Seems to me that everything is getting more and more complicated.  I thought computers were supposed to SAVE time and money! Sigh.

I LOVE anything that simplifies my life and our clients' lives. Here are some of my favs, both for business and personal stuff because we don't seem to be able separate them. So we don't. Clients and friends ask often, "How do you manage it all?"  Well, sometimes we don't! That's the truth. It can all be overwhelming at times. But most of the time, we have things organized with plenty of systems in place that we've developed over the years.

If you're curious about any of these or have questions, feel free to email us. Of course there are many more, let me know if you think of any you want to share. Links at the bottom.


Staying Organized

I HAVE to have a master "to-do" list plus lists for each client/project. I collaborate a lot, share files and info, and need to be reminded to do things. Evernote is the love of my life (after Harry). I started with the free version, now pay a small fee monthly for awesome collaboration/sharing/reminder features. I use it every day both for work and personal organization. 

Websites

For starters, a "brochure" website is a must if you are an artist or creative and make your living (or want to make your living) outside of the "I work for someone else" world. You can build from there as you grow and need more features (like e-commerce). Squarespace is the platform we use the most for websites. We have built over five dozen websites on the Squarespace platform, they're an awesome company we've worked with for many years. We put together custom websites based on their template system for about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of what a "built from the ground up" website can cost. You can DIY, but probably not the best use of your time. We also use GoDaddy and other systems. We want the best solutions for our clients, at the best price.

Social Media

Morning coffee or tea and social media. It's the only way I'll do it, I'm just sooooo busy, and it IS time-intensive. 20 minutes max. I sip and scan and stay current on friends, family, and business. Then post anew and share what I love. Done. Maybe I'll check it later in the day if I'm relaxing for a few minutes. For clients, scheduling posts ahead of time is a boon. Setting up blogs to automatically feed social media is a real time-saver too.

Email Management

ALL my email accounts feed into my inbox. All my email accounts are IMAP (not the older POP3 type of email), so they automatically sync with my phone and tablet. I keep the spam settings on "medium" (not "high") otherwise I don't get things I'm supposed to. I check the spam folder daily for the occasional legit mail that gets waylaid. I set the email software to show me the first three lines of the email so I don't have to open every one of them just to find out what's inside. I have email folders in my email software, one for each client and us, to hold mail I want to save. Signature blocks are already set up and appear at the bottom of new emails giving full contact info.

Paper Management

I handle paper stuff as little as possible. Open it, throw the envelopes and recyclables into the basket near my desk, bills and important stuff to my left in a stack which is quickly dealt with twice weekly. Filing goes into the cabinet in my desk, and because it's only the important stuff, it takes a couple of years to fill the basket then it goes into storage.

Bookkeeping

Not my fav thing to do, but it's gotta get done. I use xero.com and absolutely love it. I can keep track of checking and savings accounts, invoice clients, code items for taxes, and much more. Online banking allows me to pay bills and deposit checks by taking a picture of them, and I haven't set foot in our bank in years. Tax time prep takes 20 minutes to generate income/expense reports for the accountant.

Feeding Ourselves and Family

We work from home and eat at home a lot. We eat clean and healthy. That's a lot of shopping and cooking, and it can get expensive. I save time and money by buying in bulk by sourcing pantry items online (Amazon and Vitacost which is sometimes cheaper, sign up for email coupons). Each bulk purchase ultimately saves me $30 - $100 over one-at-a-time at the grocery store. Fresh, in-season organic produce comes from local markets. Grass-fed and organic protein comes from online sources (US Wellness Meats) and local markets. We cook in quantity, enjoy, and freeze in meal-sized portions. The freezer we bought last year paid for itself in six months with shopping/freezing savings.

Computer Backups

Totally automated, redundant backup systems. We've had one backup system fail and lost a lot. A three terabyte drive on my desk plus online encrypted cloud storage that continually backs up have seriously saved my you-know-what more than once.

Computers and Software

We use Apple products and we love them. We spend MUCH less time dealing with issues than with PC’s. Whatever you choose to use, realize that you will have to upgrade them every few years. Limping along on outdated equipment has a huge opportunity cost. Also, our software updates automatically AFTER a prompt to me asking if it's OK. Click. Done.

Keeping Skills Sharp

Critical. Again, it will ultimately save you a lot of time and stress. Realty check: most people vastly overestimate their computer/software skills. We upgrade our skills constantly with online learning at Lynda.com.

It takes time to do all this, don't beat yourself up or think you can get it all done in a few days (or weeks)! One thing at a time, then move on to the next one. You'll be surprised and how much it helps!


Again, ASK if you have questions. The first 15 minutes are on us.

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AuthorRobin Sagara

Email newsletters should be an essential part of your marketing. They are low-cost and give you the opportunity to connect with the people on your mailing list.

To make sure that your newsletter isn't dry as dust, follow these seven simple guidelines from Michael Katz of Blue Penguin Development. I have learned so much from his newsletters and classes: 

Source: http://bluepenguindevelopment.com/7essenti...
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AuthorRobin Sagara

Life on the internet changes, rapidly. Just the other day I got an email from my go-to place for stock images and video (iStock.com) that they were changing their pricing. I checked the new prices and yikes! Very expensive. They are part of the Getty Images company now. Getty Images are wonderful and unique but don't always fit with our budget and our clients' budgets. We primarily buy images for web use, a lot of them, so they should be in the $1 - $5 range to be affordable. At iStock that used to be possible but now a small image for web use can cost $15-$30 each.

You DO know about buying stock images, video footage, and audio yes?  Still, sometimes, when I ask a client where they got the images or video footage they want me to add to their website, newsletter, or social media they say "I grabbed it off the Internet."  Oops!  Not OK, not legal. Copyright/trademarks and all that. Those images/logos are someone's hard work and belong to them. Do the honorable thing and get your stuff from a stock image/audio/footage company, or, make your own! If something you want to use was created by artist or another company you can always ask them if you can use it and (of course) give them proper credit. Doesn't hurt to ask.

My search for a new stock image company resulted in 123.rf. I've been buying images from them for a while now and they are very reasonable. If you need an occasional image, you can buy credits for $1 or less. Small images for web use are one to two credits ($1-$2). Awesome.  Images big enough for print run about $4-$10. Still awesome. Images used for resale (like on e-books and packaging or anything you are going to sell) required an Extended License.

Extended Licenses at 123.rf are reasonable. $50 print only extended license, $75 electronic only extended license, $100 comprehensive extended license. Still good.

Yes, the image in this article is from 123rf.com. It cost me $1 and is 450 pixels x 450 pixels which is big enough to use on the blog or in an email newsletter.

If you need many images per month, you can get your per-credit and image costs way down. Sign up for a monthly subscription and save about 50% or more. They start at $89 for 30 days and you can grab up to five images per day bringing your per credit price down to $.59 for each image.

And oh, by the way, we don't get anything for recommending 123rf.com. I'm looking into an affiliate/partner arrangement to see if we can save you and us money. Stay tuned on that one.

Got questions about all this?  Lemme kno....  :-D

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