In keeping with our New Year, Better Business theme of 2013, we thought we’d share with you a few of the tools, apps, and plug-ins that we’ve found helpful in running our business more efficiently, improving our marketing and more. Some of these are great if you run a small business, and some of these are just cool tools to know about.
Mayra transitioned us over to Outright for our accounting and expense management early last year and, well, let’s just say that it caused us to make some MAJOR, major shifts in how we run our business, how we assess ROI and, even our contracts with clients. The system automatically links to your bank accounts (past transactions only), your PayPal or Etsy account (if you have one), your merchant account and your credit cards AND it automatically sorts expenses into IRS approved categories (i.e. it will take a swipe of your bank card in a taxi cab and drop it into “Travel”) and train it/set up vendors and merchants into specific categories so everytime you cut a check/ send a payment it learns where to allocate it. You obviously can go in and clean it up with more detail, but the automation, side by side with the amazing graphs and pie charts it produces on P/L, expenses and sources of income are REVELATORY (where are you spending more than you make?) and so easy to comprehend. Designed specifically for small business, we are madly in love (and so was Go Daddy, how bought it this summer for some crazy sum of money) and highly recommend it.
This App for the ipad is a must have for anyone who presents visuals or creates mood boards for clients or for photoshoots, or whatever. Yes, I know that there is pinterest, but this is different, and better. It’s simply never been easier to or faster to find, upload, and size inspiration boards while including color palettes and even your own photos. A thanks to Heather Waraska for putting us on to that because it’s changed our life.
Anything that makes your presentations and materials better I just got this program, but I am already in love because in less than 15 minutes I was able to remove backgrounds from pics I wanted to use for a post and correct color on some over-exposed pictures of a wedding that we’d gotten for our website… and the program was $16. I actually consider myself pretty technically capable (more on that below) but I’ve always found photoshop a bit more than i needed for what it is that we’re doing. This program is easy to navigate and pretty high impact for the price and also serves as an image re-sizer/format modifier.
A slightly long way around the point, some back story: Like the freak you doesn’t know their own phone number, we somehow had never (in the last two years) gone on our own website from our phone or ipad. So, sometime back in the fall, when things finally weren’t running at a pace where circus music was playing in the background we were horrified to make the discovery that NONE of our galleries from our portfolio worked because they had been built in FLASH. It felt to me like who knew how many people, sitting at home with their ipad had visited our site and not been able to see the site and simply moved on. (I would have) It felt, to me, like we were walking around with a walkman in the age of ipods. Not to mention bad, bad bad for business since mobile is so important. So, we immediately hired someone new to redesign our website… and after nearly 3 months what they came back with looked… worse than what we had (because actually, we like our website). So, we cut our losses and walked away from the deposit, discovered the amazing Jeff at Jelly Designs, dealt with the blog redesign (because that felt like everyone else was walking around with an ipod and we were carrying a victrola), and, not wanting to lose potential clients for another 2 months (or even another MOMENT) while we did another re-build I decided to do some Home (page) Improvements in the interim.
Venturing into the back end of your website is not for everyone, but, if there are two things most people are wanting their websites to do it is to be mobile enabled and to, if relevant, play video. Amazingly, two things that were really complicated and expensive to program a few years ago are now available as relatively simple plugins (provided your site is built on WordPress). Wunderslider is a really simple and easy plugin to convert your galleries into mobile enabled slideshows while Vimeography is a simple (like, 5 minute to install and configure) way to upload video content onto your site if those videos are also on a Vimeo channel. The gallery solution is perfect… I may still hunt for a better way to showcase video, but, for now it looks good and it’s getting the work up there and in front of visitors on any device they may choose to engage with us.
Because all work and no play makes Jack a Dull Boy, I thought I’d share with you a picture from the archives! I present to you, Mayra and Xochitl the “Hey, you know what would be fun, let’s quit this steady job where we have an I.T. department, an accountant and a staff graphic designer and start a wedding planning business” edition… circa May 2003. We were 23 and 24, and as you can tell from the crazy look in my eye, in no place to make serious life decisions (but, here we are, loving every minute of it!) Shout out to Sharon, the 3rd member of our Clio Awards crew.