Going It Alone - Part 5: Technology and Apps
Note: This is the fifth in a six part series about business essentials that artists and crafters who run a business need to know. The series, “Going it Alone,” runs every two weeks. The first installment dealt with motivation, the second discussed taxes and record keeping, the third dealt with accounting and finances, and the fourth discussed structuring your business.
Note #2: This blog post will discuss certain apps and software that have the potential to make your business and creative life easier. We mention these apps and software with the understanding that they are simply used as examples and that ACT does not in any way endorse them. There are many different apps to choose from and the reader should explore more to see which app and/or software is right for them and their business.
As an artist and crafter, you want to spend as much time as possible creating arts and crafts that you can sell to your clients. But you are also a small business owner, so you need to deal with everything that comes from this aspect of your life. This is one reason why we have been working on the “Going It Alone” series—to give you some ideas of how to make your business life a little bit easier so you can focus on what you do best, making great art.
In this the fifth installment of the “Going It Alone” series, we want to give you some ideas for technology and apps/software that can make both your art life and your business life a lot easier.
The technology world is continually changing. There are many amazing tools, gadgets, devices, and thingamajigs that are available that you can benefit from. In fact, there are so many tools to choose from that naming and discussing each one would turn into a blog series on its own. So, for the sake of time, we’re going to only mention one piece of technology that every business owner (and even artist and crafter) needs—a smartphone.
Smartphones allow people to not only make and answer phone calls, but also to read and write emails, surf the Web, use apps to make life easier (more on that later), schedule appointments, organize life in general, and do many other things that just are not possible without a smartphone.
There are many different smartphones for you to choose from, each of which has their own advantages and disadvantages, but the bottom line is this: If you do not have a smartphone, your competitors have a competitive advantage over you.
And before you think that you are going to have to shell out $300 or more for a good smartphone, think again. For example, you can purchase a brand new “outdated” (two or three generations back) iPhone for as low as $0.01. Yep, one penny. If you are more of an Android user, you can also purchase earlier versions of those smartphones for the same price. These “outdated” models may not have the brand new feature that everyone is excited about, but it will still do everything you need it to do to help you run your business.
The only real drawback with smartphones is that you have to go through a carrier. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and other carriers are going to make you sign up to a 2-year contract in order to use the phone to its full functionality. Do your homework and go with a carrier that is going to give you the best plan, and you should be able to get a good deal.
Now, of course there are other technology tools you can and should use if you can. Tablets, laptops, desktop computers, and even the newest gadget the smartwatch are all technology that you can benefit from.
One of the best reasons to have a smartphone is the apps that go along with it. There are apps for almost everything you need, including apps for your business needs, apps to spark your creativity and help it flourish, and even apps that can benefit your personal life and hobbies.
To make this section easier to read (and write), we’re going to break this section up into apps or software that can help you with scheduling and/or organizing your life, apps that can help you with finances (both personal and business), and then some miscellaneous apps that can help you with other aspects of your life.
One of the most important things you can do to help you be more productive is to schedule your time. Sure, you can simply buy a calendar and write down important dates you need to remember, but there is a much better way.
Apps and computer software such as Clear, Wunderlist, Rescue Time, and Any.Do do many things that a paper calendar can’t, including allowing you to schedule your day down to the minute so you can be as productive as possible.
Here’s an example of how these apps or software can help you. Say you have three art projects you need to complete, all with certain tasks you need to complete and with different due dates. You also are attending two art fairs in the coming weeks and have your anniversary and a child’s birthday to prepare for as well.
With the right apps you can not only plug in the important dates in your phone, but also set reminders so you won’t forget about an important personal or business date that is coming up. You can take the three art projects you need to complete and create a task list that will allow you to schedule your time and set goals to ensure that the projects get done on time. Once you have completed a task you can check it off and then see how close you are to completing the entire project. And doing all of that takes a fraction of the time that it would take if you tried to do the same thing using a regular paper calendar (if it’s even possible at all).
As we discussed in the third blog post in the “Going It Alone” series, keeping track of your finances is extremely important. If you aren’t keeping track of expenses and revenue, you could find that your business (and possibly even your own personal savings account) has run out of money.
One of the biggest issues when it comes to dealing with finances is that it is just too boring. For some people, looking at numbers for too long can lead to sleepiness, irritability, and even numbermysitisis poisoning where people can die (ok, we made that last one up). But apps and software make dealing with your business finances quick and easy.
Another great feature is that most of the apps or software allow you to have more than one account listed, so you can also keep track of your personal finances as well. It also makes reconciling your monthly bank statement a quick process.
This category is the most problematic because there are literally thousands of apps that you could find useful for your arts and crafts business. And of course it would be impossible to list all of them (or even a fraction of them), so we’re going to just list a few apps that you might find useful, each of them having a different purpose. The following are apps that may or may not apply to you, depending on your business circumstances.
Travel: When you are traveling to art and craft fairs, you are going to want an app that helps you get where you’re going without a lot of hassle. Tripit and Roadtrippers are apps that make traveling a lot easier.
Contacts: As an artist or crafter, you are going to meet a lot of people, including customers, vendors, suppliers, fair directors, and many others. Now, keeping track of these people and their contact information is easy with apps like Addapt that allow you to store your contacts in one place.
Art: Sure, apps and software cannot replace the canvas, wood, or other objects you use to create your art, but you can use apps like Art Set, Brushes, and if you want to be a little adventurous, Loop, to doodle, spark your creativity, or even sketch test a painting before you actually put it to canvas.
Technology and apps can help your arts and crafts business in many different ways other than what we listed here. If you’re an artist or crafter who uses technology or apps for your business we’d love for you to comment below. Also, if you think we missed an app or software that you love, please comment.