“I love researching software and online platform solutions for my business” said no one, ever.

That said, I do spend a fair amount of time researching software and online systems for us and clients and realized that YOU might be interested in our solutions for your own business. Ya know, so you don’t have to spend all YOUR time researching. So, here it is, I hope it's helpful.


Bookkeeping is the task I love the least. Seriously. But I LOVE Xero.com. It's saving me several hours per month in time over the old systems we’ve used. It is SO worth the monthly fee.

Xero can do everything we need, and it's easy to understand and set up. I can keep track of multiple bank accounts; generate estimates and then convert them to invoices; track inventory and client/business expenses; automatically reconcile the bank accounts; generate cash flow and other reports; enter bills to be paid; track time and attendance for employees and pay them; prepare W2s and 1099s, and export them all to tax software. They even have mobile apps for when I'm on the run and need to enter something.

Organization and To-Do Lists:

I use Evernote to keep track of clients and their to-do lists, and share notes/images/files. Evernote is a gem, it's secure, free or very low cost and it does everything I need.

Each client (and our company) has a Notebook, and each notebook contains notes and info for projects and to-do lists. Evernote syncs across computers which is very handy. I can update and edit the info from any device we use for business (and we use seven) and immediately see it on the other devices.


These days many of our clients just have a Gmail account. You know, like, MarysArt@gmail.com. It’s free and easy to use and you can set up your gmail account on your computer or check in online. However, if you want to present a more professional face to the world, I do recommend that you have a yourname@yourdomainame.com email account. For example Mary@MarysArt.com.

Yes, it costs something to have email via your domain name, but IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) it’s totally worth it. Get an IMAP (not a POP3) account through your domain name provider (we use Godaddy mostly) and you can sync email across all your devices.


Our website has been a Squarespace website for years and years and we’ve set up dozens for clients. Yeah, we’ve tried other platforms but Squarespace is the best we’ve found. They are an awesome and ethical company. You can start with a simple inexpensive brochure website and grow into a complex e-commerce website later. Their support is stellar, and the websites are responsive and mobile-friendly with extensive customization capabilities, integrated and supported modules, and much more.

Many of our clients want to learn to maintain (or at least edit) their websites so we give lessons also.


Microsoft Office is what we use the most, along with Apple's iWork suite

To create, edit and share PDF files, we use Adobe Acrobat Pro via an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Image Wrangling and Graphic Design:

Again, for us it's cost-effective to have a subscription to Adobe software: Choose from one or all of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Lightroom, Dreamweaver, Muse, Acrobat, Bridge, and many more.

For quick image resizing to use on websites and for tutoring clients I use free Skitch. It's really easy and fast for grabbing and annotating screen shots from the web, sharing them, and lots more.

For powerful image wrangling without a monthly fee you can purchase Photoshop Elements and it has many of the same features as Photoshop at a fraction of the cost.

But before you buy, check the software on your computer. You may have something you can use, like iPhoto. I don't think you should spend money when you already have software that will do the job. When you grow out of it later, great, move on up to something else.

Backups - Two is Better Than One:

We learned the hard way to have more than one backup system. A few years ago the backup drive crashed, taking with it a lot of files that were not on any computer (any more). Lesson learned.

Now we have two backup systems:  External hard drives with Time Machine on the Macs is backup number one. Check your PC as Windows may ask you if you want to use your new external drive for backup. Backup system number two is online secure, encrypted cloud storage via Backblaze which backs up all our computers to one safe place that can be accessed from just about anywhere. It's come in very handy when we're traveling and a client has an emergency and we need to access their files. 

Contact us if you have questions or need some help with any of this.

As always, all our best to you and yours,


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These days our lives are busy. Do you ever feel like you’re slogging through water when you really want to run? Overwhelmed? Distracted? Stressed? Yeah, me too.


When you can’t seem to get everything done, and the days go by in a blur, you might be in danger of having a "near-life experience." Chris Kresser wrote about it in his article "How to Avoid a Near-Life Experience." Here are his six very useful steps:

  1. Be mindful:
    It’s an ancient Buddhist philosophy now being taught in hospitals and Fortune 500 companies, "...mindfulness simply means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment on a moment-to-moment basis." There is a large body of evidence to support mindfulness, showing that it can reduce stress and negative emotions and increase our ability to focus.

  2. Stop multitasking (it doesn't work anyway):
    It's a myth that you can get more done by multitasking. Checking email and social media while working on something actually slows you down and makes you less efficient. Besides, you're not really multitasking, you're just switching from one task to another. So, just focus on one thing at a time.

  3. Batch your email and social media:
    Limit time for phone calls and email to 2-4 times a day. This should increase your productivity (and reduce your stress) dramatically. Do you know how many times an hour the average employee checks their email? 36 times an hour. That's 288 times per eight hour work day!

  4. Turn off notifications on your phone, computer, and other devices:
    I ran into this issue recently after updating the operating systems on my computer and phone. I was getting notifications for just about everything! Ping. You have a text. Ping. You have an email. Ping, you have a voicemail. Ping, you have a calendar event. Ping. Ping. Ping. It made me crazy. I adjusted settings and shut it all off and it was total relief.

  5. Go off the grid:
    When you are constantly connected to your electronic devices, it's harder to be mindful and present. It's distracting and you can't fully relax when you need to. To go "off the grid" don't check email, take calls, use your computer, watch TV or use electronic devices at all. A whole day per week is great if you can manage it. Even half day away is very helpful.

  6. Do less (but accomplish more):
    I sooooo agree with Chris on this one: "One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in living a happier and more productive life is focusing on what is most important and letting the rest go. This has meant learning to say no to projects and tasks that are not important."

    Try it, you'll like it! :-D

Source: http://chriskresser.com/how-to-avoid-a-nea...
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AuthorRobin Sagara

Think back to how you sort through all that incoming email. If you're like me, you triage your email inbox at least once a day by reading the subject lines and noticing who it's from. If there is nothing in the subject line that intrigues me to read further, it goes in the trash can.

The subject line in your email or emailed newsletter may be the only thing standing between you and the trash can. 

Michael Katz, one of my favorite people and a boon to solo professionals, said it best:

"Today I ... received a newsletter from a company.

The "subject" line read: COMPANY NAME'S July 2014 Newsletter.

I didn't open it.

I knew who sent it (COMPANY NAME), but there was nothing in the subject line that compelled me to look further (sort of like if Steven Spielberg released a movie called "Movie July 2014").

People are busy and easily distracted. Try and give them a reason to pay attention to you."

~ Michael Katz, Blue Penguin Development, Helping Solo Professionals Become Likable Experts

Here are some samples of email subject lines that survived my morning traige, and a couple that didn't.


"3 Tools to Better Manage Your Blogging Editorial Calendar"

"A new Follow button and a new case study"

"Scottish Figurative Painter Visits Argentina"

"How to sign documents online with e-signatures"

"Is your art just free décor?"

Trashed at first morning triage:

"Share This Widget Update"

"Do You Know This Person?"

"New Updates"

I did know the companies/people who sent the trashed emails. I trashed them because there was nothing there that I was interested in.  :-D

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AuthorRobin Sagara
CategoriesWorking Smart