Tips and Tools
No Woman is an island… and the same is true of the Blogger and Small Business owner. It takes a lot of different tools, From computer to mobile phone to camera equipment; from software to website accounts to apps. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Organization is necessary (something I eternally struggle with, but work very hard at) as is dedication, hard work and did I say Hard Work. When you are the Boss Lady, and the only worker bees are your Junior Partner (willing, but still learning) and a busy twentysomething Granddaughter who is searching for her place in life but willing to write the occasional blog post or help out in the Craft Room or with other projects when she has time, life can be a bit hectic.
The website is slowly but surely beginning to pull out of the slump I caused by trying to go in directions that didn’t necessarily work for us, by experimenting with an Etsy Pattern Site and then coming back to my beloved WordPress and then changing domains. Yeah! I’m a mess sometimes, and meanwhile, lots of heavy Life stuff was going on, keeping me from giving a young and very tender business the attention it needed. I’m going to chalk most of it up to growing pains and the learning curve.
The Etsy Shop is also coming along nicely. Whereas it is still a very time intensive hobby from a financial standpoint, that is slowly changing. I can look at my statistic page on Etsy and see that I have more than doubled traffic to my shop this year over last, and that my revenue should surpass last years within the next month or so. Summer is the slow season for an Etsy Shop, but things seem to be picking up lately. As for myself, I treat the slow months mostly the same as the busier ones, except perhaps to work harder. I have been adding ten to twenty new items a week, and plan to keep that up for some time to come.
The purpose of this post is to let others know what tools and methods I use or have used, and how they have assisted me in my daily work flow.
- WordPress ~ There are numerous ways to start a blog or website out there. From Blogger to Wix, you can do as little or as much of the hands on work as you please or are able. I started as a blogger on Google’s Blogger platform. At the time, though in a previous job I had worked with the Drupal framework, I wasn’t ready to get my own domain or dive into anything beyond publishing a personal blog. Most all of these aforementioned platforms are CMS (Content Management Systems). Think of these as modular blocks of code or information stored in a database. Very flexible and editable. Of the choices out there, I like and am most familiar with WordPress. It is not the easiest platform for starting a website available—but the easiest, the most functional and most flexible of the several CMS I have tried. I would recommend it to any one who wants to roll up their sleeves, learn a little bit, and dive into designing a killer website without necessarily ever touching any code. And it’s gotten even easier and more intuitive since I first began using it.
- Etsy ~ I was a shopper on Etsy long before I became a seller. I loved the website’s structure and look, the variety and talent of the vendors, and just the overall feel. After being an Etsy Shop proprietor for more than two years, I still do. I like too, that it is constantly evolving, staying relevant to the directions the web and the audience of shoppers are taking. I know that some people don’t like change, that they struggle when the familiar enters new territory, but on the internet and in life these days, to not embrace change is to be left behind. I love Etsy’s fresh look, and I enjoy using the new Shop and Dashboard interfaces they have adopted over the last year or so. I am always supportive of options that make my job as a seller easier, and my Shop more attractive to web traffic.
- Pattern ~ Pattern by Etsy is a great tool. Economically and practically, if you are looking for an easy to set up, attractive blog and shopping platform, integrated with your Etsy Shop, it is good way to go. I experimented with it when it was still relatively new. It just wasn’t what I wanted in a website at the time. I might well feel differently if I were just trying it now. In the year since, it has improved steadily and overall. There are more choices of theme and design, the ability to add more features, such as an About page, and many other things. You get to choose whether to buy your own Domain or use the Pattern address provided. They are adding new options constantly. Take a look at this Pattern Page to see.
- QuickBooks ~ Another awesome tool offered by Etsy. A while back, there was an offer to try out QuickBooks Self-Employed through the Etsy Dashboard. For the first two years of my tiny business’ life, I have used paper and pencil ( a Dome Bookkeeping Ledger), (and Excel 🙂 ) to keep track of the shop’s finances. As small as we started, it wasn’t a problem, but we were starting to outgrow these simple methods. Years back, when I was owner of a Brick and Mortar Bead shop, I used QuickBooks and liked it. Since this fell well within my comfort zone, I decided to give it a try. It’s only been a few months, but I’m a convert, and the $5 a month for the first year introductory rate was a plus. All of your Etsy sales and fees are imported directly into your bookkeeping account, freeing up your time for other things. Great tool!
- Photoshop ~ There are lots of photo editing apps and software, but my heart belongs to Photoshop. Granted, there is a learning curve. There are lots of easier photo editing options, but to my mind, none that are as useful or versatile. And, once you have learned to use Photoshop, you can pretty much tackle any other program out there with little trouble. I still use CS5. It is a bit dated by now, but still a wonderful tool, and saves me from having another monthly bill at the moment.
- Canva ~ My go to when I am in a rush, or in need of something more ready-made. Design work is time consuming, and when you are juggling an Etsy shop, a website and social media, there are times when you need it to look good, and in a hurry. I recently moved from a free Canva account to Premium. It is so useful that I decided it was worth my while for all the added features. I love that there are templates in all the various sizes and formats I use, from my Etsy Banner, which I change up the background on seasonally, to Instagram, Pinterest or Blog Post sizes. You can be as creative as you like too— editing the premade templates or uploading your own photos and fonts. It’s becoming an essential tool for me. All of my designs are stored for future editing or use right on my Account.
- Pixabay ~ Searching for the right video or image when you don’t have what you need in your own catalog can be a challenge. Paying for stock images when you are on a shoe-string budget can strain the finances, but you don’t want to sacrifice quality for what’s free or cheap. Pixabay is an amazing resource. The images are professional quality, and free. Donations, of course, are greatly appreciated. I can’t overstate how much I love this site. For years, I wasted valuable time trying to track down the right image that I could afford. Love, love Pixabay!!!
- Creative Market ~ A marketplace filled with goodies to make any designer’s heart go pitter-patter. When I need a design asset, anything from graphics to backgrounds to stock photos, I always check out Creative Market. Whether you need just the right font for a project, or are looking for brushes, actions or styles to juice up your photographs, you can find it on this site, and for bargain prices. You can find some great Themes for a number of different platforms, or great templates to streamline your emails or print materials. Watch for sales and special bundles, and follow them on Facebook to get offers for free goods each week. I’ve been shopping on Creative Market for several years, and I can’t recommend it enough.
- AColorStory ~ When I’m are preparing images from my mobile phone to share on Social Media, I often use this wonderful App. Created by the talented Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess it is fun, colorful, and so helpful when you are looking to add some color and pop to your profile. It is well worth buying and using.
Making Work Fun
I’ve went on kind of long today, but these are just a few of my favorite tools and I have wanted to share them. I am not affiliated with any of these companies, nor am I being compensated in any way for my reviews and opinions. These are the tools that make coming into my office and going to work in the morning in large part fun rather than a chore. Each one of them enhances my work experience in some way. I know I will think of others, and in a few weeks I will expand on this topic and give my opinions on the various social media platforms I use or have used.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments or tools you would like to share, I would love to hear from you.
Till next time…
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