Indie Business 101 :: Using The Tools Of The Trade
Indie Business 101 :: Using The Tools Of The Trade
This is Part 2 in our multi-part Indie Business 101 series. Part 1 was about Getting Started.
Now that you have ventured into starting your business, you've probably realized that a single notebook and your brain is not quite enough to remember and track everything you need to manage. You'll need a few tools to effectively manage your time, collaborate with partners and track financials for the business.
With the proliferation of technology, there are a plethora of tools out there. But it can be confusing to pick the right tool for the task at hand. Based on our collective experience, here is a list of tools that works well for creative businesses.
Evernote - Whether you want to keep a simple to-do list, track your expenses, research, create a inspiration board with images, text, fonts, color swatches or just want to keep your thoughts organized across multiple devices, Evernote is your tool.
Their tag line “remember everything” says it all. You can organize the information into folders, that can be shared with your teammates or collaborators. Best of all, you can add your notes to Evernote on the go. Love that shade of blue you saw in the store? Click a picture with your mobile phone and upload to your Inspiration Folder on Evernote.
Evernote has both a free and premium version.
File Sharing and Storage
Dropbox - If you are collaborating on a new product line with other designers , outsourcing your production to a partner or just working with your own team, you have the need to share files. Sending large files and images via email is so 1990. My favorite tool for collaborating on files and images is Dropbox (we use it extensively within Vianza as well as with our customers for managing catalog data and images).
Time tracking for Production
Freckle – If you are a indie designer/maker, you need to measure the time that goes into production of goods so you can set a fair price. Freckle simplifies and tracks how you spend your time, which tasks and which days. You might just be surprised when you see which products are a time sink.
Tara uses it to track her time for everything. Blogging, dyeing, tagging, answering customer service emails...it gets tagged, so she can track it (this is especially useful if you ever plan on hiring anyone, to do any aspect of your admin or production - you'll know exactly how much you're spending and what it will save you!). She also uses Freckle to track new projects (like the book she's writing) so she knows how many projects she can take on at a time, or if a new product line is really worth the time she's spent on it.
And did I mention that Freckle is very affordable? You can track one project for free...and that might be all your business needs!
Hootsuite - Do you get sucked into Twitter or Facebook? If so, you might think you HAVE to spend all that time on Twitter to keep your message in front of people...but Hootsuite can save you from it. You can schedule your tweets to go out whenever you want. This assures that no matter when you FEEL like sharing a link, your readers see it at the most optimal time. This can also prevent you from overwhelming your stream with the 10 great items you want to share...schedule them to go out in a slow trickle and you're friends will thank you for it.
Tara's favorite part of Hootsuite (and she manages 7 different social media accounts on it) is that it's available on the web and on any mobile device (she claims it's the best of all Twitter apps...even if you never use scheduling).
Tracking your Catalog and Orders
Microsoft Excel - While this might not be the best way to track your catalog and orders, this is the certainly the simplest to get started. You can create templates and forms for orders and invoices that you can email to your buyers. You can track your SKU’s in your catalog, inventory on hand , shipments , salesreps, commissions, expenses, budgets, estimates – practically everything related to running your business. Remember that unless you build in validations and formulas into the spreadsheets it will not trap data entry errors. Excel is a step better than writing it in your journal.
But be warned: In order to truly scale your business, you will need a business application that enforces business rules and automates your daily workflow. (I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this is one of the most popular aspects of Vianza).
Outright – If you are a creative business owner, the last thing you want to learn is accounting. However tracking and managing your income and expenses are key to building a sustainable business. So how do you keep the business humming but not get bogged down with tracking each detail? It’s Outright to the rescue.
It automagically syncs with your bank accounts, Paypal, Etsy Shop and other online sites to pull your income and expenses, categorizes it , tracks your tax liabilities and provides you a snapshot of how your business is doing. Who knew managing your books could be that easy!
No matter which tool you pick to manage your business, the best tool is: your willingness to learn and experiment.
Learn what works for you, what your business and your customers need and then ask us: what do you need the perfect tool for?
Photo Credits :: craftymiss