Tools We Love: Gmail’s Canned Responses

Tools We Love: Gmail's Canned Responses

Tools We Love: Gmail's Canned Responses

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.)

So, this post is a long time coming, though we do talk about Canned Responses in The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook. File this topic under “things that are second nature to us but new to many other people.” (We bet you have plenty of those things too, even if you’re not aware of them.)

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.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Go to the Settings wheel on the top right of your Gmail account
  2. Select Settings
  3. Go to Labs
  4. Enable Canned Responses
  5. Hit Save and your inbox will refresh
  6. 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:

Tools We Love: Gmail's Canned Responses

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.)

Tools We Love: PopupAlly

Tools We Love: PopupAlly

Tools We Love: PopupAlly from Nathalie Lussier

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:

email list growth chart with popupally

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.

Our weapon of choice? PopupAlly from Nathalie Lussier (who you might recognize from 100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs) and her husband, Robin, who together make up the AmbitionAlly team.

Some of our favorite things about PopupAlly

  • The free version is extremely robust, but there’s a paid upgrade if you need more
  • You can choose between an exit-intent pop-up (it triggers when a website visitor is about to leave the site) and a time delayed pop-up
  • It syncs with popular email marketing platforms, like Mailchimp, Aweber, and yes, ConvertKit
  • 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

Limitations + drawbacks

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!

How to get started with PopupAlly

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…)

PS — In case you were wondering, we also like to riff on our favorite email marketing apps, social media platforms, and planners.

PPS — A popup is just one of the tools we use to build our online community. Want more tried-and-true methods? Click below.

Building Your Online Community

Just a head’s up: As you might’ve guessed, we are affiliates of PopupAlly — we promote the platform because we love it!

Tools We Love: SendOwl

Manage product sales and affiliate programs with Send Owl

sell your products and manage affiliate programs with SendOwl

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).

We asked around about a few options (Gumroad, DPD: Digital Product Delivery, and Selz all came up several times), but we opted to go with SendOwl and couldn’t be happier. We’re now using it to manage delivery of The One Woman Shop Bundle and our other current products.

A few SendOwl features we love:

  • 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

  1. Head to SendOwl and create an account by clicking “Sign up” in the upper righthand corner.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

Just a head’s up: As you might’ve guessed, we are affiliates of SendOwl — we promote the platform because we love it!

Tools We Love: Edgar

Tools We Love: Edgar social media scheduling

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!

Meet Edgar. He’s an octopus who just so happens to be a social media wizard. (Really, it’s a social media curation + scheduling app that allows you to automate your social updates like no other third party app out there.) It currently supports Twitter, Facebook personal profiles, Groups, and Page, and LinkedIn. And it just so happens it’s branded with an octopus full of personality.

Edgar seems to come up in any and every conversation I have about digital marketing — because he’s just that good.

What Edgar is

Created by the LKR team, Edgar is, in their words, “the only app that stops social media updates from going to waste.” Tall task, wouldn’t you say? Well, he lives up to it.

Here’s how it (he) works: you create content and add it into your back end library in Edgar, organizing it by category. Once you’ve built a library of updates, you create posting schedules on a nifty calendar for each account you’ve set up. At the times you’ve specified, Edgar will choose an update from the designated category and post it to your account(s).

Here’s how that looks:

1. I have several categories set up in my library.

Meet Edgar - categories

2. I create a schedule for each account I’ve linked up with Edgar.

Meet Edgar: schedule

3. Edgar pulls the needed updates from your library and creates a queue.

Meet Edgar: queue

It’s genius, yeah? Edgar effectively automates your social media — but leaves you in control. You create the categories, determine the schedule, and have the ability to view the queue days in advance and swap updates as needed.

That’s the basic gist of Edgar’s functionality. Here are some nitty gritty details that make him even more awesome:

Take advantage of the ‘Use Once’ category. Sure, most of the content you’ll load into Edgar will be evergreen content or content that has a decent lifespan (since that is the point of revolving it, after all). But not everything you want to post should be repeated. No worries — just choose the default “Use Once” category, and Edgar will know not to go back to that particular update once it’s been used.

Batch upload with import functionality. If you’re a Google Doc addict like some of us (ahem, Cristina and I here at OWS), you like to collaborate via shared documents before finalizing anything. Fret not: you can draft those social media updates in a spreadsheet and use the Import button to bring them all in at once.

Take a break. Let’s say you’re going on vacation or just want to go dark for a while. Or perhaps you want all of your social content to point to something like a launch (like we did for Building Your Online Community!). There’s a handy “Pause Queue” button that freezes Edgar and his revolving content and makes it ridiculously easy to pick up right where you left off when you’re ready.

Add photos. Edgar doesn’t just support plain text updates. With a handy “Add Image” button for each new update you add, you have the ability to easily enhance your post.

See how you’re doing. Edgar’s got a built-in statistics dashboard that’ll give you a quick glimpse at how each of your posts are performing. After all, social media requires strategy — and strategy requires metrics to benchmark yourself on.

Those are just some of the features — the fun doesn’t stop there.

The most grateful octopus you ever did meet

There are different perceptions on what good customer service is, but I think every user of Edgar can agree: Team Edgar nails it. Beyond easy email access to the Edgar pros, the team also runs an “Edgar HQ” Facebook Group where there’s a fair share of learning and celebrating going on. The best part of all this access? The team is incredibly receptive to requests for upgrades to their own application. In less than a year since launch (I’ve been a user since day 1!), I’ve seen countless changes made based directly on user requests — a true testament to caring about your customers.

Okay, okay. I’ve got one last thing to gush about. You see, Edgar is just downright grateful to have you as a user — and it shows. I was glowing a bit the day this came in the mail: his response to my Facebook post about him. What a guy! (The back had my post printed out with hearts surrounding it, and a note that “Edgar loves you, too!”)

Meet Edgar: love note

Things to keep in mind

Naturally, nobody’s perfect — even this little guy. A few things to keep in mind as you consider the use of Edgar:

1. He’s not exactly a cheap date. It’s up to you to weigh both the time he’ll save you in streamlining your social media as well as the benefit of having a consistent presence with the price tag. There are two account levels: $49/month for up to 10 accounts and 1,000 stored updates, and $99 for up to 25 accounts and 5,000 stored updates. On the fence? Request an invitation (average wait time is 24 hours or less!) and give a 30-day trial period a go.

2. He’s not the be-all, end-all. Like most things, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. When it comes to social media monitoring and engagement, automation is fantastic to keep things consistent, but checking in live on a regular basis to respond to and interact with others is paramount to an honest, successful social strategy. For that, we layer on Hootsuite and the native Twitter app, as needed. (And TweetChat for our monthly #OWSchat, of course!)

What Edgar means for social media

For a solopreneur running the rat race of serving clients, creating new revenue streams, and handling all the day-to-day happenings of running a One Woman Shop, Edgar means a stress-free approach to social media management and consistency in your social media marketing.

Oh — and it means for the first time ever, you can call an octopus your friend.

Tools We Love: Feedly

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!

The online world can be overwhelming. Each day, we discover or are introduced to at least one new blog or website that we vow to keep tabs on, because we know it can serve as a resource for bettering our businesses or personal lives.

So it doesn’t take long to become overloaded, keeping at least 15 tabs open in a Chrome browser at all times, and having 10-15 newsletters flood your inbox per day. Sustainable? Not if you want to stay sane.

RSS feeds to the rescue

There’s an answer to the overwhelm: using an RSS feed reader. Back in the day (okay, just last year), the answer likely would’ve been Google Reader, but once Google nixed that service — to the panic of many-a-solopreneur — a knight in shining armor took its place: Feedly.

What is Feedly?

Feedly, founded in 2008, is a news aggregator application where you can search for the news sites, online magazines, and blogs that you don’t want to miss a beat of.

It’s ridiculously simple to add new content to your Feedly — simply paste the URL of the website or blog and Feedly will locate it, or you can use its search function and find the source by name. Once you’ve loaded your must-follow sites into Feedly, organization is easy. For the Type-A personalities out there (heck, I’m one of them!), being able to organize and sort by categories is a dream come true.

When it comes time to view and read, not only does Feedly easily aggregate updates, but it does so cleanly, with three options for viewing.

Titles View:

Feedly Titles View

Magazine View:

Feedly - Magazine View

Cards View:

Feedly - Cards View

Personally, I use the Titles View most frequently, but each of the views are clean and intuitive, and the options are easy to toggle between.

How to use Feedly

While Feedly provides an in-depth tutorial on the mechanics of using the site, what One Woman Shop solopreneurs really need to know is how it can be used to better their productivity and business. Here are three ways it can do just that:

1. Content marketing + social media: By following news, your favorite blogs, or inspirational resources, your Feedly becomes a goldmine of posts to share via your social outlets and garner ideas from for your own content marketing and blogging. You can even share directly from Feedly, though I don’t often use this option, as I prefer to generate my own bit.ly links for tracking purposes.

2. Create a content library: Use Feedly’s “Save For Later” option to easily bookmark posts that you want to keep track of. This comes especially in handy if you’re a common curator of posts like One Woman Shop’s Weekly Finds.

3. Curate content + resources for clients: As a blogger and ghostwriter for several different companies, I find my Feedly invaluable to aggregating news, trends, and resources for each company I write for. I work with clients to find the best sources, do research on my own, then load them into a new category in Feedly. When it comes time to brainstorm topic ideas or find resources for posts, I have one place to go.

4. Consistent learning + updates: By cataloguing the news and blogs you want to keep track of most, you’re guaranteeing educational reading and consistent updates on your industry. It’s yet another way to satiate the need for perpetual learning, and a great way to keep in touch with what’s going on around your online space.

Feedly on the go

For the on-the-go solopreneur, there’s the free app for both iPhone and Android. And we promise you this — the mobile app is just as good as the desktop version.

Even the Google Reader fanatics agree — Feedly is an amazing tool, with a clean design, and an intuitive app to help you keep up on news and blogs from anywhere. It’s certainly our go-to, and after one day of set up, we’re confident you’ll find it to be yours, too.

Tools We Love: Click to Tweet

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!

File this one under “yet another tool that we use almost every day.” Click to Tweet is a super handy free (with a premium option) tool that lets you create pre-drafted tweets and share them with other people. The benefit? You control the message and you save the other person time- only they do is click Send. Sounds like a win-win to us!

Just like FollowerWonk, Click to Tweet can be a really valuable tool even if you’re not crazy about Twitter.

Here’s the gist, direct from Click to Tweet (cue The Jackson Five)…

    1. Write the message that you want others to share in the box
    2. Click the “Generate New Link” button to create a custom link
    3. Share the link and track the activity of each link over time

Where to include Click to Tweets:

    • Blog posts
    • Email signature
    • Emails (both personal ones and ones to your email list)
    • Powerpoint slides
    • Twitter (not gonna lie, just thought of this one- ha!)

Some ideas for when to use Click to Tweet:

    • If you’re launching a new website or product: we provided pre-drafted tweets to all OWS ambassadors and contributors before our launch. We also used CTT when we launched our solo business calendar recently!
    • If you’re doing a speaking gig: include the Click to Tweet on the first page of your slides to encourage attendees to share that they’re there- this is great for personal and professional branding. Be sure to include your Twitter handle and the event hashtag, if applicable. We recommend plugging your Click to Tweet link into Bit.ly and editing it to make it short and memorable
    • Within your blog posts: create tweets based around the most important points in your post, hyperlink key phrases with the CTT link, and include a little note that lets readers know they can click to tweet the message
    • When you interview anyone on your site: just conducted an interview on your blog or podcast? Email the person with a pre-drafted tweet and ask them to send it to their followers- one of the main benefits of interviews is cross-promotion anyway, right?
    • If you’re promoting a charity: remember when we went to Honduras with Habitat and held a Pay What It’s Worth sale to fundraise? We included a little message and a pre-drafted tweet in our email signature for several months before the trip

And a bonus: if you look below, you’ll notice a box with a pre-drafted tweet, ready for you to send out to all of your followers. See what we did there? So meta 🙂 We use the Click to Tweet WordPress plugin to create these stylish and prominent little boxes.

grow your community online

Tools We Love: EchoSign

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!

You get a contract from your new contractor emailed to you, so you print it (after buying new ink for your printer), sign it, and then struggle to upload it with your scanner, right?

No more! It’s no surprise that we love all things digital but if you’re still managing paperwork and contracts the old-fashioned way, we’ve got a tool that’s going to save you a bunch of time.

Adobe’s EchoSign is a way to easily collect electronic signatures (also known as e-signatures)- which are legally binding, if you’re wondering. A free account lets you collect 5 e-signatures every month.

Just visit the EchoSign website, click Get Started in the upper righthand corner, create an account (or sign in using your Google account), and get to saving time!

Some of our favorite features of EchoSign:

    • It links with your Google Drive account, so you can create a document in Drive, add signature areas, and send it using EchoSign
    • There are several pre-loaded forms that you can send, including I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification), W-4 (IRS Employee Withholding Allowance 2014), and W-9 (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number)
    • The ability to send documents to multiple people for their signatures
    • A back-up copy of the signed document is filed away in your EchoSign account for safe-keeping

When to use it:

    • When onboarding an intern
    • When hiring any service provider (designer, developer, social media manager, etc)
    • When confirming a speaking gig
    • When beginning work with a new client (we know you use a contract every time, right? If not, check out Small Business Bodyguard ASAP!)
If for any reason you’re not feeling EchoSign, we recommend trying out these alternatives:

Disclosure: The Small Business Bodyguard link is an affiliate link. We will receive a commission on any sales made through this link. 

Tools We Love: FollowerWonk

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!

FollowerWonk is a tool from Moz (formerly SEOMoz) that allows you to search Twitter bios. For those of you who are social media averse, don’t close your window yet- you can still make use of the tool.

We use FollowerWonk for a variety of reasons: to find bloggers to work with, to build the One Woman Shop community (by searching for “solopreneurs,” “female entrepreneur,” and “freelancer” for example), to find local service providers, to find sources for our Prior to the Hire features, to do competitor research for clients, and more.

Wondering how the tool might be useful for you? Use it to find interesting individuals in your industry to form partnerships with, profile on your site (like Rachel does in her PRo PRofile series, pitch about guest blog posts, and get inspired by. You can also seek out relevant individuals to send product samples to or use it get on the radar of corporate PR folks or local media (tweet this)!

Let’s say you want to know who in your area is already offering professional organizing services- if you’re in Philly, you could run the following search:

example of followerwonk search

You may notice that there are a bunch of near-duplicate accounts- sort by Social Authority to separate the legitimate accounts from the spam accounts:

followerwonk searching

Likewise, if you wanted to find multipassionates to chat with (like we do!), you could search for “multipassionate” and “multipotentialites” on FollowerWonk.

In our opinion, it’s great to use FollowerWonk to connect with individuals directly on Twitter, but we like to take it a step further by searching Twitter bios, following the links in people’s bios, perusing their websites, and contacting them via email for a more personal connection.

P.S. Want an more in-depth look at FollowerWonk’s features, functionality, and uses? Check out this guide from State of Digital!

An Inside Peek at the Solo Businesses of Three YouCanBook.Me Users

As you may have seen us mention a few times, we are huge fans of YouCanBook.Me, a tool that allows you to send your calendar link to anyone so that they can book a time with you- without the back-and-forth that scheduling usually takes. Here’s the gist: you create an account, sync it with Google Calendar, create a customized link, and then send that link to anyone who wants to book a coffee meeting, a coaching call, a speaking engagements…or even a social outing!

We chatted with a few of YouCanBook.Me’s One Woman Shop users about their businesses and how they use the scheduling tool to simplify their day-to-day life.

Laura Bailey of Samara Skincare

samara skincareLicensed Esthetician and Manicurist Laura Bailey provides facial, brow design, and nail services in Seattle WA at Samara Skincare. With more than 10 years’ experience working in the Seattle area’s elite spas—including the Four Seasons, NW Face Spa at the Woodmark, Gene Juarez, and the Rosario Resort on Orcas Island—Laura brings artistry and passion for all things beauty. Her restorative treatments leave her clients relaxed, vital, and self-confident.

Tell us a bit about your solo business. What does an average day look like for you?

I start my day with business and operations-oriented tasks, then I take my first guest at 11:00 a.m. Most of the time, I’m booked for the entire day. When I’m not booked, I run business errands like picking up supplies or doing laundry or designing/making products. On some days, I get to go home for lunch, which is a treat. At the end of the day, I clean up my treatment room, water plants, dust, and vacuum the hallway/welcome area, so that I’m ready to start the following morning.

How long have you been using YouCanBookMe and how has it helped your business?Any insider tips?

YouCanBookMe has helped save time, increase bookings, and provide a better customer experience since December 2012. Scheduling and confirmation are immediate, in real time. My guests can see my schedule and book an appointment without having to wait for me to call back or send an email. I love that YouCanBookMe syncs with my Google Calendar, so that I can see new appointments on my smart phone or computer. This real-time access to my schedule and client’s questions is a great way to communicate with my guests.

I have a field on my schedule page for questions/comments. My insider tip is to check each booking, because sometimes a guest has a question or concern they’ve entered.

Sometimes new guests are unsure about using this tool to schedule an appointment because they’re confused about how to use the tool or hesitant about using technology to schedule an appointment rather than talking to a person. On my website, I have information about the process and I direct guests to this information. When guests call to make an appointment and get my voice mail, I have a message that tells them they can schedule an appointment online. Once a guest books an appointment for the first time, they trust that the process works.

Also, the folks at YouCanBookMe are incredibly responsive. If you have a question, they’ll get back to you at lightning speed. I have an icon (favicon) on my website, and I wanted it to appear on my online booking, too, so I emailed my request to tech support, and they took care of my request that same day.

We’re all about digital productivity tools and tips, but we want to know: what’s your favorite old-school strategy or tip?

My favorite old-school strategies or tips are to take appointments on time, invite guests back after a service is completed, and send guests out the door with a few postcard menus or business cards for referrals. I have a referral rewards program as an incentive. When a guest recommends three new guests, I offer $50 off the next service. Most of my guests are professional women and they often forget to take care of themselves. When I realize I haven’t seen them in a while, and I see some open time slots, I reach out through email, inviting them to come in. This strategy has been well received.

Lastly, ask for what you need. I have a team of people I work with since I cannot do everything myself. If I need photos, I contact my photographer. If I need help with writing, I check in with my talented editor friend Kelly Malone from WordsUp Communication.

How do you unwind after a day of running your solo business?

At the end of the day, I make time to connect with family and friends. My husband is a fantastic cook, so we always make sure to have a healthful dinner together in the evenings. Self-care is so important. I make sure to get treatments myself. A few times a month, I go to a cozy spa in my neighborhood for a soak, steam, and sauna. I have to admit that sometimes I unwind by researching something new that one of my guests shared with me during our session. I love learning new things and seeing I can incorporate the new information into my body of knowledge.

Sherri Willson of Designer Label Gal

designer label galThrough Sherri’s love for rescuing greyhounds, she accidentally stumbled upon the labeling business. She sold greyhound return address labels and, when she lost her corporate job, she started Designer Label Gal to continue her hobby and work with clients. Recently, Sherri opened up two more businesses; Designer Lotions N’ Potions and Designer Alchemy Jewelry.

Tell us a bit about your solo business. What does an average day look like for you?

Busy, busy, busy.  Being a solo business owner, a typical day comprises designing, printing, answering emails, completing request for quotes, invoicing/billing/accounting/finance. No two days are the same. I work 7 days a week sometimes all day/night. I love it- I wouldn’t continue doing it unless I did.

How long have you been using YouCanBookMe and how has it helped your business? Any insider tips?

I’ve been using YouCanBookMe for approximately a year. I find running an ecommerce business can be a bit cold. When you are creating personalized products, I find communicating directly with the client is beneficial. This way I can hear their voice, get an idea of who they are, which better equips me with the tools I need to design the perfect item for them. YouCanBookMe makes it easy for clients/potential clients to book an appointment to chat with me.

We’re all about digital productivity tools and tips, but we want to know: what’s your favorite old-school strategy or tip?

I believe in the Golden Rule- one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. I take pride in the customer services I offer and I make sure to provide the highest quality products available.  I spend quite a bit of time researching for newer, better materials and always creating new products.  I make sure to listen to what my clients need/want and do my best to provide it and then some.

Louisa Chan of LouisaChan.com

louisa chan

Louisa helps coaches, trainers and teachers and thought leaders set up and grow heart-centered business; business that you can be proud of. Louisa is an established business coach and consultant who has worked with multi-national corporations as well as solo-preneurs. You can find out more about Louisa and get marketing tips from LouisaChan.com and connect with her on TwitterFacebook or Google+.

Tell us a bit about your solo business. What does an average day look like for you?

I start my day with mindful meditation pondering and reaffirming my vision, setting priorities and reminding myself why I am doing what I am doing.

There are two main parts to what I do every day and they are marketing and delivery (or operations). As a small business owner, I make it my priority to brand and promote my services, so the world knows of the message I have to share and the service I offer.  I connect, meet, network and build relationship online or offline through traditional method as well as digital marketing.

Then I would check with my team on status for the various projects and get ready to deliver any training, coaching or consulting services that I have committed to. Sometimes this can mean going into client’s office for consultation or meetings, other times it could mean delivering an onsite in company seminar or workshop that runs 2 or 3 days. Other times it could mean doing online consultation or phone coaching.

What are your greatest successes/challenges as a solo business owner?

Knowing what to focus on and not get drawn in to reaction or fire fighting mode has helped accelerated my business growth. The greatest challenge for a solo business owner is that she has to take care of every aspect of her business and this can get overwhelming if you do not have a clear plan of execution and work at it proactively and relentlessly. Although there are many moving parts in a business, not everything is equally important and I focus on marketing and delivery.

Without marketing and promotion, you don’t get visibility. Without visibility, you don’t get traction or traffic. Without that you don’t have prospects to build relationship with and without that you don’t have clients to sustain your business.

I focus on channels that work best for my market. Since I serve coaches, corporate trainers, teachers, thought leaders and other professionals, my prospects are on LinkedIn. Knowing who my ideal clients are and where they meet is key to knowing where I will focus my energy on and what message I will convey to draw them into my circle.

How long have you been using YouCanBookMe and how has it helped your business? Any insider tips?

Slightly under a year. I used it for prospects to book my time for private consultation and coaching. It frees up my time going back and forth with administrative work and it’s pretty easy to set up and use. There’s also a free version if you want to try it out. Solo business owners do not have time to spend on admin tasks, so leverage on technology and outsource it to your digital assistant or your virtual assistant so you can focus on the things that generate revenue.

What other tools do you use to streamline your processes and save time?

To stay in touch with trends and updates, I use Feedly to keep up with industry news. If I find something interesting, I will then save it on Evernote. which helps me store everything I want to refer to later. The good thing about Evernote is that I can access it on any device (iPad, iPhone and desktop) and I can save all kinds of media, including text, images, audio, links, and the search functionality is pretty good – so I can easily pull out things I want to refer to.

I use Copy and Dropbox for project work with clients and collaborate with my team. It works both as a central storage as well as a collaborate tool and I can access it anywhere anytime.

I also use Stride to help me manage my leads and track sales. There’s a plan for freelancer which handles 25 deals and there is a free version if you want to try out the features.

Want an upgraded YouCanBook.Me account?

YouCanBook.Me has graciously agreed to upgrade the accounts of three lucky One Woman Shop readers for three months. The benefits of a Premium account:

    • Link to more than one Google Calendar (for those of you who have multiple color-coordinated calendars!)
    • Send appointment reminders (to cut down on cancellations)
    • Offer a menu of up to 10 services (for those with multiple business offerings)
    • Send a follow-up email (to gather feedback and encourage repeat business)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored post from YouCanBook.Me. As always, we only work with partners who provide tools and services that we find value in. 

7 Creative Ways to Use Boomerang to Manage Your Email

We love the email tool Boomerang so much that we pay for the premium version- with hundreds of emails going in and out of our inboxes each week, the free plan just wasn’t cutting it. The two main features of Boomerang are to 1) send emails at a later time and 2) to be reminded if someone hasn’t responded to your email.

Here are some creative ways to utilize these features in creative ways to save yourself time and your sanity.

So that people don’t know how late you’re working: Sometimes you work until 2am- and that’s okay! But maybe you don’t necessarily want to advertise that fact to everyone you’re in touch with via email- so use the “Send Later” feature to make it look like you’re writing emails at a more- ahem- normal time.

To avoid bombarding people: If you’re like us, your mind works in a million directions, constantly coming up with ideas to implement. The downside of this is that it might result in tons of emails to contractors, teammates, or clients. Avoid “email bombardment” by scheduling your emails to send several hours or days apart.

So that clients don’t assume that you’re always available: Even in our fast-moving digital world, many freelancers and solopreneurs choose to only be available to their clients and customers during standard hours, like 9am-5pm. And we commend them for that! But let’s say that you want to work later one evening but don’t want your clients to begin to expect that you’ll always be available at 8pm. Draft your emails, choose the “Send Later” option, and your clients will be none the wiser.

To make sure no outbound email goes unanswered: Let’s say you’re emailing twenty potential clients or reaching out to ten bloggers on behalf of a client. Sure, you could track all these contacts in a Google spreadsheet (which is probably still a good idea!), or you could just mark each email to “boomerang” back to your inbox if it’s unanswered. First emails are very often overlooked or forgotten about, so sending a follow-up can increase your response rate immensely!

To maintain inbox zero: Let’s say you’re about to head out of town for the weekend and don’t love the idea that your full inbox will haunt you all weekend. Go set your emails to boomerang back at a designated time- maybe late Monday morning. Clear out your inbox, reset to inbox zero, and poof- out of sight, out of mind- just in time for a work-free weekend.

To buy yourself some time: We love this Boomerang tip from Alexis Grant. Often times, you’ll send an email, only to have someone immediately reply- now you feel compelled to respond back right away too, right? Instead, set your email response to send in several hours, giving you at least a free few hours before the recipient’s reply lands in your inbox. Note: this shouldn’t be done with time sensitive emails!

To automate your systems: Do you have a weekly or monthly email you send out (we’re talking something simple, not a fancy email marketing email)? Maybe it’s a monthly reminder to your website contributors or your clients- when you have a few extra minutes, take the time to draft several months of emails in advance!

Do you use Boomerang? How do you use it?