Business Tools For 2017
Get all your ducks in a row before the ball drops, and start the New Year off right! We all have good intentions, we get excited, we mentally prepare ourselves, we buy a planner, but often by February we have abandoned all hopes of staying organized. Let’s make sure 2017 is different!
The easiest way to stay on track is to find yourself a business coach or mastermind group who will stay on your heels and make sure you are getting things done. There is no motivation quite like a guilt-trip to keep you going; you can’t disappoint yourself now! That being said, even the best coach or group cannot keep you organized and in control if you don’t have the proper resources or aren’t willing to make it happen.
The following is a comprehensive list of business tools and resources that I have personally used, know the owner personally, or have recently purchased and have found easy to stick with and continue to use. There are many different ways to use these products and services, I am only writing about my side of things, and those that are industry-specific will be marked clearly.
Dislaimer: nobody has paid, bribed, or gifted anything to be included in this list.
While it is not necessary to complete an actual business plan every year, it is vital to write out a plan for your business, with a series of measureable goals (annual AND monthly), intentions and steps on how to acheive those goals, and an accountability plan. The easiest way is to write out weekly actions that you plan on doing, stick to your deadlines, and reward yourself along the way.
Keeping track of all that wonderful planning is vital to sticking to your intentions. There are a plethora of different planners and calendars available; some your buy pre-made, others you buy electronically and can customize before printing. One of my favourites for photographers is the beautiful Colorvale Planner (she’s even got a separate session planner for photographers!). The one that I purchased, I chose because I could customize it and print myself as a thick textbook-style photography planner is from Modern Market (Bonus–I got to customize the cover!). A fellow colleague of mine in the creative industry recommended the Desire Map Planner by Danielle Laporte because of all the prompts for progress and desires to include personal intentions along with business goals. They all certainly beat the plain ones you get at the department store! The key things to make sure your planner has is a weekly view of your schedule, a monthly calendar part, a to-do-list section, ideally a space to write notes (who wants to carry a planner AND a notebook! but then again we all need excuses of why we buy all the pretties…), and anything other that is specific to your business. For example, I like that mine has a workflow checklist for each client.
While you are creating your business plan and goals for the year, you also want to be sure you are setting yourself up for success both emotionally and financially. Make sure to look over those numbers, set realistic expectations, and keep track of everything as you go. Money is a fickle thing so you also need to be ready to readjust at any given time. My favourite tool is the Visual Budget mobile because I can update my database while I am out shopping and on-the-go. Even if I just upload a photo of what I bought and the receipt and update the entry later. It has been super helpful. I have them all sorted out by the exact categories that CRA asks for on your self-employment income tax form, so at the end of the year, I just pull up my PDF exports and fill it out. I still consult an accountant, but this allows for a self-working system through the year. I print monthly reports to keep track of my progress vs my goals, and it has been a life saver! No more boxes of receipts! You can also use the app for personal expenses and keep the two profiles entirely separate.
Business Apps & Websites
It can be tricky to get everything done in your business on the go, or at all sometimes, so making certain aspects automated can be the best big step you take for your business this year. Even better when you can track your efforts to determine their usefulness and return on investment (ROI). I have already published an article with my favourite apps + sites, with detailed explanations as to why, but here are my top 5 tools to improve your business:
- Later & Planoly – apps & websites
- Visual Budget – app
- IFTTT – website & app
- Monitor Backlinks – website [use this code for a 3months-for-1 deal: MB2MF4EPKN ]
- Google Analytics – website
- BONUS! Acuity Scheduling – website
While the concept of SEO has been around for decades, it has recently started booming because of all the changes that search engines are making to their algorythms and rules. In order to fully and properly optimize your website takes a ton of time, knowlegde of what you actually need to do and change, what not to do, and be consistent. Did you know that
Here are some of my favourite resourses for SEO and your website:
- Google released an SEO Starter Guide a few years ago? Much of it is still relevant, but be sure to follow their blog to stay updated.
- MOZ guide to SEO
- Facebook Group for SEO Tips & Tricks
- Google & Bing & Yahoo Webmaster accounts
- Google Analytics
- Backlinks Monitor – Find all your backlinks, kill all the bad ones (yes there is such thing!), and make sure the good ones are working to their full capacity for you. This coupon code gets you a 3 month subscription for the price of 1! (MB2MF4EPKN)
Getting professional images for your website and social feeds is very important, and can often make or break a business. While you definitely want to hire a photographer to capture your headshots, and potentially some in-action images of yourself, it is possible to get professional images elsewhere in the meantime. Until you can afford to have them captured professionally, there are resources that can make due, but this only works if you non-one-of-a-kind products or a service, of course. Always be sure to read the licencing rules, and purchase the proper commercial one required to use for business.
My favourite places to get licenced images in a pinch are:
Not everyone is am amazing writer, or a good one for that matter. The thing is, even though your clients probably don’t care that their florist or carpenter or jewler aren’t also writers, they do notice if the website is full of bad copy and useless or empty. Save yourself the headache and hire someone to help you create content for your website. Heck, you can probably double the bang for your buck and use some of it on your social platforms too!
I have worked with Lindsey McCaffrey on several projects, and she is a wonderful writer who takes the time to fully research the topic you need her to create content for. She also offers social media management & publishing.
Business tools come in all shapes and sizes. One of my favourite things to do to further my business is learn. You can learn in many different ways, and while many people will tell you to read every day, not everyone has the desire or time to do so. I have found that listening to poscasts has found its way back into my schedule, and I could not be happier. I find myself learning about business strategy while I clean, social media tricks while I edit portraits, and much more. Of course I always listen when I ahve the capacity to take notes because those episodes are jam-packed with amazing information! I highly recommend adding an hour of learning into your schedule every day, and don’t be afraid to invest in day-long workshops to further your business. Here are my favourite FREE educational resources to help you improve your business and your business sense:
- Creative Empire Podcast with Reina Pomeroy & Christina Scalera
- Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast with Amy Porterfield
- Marketing School Podcast by The Single Grain
- Creative Live Online Workshops
Know any others? I’d love for you to share in the comments below!
Finding a networking group is amazing, especially a local one that has a better idea of your local market, and with which you can meet up with for coffee every once in a while. The more the merrier. BUT you also need to make sure that you properly identify the social networking from the business networking. Business networking has a specific purpose and should be combined with intent. My advice is to find a mastermind group withm whom you can meet up with locally, at minimum once per month to follow up with each other, hold yourselves accountable to your goals and business plans, and raise each other up. Bonus that you will likely create a community of referrals, but don’t join just for that. You need to be serious. There are many different kinds of masterminds and networking groups too. Some have an annual fee where you meet over breakfast or cocktails weekly and trade referrals and sucess stories, others are paid membership and are lead by a business coach who guides the experience for everyone, and there are free ones. Do your research, and pick the one that is right for you and your business needs. My recommendation is to get yourself into one where there is a coach or leader to guide the meetings in order to get more work accomplished and make the time worth your while. Here in Ottawa, I attend the local chapter’s meetings for the Rising Tide Society, and I attend certain niched meetings in a more social capacity, but I really want to add a get-down-to-business group to my schedule to streamline my efforts and collaborate. Thus, I will be running a FREE group as of February where we will meet every month to discuss our goals, achievements, and help each other create action plans for the next few goals on our list and share business tools. I would love for you to join me!