When you’re running your own gig, email is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s rapidly becoming the next voicemail — nobody wants to look at it, it’s clumsy to use, and for God’s sake, why don’t you just text? And in light of the 205 billion+ emails sent every day, it makes sense that Inbox Zero is a thing (that deserves caps).
But on the other hand, you need to be in contact with your clients, prospects, contractors, and anyone else who helps keep your business world spinning.
What most small business owners don’t realize is that you have so much more control over the amount of email you get than you think. In fact, if you’re getting overrun with emails, chances are it’s mostly your own fault.
So how can you get people to email you less, while still being able to keep up with everything you need to keep up with? It’s all about boundaries + clarity.
If you don’t want people to email you, don’t set up situations where they feel invited to do so.
For instance, if you’re routinely asking for responses in the emails you send out, you’re going to get emails back. If you’re really open and casual on your social channels, people are going to feel more comfortable getting in touch out of the blue. If you’re sharing vulnerable stuff in your blog posts, chances are you’re going to get people with that same flavor of vulnerability emailing you and sharing their experiences.
But to keep it from becoming overwhelming, you need to have some solid boundaries in place, and you need to give people a way to connect with you without getting all up in your inbox.
The first thing to do is to implicitly and explicitly state your boundaries. Take a look at the way you’re connecting with people. Are you being a little too open? Do you need to dial it back a little bit, become a little less accessible?
Think about ways that you can (nicely) discourage people from sending you emails. For instance, putting something as simple as “We love design. We hate long emails. Keep it short and sweet and we’ll love you, too!” can make a world of difference.
Finally, think ahead about how people are going to want to connect with you, and give them an outlet to do so that doesn’t involve email. This means making sure your social media pages are up and active, your blog’s comments section is working, etc., and directing them to those places with a pre-written email. (More on that in a sec.)
Clients who get email-clingy typically do so because you haven’t shown them that they can trust you to lead this process. The way to avoid this is to set expectations up front, to watch your language, and to make yourself explicitly clear in every single email. (Sensing a theme here?)
When people first start working with you, make it clear what your hours are and your policies for responding to emails. It doesn’t have to come across as rude or standoff-ish — you can easily keep this in line with your branding. For instance, in my client onboarding guide, I have a section about email that says:
“We don’t spend all day watching the inbox because quite frankly, we’ve got better things to do. (Like writing your copy.) So don’t freak out if we don’t get back to you in seconds — you’ll always get a reply within 24 hours on weekdays.”
When you do have email correspondence with clients, keep up that leadership tone by avoiding hesitance, jargon, and uncertainty. Watch out for phrases like “I just…”, “Sorry to bother you…”, or “I think I might…” — all of which imply that you’re uncertain, which makes them feel like they have to lead. If you really struggle with this, here’s a great free app to help you out.
Finally, use the last sentence of your email to explicitly state what you’re going to do, what’s going to happen next, or what you want them to do. This way there’s a clear structure, you can easily refer back to it if they still manage to get confused, and they’re not left wondering whether they need to check in with you.
When it comes to contractors + coworkers…
The same thing applies in terms of setting expectations and watching your language, but the issue of clarity becomes even more important. Nobody wants to get caught up in a long email chain, so clarify your expectations up front — everything from expected response times to CC etiquette to what to do in an emergency — and then stick with it.
When you do sit down to write an email, pause for just a second before you start typing and make sure you’re clear on why you’re actually sending the email. Do you need information, and if so, what specifically? Are you looking for a decision, and if so, does the person on the other end have all the info they need to give it to you? Does this actually need a response at all? You’d be surprised at how many emails you can adequately respond to with a simple “Got it — thanks! EOM” in the subject line.
Finally, you can avoid loads of back and forth with some simple, pre-written emails.
To avoid getting sucked into endless email chains, have a think about the types of questions prospects, clients, and contractors tend to email you about repeatedly. Then, pre-write emails in response to them, leaving blanks for the name and the specifics, and save them in drafts or load them into a tool like Gmail’s Canned Responses.
This includes things like answers to common questions about what you do, “I’ll get back to you with a quote in 24 hours” emails, emails with your scheduling link, emails encouraging people to share on your social media or comments sections instead of via email, and responses both accepting and declining guest posting/product reviews/speaking opportunities. Then, when you do get inquiries, just mad-lib your way through your templates and you’re good to go.
Remember: boundaries + clarity = happier clients + contractors + way fewer emails for you. (And that means way more time to actually run your business.) Win, win, and win.
Streamline more. Stress less.
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No matter how much our digitally-savvy hearts love online organizational tools like Google Calendar, Evernote, Asana, and more, there’s one thing a lot of one woman shops can agree going analog on: planners.
There’s something so incredibly satisfying about setting your planner up for the week, the month, and the year. Something to be said for seeing everything you want to see in one place. Something to be said for being able to physically cross something off a list.
So when it comes to tracking time, to-dos, ta-das, and much more, we love getting a glimpse at the best planners for solopreneurs.
Without further ado — and in no particular order — we give you the best planners for solopreneurs!
”Grace, not perfection” is Emily Ley’s motto, and The Simplified Planner is a fantastic example of how she helps women live that motto out. Coming in both daily and weekly editions, the minimalistic design is perfect for starting every day on a fresh note. We especially love the ample margin space and luxurious paper.
Pros: The Simplified Planner is minimalistic, leaving room for you to make it entirely your own. Daily and weekly editions let you choose how you want to plan.
Cons: Weekend days share one page — not ideal for the freelancer who likes equal opportunity planning for Saturdays and Sundays.
Focus on what makes you happy. That’s what The Happiness Planner is all about — breaking us from the autopilot of constant productivity and turning our minds toward reflection and self-care. Start by creating your “Happiness Roadmap,” then head into each day with the spotlight on positive thinking and affirmations, mindfulness, gratitude, and self-development.
Pros: With an initial monthly page that gives you room for personal and work goals and daily pages that still leave plenty of space for to-dos, list-loving solopreneurs will still have plenty of room to plan out their days.
Cons: The planner focuses on a daily view, so for those who prefer to see their week at-a-glance, this might not be the planner for you.
Created for solopreneurs, by a solopreneur. Freelance designer Christie Montague knows a few things about juggling a million things on the to do list. She created Plans & Things as a way for her to keep track of everything in her work + life, and you might quickly realize that it’s great for you, too.
Pros: So. much. room! The monthly spread gives you each month at-a-glance, while the weekly layouts include room for writing out weekly goals, scheduling your days, building multiple to-do lists under different categories, and jotting down “notes + brilliant ideas.” Add interchangeable covers, and the versatility of this planner becomes tough to beat.
Cons: The flexible cover, though protected, might be prone to wear.
What doesn’t Erin Condren do right? Created by a woman, for women is what we like to see — and she does it right with her signature LifePlanner™, which seems to somehow keep getting better, year after year.
Pros: Three choices of layouts (horizontal, vertical, or hourly) allow you to see your week how you want. Sturdy binding and laminate (interchangeable) covers make this a durable companion throughout the year, and inspirational covers with quotes like “She designed a life she loved” will remind you how lucky you are to be a solopreneur.
Cons: Bright colors and a 7.25” x 9.25” size make this planner hard to conceal when you’re out and about.
Elise says Get to Work; we say get shit done. With this planner, they’re one and the same. The Get to Work Book is a daily planner + goal setting workbook designed to help you break those big goals down and take things one day at a time. In Elise’s words: “While (sadly) it can’t do your work for you, every inch of it was thoughtfully designed to help you get to work.”
Pros: The minimalistic design lets you focus on the important additions you’ll make, and the 12 motivational text prints throughout will give you the push you need to make each month your own. The addition of 14 “project breakdown” pages and 13 “reflect and goal-set” pages make this a true goal-getting planner.
Cons: For those who like color, you’ll have to add it on your own. And at 246 pages, expect some weight for your work.
Poppin’s out to help us all ”Work happy.” This incredibly colorful planner packs a lot of punch in a little space, and is made with a sturdy spiral and protective cover, keeping it travel friendly.
Pros: Easy-to-find, color-coded months as well as weekly spreads leave room for lined notes and white space every day. The addition of a sheet of icon stickers makes our sticker book-loving hearts oh so happy.
Cons: Coming in at just 8.25” x 6”, the planner might be too small for those who like to write a lot…or write big.
Hardcover. Gold foil. Daily and weekly editions. ”What I will do to feel the way I want to feel” adorning the covers. Yep, Danielle LaPorte’s planners are about as enticing as everything else she creates. (#truthbomb) Naturally, it incorporates “your soul and your to-do list; your gratitude and your goals; your deepest desires with your day-to-day.” Love.
Pros: The daily layouts leave room for your Core Desired Feelings, Soul Prompts, your schedule (with a focus on reframing obligations into choices) and more. If you identify as a heart-centered solopreneur, this is more than just a get-shit-done planner.
Cons: Lots to distract from your daily to-do list (but yep, that’s kinda the point).
All.of.the.lists. That’s what this planner is about. Each page features one long to-do list, with each day making room for your top five priorities. Weekly goal + gratitude prompts add a layer of reflection, and sections dedicated to goal tracking and note-taking leave room for making it your own. For the Type A’s out there, your heart will never have been happier.
Pros: Despite weighing a hefty 2 lbs, this planner’s 7” wide x 8.5” tall, making it easy to tuck away. A hardcover and strong binding make it portable no matter the conditions.
Cons: If you’re looking for a simple to-do list planner, this one might have more bells + whistles than you need.
With seven different interior agenda choices and non-dated alternatives that offer up more space, May Designs is the ultimate in offering options that let you build planners to fit your style. Choose a cover style and your own personal monogram, and you’ll never mistake this planner for anyone else’s.
Pros: Choose from three sizes: the Mini May Book (aw!), the Classic, or the Large. Totally customizable interior pages let you choose how you want to build your planner, so you can make it work how you want to. Flexible covers make them super easy to stow on the go.
Cons: Extra space isn’t at a luxury here. For people with lots to write and keep track of, this probably isn’t the best option.
Simple, yet definitely still fun: This medium-size planner includes a pocket for extra papers, colorful monthly tabs, and a convenient elastic closure to keep everything in place. Our favorite part: the colorful, inspirational, coated tabs that mark the start of each month.
Pros: Simple yet durable. Includes a past and future month reference on each monthly spread (something that comes in handy more often that we think it might).
Cons: The layout of the Raise the Barre planner doesn’t leave a ton of room for customization.
The Commit30 Day Planner is the first product in what its creators are calling the Commit30 movement: a movement to help you accomplish your goals + dreams by taking small steps that lead to big changes, 30 days at a time. The path of least resistance is one we can get behind, which is why we loved the theme of this planner.
Pros: 240 pages of goal-based planning keeps you hyper-focused on breaking big dreams down into small actions, and staying consistent. Also: Despite not being spiral-bound, this planner lays flat when opened. (Thumbs way up.)
Cons: With black, brown, and gold as your cover options, this isn’t the prettiest (read: girliest) of planners.
Plum Paper is more than just a delightful name — these planners offer endless options to not only make them pretty, but to make them super functional in helping you manage your life and business.
Pros: Customizable calendar views let you organize your days however you want — the super organized can view their days in hourly increments while the more spontaneous solopreneur can plan by morning, afternoon, and evening. Additional add-ons include extra note pages, stickers, and more.
Cons: Honestly? It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the choices! From five vertical/horizontal options and countless cover designs, it’s hard to choose just one.
The Passion Planner has a bit of a cult following for a reason: It is truly a one-stop shop for managing your life. It has everything from an appointment book and to-do lists to a journal and gratitude log.
Pros: The flexible cover makes this planner fun to stow anywhere, and the ample space for note-taking makes it easy to transform into a planner, notebook, and journal.
Cons: Black and white is the name of the game here. If you’re searching for a planner that reflects your personality and matches your office, the straightforward design may not be for you.
The Dailygreatness journal combines a yearly diary, goal and appointment planner, and daily tools for self-mastery. This is more than just your average get-shit-done planner; the Dailygreatness planner is for anyone looking to truly integrate self-care into their ongoing routine.
Pros: Daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly check-ins help keep you accountable in creating great habits, from meditation to dream journaling, exercise to even self-awareness question sessions, and more. Full-color pages make it a book you’ll never want to put away.
Whitney English struck a chord with busy moms, bloggers, and entrepreneurs when she created the Day Designer in 2010 — and it’s remained a favorite amongst these groups ever since. Beautifully-laid out daily pages help women to specifically to focus on the important pieces of each and every day.
Pros: Each day includes a Today, To-Do, Dinner, Gratitude, Top 3 To-Do Prompts, and space for notes. For solopreneurs fitting a lot into their day (maybe you know someone like that?), this planner has the space you need.
Cons: All that space comes at a premium! Adding up to over 2 lbs, the Day Designer isn’t great for stowing and going.
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We have a problem in the online business community: too much planning and not enough doing.
In an attempt to avoid being another wantrepreneur dreamer with big ideas and little action, many new business owners are diving head first into their work without taking the time to put together some thoughtful strategy.
While the advice to “start before you’re ready” is on point, you can get started in a smart way that allows you to set yourself up for success from the start.
A combination of planning and systems implementation will save you hours of heartache in the long run.
1. Get clear on your business model
The first, big-picture thing you should do, before planning out any systems or tools, is to get clarity on what kind of business you want to have.
Short-term, you may be focusing on 1-on-1 freelance work, and nothing else, which is fine.
But if you’re wanting to evolve quickly from a 1-on-1 model to an agency model or a products and courses model, you need to plan accordingly.
Map out your one-year plan, then set up the following systems with the long-term goal in mind. It will minimize the number of changes you’ll need to make as your business evolves.
2. Map out your project workflows
The next thing you should do is put together a rough outline of what tasks you’ll be doing, and in what order, to complete your work. For example, if you’re a copywriter, you may have the following workflow:
1. New client intake
2. Create first drafts
3. 30-minute client feedback call
4. Create second drafts
5. Final client approval
6. Finalize drafts
7. Copy delivery
8. Client offboarding
Now your initial reaction may be, “but why? I know I have to do that anyway.” And it does seem like something that’s easy to handle…at first. But as you get deeper into projects, it will be easy to forget exactly which stage you are in for each client.
In an interesting research study, a checklist system, inspired by the one pilots use before each flight, was introduced to hospital surgeons. Many surgeons were against the idea of being forced to use a checklist to do something they were experts at. The results, however, surprised them, and the researchers found that being forced to use the checklist brought the hospital consistently better surgery results.
When the 20% of surgeons who remained opposed to using a checklist by the end of the study were asked if they would like a doctor to use a checklist when operating on them, 94% responded yes.
So even if you don’t believe the checklist will help you, outlining your workflow for the client can give them peace of mind that you have a process they can rely on to get their deliverable. It’s a win-win.
In addition to delivering a good product in a timely manner, making your client feel taken care of from the minute they apply for a discovery call is a surefire way to ensure a smooth experience that results in testimonials and referrals.
Have you ever started work with someone only to have them forget to send you all the things they said they would — notes from your intake call, a contract, your invoice, information about how to schedule another call…?
It’s both maddening and disconcerting, because you’re not quite sure if this person knows what they’re doing.
Be certain you have processes in place for client onboarding that includes a welcome pack with:
Set aside a few hours in one block at the beginning or end of the month to create and schedule your social media, either natively within the platform (like Facebook) or with the free version of a tool like Hootsuite.
Now, instead of getting bogged down in an endless cycle of daily social media, you take care of it in one day and just check in and respond to messages throughout the month!
If engaging in Facebook groups is on your marketing to-do list, set aside one to three 1-hour long blocks each week to check in and offer advice or feedback to others. Put it on your schedule so that it’s an appointment, not just something to get around to when you’re bored, and you’ll treat it like a real marketing task instead of a time suck.
5. Schedule time away from your business
That’s right, the best system you can implement in your business at the start is one for self-care and balance. The 80-hour weeks can be necessary at times, but time to recharge is always necessary.
Your turn: What do you think you need to make your business successful from the start?
The client intake process can be a bore for users and a pain for the service-based business owner to create because there are a lot of moving parts — gathering pertinent client information, handling the legal documentation, collecting payment, and scheduling the actual client calls.
Yet the upfront time spent creating your client intake workflow can set you apart from everyone else, while also being beautifully branded and making the process easy for your clients. Your clients will thank you, and you will love having all client information in one document.
Set the tone from the beginning
Before building your client intake form, make a list of all of the information you need to gather from potential clients. Depending on your type of business, you might need:
client’s name and contact information
event date, time, and location
client’s website URL
who referred them to you
client’s expectations, struggles, or goals
Be sure to also consider anything that you will need from the client to begin your work with them. For example, you might want to create a contract for your client to sign, you might need to collect payment, and you might have pre-work for your client to do prior to your first meeting.
As soon as a client decides to hire you, be sure your initial email includes all vital information including:
link to intake form
a one-page FAQ or “what to know” info sheet
a link to schedule their initial call/consult
You want to alleviate a long email exchange and get right down to business, but you also want to make it clear to your potential client as to how you run your business.
Can one intake form do all this? Absolutely.
Building a comprehensive client intake form
The goal for your intake form is to gather all pertinent information from your client in one form. But keep in mind that this is the first professional interaction your client will have with your brand, so you want to leave a good impression.
For an all-inclusive and easy-to-use intake process, I recommend Typeform Pro. You may be familiar with Typeform as a way to survey to your readers or create pretty questionnaires, but there is so much more to Typeform.
You can easily create fields to gather basic information like your client’s name, contact information, and URL, but there are other fields within Typeform that will allow you to do more to really flesh out your client intake process. Here are a few examples:
Legal information: Use the “Legal” field to add your contract to the intake form. You can make it “required,” which means your client will have to agree to the contract prior to proceeding with the remainder of the form.
Be sure to include a note that lets them know that by agreeing to the contract in this form, they are essentially signing the contract. You can also include a copy in the “Files” section of Typeform, which we’ll get to in a moment.
Payment: Connect your Typeform account with your Stripe account and easily collect payment on your intake form.
Typeform also has a feature allowing you to set different prices based on your client’s selection of your products or services, calculating the total amount due at the end. Clients will be able to securely enter their credit card information directly in the Typeform and Stripe handles the payment.
File upload: Easily provide your clients with a PDF of your legal information, as well as any pre-work or other important documentation right there in the intake form.
This is also a great opportunity for you to include a copy of your FAQ sheet. As solopreneurs working with clients, we tend to get asked the same questions repeatedly. Encouraging our clients to read the FAQs ahead of time will help alleviate some of these questions, freeing up more of your time to devote to the actual client work.
Thank you page: Typeform’s thank you page allows you to give clients further instructions or notice of what to expect next. You might want to let them know to expect an email that confirms your receipt of their intake form, or provide them with a link to a specific website that allows them to schedule their initial meeting with you.
Respondent notifications: After building and designing your intake form in Typeform, you will need to configure the respondent notifications. Essentially, this is the email each client will receive after completing their intake form. Typeform allows you to add specific responses to this email, which I use to create an email receipt of their payment. It looks something like this:
Hello 1 – [Your name:]
Thank you for your submission! I’ll be in touch with you very shortly with the next steps based on the service package you have selected. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, don’t hesitate to hit “reply” on this email. I’m happy to help, and appreciate your business!
For receipt purposes:
You signed up for the following service(s): [name of service package…]
For your records, you paid [price]
Thank you & have a nice day!
Typeform fills in the name, service package, and price based on the responses in the intake form.
You may also want to include links to your FAQ sheet and scheduling tool in this email as well, just in case your client skipped over the thank you page in your Typeform.
As I mentioned earlier, an FAQ sheet is a great resource for your clients and helps you alleviate the back-and-forth email exchange that tends to happen. It’s also a great way for you to set expectations and guidelines for your client interaction. In addition to the questions you frequently get asked, consider including:
Your work hours: Let clients know upfront that you will only be available via email/phone during specific office hours. If they contact you outside of these office hours, let them know the average time it takes for you to get back to them.
Your email policy: Be very clear about how many emails are included in their service package with you. Advise them to send one comprehensive email each week, rather than a series of short emails throughout the week.
How meetings take place: If you meet with clients via Skype, Google Hangouts, or over the phone, let them know this upfront and provide a bit of direction in case they aren’t familiar with the platform you use.
Reminder of pre-work: If you provided any pre-work, remind your client that this needs to be done prior to your first meeting.
If the work you are doing for this client is dependent upon the client completing certain tasks, be sure to mention that, as well. For example, if you are designing a website and need images from the client of their products, be sure to let them know that you can only complete your work on time if they follow through with specific tasks based on the timeline of your project.
Streamlining your scheduling
If your client work involves working 1:1 with the client in a meeting, whether that’s online, over the phone, or in person, you will need to provide a way for your client to schedule their time with you.
Calendly is a simple scheduling tool that syncs with your Google, Office 365, or Outlook calendar. Create one type of event for each of your service plans and allow clients to book based on your availability. They can select which date and time works best for them, and the event is added to your calendar. You will be notified of this event when the client schedules with you.
Acuity Scheduling is another powerful scheduling tool that operates in a similar way as Calendly, allowing you to sync your calendar and create multiple types of events. Acuity, however, also allows you to accept payment from clients. This might come in handy if you accept a deposit via Typeform, and need to collect payments each time your client books another event with you.
Acuity also integrates with email service providers like ConvertKit and MailChimp, dropping your clients into your email list automatically, and allows you to schedule group events like webinars or workshops. If you use Quickbooks or Freshbooks for business accounting, payments received through Acuity can be automatically added to your ledger.
What a streamlined client intake process gives you
Eliminate the back and forth, so you have less headaches. Streamline the intake process, so your client knows exactly what to expect. Despite it taking more time to set up, it’s a win-win that you won’t believe you lived without before, service-based biz owner.
Now that your client intake process is streamlined, you have more time to actually work with clients, helping your business continue to grow.
We are affiliates for a few of the services mentioned above. As always, we only promote products and services we truly believe can benefit your business.
Apps like IFTTT (short for “If This, Then That”) allow you to set up recipes that automatically connect one app to another. You can set recurring tasks to be taken care of automatically, or with the simple push of a button. Think of it as outsourcing your least favorite tasks to robots (and then feel like a genius).
Whether you’re a veteran IFTTT user or you just hopped on board, you might be overwhelmed by the vast number of recipes available. You need your automation workflow to save you time, not distract you while you search for the best recipes!
Try these 8 best IFTTT recipes for solopreneurs to get you started.
Imagine being able to share quality content with your followers with just the click of a button. That’s exactly what this recipe does for you. Now when you come across an actionable article you know your tribe would love, all you have to do is add it to Pocket, and IFTTT will automatically add it to your Buffer schedule.
Don’t use Buffer? You can also connect Pocket to Asana, Evernote, or Google Drive to quickly gather all those shareworthy articles in one location. Then you or your VA can easily batch your social media sharing for the week in one sitting!
Hashtags are a great way to categorize information, but they don’t do you any good if you don’t have an easy way to refer back to them. This IFTTT recipe fixes all that by automatically adding any usage of a specific hashtag on Twitter directly to a Google Spreadsheet.
These are just some of the Twitter hashtags you might want to hang onto for later use:
Your brand or product’s custom hashtag (like #OneWomanShopLife!)
A Twitter chat that always shares helpful insights or resources
A Twitter chat you run yourself
A hashtag your dream clients use repeatedly
Hashtags prospective clients use to post job listings in your industry
All you have to do is check your spreadsheet to keep up with your favorite hashtags — and they’ll be saved there forever, so there’s no fear that you’ll lose them in your fast-moving Twitter feed.
Let’s be honest: LinkedIn is very few people’s favorite social site. But regularly sharing your posts there can go a long way toward landing new clients! Having an active LinkedIn profile shows that you’re invested in your career, and your latest posts will immediately display your skills and expertise to anyone who stumbles upon your profile.
This recipe is the easy way to keep your LinkedIn profile current and your connections up to date on your recent work without your having to lift a finger.
Ever wonder how many hours you really put into your solo biz? Most of us are bad at estimating how many hours we work in a week, which is a problem when you need to calculate an accurate hourly rate to base your project fees on.
Logging your time manually can be tedious, but this IFTTT recipe makes it a snap to track your work hours. This recipe doesn’t track the specific task you’re working on, but it can help you notice important patterns in your work day. Most importantly, it will tell you without a doubt how long you spent on the clock on any given day. (Goodbye, 16-hour days! Maybe…)
All solopreneurs have goals both within and outside of their business. This IFTTT recipe lets you keep a tally of anything you choose and store it in Google Drive with the single click of a button. This is a great way to aim for more self-care activities or fewer distractions in your day.
This recipe can help you track almost any goal or activity, but these are some of my favorites:
Finishing a glass of water
Getting up from your desk to stretch and move around
“Quickly checking” social media
Switching from one task to another, even if it’s just for a moment
Connecting with someone, whether online, in person, or over social media
Evernote is a big player in many solopreneurs’ day-to-day organization. Now you can use it even more efficiently thanks to this IFTTT recipe. Starring emails and then archiving them is the easy way to get your to-do list out of your inbox and into your actual to-do list in Evernote. Inbox zero, here we come!
Solopreneurs can use Craigslist to find everything from a great deal on office equipment to supplies to be used in their products. You can even find the occasional client on the Craigslist job board!
Scouring through Craigslist can be time consuming. This recipe takes care of the work for you by emailing you when a new Craigslist post matches your search criteria. So the next time you’re in the market for a used printer, you can wait for the perfect match to find you instead of the other way around!
If you’re regularly using Trello to organize your solo biz, you’ll love this recipe. Most of us have recurring tasks that happen on a daily or weekly basis. Save yourself the time it takes to manually create those Trello cards each week and let IFTTT automatically do the job for you! Any recurring cards will be ready and waiting in your Trello board with no extra work on your plate.
Which IFTTT recipes keep your solo biz up and running?
Did we miss any IFTTT recipes for solopreneurs that you can’t live without? Tell us about your favorites in the comments!
Welcome to Tools We Love, where we highlight some of the tools that make us more efficient, productive, and effective in our businesses. Have a tool that you want to share with the community? Email us! Today’s tool we love: Gmail’s Canned Responses!
We did a quick search on One Woman Shop and were shocked to find out that we’ve only mentioned one of our favorite tools — Gmail’s Canned Responses — exactly once in the past several years. (Hey, with 46 pages of blog content, we can’t remember every single thing we write.)
A quick overview: Canned Responses are a Gmail Labs feature (Labs = “a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime”) that allow you to save templates for the emails that you send often. Think: answers to FAQs, your client onboarding process, or step-by-step instructions.
Hands-down, the biggest benefit of enabling Canned Responses is saving yourself time. But we’ve recently uncovered another big benefit: Using Canned Responses can help you remove some of the emotion when you need to deliver negative news, like an application rejection or sponsorship request.
Go to the Settings wheel on the top right of your Gmail account
Go to Labs
Enable Canned Responses
Hit Save and your inbox will refresh
Next time you compose an email, hit the bottom right-hand arrow in the new message to see (or save) a Canned Response
Here’s what it looks like:
Voila — the next time someone asks about your contributor guidelines or how your pricing works, you can reply with just a few clicks! Of course, we highly recommend adding a personal touch to every email — but this gives you a solid base from which to work.
Here’s your challenge from One Woman Shop: Every time you send an email over the course of the next week, ask yourself “Will I likely send this same email again?” If so, save that shit as a Canned Response right away. (Pardon our French — we get amped up when it comes to saving time.)
Welcome to Tools We Love, where we highlight some of the tools that make us more efficient, productive, and effective in our businesses. Have a tool that you want to share with the community? Email us! Today’s tool we love: PopupAlly!
Which email marketing platform to choose. The best social media platform for business owners. Which planner to use at the beginning of each year. And…whether or not to use a pop-up. These are just a few of the things that cause great debate amongst solo business owners around the world. (And…the types of things that make us think, “You know you’re a solopreneur when…”)
Installing a pop-up has dramatically increased our conversion rate for email sign ups. Want proof? As we mention in Building Your Online Community, we credit the combination of a pop-up (installed 5/19/2014) and our opt-in freebie (promoted 6/1/2014) with this little increase in our subscribers:
And given that our email list is one of our top sources of sales, collaborations, and more, we’ve found it to be worth the risk of potentially irritating a minor subset of our website visitors in order to best serve our community.
It’s super easy to customize the look of your pop-up so that it reflects your brand
You can create two pop-ups with the free version, which means you can have both an overall pop-up, as well as a targeted one (we did this on our 100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs page to increase downloads of our Road to Solopreneur Success ebook)
You can split test two different pop-ups to track conversion rate (only with the pro version)
The AmbitionAlly website is chockful of best practices for pop-ups. In fact, we would wager a bet that you can find the answer to any question you have about PopUpAlly or pop-ups
To be honest? As of right now, we can’t think of any limitations of PopupAlly, so we’ll just say this: The biggest “problem” is that we can’t do absolutely everything we’d like to do with the free version. But, as fellow business owners, we really can’t complain about a company providing an awesome free version and then trying to upsell to a paid version. More power to ‘em for roping us in so effectively and making us loyal fans!
Even for those self-proclaimed “tech-illiterate” solopreneurs, we can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be up and running with a pop up in no time when you use PopupAlly pro. (We can say this, because we might just be those people…)
Welcome to Tools We Love, where we highlight some of the tools that make us more efficient, productive, and effective in our businesses. Have a tool that you want to share with the community? Email us! Today’s tool we love: SendOwl!
If you’re like many of the business owners in our community, you probably offer some kind of paid product that you’re looking to sell online.
Us too! As we prepped for the launch of The Solopreneur Success Bundle, we knew we wanted a robust e-commerce platform that would allow us to 1) handle both payment and delivery of our digital download, and 2) manage our affiliate program (we were so thrilled to sign up over 70 amazing affiliates, who actively promoted the Solopreneur Success Bundle throughout the 5 days that it was for sale).
Discount codes: We use specific codes for our fantastic members, to track the success of specific Facebook Ads, and more.
Upsell feature: This requires upgrading to the second tier of the monthly plan, but it allows us to automate the upselling process. An example: Someone goes to buy The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook and they’re encouraged to upgrade to the whole One Woman Shop Bundle instead. (Because…why not?)
Integration with MailChimp (and pretty much every other email marketing platform. Yes, including ConvertKit!): When an individual purchases any of our products, they are automatically added to the appropriate email list or tag, which means we can send them follow-up emails specific to that product.
Easy affiliate management: Want to offer different affiliates different commission rates, like we did when we offered Solopreneur Success Bundle contributors a 50% commission, instead of the standard 30% rate? Easy to do with SendOwl. Want to only enlist affiliates for certain products, but not others? Same. Want to see which of your affiliates is kicking the most ass, so that you can reward her accordingly? Easy.
Order tracking + reporting: If you want to see when you’re making the most sales, how many orders were started but not completed, and your conversion rate (based on the number of orders completed vs. the number of times the page was reviewed), SendOwl’s got you covered.
Google Analytics integration: With a huge launch like The Solopreneur Success Bundle, tracking our conversions was critical. We didn’t get as far into the Google Analytics integration feature as we would have liked, but knowing it’s there for this year’s Bundle is reassuring.
Stellar service: So far, we’ve been very satisfied with their responsive customer service and very complete Help Center. Seriously, we know what we’re talking about here — we did some desperate 11th hour (literally, 11pm) searching of it the night before the Bundle launched.
Limitations + drawbacks
No product is perfect, so SendOwl has to have limitations, right?
Obviously, we would have preferred to use the Upsell feature (mentioned above) without upgrading our plan, but it takes money to make money, friends.
Another slight limitation: We would love to be able to upload materials, like graphics and pre-written social media content, for our affiliates directly to SendOwl to save them a step when they want to promote us — which is always, of course 😉 Our workaround: Create a Google Doc with all of the assets and link it within an auto-responder on MailChimp. They sign up as affiliates, get added to the corresponding list, and get kicked this email with everything they need. Boom. #welovesystems
How to get started with SendOwl
Head to SendOwl and create an account by clicking “Sign up” in the upper righthand corner.
Choose a pricing plan: Basic ($9 USD per month) might be for you if you don’t need to manage an affiliate program, but otherwise, the Standard ($15 USD) is probably the right fit. If you plan to sell subscriptions or would like to offer upsells, opt for the $24 USD per month plan (like we do). No matter which plan you choose, you get a free, 30-day trial.
Head over to the Help Center for instructions on every single step of the process.
Questions about SendOwl? Hit us up in the comments below! Have a tool you love for selling + affiliate management? We’d love to hear that, too!
It takes so many tools to organize your business. You have an editorial calendar, project roadmaps, to-do lists, contact lists…and those are just the things you’ve used today.
It seems to be everyone’s dream to have one tool to rule them all. And while I can’t promise you that, I can tell you how to get a lot closer.
The key is to use tools that are super flexible, enough that you can adapt them for any use. The best tool I’ve found for that? Trello.
What is Trello?
Trello is a project management platform with a very visual layout. It’s designed to follow the Kanban method, which in this context means a visualized layout of your workflow. I know it sounds boring, but Trello makes it simple.
At its simplest, Kanban lays out three workflow stages: to do, doing, and done. They’re usually laid out in that order from left to right, and you move cards to the right as they progress.
Realistically, your processes are probably more complex than just three steps.
But because Trello is also amazingly flexible, you don’t have to use it just for Kanban. There are a ton of integrations, including IFTTT and Zapier, meaning you can easily work it into your current processes wherever it makes sense.
Trello is made up of boards, lists, and cards. A board would be for an entire project. Within that, there are several lists, and you can think of cards as items or to-dos on those lists. You can drag and drop cards from one list to another, and archive them when they’re completed.
Types of Trello boards
I’ve found that most boards fall into one of three broad categories. Each of them work best for different products and working styles, so you can choose whatever grooves with you and customize it to your heart’s desire.
1. Traditional Kanban
A lot of boards will follow the traditional Kanban style of laying out your workflow visually — that to do, doing, and done process covered above. You can create one list for each step of your process. As a project moves along, you can drag and drop those cards to the right, from one board to another. (Moving to the right is a great feeling.)
What it works best for: When the most important thing to keep track of is something’s progress, like to-do lists, tracking freelance projects, planning content creation, and more.
2. Topical lists
Trello’s also great for organizing big projects, when the thought of creating and managing a spreadsheet for it gives you a migraine. With something like launching a product or a “master ideas list,” a single column for tasks to do may not be enough.
Organizing your board by topical lists, instead of one list for each stage of your process, lets you break things down a bit further than “things to do.”
It has a different, cleaner view and can be easier to deal with than a spreadsheet. You can drag and drop tasks to reorganize your plans, view your project in multiple ways, and search and filter the data much easier — a simple search bar instead of knowledge of Excel formulas and tricks.
Spreadsheets are meant for data, not to-do lists.
Use Trello to organize huge lists by creating a board and breaking it down by sublists and cards, laying it out, and filtering as you please (more on this later).
What it works best for: Big, “monster lists” like idea buckets, product launch plans, business roadmaps, contact lists, and other large projects.
By turning on the free calendar power-up, you can view a calendar of your Trello cards based on due date. It’s great as a kind of hybrid board, for when you’d like to have the visual Kanban view but still need a traditional calendar.
You can toggle between the two as much as you want, drag and drop on the calendar to rearrange due dates, and look at your projects from a second angle.
What it works best for: To-do lists with hard due dates, editorial calendars, tracking individual project due dates.
Tips for Trello pros
Once you’ve gotten the basics down and can lay out a project, you can think about getting fancy to make Trello even more fun.
Browse real-life examples.Trello’s Inspiration page has a ton of examples submitted by users. You’ll walk away with a ton of ideas for ways to organize your business.
Use all the features. You only need the basic structure of a Trello board to get the job done. But you can use descriptions, attachments, labels, due dates, checklists, and integrations to add more detail to your projects and filter your to-dos.
Collaborate. Plan projects with clients, customers, or partners by creating a group board where you all can assign each other cards, comment back and forth, and make collaboration easy.
Keep an “FYI” card on every board. Always create one card that stays on the board forever, with information on how the board works. Maintenance will be easier — especially when you’re collaborating — if you lay out the board’s purpose and processes.
Use templates. Creating templates for card descriptions and checklists that you can copy later will save time updating the board and ensure long-term consistency for you organization freaks like me.
“Move it to the right”
Trello can be anything you want it to be, so it’s worth giving it a shot. Whether you want a cleaner spreadsheet or more visual to-do list, there’s a board for that.
Sign up to grab 3 free Trello board templates to copy + customize for your biz.
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Congratulations! You’ve made the leap to full-time solopreneurship.
The first few days out on your own are exciting, scary, freeing and anxiety-inducing all at the same time.
I would know. I’m currently in the midst of week three of running my own solo business after six years in a stable 9-5 corporate job. Over the last few years, I was building my business as a side hustle around those corporate hours.
During my first week of full-time solopreneurship, I experienced a million different types of emotions, ranging from “This is the BEST! Why did I wait so long to quit my job?” to “Oh My God, WHAT am I doing with my life?!”
Feeling that way, too? Take a deep breath and relax. What you’re experiencing is completely normal.
Plan ahead for those jitters with these five must-dos for your first week of solopreneurship.
1. Stick to your “normal” routine. While one of the major perks of solopreneurship is the ability to create your own flexible schedule, for the purposes of an easier transition, stick to your normal routine as closely as possible in your first week. For me, that meant continuing to set my alarm for 5 a.m. and starting my day with a workout even though I didn’t necessarily have somewhere to be at a certain time. Similarly, don’t forget to eat and hydrate! On my first day of solopreneurship, all of a sudden it was 2 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten lunch and was wondering why I was starting to feel so cranky and anxious. It’s the simple things that can fall by the wayside when you run your own business. Over time, begin to experiment with your schedule, but to keep yourself sane (at least in week one), stick to a schedule that creates a little bit of normalcy in your life.
2. Stay organized. Your first week as a solopreneur is your chance to start strong. As a business owner, there’s A LOT to keep track of. Put processes in place now to track your income, expenses, emails, client list, etc. One thing that has really helped me is creating a “master networking spreadsheet.” This is a list of every single person I reached out to (or who reached out to me) upon announcing my new business venture. In the spreadsheet, I track who the person is, the date we chatted, what we talked about and I tag the person as either a client, potential client or simply a good person to network with. This spreadsheet makes me feel in control of my relationships, connections and conversations, and will serve as a useful tool to remind me to stay in touch and follow up with my network. As business owners, we don’t always feel in control of what’s going on around us, but putting processes and organizational tools into place can help us gain back a little bit of control.
3. Leave yourself blocks of time to get work done. When you announce to your community that you’re starting your own business, naturally, your network will be excited for you. Many will want to set up coffee dates, breakfasts, lunches or Skype calls. I recommend you take the time to network and chat with these connections, but be sure to leave yourself significant blocks of time to actually get work done. In my first week of self-employment, I participated in 18 different meetings, many of them back-to-back, leaving me no chunks of time to write and complete proposals. By the end of the week, I felt completely panicked and realized I had committed the #1 major mistake of self employment: I seriously overbooked myself. Consider blocking your time in a way that works for you — moving forward, I plan to leave my mornings open for writing/work and keep my afternoons clear for meetings/calls.
4. Do something that makes you feel like a solopreneur. In my first week of self-employment, I did two things that truly made me feel like a solopreneur. The first was meeting a friend for lunch and coworking at our favorite cafe in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. The second was teaching a 9:30 a.m. yoga class on a Friday morning. Both of these activities made me feel like I was “playing hooky” from work until I realized, “This IS my job now.” While simple and not so out of the ordinary, these two events allowed me the opportunity to really feel like a business owner calling the shots and running my own business. What type of activity makes YOU feel like a solopreneur? Allow yourself to indulge and take advantage of your new schedule and life by doing something that makes you feel good and excited about the future ahead.
5. Start and end your week with inspiring conversations. My first day of self-employment kicked off with a phone call with my mentor/biggest cheerleader, Jason Mollica. The week ended with a Friday afternoon call with a super inspiring fellow business owner, Ben Butler. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to kickstart and bookend my first week of solopreneurship. Think of two of the most inspiring and encouraging people in your life and ask them to be part of your all-important first week of self-employment! These two conversations gave me the motivation I needed to start my week right and ease into the weekend, mentally prepared to take on my second week of solopreneurship.
Fellow solopreneurs: Have anything else to add to this list? What are some must-dos you’d recommend to new business owners in their first week of self-employment?