I love planning my business according to quarters of the year. So if you look at your calendar, you can break the year into four quarters, each being around 90 days in total. It's currently the beginning of April and we are about to start a new quarter - Quarter 2, 2018. And the new quarter is the perfect time to do some hardcore planning that will maximise your business's potential for success!
In this episode of the Brand It Girl podcast, I am bringing on my friend, Haley Burkhead from Market Beautifully, to talk about three issues that can deeply impact on solopreneurs and online business owners. These are serious issues! And by talking about this stuff my hope is that you won't feel so alone.
In this episode of the Brand It Girl podcast we talk all about how to create your vision board and also how to use it! If you haven't heard of a vision board, you are missing out on something that's not only super fun to make but also something that will help you to stay grounded and focused!
A vision board is a tool that you can use to help clarify, concentrate and maintain focus on specific life goals. Jump on the episode here to find out what visualisation, manifestation and vision boards can do for you and your business!
If you haven't heard of a vision board, you are missing out on something that's not only super fun to make but also something that will help you to stay grounded and focused!
A vision board is a tool that you can use to help clarify, concentrate and maintain focus on specific life goals. A vision board is any sort of board or arrangement of images, quotes and visual ideas, that represents whatever you want to be, do or have in your life. Essentially keeping a vision board close by gives you laser focus when it comes to what you want to create in your life.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with a beautiful soul, and wonderful artist, Maggie Minor. We had a great Skype chat all centred around the space in which so many of us spend our day and the vast and varied forms that this particular space might take. We spoke about the ways in which we can maximise the creative potential of this space and how the artwork and furniture in this space really does impact on the work you do. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!
I love the new year! I am such a mega fan of planning out what I will do and how I will do it and I get so pumped up for what is to come! It's so strange what a new year can give you - it's like a breath of fresh air, a new start. And I mean, I know there's nothing that's really changed since last year, but there's an energy at the turn of the new year that's infectious.
That energy psychs me up and inspires me. I feel my creativity peaking and I know it's because as the new year arrives, we as a collective society give one another permission to start again, start over, restart or simply.. start.
So don't let this pass you by! Setting goals in January might be clique, but it's also a great time to go through this process! Capitalise on the energy around you!
But word of warning, it's also a time when you can set goals that never eventuate. Fast forward to October 2017 and those goals often are not realised! And I think there's a multitude of reasons why this might happen: we run out of resources, our priorities shift, family trauma, new opportunities or we just plain-old lose steam and stop. But more often than not, goals are not ever realised because they are not S.M.A.R.T.
You might be thinking, "wait up, my goals are plenty smart!" and I am sure they are, but are they S.M.A.R.T. smart? Let me explain.
It's that crazy time of year again where we wind down the year that's been and get ready for the year to come. I always find this to be an exciting time, one filled with new possibilities and fresh perspectives. I am also a chronic planner, so once again, Brand It Girl is releasing the annual Life + Business Workbook to help you reflect on 2016 and get ready for success in 2017!
And just like last year, it's absolutely FREE! It's a reward for you because you've been such a loyal follower of the blog all year. And if you only just found me, well then, consider this a welcome gift!
So you are an imposter hey? Let me guess:
"You don't have a clue what you are talking about"
"Who are you to teach other people about this?"
"That was just a fluke, don't let yourself think that it will happen again!"
Any of those self-talk statements sound familiar? I am sure they do and it's called Imposter Syndrome. It's that feeling that you don't know what you are doing; that you couldn't possibly be qualified enough for the job at hand (regardless of how qualified you actually are!); that any successes that you do have are a fluke, a mistake or happened 'by luck'. It's that little niggling voice in the back of your mind that tells you to stop what you are doing because "let's be honest, you are a fraud".
My darling love bug, you are not alone.
It's an IT Girls job to be confident, secure and in control, right? Sorry to disappoint, but I am human too and let me tell you something: Imposter Syndrome is an actual thing and it effects effect hundreds of thousands of people! A study in the 1980s estimated that two out of five successful people actually identified themselves as being a fraud. That is a huge figure and today, with the rise of technology, it's only increasing! Other studies conducted found that 70% of all people feel like impostors so when you start to look at those kinds of figures you realise that all those feelings of inadequacy and fraudulence doesn't make you weird - it makes you a member of a pretty large group of people! Let's look at what Imposter Syndrome actually is!
Imposter Syndrome was identified by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978. This issues occurs when high-achieving people have a continual and persistent fear of being exposed as a 'fraud' regardless of the evidence that they are in fact the real deal! These individuals think that they do not deserve the success they experience and will often attribute it to 'luck', 'deception', 'good timing' or even 'magic' and 'divine intervention'. There is also evident that suggests that Imposter Syndrome is particularly common in women and so, being lady bosses, we need to shine a light on this and move forward together as a community!
The really weird thing about this problem is that it is most prevalent among high-achievers. Even some of the most influential women that so many of us look up to get attacks of Imposter Syndrome. Need proof? Actress and UN Ambassador Emma Watson on numerous occasions has said that she feels like an imposter (read an interview with her here) and she is not the only one! Seth Godin wrote in 'The Icarus Deception' that even he still feels like a fraud despite all the incredible work he does and the books he has published. You can also read this great article full of celebrities that struggle with this!
WHAT MIGHT IMPOSTER SYNDROME LOOK LIKE ON YOU?
FEELING LIKE A FAKE | You might be shying away from potential clients, finding yourself essentially talking them out of engaging your services or buying your product for fear that you will not be able to deliver what they are expecting - regardless of your skill level and/or product quality. You might also find yourself saying to family and friends that you can't believe a new achievement and it was just a fluke: "I have everyone fooled! What if they realise that I am not what they think I am!?".
NOT CHARGING ENOUGH | This could be seriously hurting your business! It's when you don't believe that what you have to offer is worth as much as it really is! You might discount products and services because you don't think anyone will pay what market value, or you can't identify the worth of the work because you don't believe you know enough or have enough skill to justify it!
PARALYSIS | You sit down at your desk, ready to go and you can't function. Like there is nothing but scramble. You can't focus on any one task, you can't finish any projects, your to-do list is never any shorter and you are completely and utterly paralysed.
SO WHY ARE YOU QUESTIONING YOUR AWESOMENESS?
There are a variety of reasons that you might suffer from Imposter Syndrome, or perhaps you just have elements of feeling like an Imposter. Attitudes and beliefs of others - we are endlessly impacted by the messages that we receive from others, be it direct or indirect.
Our parents and partners have a huge impact on our sense of self worth. Often feelings of imposition and fraudulence can come from family situations and dynamics. If the aspirations of an individual conflict with family expectations it may result in imposter feelings. For instance, if a young woman wants to become a mechanic, she may be met with resistance by her family based on their expectations of gender and this can deeply impact self-worth. Family labels can also have an impact: for instance some families label one child as the 'intelligent' one while the other is the 'sporty' one for instance. This may result in the 'sporty' child to grow up believing they are not intelligent, regardless of their great academic achievements in later years.
Partners and significant others also have an equal impact on the development of Imposter Syndrome. Being undermined in a relationship, being told you wouldn't understand or repeatedly being told that you can't do something will also harbour self-limiting beliefs. While a vast majority of the research points to external factors impacting on the development of Imposter Syndrome, it doesn't mean that we can bury our heads in the sand and just accept it!
HOW TO KICK THE IMPOSTER MINDSET
While I still haven't found a way to kick it entirely, (and I do wonder if these thoughts ever really go away once you get them) there are definitely things you can do to minimise the hold that it has on you!
- BECOME AWARE | It sounds really simple, but honestly, becoming aware of your self-limiting beliefs, thoughts and imposter tendencies will really help you to monitor the control that these feelings are having on you. Acknowledge that they exist and make a conscious decision that they won't be controlling you today!
- SUPPORT | Being able to verbalise your feelings of being a fraud is really important. That person can help you to dispel feelings that you are somehow less that the magnificent creature you are. It might be a friend, family member or even a professional such as a councillor. There are so many incredible Facebook communities out there of women just like you that feel the same! Check out the Brand It Society community - feel free to post your struggles and we will pull it apart with you!
- REFRAME FAILURE | Seeing failure as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than as a big fat stupid you mistake is really important. Train yourself to use the phrase: "It didn't work out, but here's what I learnt...". Mistakes don't make you - it's what you do after than impacts who you really are. So reframe the notion of making a mistake from something that is soul crushing to being an opportunity for growth and development.
- WRITE IT DOWN | Keep a journal of everything you DO succeed at and all the great achievements you have. Reading back over the incredible triumphs you have had will help to rewire this self-limiting mindset. Nesha at Nesha Designs calls this a success log, and I absolutely LOVE that idea. She recommends writing it down every time you reach a milestone or have a great win personally and for your business.
- DISCREDIT | When you feel that self doubt creeping in, write it down too and then reflect back on all the positive things and discredit the imposter feelings by listing why it can't possibly be the case! Listing everything that you are good at and why is a great way to discredit these thoughts and often by the time I get halfway through that list, I have forgotten what I was initially feeling like a fraud over!
- DRESS THE PART | Dress, talk and walk the part that you want to play. This is a controversial one, but I truly believe that when you dress the part, you feel a particular way and this will have an impact on your perception of self! Sarah over at Career Contessa talks about this saying that if you act confident enough you will start believing that you are!
- VISUALISATION | This is something I am practicing more and more - I will visualise myself being confident, succeeding and achieving the things I want to achieve. I write this down because it is proven that writing it down gives the visualisation more power. Write down exactly what you want and what you want to feel in as much detail as you can!
MY CHALLENGE TO YOU
Try one of these 7 Imposter Syndrome mindset shifters each day for a week. Put all your focus into each specific mindset shifter each day and see the difference you experience after a week! Head over to the Brand It Society community and share your experiences each day. I will be there to help you along the way!
I am super excited today to introduce to the newest addition to Brand IT Girl: The Brand IT Girl Resource Vault.
I want to offer all of my readers exclusive, FREE access to this library that includes all of my blog post giveaways. So will find everything I have ever offered as a blog freebie plus anything I will offer in the future and you'll be able to access it all in one convenient place using a password.
I know you are wondering how to get hold of the password for vault page but first I want to give you a little sneak-peak at what you can expect to find in there!
If that isn't enough to get you as excited as I am, you will find new additions to this library on a regular basis. The best thing is, you only need to get the password once! Worried about forgetting it? Don't be! I will include it at the bottom of all my eNewsletters so you will easily find it again when you spot a new freebie that you want!
HOW DO YOU GET ACCESS?
IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE VAULT?
I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you would like me to create for the Brand IT Girl resource Vault!
Finally, the time has come! Instagram has just released a new update that allows you to add up to 5 Instagram accounts and quickly switch between them without having to log out and log back in. If you're someone who does Instagram marketing for your business and loves to share personal Instagrammable photos as well, this is actually a great news!
Can we all just take a minute to thank the universe! I can honestly hear a collective gasp of excitement! They started the beta testing on randomly selected accounts over the last week and finally they have announced that it's game on! So let's get you set up for multiple accounts!
HOW TO MAKE THIS FEATURE AVAILABLE
Firstly make sure that you have the latest Instagram update installed on your mobile device.
Once you have done so, close the app by double clicking on your home button (if you are using iPhone) or tap and hold on the app and swipe it to the right (if you are using Android).
Reopen the add and you should be ready to go!
HOW TO ADD MULTIPLE INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS
Go to your profile and tap on the gear symbol in the top right-hand corner
Scroll down through your settings menu and tap Add Account.
You can either enter the username and password of the account you'd like to add or create a new account at the bottom of the screen.
HOW TO SWITCH BETWEEN ACCOUNTS
This new Instagram upgrade makes it super easy to switch between accounts!
Go to your profile
Tap your username at the top of the screen and a dropdown menu will appear with all your accounts visible.
Select the account you'd like to switch to and Instagram will change profiles for you.
You can add up to 5 accounts and they are 100% independent from each other. You will have completely separate Instagram feeds and different user profiles too. I hope that you are as super-freaking-excited as I am about this new addition! Go, make multiple accounts, and be merry!
DO ME A FAVOUR!
Share this post!!
We want to as many people as possible to know about this new Instagram feature so let's get it out there!
As you know I have been working to improve my presence on Pinterest (See: How To Brand + Style Your Pinterest Boards & Adding Custom Pin It Buttons to Your Blog) and I have just made a huge discovery and I am so excited to share it with all of you. It's called Board Booster and my dear friend, you need to get onto this. If you are serious about using Pinterest to grow your business and blog, then this is the tool for you.
Let's talk about what Board Booster is. Well it is a super useful, completely powerful Pinterest scheduling tool that really does do so much more than just schedules your pins. There are three main ways that you can use this tool and each have specific benefits so let's just go through them:
You can use Board Booster to post images to your various board during pre-determined time frames and days. This is perfect for all those re-pins of other people pins. Remember the 80/20 rule (share 80% of other people's pins and 20% your own). When you add one of your Pinterest boards, Board Booster automatically sets up a secret board on your account with the same name. Set aside an hour two a month to go through and pin a whole heaps of images to that secret board and the scheduler will publish the images throughout the month. I like to restock my board monthly so I have fresh pin in there!
This is one of my favourite parts of Board Booster. You can select one of your Pinterest boards and Board Booster will re-pin the pins that are already on that board - it will generally start at the end of the board and re-pin to the top. The really great part of this feature is that after a week or the length of time you specify, Board Booster will delete the version of that pin with the least amount of re-pins. This means that you won't have endless duplicated pins and it keeps your boards looking fresh and sparkly clean!
This is another neat, and super handy feature. If you belong to group boards, you can set up a campaign that will allow you to pin to one or multiple group boards. You can choose to post a specific group of pins by manually entering in the URLs or you can set one of your boards as the source board to draw from. It makes it really easy to stay active on group boards without needing to engage a huge amount of time!
There are other features of Board Booster that are fantastic too - particularly the maintenance tools and reporting features. I think you can already tell I absolutely love this tool, but I also want to share a few other reasons why I love it so much:
1. IT SAVES HUGE AMOUNTS OF TIME
Board Booster is a massive time saver! I have highlighted this in the three functions above but I really want to hit home how much this tool really does free up your time for what's really important for your business - content creation! Think about it, you can sit down for a few hours once a month and set all this up to be automated.
2. YOUR BOARDS ARE CLEAN AND CONSISTENT
The other great thing about Board Booster is that it makes your boards look squeaky clean and your posting is consistent - this means your pins are showing up in your followers feeds and on group boards consistently and it makes you look like you are active on Pinterest and this ultimately attracts more people to follow you and to visit your blog.
3. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE THERE!
Perhaps my favourite thing is that you don't physically have to be there! You can set all this up and go on holidays if you wanted to and it still looks like you are active on the Pinterest platform. It also makes it possible to hand over this part of your business to VA's and I am all for saving you time!
So what do you think? I think you would be crazy not to try Board Booster today! AND you get 100 pins per month for free! Even if you do opt for the paid plans, they start as low as $5 a month, so it is really worth your while giving it a go!
(* This is a referral link, but I whole heartedly and super excitedly believe in this tool! Photography Credit: Alex Lv - see credit page here.)
One of my hobbies is trying to get as much as humanly possible out of my day. To be honest, this is probably one of the worst hobbies I have because it stresses me out so much when I think I am not achieving enough, but by streamlining my process and a few handy strategies I have picked up along the way I have developed ways to maximise the time.
I work from home, just like so many lady bosses out there. There are so many fabulously mundane things that need our attention at home - like the laundry, cleaning the house, cooking meals. And there's also some fabulously enticing things to distract us too, like lying in bed until noon watching the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars. The real challenge is to use the time you have productively and maximise that time to achieve business success. Woah, I know, tall order, right
Well today I'll share a little sneak peek into my daily routine before sharing my top strategies, my biggest challenges and finally my secret weapon!
MY DAILY SCHEDULE
Full disclosure: this is a super flexible routine. I have deliberately designed my life to withstand any additional things that pop up, including health issues and family commitments. This has been a calculated and purpose-driven decision that has helped to reduce my stress levels and has really increased productivity!
7.00 AM - WAKE UP SLEEPY HEAD
Rise and shine! Generally the first thought that goes through my head is "I will rise, but I refuse to shine..." in my best inner grouchy voice. This doesn't last long, after I splash water on my face I feel much better and get on with it. Get dressed, breakfast and drop Gavin at the train station before heading to my desk.
8.15 AM - EMAIL CHECK-IN
My very first task when I sit down at my desk is to check my emails. I do this before I write my to-do list, because often there are action items in there that need to be included in my plan. I always reply to current clients first, they are 100% my priority. Then I check emails from potential clients, replying to their enquiries and addressing concerns, before checking other email that might be promotions, questions or proposals.
I like to leave my email open throughout the day rather than just checking it this once. I often refer back to details in emails from clients and I like to know when new emails come in through the day. Sometimes I am working on a client project and they email with a change or question, I like to open these emails straight away.
8.45 AM - TO DO LIST
I like to take a quick 10-15 minutes to review my to-do list and set my top 3 goals for the day. This helps me to stay focused on what I am doing and doesn't allow time for deviation when the procrastination bug starts to bite.
9.00 AM - SOCIAL MEDIA CHECK-IN
I like to spend a bit of time checking in with my social media. I use this time to schedule posts, share content written by other business, branding and design experts, interacting with my followers and meeting new people in FB groups. It's important to me to stay connected with the people around me, and staying active on social media makes it so much easier for me to serve people! I am able to see questions they have, things they are struggling with and trends that are prominent in my field. I also find it super convenient to use scheduling tools. I currently use Buffer for Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter and Onlypult for Instagram.
10.00 AM - CLIENT AND PROJECT WORK
Once I am happy that I am up-to-date with the inter web world, I will start working on client projects or if I don't have a current client, I will work on my own projects.
For each new client I will set out clear timelines that guide me completing their work before I even start. This is so I know what I need to do each day and also so that the client will know when feedback and input will be required and it allows them time to schedule this in too.
12.30 PM - BREAK, LUNCH + EXERCISE
If I could work right through lunch, I would. To be honest, that is exactly what I used to do, every single day. It was really bad for my health, for my focus and it also made me super grumpy. So no I try to take some time out for a little break and I head to the gym or head out for a walk. Sometimes even just switching off and reading a book for a little while helps!
1.30 PM - BLOG POSTS OR BUSINESS PROJECTS
I mentioned that I will use the time that I am waiting on feedback from clients to write blog posts or work on other projects. Well this time slot after lunch is designated for just that, so I can either trade this time with the period before lunch or I can do extra blog writing and project development. I love this time of the day because I can work on developing my ideas and research new possibilities. It's a bit of an indulgence!
3.30 PM - PHD WORK
Something that people might not know about me is that I am currently writing a PhD at the University of Sydney, Australia on the ways in which identity is performed online through branding, looking specifically at people just like you and me - ladypreneurs! So I set aside a few hours every afternoon to work on this. Sometimes, the poor PhD is put on the back burner if I get too carried away with working on blog posts or other projects, but I try to get two or three sessions in a week.
5.30 PM - FINISH UP + TIE UP LOOSE ENDS
I spend half hour or so just finishing up for the day, one last quick check on social media and emailing out updates to clients. Gav generally arrives home at about 6-6.30pm so I will stop work then.
After work we do try to get out and socialise or have some fun. Mondays we have dinner with my family and Tuesdays we do ballroom dancing lessons, then dinner with Gavs family. Wednesdays Gav plays ice hockey, Thursday we have a little business check-in meeting and Friday night we either relax or spend it with friends and family.
I use my evenings to relax, spend time with my family and Gav and my favourite part of the night is watching an episode of whatever we are watching while I knit or sew my latest crafting project. I really need this time to unwind in the nighttime and crafting while watching a story unfold is a great way for me to relax and ensures a good sleep.
10.00 PM - HEAD TO BED FOR ZZZS
I love crawling into bed after a bad of work. It's so rewarding to know that I did a good job, got a whole heap of things done and made a difference. On weekends, Gav bans our mobile phones from the room so we can sleep tech free. It's something I resisted to start with, because, you know, that hunk of plastic and metal is an extension of my arm, but really it does make a difference to have a break every now and then!
MY TOP STRATEGIES
I have a few tried and test daily strategies that have helped me to maximise my productivity.
- Firstly, I identified what I have to do every day. Take a minute to ask yourself what tasks do you need to do on a daily basis? Can you create a routine block in your day that will allow you to do these things quickly in an orderly fashion.
- I always factor in breaks and mental health check-ins. Being flexible and open to taking some time off is really important. Owning your own business is draining so sometimes I just need to accept a bit of downtime and take some time off, even if it's just a few hours in the afternoon spent with tech off, wandering around the shops. Take note of when you are feeling tired, emotional or when you just can't focus and take some time to yourself to re-boot!
- I also find batching similar tasks together really helps with my focus. This could be something like batch writing blog posts for the week or batch editing Instagram images. Grouping these tasks will save you time and will increase your consistency.
MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE
One of my biggest challenges of working from home is staying focused on the task at hand. It is so easy to stop working at start 'tidying up' - believe me I know how tempting it is to procrasticlean, I used to be terrible for this. Having a strict schedule that has been carefully thought-out and planned is a great way to combat this challenge. If you have set business tasks that need to be completed in a certain time frame, you are less likely to be distracted by the other things in your environment that need your attention.
MY SECRET WEAPON
Recently I was having troubles narrowing my focus and this was having a huge impact on my ability to complete tasks. I was feeling really scattered and I would jump from idea to idea, project to project. It was getting exhausting and I was achieving very little. Luckily, I have a boyfriend who also has a business mind, so it was easy for him to identify the big problem with my business that I couldn't exactly see, but could definitely feel: I wasn't accountable to anyone. When you are a solopreneur and you work from home, who are you accountable to? Is it your clients? Well, yes, but only for the scope of their project. You don't have a boss to answer to - that's one of the attractive qualities of working for yourself. There are no big stakeholders. You may consider your blog readers or the people you engage with on social media as stakeholders, but as long as you are delivering content, their interest in your business operations are limited.
I felt alone and not in a "oh-poor-me" way - in more of a "way too much freedom" kind of way. I needed to be answerable to someone and to a bigger set of goals and so the Weekly Brand IT Girl Business Accountability Check-In Meeting was born. In this meeting Gav and I talk through my general business situation, we look at social media stats and consider the strategies that are leading to growth or we come up with new strategies to try. We talk about marketing and advertising, customer enquires and current projects and look at my business expenses. We take minutes of the meeting, including action items (or 'jobs') for me to complete in a given time frame - sometimes it is by the next meeting and sometimes it has a due date several weeks down the track. We check in on last week's action items and we make note of if they were completed and what the next step is - this often becomes a new action item for me to complete in the upcoming week. The last thing we do is talk about HNIs. Hectic New Ideas. This is when we talk about new ideas for products, services and projects Brand IT Girl could look at undertaking in the future. If the HNI receives a positive reaction it becomes an action item.
This process has helped me so very much to stay focused on my goals, with a task-based orientation through the week. I can see a list of action items infront of me and when I need to do them. This makes it much easier to push distractions aside when there are tasks that require attention. Being accountable to someone else for my business is a huge driver for getting these tasks done.
Who to ask? You can recruit your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend to be your business meeting partner or you can ask a business minded relative or friend for weekly or fortnightly meet-ups. You may even find an online business friend in a similar field (Note: I don't recommend a friend in the same industry as you, this can cause tension when talking about new ideas!) that you can partner with for these check-in meetings. Try Skype for these meetings and remember to share the minutes sheets with each other via email afterwards so your partner can keep track of your goals too!
To make it easier for you to start these business check-in meetings, I have created a downloadable eBook just for you! Enter your email below to unlock this eBook right now!
If you suddenly find yourself with nothing to do (firstly, lucky you, I crave a bit of "I have nothing to do" time), there are plenty of useful things that you can do for your own personal development and to help your business and/or blog to grow and thrive.
1. SCHEDULE YOUR MONTH
If you are anything like me, being organised is a priority. So why not grab your planner, a cup of tea and sit somewhere nice and schedule your month. You can plan your appointments, when you will be going to the gym (because health is important!), when you will spend time with friends and family and you can even use this time to schedule your blog posts and social media posts. Remember to schedule a little "me" time. Taking some time out to schedule your week as a whole is a great way to ensure you are living a balanced life.
2. TAKE A COURSE AND HONE YOUR SKILLS
Downtime is the perfect time to take a course, practice what you know or hone your skills or learn something completely new and be inspired by the possibilities it opens up for you. I recommend Skillshare for short courses on a huge range of topics. The classes are taught by industry professionals that have real life experience in the field. Some of my favourite courses include: Pattern Design by Elizabeth Olwen, Icon Design by Adam Whitecroft, and anything by Katie Rodgers, but particularly her Fashion Illustration course.
3. BATCH EDIT YOUR INSTAGRAM PHOTOS
Another great way to use your downtime is to batch edit images for your Instagram. Doing this as a batch processed task is great because you can make sure you are being consistent with your images and the overall theme of your Instagram account, and it saves time in the long run too! Not sure how to edit your images? Use this infographic guide full of Instagram stats to help you decide.
4. RE-EVALUATE YOUR GOALS
Taking time out to really look at your goals and evaluate how you're doing is a really useful thing to do with your downtime. Identify what you have been doing successful and what you have been less successful at achieving. You may even find that some of your goals are no longer as important to you or perhaps your circumstances have shifted and new goals have popped up that really need your attention. Once you have identified what you want to achieve, set actionable steps to meet each of your goals. This could mean conducting research, planning out work schedules and aligning your day-to-day activities with your goals in the form of strategies to help you achieve!
5. UPDATE YOUR WEBSITE
When you have nothing to do, there is absolutely always something to do on your website. Consider updating your About Page or your blog Sidebar and really use these under-utilised spaces to engage your readers. Double check your bio and contact details and check that all you social media links are still relevant and taking your readers to the right places. Consider also updating your photography and design elements on your website. Or perhaps you could go all out and give your website a complete makeover with a new pre-made theme!
6. WRITE TO PAST CLIENTS AND TOUCH BASE
A fantastic thing to do with your spare time is to write to your past clients and touch base. If you find that your spare time falls before Christmas, New Year or any other major holiday/celebration, consider writing your past clients greetings cards. Otherwise, send through an email and ask how everything is going. Make sure you check their social media and website first to see if anything major has been happening in their business and if so, this gives you a great chance to offer congratulations, words of support and assistance if necessary.
I am all about making life easier! While I believe that your mindset and the way you use your time is key to living a productive, efficient life, I do also think that some online tools can really help to make life easier too!
These are my top 4 online tools that I use to streamline my business operations.
Evernote is perhaps the best thing that ever happened to me and it will be the best thing to ever happen to you too!! I use the basic plan which is free and it works a dream. I use Evernote to record to-do-lists, notes, blog post drafts, ideas, business plans, canned emails, research and more. The best thing about it, is that you can access Evernote on all your devices, making it super easy to keep track of everything! You can sort your notes into notebooks and notebook stacks which allow you to keep everything neat and tidy!
If to-do Lists are your thing, then Todoist is a great resource for streamlining your business. You can create to-do lists for different projects and set due dates. It makes it easy to see what you have to do today or in the next seven days and you can even use a Lab in gmail to save tasks that pop up in your email inbox. There is a great mobile app, making this a tool that you can take with you!
If you are using Gmail (and I am sure there are equivalents for other email services) you should be using Streak. Streak is a customer relationship management system and can be used to turn your inbox into project management system too! You can access Streak by going into your Gmail Settings > Labs > Enable Streak and this allows you to track conversations by categorising them in boxes.
These boxes can then be placed into Pipelines which are like the stages of a project. An example of a Pipeline could be ‘Custom Jobs’ and within this would be several stages of the custom job process: ‘lead’, ‘contacted’, ‘pitched’, ‘negotiating’, ‘won - in progress’, and ‘closed’. It helps you to see what stage a certain project is and what needs to be done.
The free plan is sufficient for small business and allow you to track up to 200 emails a month!
I spoke recently about the benefits of scheduling your social media. Well, the tool that I use to do this is Buffer. I have opted for the paid plan and it costs me around $104USD a year on the Awesome Plan. I use this great tool to schedule posts for my Facebook Page, Facebook Group, Twitter and Pinterest.
The best features of buffer include:
- You can put 100 posts in your queue per month and use the schedule option to set times for Buffer to post from your queue.
- You can schedule specific times for your posts to make sure they are going live when you need them to.
- Access to analytics make it easy to see how your social media posts are performing.
- Buffer shortens URLs so you are not taking up characters and you don't need to use a third party service to shorten the addresses!
- You can also upload your own images for each of the social media platforms.
Do you use online tools to streamline your business? Which ones do you love?
Social media is such a powerful resources! So how do you ensure that you are using it properly?
One of the best things I have done for my business is committing to social media scheduling. Let me give you five reasons why you and your business should be scheduling your social media.
Scheduling your social media posts helps you to ensure a high level of consistency with the content you are posting. There is nothing better than well planned consistent content on Social Media and planning ahead of time with scheduling tools will help you to communicate a clear and concise message, and ultimately you will notice increased engagement when your readers know what to expect from you!
2. FREES UP TIME
Social media scheduling frees up time and means that you will encounter less distractions throughout the day. If you are anything like me, you go onto Facebook or Twitter to post some content and suddenly 30 minutes have passed and you haven't even started writing your content - browsing takes up a lot of time! Scheduling social media gives you back that time throughout the day and you will be less likely to fall into the procrastination trap!
Here's what I do to streamline my process and save time when writing blog posts:
- I write a draft of my blog post in Evernote. I can do this on the go, so it makes it really easy to collect my thoughts when I am out and about, at cafes or on the train.
- I transfer the blog post to my Wordpress and add the formatting and featured images.
- I schedule the post to go live early in the morning.
- Using Buffer (I used to use Hootsuit so that works too!) to schedule posts for Facebook, Twitter and Google +. These posts are generally scheduled to go live just before the peak hour work commute for my Australian readers and then again early the following morning for my international readers.
- Using Latergram I schedule Instagram posts and when the predetermined time arrives, Latergram notifies me on mobile to post the content.
It's super easy and saves a heap of time on a daily basis that I could be doing other things!
3. TARGET YOUR AUDIENCE
Scheduling your social media allows you to post your content when you may not necessarily be awake or near your devices. This means that you can still post your content when it is most convenient for your audience without it being a huge hassle for you!
Check out this great infographic by Elle & Co that outlines the best times to post on Social Media
As I have started to grow my Brand IT Girl social media channels I have realised that the more strategic and intentional I am, the quicker and more engaged my audience grows. I carefully choose the content I share on social media, and while sometimes I wish I could just post a funny photo or a cute snap of my dog, I refrain from posting these things on Brand IT Girl branded reader touch-points. I keep my personal Facebook for those sorts of shots and the rest of my channels are intentionally and very clearly definable as Brand IT Girl.
Scheduling also allows you to integration and coordinate your content across your communication channels. This means that I will tailor my messages to suit the readers that engagement with me on each of my chosen touch-points making sure I don't repeat myself or bore my audience. I keep certain channels for certain things:
INSTAGRAM | I use Instagram for quotes, blog post adverts and as a platform to share inspiration and lifestyle images.
With the start of a new Financial Year, it's time to get your act together and think smart!
If you are anything like 'old' me, you would have a handbag full of receipts, an over flowing glove compartment in the car and a shoe box labeled 'business expenses' that's practically empty. This is because you, like 'old' me, is completely disorganised. It's a bit of nightmare when it come to tax time and even less useful for measuring the growth and potential of your business.
So, 'new' me decided that this was no good! Now 'new' me has a simple log system that I am just dying to share with you!
BUT FIRST, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES OF KEEPING A MONTHLY FINANCE LOG?
- It is much easier to collect everything together at tax time, saving you time and stress and ensuring you get that much needed tax return sooner.
- You will have a less clutter on your desk, in your bag and on your shelves. Everything is in one place, neat and tidy.
- Keeping track of your finances helps your business to grow. It enables you to set goals, see what products and services are bringing in the most income and allows you to identify expenses that are not working for you!
HOW TO GET YOUR FINANCES IN ORDER
1. Start tracking your Monthly Finances using the Monthly Finance Log I created or something like it. By simply keeping one record of all incoming and outgoing money will help you to focus your business operations and spending.
3. Speak to an accountant or finance planner to ensure that you are getting the most out of your business.
SO WHAT'S THE MONTHLY FINANCE RECORD?
I have developed a monthly finance record for my own use and I decided that it has been so helpful, that I wanted to share the 2015-2016 version with you. For free!
You just need to print it out, pop it in a folder and start keeping track of your monthly finances.
The Monthly Finance Record has a bunch of pages that will help you to not only track your finances in one place but the act of engaging with a logbook like this will keep you motivated to make more profit and grow your business!
The Monthly Finance Record includes:
- An annual look at your profits, product/service expenses, business expenses and total profit.
- A glimpse back at the year before as a point of comparison.
- A reflection sheet that encourages you to think about what worked for your business last year.
- An area to set goals for the year to come.
- Monthly Recap sheets to track income and expenses.
- Dedicated pages to sales income, business expenses and product/service expenses
We are all looking for ways to free up more time for what's really important!! So here are a few great tools for scheduling your blog and social media posts that will help you save time, be more organised and provide your clarity of content!
Latergramme | http://www.latergram.me
Platform? Instagram What is it? This tool lets you easily schedule Instagram posts and upload photos from both web and phone. You can manage this tool from both your computer and your phone making it a really flexible tool. You will need to download an app from the App Store if using this on iOS. Cost? Free
CoSchedule | http://coschedule.com
Platform? Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, Tumbler What is it? This is a super dynamic Wordpress Plugin which allows you to schedule not only your blog posts but also your social media posts. It is streamline and simple to use with the drag and drop function. This does cost money, but for serious bloggers and small businesses, this could be a real time saver and worth the money. Cost? $10/Month or $100/Year
Viraltag | http://viraltag.com
Platform? Pinterest What is it? This is a Pinterest management tool which allows you to schedule your pins! You are able to pick up your website content or this tool also allows you to upload original content. It also includes publishing tools which allow you to crop, add effects and text cues and overlay quotes before you upload. The other neat thing about this tool is it gives you insights into the performance of your pins. Cost? Free to connect up to 3 social networks. The pro plan is $29/Month and allows up to 10.
HootSuite | https://hootsuite.com
Platform? Social Media What is it? This is a real-time management app that allows you to read and interact with the people you are following while also allowing you to schedule posts across a range of platforms including but not limited to Twitter, Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn etc. It's a bit of an ugly tool but very effective, easy to use and fool proof. Cost? Free
Tweetdeck | https://tweetdeck.twitter.com
Platform? Twitter What is it? This is another Twitter tool which is great for real-time tracking, organising and engagement. You can schedule posts and interact with your followers easily. Very similar to HootSuite, but perhaps more attractive. You can also mute certain users or terms which is great for eliminating unwanted noise. Cost? Free
Iconosquare | http://iconosquare.com
Platform? Instagram What is it? Iconosquare (formally Statigram) is not a scheduling tool, but I thought I would include it anyway. It's a stat provider for Instagram. You can have access to a huge amount of information from which posts get the most engagement, to what your most used tag and filters are. You can also use this tool as a web viewer for your Instagram feed, allowing you to like and comment on people's posts. This tool has a bunch of other features too, so it is definitely worth exploring. Cost? Free