morning. Our Client Care Manager, Sarah, and I then have a scheduled bi-weekly call to touch base. We don’t live in the same city, so this call is a crucial part of my schedule and therefore has a high priority. It’s now design time. At this point, I do not check emails and I turn off my email notifications. I know some of you are thinking “How in the world can you turn off your notifications?! There is no way I could do that.” I promise you can. There is nothing business-wise that can’t wait to be answered in a few hours.Turning off these notifications lets what is in front of me take priority. In this case, it is the design of a wedding invitation suite. After I break for lunch, I head back to checking emails. Sometimes I eat at my desk while checking emails if I’m busy. (Let’s be real… this is real life!) This doesn’t take as long as in the morning, so within about half an hour I turn off notifications and get back to designing. I then design until just before the end-of-business day. Then I check emails for one last time for the day. My office hours end at 5pm, so I want to get all those emails answered before the day is done. If we’re busy and I still need more design time, I will get back to design until it’s time for dinner. TUESDAYS First thing every day is check emails. Then I move from my office to our production room, which is filled with client orders - from envelopes to paper to printed designs. Emily, our production assistant, helps us keep on top of things by making sure both the printer and the manufacturers have sent us the correct quantity of supplies for each order. She also does a quality control check on printed materials, and she assists with lining envelopes, packaging orders, ribbon cutting, assembly, mailing, etc. This helps tremendously so that when I walk into the production room, I know exactly what needs my attention that day. This day is usually spent on whatever is needed according to our wedding schedule. We triage our time based on our deadline calendar. Sometimes it’s going back and forth to my printer for orders; other times it’s lining envelopes or deckling edges; or sometimes it’s packaging, mailing, and shipping. I check my email again around lunch time and then again just before the end of the day. Otherwise, I’m out and about or in our production room - not at my desk.WEDNESDAYS. Similar to Monday, but not as many emails to check in the morning. Phew! After email is checked, I start designing. Then I check my email at lunch and before the end of the day. In between emails is design, design design... nothing but design. THURSDAYS. You guessed it. Check email! Thursday is another production day, which means we are usually shipping day-of stationery for the upcoming weekend’s weddings and receiving paper or envelope orders from our suppliers for upcoming wedding invitations. And you guessed it...of course I check my email at lunch and before end of business. FRIDAYS. Who doesn’t love Fridays? This is my favorite day. It’s when I get to work on the business and not as much in the business. Not that I don’t love designing and production, but I feel like I’m a business owner at heart. Eventually our “Fridays” will become more frequent, but for now, this is the day I do anything that has to do with the business: Quickbooks, payroll, MailChimp, blog posts, marketing strategy, etc. This day is essential for business growth. Occasionally there will be some overlap or rearranging of our calendar due to our personal schedule, wedding timelines, or events, but I do my best to stick with this schedule as best I can. I do not let the tasks from one day bleed into another day, and I concentrate at the task that is in front of me. Truth bomb! It’s hard. For example, if a client emails me Friday about a change to their design, I email her Monday with the change and proof. I do not do it Friday. (Of course there are the occasional exceptions depending on wedding timelines.) Another example is if my accountant emails me Tuesday about a reconciled entry that needs to be corrected, I do not do it until my Friday administrative day. I actually don’t even reply to her email until Friday! I put it away in another folder in my inbox and don’t even think about it until the scheduled day.I hope this will help you and inspire you to be more organized. Now I bet some of you are reading this thinking your job doesn’t allow you to schedule your time this way, but I challenge you to look at your own schedule again. I bet you can do it - or at least some of it. If you were to take only two things away from today’s post, I would hope they are (1) schedule your days and stick to it, and (2) turn OFF email notifications and only check email a few times a day. Again we’re not doing anything that can’t wait a few hours. I promise. xx Kelly