Josh Zerkel is a certified professional organizer and founder of Custom Living Solutions, the Bay Area’s leading productivity and organization consulting firm. He was also the president of the San Francisco Bay chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers from 2008 through 2010.
As the end of the year approaches, it’s a great time to review what’s worked in your business — and what hasn’t — and come up with solutions for making things even better next year. An easy fix is to look at some of your regular business processes and see what can be tweaked, updated, or improved. Sometimes, just choosing the right tech tools can help give you a big productivity boost. Here are a few of my favorites that can help you create more ease and productivity in your creative business:
Stitch Labs — If you carry any sort of inventory, you’ve probably already experienced what a hassle it can be to try to keep track of everything — especially if you sell at events, in stores, and online. Managing all the moving parts can be a pain, and it can be even harder to quickly tell what’s a hot seller where, who is buying what, and figure out what you should make more of — and what you shouldn’t bother wasting more time on. Stitch pulls all those various pieces together — inventory, invoicing and fulfillment, and contact management — all under one umbrella, letting you easily keep track of everything and generate reports so you can see what’s up with your business. It’s designed specifically for the needs of crafty folks and makers, and integrates directly with your Etsy shop.
ReQall — You’re out in the world, and you have a thought. Maybe it’s a to-do you want to remember, or maybe it’s something that you need to pick up from the craft shop. To keep track of such random stuff, maybe right now you leave yourself a voicemail with the important item, or maybe you write it down on a scrap of paper. If you’re like some of my clients, maybe you write it on your hand! There’s a better way. ReQall is a smart task and to-do manager. It lets you phone in, email, text, or IM in your tasks, then it helps you organize them by context and location — that way when you’re at the craft shop, only the items that relate to that spot will show on your smartphone’s to-do list. This makes it easier to get to your relevant to-do’s based on where you are and what you’re working on.
EchoSign — You’ve agreed to a distribution deal for your products, and you’re anxious to close the deal as quickly as possible. Too bad, because you sent over the contract a few days ago, and you’re still waiting for the countersigned copy to be sent back to you so that you can start production. Bummer! Contract turn-around can be an agonizing process for any deal, big or small. You can streamline the process of getting contacts signed and deals closed by using a digital signature service like EchoSign. You upload a contract, digitally sign it (you can even initial it and add checkboxes), and then send it electronically to the recipient. They electronically sign it, and both you and they are sent PDF copies of the signed agreement. This can save lots of time, frustration, and anxiety — and let you get on with your business quickly.
Evernote — You have ideas. Lots of ideas. You get inspiration everywhere — from things you see on the street, articles you read on the web, sketches on the back of envelopes, and more. But how do you keep track of it all? If you’re like some of my clients, you don’t — and as a result, there’s no organization to your ideas, which costs you time when you’re trying to flesh out an important idea. You need a spot to keep all that stuff — along with all your other “bits” of information. That spot can be Evernote — an easy-to-use repository for all sorts of information. You can snap photos with your phone, text in notes, capture web pages, and much more, then easily organize it, sync your stuff to all your devices, and find everything you’re looking for within seconds. Way, way better than dumping all your ideas in a box or drawer.
There are literally thousands of apps and tools that can help you boost your productivity, and these are just a few of my favorites. What are some of yours? Sound off in the comments.