Business Tips

Small Business: Do you get Political on Social Media?

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When I had my jewelry business, I avoided talking about religion and politics online.  I did not want to have separate accounts for such issues so I left it alone.  Now I'm free to write and say what I want - I kinda love it.  It got me thinking, with this change in political climate, what should a business person do who strongly opposes what is going on in our government and their online presence?  I'm not talking about big businesses like Nordstrom or LL Bean.  I mean small business, mom & pop shops, etc. who can't turn a blind eye - especially if legislation changes may impact their business (ie: who they hire, where they get their materials, obtaining a loan). 

You don't want to scare customers away or turn off new ones because they don't agree with you.  When I had Pulp Sushi, I would not have written An Open Apology or You're Not A Feminist? on that blog.  As a business/brand, you have to think twice before shooting off online.  Ask yourself what you think could happen when you post something?  Let's say you sell knitted kids hats, your customer base is mostly moms.  Are you going to share a link to an article is against increasing paid maternity leave because you believe that maternity leave is generous enough as it is?  What if you share a anti-Hillary Clinton meme?  Do these things reflect what your business is about? Is there a chance that there may be a backlash? I said I wasn't going to talk about big business, but it's okay for Anheuser-Busch to make a political statement about immigration during the Super Bowl.  They have been around since 1852 and made the commitment to use their products to promote a better world.  For the most part, they keep the politics off their Twitter and Facebook.  

Let's flip this around. You're a handmade soap seller who locally sources their ingredients and rely on local farmers who employs immigrants, you announce in your shop that a percentage of all sales goes toward the ACLU and Sierra Club, you market your soap as a way to "Wash off 2016 election FILTH!!" (go ahead soapers, you can use that). How about you make cards that say "Orange you glad I didn't grab your pussy?" It is CLEAR that you promote your activism through your products and you are catering to specific group of people, more power to you, your social media can be a part of that branding for your business easy-peasy.  

Perhaps you're ready to make that change and you want to bring more social awareness in to your business. You can introduce issues into your business slowly, maybe donations for sales of one specific item goes towards a cause, and as you promote that item, you can share additional information on social media about the charity or the general cause.  Raise awareness without coming across as preachy. People don't like to be preached too. Just look at the backlash celebrities get when they get political.   While the "experts" say you may be killing your business, I think there is a way this can be done smart and tactfully. You may lose some followers, but you can gain so many more once you provide more meaning to your business.

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Stuck In a Blogging Block?

I don't want to tell you how to manage your blog.  I've already written about how tired I was of everyone with a blog telling me how to make my blog better.  Who writes a blog post every day? I'm lucky if I can hammer out a post out a week although I'm committed to my goal for this year. I am crawling out of my biggest blogging block yet and I thought it would be fun to write about how I did it. 

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Quality was always more important to me than quantity but dry spells are common.  The brain just taps out and I don't know what to write about.  So I take a blogging break, that's okay.  But I'm back and rejuvenated and let the burnt-outness pass.  That's my first tip on how to get out of a blogging block: 

  • Ride it out!  If you suffer from insomnia, they say the harder you try to sleep, the longer you will stay awake.  So....don't try so  hard.  Stop thinking about it. 
  • Read other blogs: Don't flat out COPY someone else, but you may come across a blog post that will trigger inspiration to share your own point of view. Which leads to my next point...
  • Respond to an article you read.  This has been a BIG help for me when I came back to this blog late last year.  That's how I came up with the blog post, Don't You Want To Be A Mom?
  • Draft random ideas & save: I have a bunch of incomplete drafts saved in my blog. Some drafts just consist of random words that I will get back to (eventually). I can quickly access my blog on my phone which is where I store most of my brain storming ideas.
  • Go to a bookstore: I have not done this but I love this suggestion from SmartBlogger

That's it! It's a small list but it's worked for me.   How do you get out of your writers block? 

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Instagram Tips Tested, Marilyn Approved!

One of the things I love about working with Rogue Social is how much I am learning. There's been so much buzz about Instagram lately about their algorithm changes, Rogue Social published a blog post with tips on how to keep your Instagram images seen, noticed, and engaging and not worry about getting lost in an endless feed of scrolling. 

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With my newer account, @marilyn_coffeeink - I wanted to try some of these tips. A lot of these I already do (ie: square images, not post several images in a row, using hashtags). However, the Hashtag tip of leaving them in the comments instead of the description was new to me.  I've seen other people do this and wondered Why?   

Hashtags in your comments are still searchable and work just the same as putting them in your description.  It's better to do this trick if you plan on using a lot of hashtags (at least 10, no more than 30).   The trick with the dots is to push the hashtags down so they don't appear as a cluster of hashtags when scrolling.  I'll still keep a couple of hashtags in the description and use the comments for more popular (but still relevant) tags. 

 

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Small Business Tip: Sometimes You Have To Say 'No'

Originally published at Pulp Sushi January 2015, UPDATED

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Whether you are running a small business or freelance working for a few clients, it can be hard to turn down a gig or custom order especially if a nice chunk of change can be made. Just like we shouldn't price our items for less to make a quick a buck, the same applies to potential work. 

One time, I got an Etsy convo at Pulp Sushi where someone asked if I can do 20 (that's TWENTY) of a particular necklace in my shop. While I'm good with bulk chains and general jewelry supplies, charms are a different story and the charms I like to use come from a specific shop that presses them here, not "Made In China". Naturally, this costs a little more which also means I can only purchase so many at once. 

I was never in the position where my items were flying out of the shop so I constantly needed to restock.  Asking for 20 of anything from me is a tall order.   It can be done, but with some time and a deposit.  So I asked for $500 with a $150 deposit.  I don't think this is unreasonable especially if this is to be done in the next couple of weeks.  

Instead I get a response saying that they had "another seller who can guarantee a quick delivery...".  They didn't exactly turn me down, but they didn't say "ok" either.  I had a bad feeling this would turn into back and forth bullshit so I had to end this quick and tell them to go with the other person.  

It can be frustrating having to justify why we should be paid what we are worth. There's a misunderstanding that working independently means that we're willing to take any amount of money any chance we can get - no. You work hard, and you deserve to be compensated appropriately for it.  

How much money? It's hard to say, it varies for everyone but it requires some soul-searching on your part. Think about what you do, what you need to do what you do, how much time the work will take, and how much you will need to get by.  Maybe not just get by, think about THAT amount, and then add a little more to it. 

I have a problem saying "No" to work. I think I can do it all and have time for everything - yeah! Sure! No problem!  There was an instance where I almost had a mental breakdown because I was suddenly feeling so overwhelmed with what was asked of me.  I was on the phone with a client and they had an idea about something and without giving it any thought I just came out and said "I don't think we should do that."<---that was my gut talking because when she said it, I immediately felt a sense a dread come over me. I had to turn it down, I had reached my limit.  Thankfully, she was totally cool with it and respected me setting up some sort of boundaries.  I felt so much better afterward. 

Have you experienced a similar situation where you had to turn down work because it just seemed unreasonable? 

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It's OK To Work For Someone Else

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Be your own boss, become an entrepreneur, work your own hours, make your own rules!

Sure this all sounds lovely at first but what is not advertised as much is the amount of WORK that goes into it. Can you imagine if EVERYONE worked for themselves? What work would there be left to do?  

While I work from home, I am not my own boss. I don't consider Pulp Sushi a part-time job anymore since I have moved on from it.  I still work for Typepad and I work with A Little Beacon Blog and Rogue Social as my clients - even though I feel like a part of their teams 100%, I don't feel like I'm working for myself.  But you know what? I'm okay with all of this and where I am right now.

You're not a failure if you have no desire to run your own business.  It's cool if you want to keep your Etsy shop as a hobby! I tried it and I was just meh. I like being in a supportive role.  Whether it's working in a big office or a small startup, one of my strengths is that I am SUPER organized to the point where I am annoying, but hey, some people need that!   Why do you think so many "Virtual Assistants" are popping up?  

Many people are venturing out with a business on their own (that's awesome!) but there comes a time where they realize that they can't DO IT ALL on their own.  It could be accounting, social media, updating blogs, managing a newsletter, or wherever else they drop the ball with, there's always going to be a need for extra help.  If this is what you feel drawn to doing, then walk, no, stomp down that path and own it!

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Use Gmail For Your Business Email

Previously published at Pulp Sushi, April 2015

Today I want to share a friendly tip that some of you may not know about which could come in handy...

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You may be wondering if it's okay to use a Gmail address for your business or should you set up a "me@mybusiness.com" email.  

I don't have a problem with either one but some experts say that if you want a professional presence, it's better to have your domain name email so you look legit.  Here is how to manage your domain email through your Gmail account. 

I get it, checking different inboxes can be a pain in the neck.  If you have a Gmail account, not only can you forward the email to your Gmail, but you can respond (in Gmail) using your Domain email, here's a screenshot from my Gmail: 

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Pulpsushi.com is hosted by GoDaddy and that includes a few email addresses, I think five but I've been with them for a very long time so that may have changed.  I like to streamline everything as much as possible. I can't be signing in to GoDaddy to check pulpsushi.com emails because I forget and it will sit there forever.  So it all goes to my Gmail inbox. 

In Gmail, go to Settings > Accounts and Imports, this is how my Settings appear:

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As you can see, my default email is actually "marilyn@pulpsushi.com", not even my Gmail address. Not only can you add email addresses, but you can have Gmail check your other email addresses, that is how the emails are forwarded to your account. 

When I get an email to marilyn@pulpsushi.com, I have the option to respond using the same email address or switch to my Gmail account (see above).  There is a drop down arrow next to the "From" field in the email window where you can select which return email address to use.

Sometimes I switch to my Gmail because some inboxes are weird with domain emails. I have a friend who if I email them using the pulpsushi.com address, they won't get it but they will get my Gmail email.  Some inboxes have their filters set up differently so it's nice to have that option and not get lost in someone's spam folder.  There you have it, easy-peasy! 

Do you keep a separate inbox for business and personal? Any email management tricks you have?

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A Quickie Guide To Google Analytics

Previously published at Pulp Sushi in July 2015

Oooh I love quickies! (What??) I mean quick and easy tutorials especially to something as complex as Google Analytics.

GAOne of the things I do for Typepad is I help out with their blog, Everything Typepad.  Every month I share a tutorial for our bloggers.   I once posted a tutorial about using Google Analytics.  

Since using Google Analytics is not limited to just Typepad bloggers, I wanted to give it a plug here as there are tips and pointers which could come in handy for many folks who are interested in learning more about who is visiting their blog.  It's good to see how your blog is working in attracting visitors, whether it's through your keywords and tags, your social media plugs, or other bloggers sharing your links.  

I've been using Google Analytics for a few years and I have barely scratched the surface.  There is just SO much data you can gather.

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In my Typepad piece, I focus on the features I refer to my personal blog which you can read in full here

Do you use Google Analytics? How do you keep track of your blog visitors? 

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Social Media: Making That Connection

The following was previously published at Pulp Sushi in 2015 as part of my Social Media Coffee Buzz series

Building your Social Media following does not happen overnight. While businesses use social media to promote their products or the launch of a promotion, it has also become more than just that. I must admit, it is easier for me to connect to people online than in person. It's like that for many people, it's the Introvert in me. That is just the world we live in now.

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Get your brand message out there and grab people quickly! With a quick skim through a Twitter or Pinterest feed, you don't want to missed.  Once you grab your audience, you want to keep them. You keep them by getting them to connect with you, when they connect with you, they will follow you.

This is also a two way street where interaction is important.  Interaction with your followers keeps them engaged.  Don't just announce what's new in your Etsy shop, ask questions, follow back, leave comments, be topical, share some love!

It is more than “promoting” and saying “Look what I got!!” Building your brand is about telling your story, the message you want to convey to the world. Some people use words, other use images, or you can do a bit of both. It is why I felt comfortable using different platforms when I was actively promoting my Etsy business but at times, some apps may mesh better with you than others. 

Some of the most popular blog posts to read are when an artist, designer, or maker shares a “behind the scenes” of their studio.  They show what their workspace looks like, their desk, their tools, perhaps some inspiration art prints displayed on their walls.  

When you share more of yourself, it actually gives your customer an idea of how professional you are and how serious you take your craft, blog or business.  Once they relate to that, they can appreciate what your selling more.  When you invite customers in to your world beyond what you are selling, a connection is made. Let your true voice be heard! 

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Planning With A Purpose: My Passion Planner Review

You guys, I think I finally found the planner that will keep me in check!  It's easy to be tempted by pretty book covers, colorful tabs, and cute inserts but I don't need all those things. I just need a book that puts everything right in front of me, and I remember to to LOOK at it every day - meet my Passion Planner!

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There are no apps or electronic devices that keep it all my tasks in order for me.  My planner and I got together by fate.  I saw a message in a Facebook group and my friend Kimberley from Smashfire Designs posted something along the lines of "Hey guys! I got an extra planner! Who wants it?" and with the quickness I jumped in with "MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!" Now it is my favorite thing and I've been so committed to it, I'm proud of myself! 

I get emails from Indie Shopography and a recent email was about slowing down and focusing.  When I try to keep everything in my  head, I will miss something and realize it too late.  My problem is sometimes I need to get everything done NOW!  Having a planner like this not only lets me organize and map out my tasks, but it really makes me think about what needs to be done and by when and in turn, helps me to pace myself and slow down ah ha!

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Not only is Passion Planner a calendar, it gives you personal prompts and nuggets to reflect on weekly and monthly.  Passion Planners are meant to inspire, challenge yourself, declutter, and stay organized all in one place.  It's a nice way to think about how far you've come and what lies ahead.  Plus it's got a nice space for doodling. 

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Besides, where do you think I get some of my Instagram quotes from? 

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You can check out Passion Planners on their website.  Their Instagram is pretty neat too!  I'm pretty sure I'll be ordering one for 2017. 

Do you still a planner to manage your life?  Or is it all in your phone or tablet?

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Freshbooks Review For Freelancers - Bookkeeping Made SO Easy!

Freshbooks

Recently I had an epiphany and realized that maybe I shouldn't keep using spreadsheets to track my time for invoices. I'm sorta new to whole Freelance thing so I'm still learning about invoicing and keeping track of EVERYTHING. After some research, I signed up for Freshbooks which I first heard about from Emily & Kathleen's Being Boss podcast. Do you listen to them? They're great!

Freshbooks is designed for the non-accountant, the small business or creative person that hates doing the numbers stuff.  It is so simple to use that I'm kind of obsessed with it now. 

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What sold me on Freshbooks that I did not find with other online bookeeping services is that it allows me to accurately track my time. I no longer have to short change myself nor overcharge my client for the work that I do. I just love that little pop-up timer.   Once you have all your time plugged in, you can generate a swank looking invoice that displays all of your unbilled time and tasks - very professional looking. 

Plus they got a killer app! Not only can I still track time,  create and send invoices, I can also take a picture of a receipt and upload it as an expense, all on my phone, heeeeey!

Freshbooks iPhone App

What about getting paid?  You can accept Credit Card payments through Freshbooks or connect to your PayPal and/or Stripe account.  It's super easy.  You can also connect it to your Bank Account to keep better track of your expenses.   

Last, if you like looking at the big picture, you can quickly run just about any type of report - Profit/Loss, Expenses, Time Tracking, Tax Summary, Tasks Invoiced, and so much more. 

So here's what's up! All Freshbooks links in this post are my referral links.  You can try it out for 30 days free like I did and see if it works for you.   It's especially great if you're a Freelancer and you deal with multiple clients.  It can get crazy keeping track of time worked and expenses made for who.  If you're new to Freelancing, check out this awesome infographic from Freshbooks to show you what you are in for after the jump!

What do you use for tracking your Finances for your business? Are you still using spreadsheets like I was for many years?

 

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