The Top 7 Business Tools That I Use Every Single Day

There are a TON (and I mean a ton) of free or nearly free apps out there to help you run your small business. But, are they all created equal? No. Here are the top 7 business tools that I use every single day and that make my life easy-peasy.

Last year, we wrote a blog about 11 Amazing Free Business Tools to Run Your Business the Easy Way. Quite a few of the below business tools are listed there, but some are new!

  1. Nutcache

LOVE this app! While it isn’t completely free, it’s well worth every penny spent.

Nutcache is:

Time Tracker + Invoice & Expense + Project Management

ALL-IN-ONE!

Nutcache Project Management Screenshot

Seriously, all-in-one. It’s pretty amazing and I use it all the time. I use it as a Customer Relationship Management system also, but it’s not quite as robust on that front as other options like Insightly.

  1. Grammarly

I can’t even explain how much of a life-saver Grammarly is as a business tool. For a writer, it is my saving grace and helps me maintain my sanity on a daily basis.

Grammarly is a web-based grammar, spelling, and basic sentence structure checker. I typically write all of my content in Google Docs and then paste it into Grammarly for review. This includes client content projects.

  1. Google Drive | Google Docs

There isn’t much that needs to be said about Google Drive & Google Docs. My business lives on the cloud within this web-based tool. Literally, lives there.

If you’re not utilizing the wonders of Google Drive as one of your daily business tools, you’re doing it wrong.

  1. Canva

I’ve written love letters to Canva before, and my feelings have not changed.

This web-based graphic design app is literally heaven on screen. I use it for everything from social media imagery to postcards and website graphics. Plus, they have a huge library of design tutorials to help you learn and get started!

Canva Tutorial Screenshot

I personally use the free version currently, but will be updating to the Canva For Work paid version very soon. Stay tuned for a blog detailing the difference between the two!

Interested in Canva? Read our blog: What Does Canva Mean to a Small Business.

  1. Pinterest

Primo inspiration, baby!

Pinterest is a GOLD MINE for all kinds of inspiration. I personally use it to stash content ideas and continued learning opportunities. Honestly, with such a deep well of content on Pinterest, you’ll be hard-pressed to actually consume everything that you pin. But, here’s to trying, right?!

Feel free to follow Ink.e Digital on Pinterest OR Follow me to share my inspiration.

  1. Pixabay

This website is an amazing partner for Canva. Although Canva offers a ton of really great free photos with their free app, sometimes you just need a more professional looking option.Pixabay Screenshot

Pixabay is a royalty free photography site that happens to offer some really high-quality stock photos. Although I’m a compulsive graphic asset hoarder, I still use Pixabay just about every single day for my own brand or for a client.

  1. Day Planner

Everyone has their own preferred method of organization. Me? I’m a COMPULSIVE list-maker. Seriously, I make lists of lists on paper, whiteboard and in my day planner.

Instead of using a disposable day planner, I use the M by Staples ARC system planner. It’s a scalable planner that offers a variety of different insertable pages and page dividers. They come in lots of pretty colors and have page refills and expander ring for just about everything.

The initial investment is a little on the higher end for a day planner, but after the first year, it’s only a few bucks to replace your pages.

Well, there you have it! These are my top 7 business tools that I use every single day to keep my business strong and healthy.

Do you have a really great tool that helps you run your business?

4 Simple Ways to Encourage Someone Today

Today is National Be An Encourager Day!

If you’re anything like me, you understand just how much a little bit of encouragement can help you grow. Here are 4 simple ways to encourage someone today.

Encouraging someone can be easier than you think and can apply to everyone. Learn to encourage your clients, your employees and yourself!

  1. Pay Them A Simple Compliment

A simple compliment can really make a difference, even if it isn’t related to the thing that needs encouraging.

Tell them that they look extra confident today or that their look is just killin’ it today. Words work wonders. Try it.

Encouragement goes a long way.

  1. Point Out Something That They Are Rockin’

If this person is having a hard time focusing on any one thing and needs a little encouragement to keep going…try pointing out one of the things that they are just rockin’.

Maybe they have AMAZING branding or a KILLER elevator pitch. Or, maybe they’re THE most charismatic speaker you have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

Point it out, compliment it and encourage it. Believe me, it will give them a burst of speed when it comes to getting back to work on the things that matter.

  1. Compare Their Successes to Famous Success Stories

Imitation is the purest and best form of flattery. If someone needs encouragement, one of the best ways to do it is to liken their successes to another famous success stories.

There are tons of different success stories out there that have made the history books. I guarantee you that you can liken one of those stories to the success story that is standing right in front of you.

  1. Remind Them That There’s Still Time

Failure is not a bad thing, and it just means that they haven’t quite perfected their thinking yet. Remind them that there is STILL TIME and to never, ever give up on their dream.

Not every successful person found their shining star right away. In fact, most of them started and quit several different businesses along the way before they found their calling. So, there’s always more time to do what makes you happy and to find the right course of action.

Dreams are important and need a little encouragement and a little love now and then to really blossom. Water them and watch them grow…Encouraging Someone Is Like Watering a Flower

There you have it. Sometimes you don’t always know what people are going through, and a little encouragement goes a really long way. Now get out there and encourage someone to be their best selves today!

4 Reasons Why Traditional Marketing Is Like Watching a Chick Flick

 

Traditional marketing is on its way out, there’s no denying that. It may take another century for it to turn to dust, but it’s nearly inevitable. But, some businesses and industries cling to traditional marketing for dear life.

Because traditional marketing is turning gray, it’s getting pretty stale and boring too. A little like getting roped into something that holds no interest for you. Here are 4 reasons why traditional marketing is like watching a chick flick with your significant other.

Movie Slide #11. Someone Is Always Going to be Bored
Ok, so we’re not married to the analogy of chick flicks. It could be a slasher film or a war movie too. Anything that excites one person and bores the crap out of the other.

That’s the point. Someone is always going to be bored when it comes to traditional media. You’re catering to a very small fraction of the public if you pigeonhole yourself into strictly traditional marketing. Not many people watch TV or read a newspaper these days.

Movie Slide #22. You’re Going to Get Distracted by Other Things/People
So, you’re watching a movie with your girl or guy. Halfway through, what happens? You get a little ‘distracted’ by the other person. Now neither of you are paying attention to the movie.

Same deal with traditional. Some people might tune in for a hot minute, but inevitably they’re going to tune out before you make your point. Digital media is just far more entertaining.

Movie Slide #3 3. It’s Not Effective Anymore
Watching a movie with your significant other is intended to bring you closer, but more often than not it does quite the opposite. Just like traditional marketing tactics.

Traditional marketing used to be hugely successful and effective. But now it’s kinda lost its mojo.

Movie Slide #4

4. It’s Almost Preachy
No one likes to be preached to, and that is essentially what a chick flick does. Whether you’re the man or woman in the relationship, a chick flick is always telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. Who wants that?!

That is exactly what traditional marketing does. It tells you what you should do, instead of letting you make your own decisions.

In Conclusion…
Traditional marketing is not really worth the time and effort to maintain a campaign anymore. You can get the desired effect with a much less expensive content marketing or digital marketing campaign. We know that some industries still swear by traditional, which is ok. You can stick with what you know. We would just suggest mixing it up a little and trying to appeal to the broader audience by adding a little digital marketing into your strategy.

Book Report: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Change The Way You Work Forever with Rework.

Remember how we said that Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk was the first book you should ever read in business? Well, then Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is the workingman’s (and workingwoman’s) bible. Keep it under your pillow. We do.

This book should be read, and read often. If you ever doubt yourself in your life or career, just open this book to any page and be enlightened. Seriously. We’ve read it three times through.

This is our review and outline of what makes Rework unique, and downright essential to every working person out there in the world. Below are the top 5 things that we learned from this fantastic book.

Untitled design

1. Embrace the Real World

Embracing the real world starts with understanding that the real world doesn’t mean shit. Honestly, when people tell you that your idea wouldn’t work in the “real world,” try asking them what the hell the real world actually is. Because honestly, it doesn’t exist. Crazy awesome ideas can thrive in a world where we previously didn’t think it could. That is called the present.

Do things that make sense to you, and start small. You don’t have to be a multi-national conglomerate to have a say and make a difference. If your idea is good, go for it. Shoot for the moon and do your best.

Efficiency is key when it comes to harnessing something that no one thought was possible. You need to prove that it works, and prove that in the simplest way possible.

2. Give In To and Grow Your Legacy

Your legacy is not just you. It’s not just your company or your employees. Your legacy is what you do with the time and the resources that you’ve been given. Be the change that you want to see. It’s that simple.

Figure out what you want to do or what you want to see happen…and do it. Sell what you’re proud of, because if you’re not proud of it that will seep through, and your customers will pick up on it.

Stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything. (This particular quote has a ridiculous lineage that’s nearly impossible to follow. We love it, but we can’t credit it.)

If you believe in what you do, it won’t be hard to stand on your own two feet without a crutch. You don’t need it. Just keep things minimal until you can afford those extra goodies. Now, we understand that sometimes this idea doesn’t work for certain industries, but there are ways to keep it lean.

But always remember that no matter your business or industry, you should always develop and invest in a commitment strategy instead of an exit strategy. It makes more sense to stick around and keep on chuggin’ along rather than try to skip town the instant the outlook changes. Don’t ever start a business with the intention to jump ship and sell. Start it to make a difference.Start it to be the change you want to see. The change you NEED to see.

3. Do Things. Don’t Just Meet About Them

Meetings are ToxicMeetings are toxic. Anyone that has ever worked in any type of corporate environment has learned this the hard way.

If you think that a meeting will solve your problems, first take 5 minutes to sit down and think about what you’re trying to accomplish first. You have to think about the time you’re taking away from the attendees and how that will impact your business. A one-hour meeting is essentially worth 6 hours of lost productivity if six team members are involved.

If you really have to hold a meeting… Think about the constraints that you’re working within, and build a meeting outline. Start with a solid central idea and build from there without getting lost in the details.

Remember… (and we love this quote) You’re better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole. So, if you can make due with what you’ve got, for now, do it. Sometimes “fine” is just right.

4. Decisions Are Progress

Sometimes you just need to make a decision. Whether that decision is right for the long run or not, its still progress and they’re just right for right now.

But, don’t make decisions because that would be what’s expected of you at this stage in your development. Screw expectations. Seriously, screw em’ because they don’t apply to you. Always make decisions based on your business needs and must-haves. If you find that you’d be much more efficient with the addition of a project management software program to the tune of $50/month, then go for it. But, if you think you should get that just to save face and make yourself look more professional and more legit…don’t do it.

Do what you need to do to be efficient and effective. Nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes what large companies don’t understand is that you can make things work without throwing money at them. Trust in your people; they will always have the answers.

5. Focus on You, Not Them

Focus On YouYour business is for you, not for your competition. Who cares what they’re doing.

When you spend too much time trying to outdo your competition, you end up letting your brand (and your image) fall by the wayside.

If people spent half as much time developing their own brand as they do obsessing over their competition, we’d have a lot more character in the business world.

Spend that time focusing on what makes your business different or extraordinary, and you’ll never be disappointed.

In Conclusion…

The above five points are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what you can learn from this book. Honestly, our copy of Rework is dog-eared, highlighted, marked and tagged beyond recognition. Yours will be too. Get your copy of Rework here.
You’re welcome.

In What Type of Office Environment Do You Manage Your Business?

 

Last week on social media, we asked what type of office environment you managed your business in. For the most part, you said that you worked from a home office of some sort. That’s great, because so do we!

This is how we roll…

Our Home Office Setup

If you didn’t let us know what your working environment is like, feel free to add it in the comments below!

How’s It Working for You?

Is working from home the right type of environment for you and your business growth? It’s hard to maintain your momentum and motivation, that’s for sure. But, some people just excel in a home-based environment and some don’t. Are you sure that you’re a true homebody?

In the Meantime…

Do Work Post-Its

Does Your Business Need a Content Marketing Strategy?

Does Your Business Need a Content Marketing Strategy?

So, Does Your Business Need a Content Marketing Strategy?

If you read our recent blog post, What Is Content Marketing & Why Should A Business Owner Care? then you’re probably asking yourself whether you need a content marketing strategy. Well, the short answer is yes.

Because content is everything that we read, hear, or look at every single day, having a strategy in place to determine how that content is introduced and who it is presented to is a valuable resource.

What Exactly Does It Accomplish?

Outlining a documented content marketing strategy helps you nail down:

1. Who you are as a brand, and as people.
2. What you’re trying to say to your audience, or what your brand story is.
3. How to say what you’re trying to say to produce the most impact.
4. Who is actually listening to what you have to say.

Content Marketing Accomplishments

Having these things figured out will help drive your brand marketing efforts in the right direction: UP. While having a verbal strategy or unspoken agreement of a content marketing strategy is a great start, it does not compare to having a documented strategy in place for your brand.

The Benefits of Having a Content Marketing Strategy

While the exact ROI is harder to pin down for content marketing, the benefits of a well-formed, documented content marketing strategy are boundless. Since it is essentially a passive skill, it acts as a sort of magnet that pulls your audience in and can help produce the following:

• Increased brand awareness within your niche market.
• Instil brand loyalty and trust in your audience.
• Produce a genuine community of brand advocates and fans.
• Create stronger retention and referral numbers.
• Increased sales.

DrinkBranders Content Case Study Analytics

While those are just the tip of the iceberg, they can only be achieved by documenting your content marketing strategy and following it to the letter. This means distributing copies of it to everyone within the content curation, creation and distribution workflow. It also means sharing it with everyone else that could have a hand in reaching your audience, whether through emails or face-to-face.

We firmly believe in the power of knowing who you are and who you want to reach, and we can help shed some light on that process for you. We offer tailored content marketing strategies and implementation for all types of businesses. Request a consultation today!

Udemy: A Virtual Classroom that Matters

Have you heard about Udemy yet?

No? Well, why the hell not?!

What Is Udemy?

Udemy is an online learning resource that offers a wide range of video courses for people in every industry or stage in their life. Whether you’re looking to learn the basics of graphic design or want to learn first aid for pets, you’re covered.

Why Is It Different?

While it can be compared to Lynda.com in pure function, Udemy is a better option for those of us that don’t necessarily consume a course in the regular fashion.

Lynda.com offers a monthly membership fee for access to an unlimited amount of course videos. While Udemy takes a different stance by offering their course library with a varied pricing structure that comes directly from the instructor. Plus, there are several FREE courses on Udemy! Who doesn’t love free?!

Their tagline is the “Academy of You”, and that statement could not be any more true for Udemy. Their focus is to provide you with the information that you want and need, on your own terms. You’ll never have to worry about rushing through a course just to finish it before your subscription runs out. Plus, most of the courses include downloadable worksheets to help you absorb the information that you’re learning.

Inside a Udemy Course Screenshot

Why Should Udemy Matter to a Business Owner?

Whether you’re new to the game or a long-time business owner, you can find great value in Udemy.

If you love learning and keeping up with the times, Udemy is an AWESOME resource for continuing your learning process. Udemy offers a huge library of unique, and well-thought-out video courses that range from entrepreneurship to pet care. We’ve worked through several courses, which we will break down and review for you in our upcoming ProfessorU blog series!

Udemy Business and Entrepreneur Course List Screenshot

The Glory of Gmail Labs: Undo Send, Reading Pane & More!

Whether you use Gmail for personal or business email, you’ve probably noticed that while it’s pretty awesome it is not quite as robust as it could be. Have you ever wished that your Gmail account offered the same options that Outlook does? We all want to preview an email or recall a sent message, right?

Well, please allow us to blow your mind with the glory of Gmail Labs! We’ve only just discovered this killer feature, and it is revolutionizing the way we handle email.

1. To find the Labs, just go to your gear widget in the top right-hand corner of your Gmail window.

From there click on Settings. This is the same area in which you would add Labels or additional email account imports.

Gmail Email Settings

2. The Gmail Labs tab is on the far right. Click through and be amazed at all the crazy options, but don’t overdo it.

If there’s a specific lab that you’re looking for, you can easily search for it by name.

Gmail Email Labs Settings and Navigation

3. When you find your preferred lab, simply click Enable and scroll back to the top to save your changes. All changes will automatically update once you save and click out of the Settings area.

Available Undo Send Lab

Some of the labs that we installed are:

Ink.e Digital Enabled Gmail Labs

Something to be Proud Of…

5 Ways Content Marketing is like Owning a Cat

“That’s something to be proud of

That’s a life you can hang your hat on

You don’t need to make a million..”

Do you work hard to make a good living? That’s all well and good, but are you proud of what you do? Try stepping back to look at it from another angle. From the outside looking in, you should feel an overwhelming sense of pride when you look at the work you do and how it affects yourself and others. If not, then you’re doing it wrong.

We all have something that we’re proud of, and the context of that pride varies from person to person, group to group and business to business. Pride in your actions can only be gauged by yourself, and no one else. Don’t look to someone else to find the answers or ask what you should do. Own it and make it happen.

Be Proud…But Stay Classy, San Diego.

Own that shit and be proud of everything that you do, but don’t turn into a bloated pride-monster. No one likes that. Be proud and stay humble. If you can do that, you’ll never truly work a day in your life.

Are you proud of your work?

Don’t Be A Jack-Ass of All Trades

Cat playing

Don’t give me that look; you know exactly what I’m getting at. This is the person that knows a little about a lot of things and likes to throw their weight around like they own it. But guess what, they have no idea what they’re doing behind closed doors.

I know this because I used to be one of these assholes. I knew a little about so many things, and I fancied myself a “marketing guru”, but in actuality, I had no idea how to approach a project. Each attempt ended in frustration and usually a bowl of pity ice cream. Believe me, it feels like crap when you come to the realization that you’re a big fat liar.

Playing the jackass of all trades card often ends in the loss of all credibility with clients after the first meeting. You might be able to breeze through the initial consultation with some great data and witty quips that you picked up while Pinteresting, but your house of cards will immediately begin to crumble as soon as you hit the parking lot.

When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, a jack-ass of all trades can’t tell their ass from their elbow when it comes to following a multi-faceted project through to launch. They often become distracted by small details that don’t matter in the grand scheme of the project and end with a half-assed whole instead of a kick-ass half. (I stole that line from an amazing book, ReWork.)

Do the Thing, Be a Pro

Whether your interest lies in graphic design or carpentry, pick something and own it. Test the waters a bit and find out what works for you mentally, physically and emotionally. Not everything will click. But, when you do find that sweet spot…give it all you’ve got!

So, if you find yourself floating from project to project without any real results, you should probably sit down and re-evaluate your choices. Not all choices are right for you, and you may never even realize it. For me, working out just does not agree with me. But, providing you with snark for your daily read gives me warm fuzzies.

What’s your warm fuzzy?