Blogging over 8 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!