Blogging over 4 years ago by Liz Adams

5 Tools for Small Business Owners

5 tips and tools for small business ownersIn July, Sequins & Stripes turned 4 {!!} which marks 3 years that I’ve worked for myself as a full time blogger. What does that mean? Lots of things! Blogging these days has turned into a new platform of social media and we all know that social media is taking the world by storm. For those of you that still don’t understand how people can make a living doing what we do, let me break it down for you…

I am always hesitant to describe my career as a ‘blogger’ because {1} there are thousands and thousands of blogs out there and {2} being a ‘blogger’ falls under a bigger umbrella. We are brand collaborators, social media influencers and content creators. From a brand’s perspective, social media is the newest way to target a specific audience in a matter of seconds. Rather than spend money on a billboard campaign, commercial or editorial layout brands are now sourcing bloggers and their personal social platforms to target specific consumers almost immediately. That being said, advertising on a blog is the easiest way to get eyes on your product and know that those eyes are the exact customer you’re hoping to reach.

Sequins & Stripes is the leading platform for my brand. When a reader/retailer/brand {whoever!} visits my site, the goal is that they know exactly what they are going to get by looking at the way the site is designed, the branding, the most recent post, and the general aesthetic.  When you look at my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest accounts you’ll see a cohesive relationship between all four platforms so that when a brand looks at my pages they have a clear understanding of exactly who my followers are. So where do we make money? When a brand reaches out to me the first thing I do is determine if the relationship would fit well with my personal style/brand aesthetic/if it would be something you all would enjoy. 80-90% of pitches I decline. If it feels like a good fit we move forward and there are a ton of different ways to partner – social media posts, events, sponsored posts, affiliate partnerships, advertising, campaigns, etc. From there we create content just for you!

Now, on with the purpose of this post! After 3 years of working for myself there are a few tips and tools that I’ve picked up along the way that lighten the weight of managing your own business. If you’re serious about working for yourself then there are a few important factors that are essential in making sure you’re doing things right. Here is what works for me…

1. Accounting/Quickbooks. When I decided to try blogging full time the first thing I did was create an LLC for my business. The purpose of this is/was to ensure that any money coming in and going out was accounted for and appropriately documented. In my previous career I worked very closely with Quickbooks and was already knowledgeable of the program. I quickly purchased the software and it is the only platform I use to document all income coming into my business, invoicing, payments, taxes, and any other form of banking for Sequins & Stripes. I can analyze monthly reports, profit and loss, and directly link my bank accounts to ensure that everything lines up month by month. It’s also the easiest way to be organized for dreaded tax season. I know there are a ton of other programs out there but if you’re serious about starting a business I can’t recommend the importance of a proper accounting system.

2. An external hard drive. I treat my external hard drive like my diary. I seriously check on it to make sure it is in the right place when not in use in fear that it might run away or I lose it. It is filled with my photos, past projects, accounting backups, contracts, personal documents – everything. I work from a lap top and with numerous programs constantly running at a time it’s important that I keep my desktop clear. I backup my computer to my external hard drive once a week to ensure that my computer not only runs smoothly but that I have enough space to fill it with fresh content!

3. Photo editing applications. I edit all of the photos for my site using Camera Raw in Adobe Bridge and then transport them into Photoshop to crop for the blog. Question: Do any of you use Lightroom? Comparison? On my phone I use Snapseed {I like that you can select specific spots of the photo to edit} or VSCO to edit photos before uploading to Instagram. This is usually to enhance the color a bit or increase contrast. Instagram now has amazing editing options now, too!
*For those of you looking to grow you instagram following, Iconosquare is a great application that helps you track your audience’s engagement, the best time to post, and what posts are most successful. Just FYI!

4. A really, really good planner. I am a to-do list addict. I write at least two a day {one in the morning and one again at night for the next day} and am guilty of re-writing a list if I don’t think my handwriting is neat enough. #weirdo My absolute favorite planners are Emily Ley’s Simplified Planners. I have the Happy Stripe ready and waiting for January 1, 2016 to arrive but trust me when I say the pages and organization features in these planners are the best {note: they usually sell out fast!}. I also keep all of my deadlines, editorial calendars, collaborations and meetings in my iCloud calendar with daily alerts and lots of color coordination sent straight to my iPhone every morning.

5. Time management. This last one is more of a tip because time management has probably been the biggest learning experience of working for myself. When I worked in the corporate world I would get to work at 7:15am and left at 5pm. One day my boss at the time told me that I needed to show them I was more committed by staying later than 5pm. My response was that I dedicated 9+ hours of quality work to them every single day and he told me it was quantity of hours over quality of work that mattered in my position. A week later I put in my two weeks notice. I am telling you this because everyone has their own routine for putting forth their best effort in whatever they do and when you work for yourself, determining these hours can be tough. When I first started working for myself I was really strict about sitting at my desk from 8-5 every single day. I would get down when there wasn’t enough work to fill 9 hours a day and eventually I felt rundown, un-motivated and defeated. I slowly realized that sitting at my desk for 9 hours a day wasn’t going to make me perform any better. Since then I’ve determined that I work best right when I wake up {around 6am} with my coffee in hand, until around 11 or noon. I then break for lunch and other miscellaneous errands and pick up again around 4pm and try to be done by 6/7pm. I do my best work during these times – whether that is at my desk, on a conference call, meeting with brands, or shooting for the blog. Quality over quantity is always the answer.

*Note: these tips are obviously tailored more to my industry/experience {social media} but hopefully some of you self-employed girl bosses can relate!

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  1. Hi Liz!
    I just recently started blogging and I found your tips very useful. Especially the last one about time management. I had similar idea about working 8-5, but found myself more procrastinating rather than working. It’s great to see that it’s really all about what suits you best.

  2. As a post-doctoral fellow in scientific research there is a similar sentiment regarding work hours but I prefer to work efficiently and multitask from 8-5:30. However, I have been lucky that my supervisors ( in grad school and now) have been accomplishment focused rather then wanting me to punch a clock so to speak. I think that any field where creativity ( whether artistic or scientific) is your output has to be flexible. That was incredibly brave of you to resign from a job where they didn’t appreciate you- seems to have worked out for the better 🙂

  3. I love these tips Liz!!! I read every single word. I personally would love it if you sprinkled these types of posts in a little more throughout your content 🙂 Have a wonderful day.

  4. Liz- thanks so much for sharing these tips with your readers. I’m a big fan of yours! I’ve been contemplating starting my own fashion blog for a couple of years now, but have been too timid to pull the trigger. I think you’ve inspired me to move forward with it. I’m starting to realize that you really do need to take chances in life and in your career, because you never know until you try, right?

    xo, Jenn

  5. Liz!

    I love this post because as fate would have it, I recently left my corporate job to start my own small business! Since making the jump, I spent so much more time learning about social media, building a brand and photo editing and I love getting tips from someone I admire! I really appreciate all your great content and have enjoyed following you for many years!

    Kiri | The Daily Details Beauty Bar

  6. First of all, I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one who rewrites my to do list if it doesn’t look neat enough 😉 haha I love Meg Biram’s GSD notepads! Second, I can’t believe your former boss told you that. That’s crazy! I’m in the business of working smarter, not harder.

    I loved this peek into how you do things and what works for you. I do my best work early in the morning, too!

    26 and Not Counting

  7. Hi Liz,
    This is super helpful! I’ve always wanted to start a blog and work for myself but have been afraid of giving up the financial security of my 9-5 (…or lets be honest 8-6). When you started blogging, how did you get brands to take notice in you?

    -Kristin

  8. Liz, I feel like we’re the same person! I can relate to you so much on what you said above it’s crazy – plus I LOVE your blog and style. So excited for you and your husband to welcome your baby soon.

    Love love reading your blog. xx!

    1. No! I actually moved my office home after my husband got an office space and was out of the house. Plus, I found myself collaborating with freelancers more and more and wasn’t spending as much time at my office. I’m happy to be back home but I only dedicate 2 full days a week to full {8-9 hours} desk days.

  9. Hi Liz – As a professional photographer, Lightroom has been an absolute savior and time saver! I really couldn’t imagine my post-production workflow without it and can’t recommend it highly enough, but I would suggest trying it out to see if you like it. Adobe is always having “trial” offers for Lightroom + Photoshop, which come packaged up together! HTH! x ali {aliandjulie.com}

  10. Lightroom is SO. MUCH. BETTER. I hesitated for so long to switch from PS to LR even though everyone told me I should, and once I did I never looked back. Still use PS for bigger edits like clone stamping, collage making, etc, but for basic edits, cropping, etc, it is so, so much easier and faster than Photoshop. Very easy to learn as well.

  11. Hey Liz,

    Love this post! Thanks so much for sharing your tips. Would love to see more posts like these in the future. Any tips on a blogger who is just starting out? I just started my blog a few weeks ago and have been loving it! I was curious on what are some good ways to increase traffic?

    Thanks again!
    Kristin

    http://www.tweedandlace.com

  12. These are incredibly helpful, Liz! Shocking that your former boss had such a bad attitude, but glad it helped get you where you are today! Definitely using these as motivation to GSD 🙂

    Monica | Cake & Lilies

  13. Love these tips! I’m a writer and work from home as well. I couldn’t agree more that quality of work is so much more important than the number of hours spent hunched over a desk (and I can’t believe your former boss tried to convince you otherwise!). I’m much happier with 4 hours spent at my desk and a solid piece of writing, than 8-9 hours at my desk and sub-par writing. Thanks for sharing!

  14. As a new blogger and one who loves learning and always open to suggestions, I found this post very informative but also enjoyed the read through! For some one who is still in the ‘rat race’ I most definitely agree with ‘Quality over Quantity’!!!

  15. Dear Liz,
    I am new to your blog and really new to social media’s mind blowing amount of blogs out there. I recently came across your blog above and just loved it. Thanks for the helpful tips and beautiful imagery. As a very new business owner myself, I am learning that time management is most important since each day seems to just fly by. Thank you again,
    Marly

  16. These tips are great and very insightful!

    One thing that makes me nervous is your external hard drive! I can recommend from experience that cloud based or wireless storage is essential as a second backup. In the very off chance that the laptop and external are in the same place, they can easily be ruined in one fell swoop. I’ve used Carbonite in the past (non-sponsored haha) and loved knowing that anytime I was connected to the internet, everything was being backed up. Myself and my dad have recovered from a Carbonite backup and it was so easy and so great to see everything restored!

  17. Hi Liz! I love reading your blog and following your days on Instagram and snapchat! It really is so interesting how much social media has integrated into the blogging world! I follow all of my favorite bloggers on these platforms now. It’s crazy to think about the message a short snapshot can say about your brand as a whole, but it’s true. Anywayyyyy, it was interesting to hear about your life before s&s – what sort of corporate work did you do?