It’s what you’ve all been waiting for, the second instalment of my useful apps post! This time I’m going to focus more on websites rather than apps in fact, as people often ask me about what I use to manage my website, online shop etc. Again, there are lots of options out there and I’m only sharing my personal experience. All of these tips are probably most useful to other creatives looking to set up similar businesses to mine.
I use Tictail to run my own online shop independently of more marketplace style sites like Etsy and Folksy, etc. I like that you can choose how the storefront looks and how simple and streamlined it is. It’s a Swedish company which I think shows in the stylish minimalist templates available and it’s also completely free to set up and list items. There are optional app plug-ins some of which do have monthly costs but never a lot, and you will of course have to pay transaction fees on sales but that goes without saying for all online sales. If you’re looking for something with lots of complex options it perhaps isn’t quite right for you but I’ve always found I can do everything I need with it with very little trouble and they constantly seem to be making added improvements.
I used to use Squarespace to run my main website but don’t anymore. This one isn’t free but the most basic package is only $12 a month (roughly £9) so if you’re looking for something with a nice readymade appearance and minimal hassle then I’d certainly recommend it. The templates are stunning and it is very easy to use so when I was just starting out it worked brilliantly for me. You can also integrate an online shop and it does look like they may have developed this feature a lot since I used it but as I seem to remember I think I found it very limited in terms of options. Since then I started to crave a bit more control over my website and wanted to better integrate my blog into my website so I switched to WordPress which I still use now.
I guess that naturally takes me on to WordPress. This one used to confuse me a lot. There’s WordPress.com and WordPress.org. So, Dot-Com is free but limited, you can’t add plug-ins or much customisation, you have to pay extra to remove ‘wordpress’ from the website address and I basically found it only good for basic blogging. Admittedly Dot-Org is a little more complicated but I chose to make this move so that I could turn my blog into a fully functioning website set up as I wanted it with additional pages and the like.
What’s different is that you have to download the software and find a host for your website that you pay for and then link up with your WordPress site. I basically take the attitude with these things that there’s nothing a Google search won’t find a helpful tutorial for and so far that’s carried me pretty far! I believe I used this very link to help me back then. I chose to go with TSO Host‘s cPanel to host my website as they are UK based and when I did have a little trouble their support was great. Their website provides you with all the details of how to set things up and it costs £15 a year to use which compared with Squarespace does make me a big saving in the grand scheme of things. If you’re really really technophobic then perhaps this option may be a little overwhelming but once it’s all set up Wordpress itself is very easy to use with loads of clever free plug-ins available.
4. Google Drive
This is something mighty useful for sharing documents with others or if you’re on the go a lot and perhaps use different computers depending where you are. I was introduced to it when I started stocking my products in a couple of Bristol based shops that work on more of an artist co-operative style basis. (This basically means your stock is available as sale or return, you provide codes for each item and then take responsibility for replenishing your own stock levels.) So there is a shared inventory saved to Google Drive which the owner of the document allows private access to for each seller meaning you can check back regularly to see what you have sold and add new items to it when you deliver more stock.
This of course is only one potential use of many for Google Drive. If you perhaps work with a partner in your business then it could be very useful if you don’t always work side by side. Or if you often use different computers perhaps in a hot-desking space it means you can still always access your important documents without having to worry about constantly updating them to a usb drive. It works much like iCloud meaning that every change you make is automatically saved online. You can create basic word documents, spreadsheets, presentations and even more with it. Again it’s free to use and very easy. For me this is one I have yet to create my own documents with but certainly reckon I’ll be thankful for when it comes to taking on employees.
One last little helper that has a similar use to Google Drive which I thought I’d add in in case you haven’t heard of it. I find Dropbox really useful if ever I need to share a large volume of photos, for example to a stockist who needs to list my products onto their website. It’s basically just a file sharing service, which is free for up to 2GB of space. Whereas Google Drive is just for documents, Dropbox for me works well for photos because they are often too big to email and this way you can keep files available to whoever you share them with for whenever they may need to access them. It is also a very good security measure as the files you upload to Dropbox will all be backed up online too so this also means you can access your photos from any computer as with Drive.
That’s it for now. I hope I haven’t bored the pants off you! Please comment if anything is unclear or you’d like to know more about anything in particular. I’m hoping to do a How To post purely on Instagram soon. If you missed Part 1 of HOW TO Use Apps to Help Business click here.