I now have 3.5 years of running my own business under my belt. I now make good use of a few key tools. These are things that I wish I had known about from the start.
For each tool, I have given a quick bit of background so that you know why I am suggesting it.
For reference, I work in a creative industry. I run an online crafting shop and also vend at yarn shows, I am a crochet and knitwear designer and I have a monthly crochet podcast. Realistically, these are three different jobs and that means I have a lot to juggle. Here's how I try to do it:
I have always been a list lover. I started out using Wunderlist and after a few months, I realised that I needed something that offered a little more.
Wunderlist: great for noting down quick to-dos on your phone or computer. It updates quickly and makes a very rewarding 'ding' noise when you tick something off. It's easy to categorise different subject headings and you can share lists with colleagues.
If you want something with a bit more heft, I thoroughly recommend Trello.
Trello: This also connects between phone and computer updates but because of the layout, I think it is best used on a computer. Things I love about TRello are:
- I can change the background photo. I use specific photos for different goals.
- You can share boards with colleagues and keep each other on track.
- Each board is made up of cards and you can add a to-do list of up to 200 items per card.
- It's easy to navigate and favourite specific boards when you are working on specific tasks.
- A set of cards and tasks can be copied and recreated in a different board. This is really helpful when you have repeatable tasks like a monthly podcast. This allows me to create a board for each month with all of the 'defined tasks' and also add specific ideas, subjects, prizes etc to that specific month.
- You can upload photos, add links, files etc into a card. This is really helpful when you have shared boards. You can also comment on specific items. I find this easier than having a long email trail, especially when you are collaborating on something creative.
- The downside is that Trello doesn't have a rewarding 'ding' noise when I have completed a task. Yeah, I know it's ridiculous, but I genuinely got a sense of fulfilment when I heard that noise on Wunderlist.
This is probably the website I use the most. It's free of charge, stores your documents and is an amazing resource. Canva is basically graphic design website for people with enough creativity to create their own graphics, easily and within templates.
I use Canva to:
- Layout and create my crochet and knitting patterns.
- Create all of the photography layouts for my website.
- Design magazine articles.
- Pull together blogpost photography.
- Make headers for social media
- Create all of the graphics for The Crochet Circle Podcast.
You can upload your own photos and play about to your heart's content. Canva hosts all of your files in their online file storage system. Did I mention it's free?
You can also invite colleagues to view or edit your documents.
The only caveat I have is don't try to use it for anything really serious in the lead up to Black Friday. The number of users at this point can make it glitch and the site has been known to go down.
If you run your own creative business, the chances are you are a lone worker, working form a studio or your home. I am a massive fan of Instagram and the community that brings you but that little app in your phone can also suck all of your time.
When I feel like I need to hear from other humans that are sort of 'on my team', and I still need to crack on with work and ignore Instagram, I turn to business podcasts.
My thinking is that I am multi-tasking and learning at the same time. Here are some of my favourite business podcasts. You will notice that they are all by female podcasters:
- Grow with Soul by Kayte Ferris - concentrates on growing organically rather than pushing hard and burning out. The podcast is available on Spotify and iTunes. You can see all of her podcast, blog and courses from her website.
- Make a Plan > Make it Happen by Josephine Brooks - is all about planning and how to set up a goal-based plan that is achievable. This podcast was a game-changer for me. I now plan in 12-week cycles and set realistic goals for what I achieve in that cycle. I make sure that I block out the week of podcasting because I know that my main focus will be preparing, recording, editing etc. I also block out any engagements I have or weekends away. This has lead to more realistic goal setting.
- Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker - is very Instagram focussed. I have to admit to having fallen out of love with Instagram a little recently and so this podcast has gone further down my list. However, if you are just starting your Instagram journey for your business then this is a great resource.
Sometimes, it is just as helpful to listen to something that isn't business-related. When I am in that headspace, I find that I still want to be learning 'stuff' and so I turn to audiobooks and The Great Courses in particular. For one Audible credit, I listened to nearly 20 hours of lectures on Medieval England and am currently whizzing through the next set of lectures on 'A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts'.
I am not a Facebook fan other than the function to be part of groups. I am in various groups that are work-related. Some are specific to vending at yarn shows, others are about running creative businesses or setting up wholesale accounts.
To find a group that is relevant to your sector and business, simply search for keywords in Facebook and you will be shown what is available.
If you find a group that is specific to you, you will likely find a wealth of support and a place to ask questions and receive quick and decent responses.
This is a free resource (other than your time) and well worth finding your Facebook Group community and becoming a part of it.
One of the major changes I made this year was to start working with a friend that also runs a creative business. We are 'business buddies' and are there to keep each other accountable.
Every Monday morning at 9 am we have a Zoom video chat (like Skype but in my opinion much better) where we pull up a shared Trello board and list out what our big tasks are for that week.
I try to keep to three things that I 'have to do'. Sometimes the list gets a bit longer and sometimes there will be one chunky task on it.
The whole premise is that we hold each other accountable and also have someone from within the same industry that we can talk to in confidence.
We actually now have a third friend in our Business Buddy sessions. It works well with three of us, but I wouldn't want to add another person in.
We also have a group chat on Whatsapp so that we can cheerlead each other during the week and generally keep in touch beyond our Monday morning chats.
I have already alluded to the fact that running your own business can be a lonely affair. I use Instagram as a way of connecting with my fellow crafters, community and customer base.
The other day I woke up and took to Instagram because I wanted to change the name of my online shop. I received lots of very helpful advice and ideas from my Instagram buddies and it gave me the confidence to make that change.
My one caveat with Instagram and social media, in general, is that you can lose track of time in the apps and they become procrastination apps rather than something that actually aids your business.
I have also recently started to track my monthly cycle more keenly. I realised that there were set times that I was really creative or very tired and that if I knew when these were likely to be then I could use that to my advantage when planning out tasks. It has also been key in understanding why it is that some tasks just aren't achievable at certain times in my cycle and this means that I no longer beat myself about it and don't feel like a failure.
I am just at the beginning of this journey of better understanding and am tracking it alongside the moon cycle to see what effect that is having if any.
As and when I come across a new podcast or tool that helps me run my business, I will update this blog. So, keep on looking back here. I am always willing to help other creatives wherever possible.