HOW TO… Use Apps to Help Business – PART 2

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.

1. Tictail

Tictail

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.

2. Squarespace

Squarespace

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.

3. WordPress

Wordpress

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 DriveGoogle 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.

5. DropboxDropbox

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.

HOW TO… Use apps to help business – PART 1

Time for the next instalment of my new business savvy ‘How To’ posts for 2017! Something that has helped me so much in keeping up my habits and staying productive the majority of the time is helpful apps and websites. There are so so many out there and I know it can be incredibly daunting when you google what you want and it seems like there are a bazillion options out there. So I thought I would just share with you the ones that I use. I haven’t tried them all so I wouldn’t like to tell you that these are 100% the absolute best options out there but they are all free at least and very user friendly. They’ve helped me a lot so with any luck they might help a few of you out too. As I’ve wrote this I’ve realised just how much there is to say so I’m going to break it down into two parts, so stay tuned for Part 2!

1. 30/30 App

My latest discovery and currently my favourite thing! This app is a task manager you can use on your phone or tablet. I just got an iPad mini and so I’ve been using it on that always propped up beside me on my desk. If you read my recent post How To… Be A Go-Getter you will have read how I’ve found timing my tasks a really great way to stay productive. Well I decided to take that to the next level this month and discovered the perfect app for the job. It’s very simple and straight forward which is what I love. You basically create a list of tasks which you can re-order, colour code, and most importantly assign a time limit to complete each task within. Tasks can be auto-looped, so say it’s a task you need to do everyday such as ‘Post on Instagram’ it will always be pushed back to the end of the list unless you choose to delete it. There is always a ‘break task’ which cannot be removed as the idea is if you are working solidly on each task you should take short breaks too to remain focused. I use it for my food and drink breaks and just move it around throughout the day. I love the colours and large scale interface too. Try it out, I can’t recommend it enough!

 

2. Tweetdeck

This one is for scheduling tweets on Twitter. I’ve been using it for some time now and it’s yet to let me down. There are loads of platforms out there for scheduling tweets on and although some have more complex features, I prefer the simplicity of Tweetdeck. I often find when something’s more complex it takes longer to use and isn’t always efficient. For example, I think another platform I trialled first would never actually post my images properly when I scheduled a post, but would rather post a link to it which for me makes a big impact as my business is obviously very visually based.

What I like to do is schedule every morning straight after my breakfast break on 30/30 to go to Tweetdeck and plan a few posts for that day. It means that I can make sure to post regularly, at optimum times and post during certain Twitter hashtag hours too which are usually in the evening when I know I’ll be too busy to be posting live. You can also choose which of these vertical menus shown above appear in your homepage so retweeting and replying is made easy all from one page.

 

3. IFTTT

AKA If This Then That. Following on from what I said about it being important that my images are posted visibly on Twitter in order to gain attention I used to find it so frustrating that sharing my Instagram posts to Twitter would only share a link and not the actual image! I don’t know about you, but if a post doesn’t have a picture attached to it, it’s unlikely I’ll bother reading it. I’m very visually minded, that’s why I love the colours and little symbols that come attached to the tasks on 30/30. (Sorry I’ll try to stop confessing my undying love for 30/30.)

If This Then That has ‘Applets’ which are basically little formulas that automatically integrate different social media platforms for you in simple ways so you don’t even have to think about it. So I love that with the middle Applet shown below, now every Instagram post will automatically be posted as a photo to my Twitter! I love IFTTT so much purely just for the fact it can do this and think that EVERYONE should be implementing this feature because it just makes so much sense.

 

4. Mailchimp

You may have heard of this one, they’re pretty well known but they have good reason to be. As they put it, Mailchimp helps you “Send better email. Sell more stuff.” It’s a platform for sending out email campaigns with multiple features all the while remaining very straight forward to use. I send out a monthly newsletter and occasionally the odd special offer or festive greetings email which I honestly have no idea how I would go about doing without Mailchimp.

You can save different mailing lists on it and create limitless html email campaigns without really needing to have any technical knowledge. The email builder lets you add images, text and buttons and rearrange them all just by dragging and dropping. You can schedule when your email will be sent out and send yourself a test version first to check it looks right. Once sent you can then see reports of how many people have opened and clicked your email and all the rest of it. There is an option for a paid account but the free version gives you a great deal of capabilities that you really don’t need the paid features if you’re just starting out.

That’s it for Part 1! Follow my blog or join my mailing list via the links on the right-hand side of the page to keep updated with future posts and of course, Part 2 of this feature! Next time I’m going to delve a bit more into how I’ve built my websites as this is something people often ask me about.