When I started out in my career as a digital marketing professional, it didn't take long before I felt like I was drowning in the office. Working from home was supposed to be fun! WHAT A CROCK! I was supposed to have MORE time for family, friends and fun. Yet I found myself constantly burning those midnight oils and neglecting all of the reasons I went into business for myself in the first place. Oh, how I missed by 9-5 office job!
After one really bad week, WAYYY too much takeout, a nasty panic attack and a stern talking to from my hubby, I took a week off. I set down my "Social Media Maven Tiara" - Yes. I wear a tiara when I work. It makes me feel pretty. - and I went on vacation with my family. I left my laptop at home and threw up the "Do Not Disturb" message.
That's when everything began to change.
As a small biz owner, no matter how well you plan to take a few days (or even weeks) off something will, inevitably, go wrong. No matter how many staff members you train in advance, no matter how many clients you warn or provide over-the-top attention to before you go, no matter how many vacation responders you setup on your email... things will eventually explode.
It's Murphy's Law, I guess.
In my case, the emergency came in the form of a dear, dear client being attacked on her Facebook page by a disgruntled employee and the friends/family. (Well sometimes... when you steal stuff... you get fired. That's just how things work. You know?) Anyhow, I happened to check my voicemail while laying on the beach in Key Largo (margarita in-hand) - EVEN THOUGH I promised my husband I wouldn't. The panic in this woman's voice taught me that, against everything I had ever believed in about digital marketing, there really WAS such a thing as a "Marketing Emergency."
Well, I had a kid in the water and there was no way I was gonna toss that margarita to go find a computer (us Pittsburgh girls don't waste!). So... I started using my iPhone to work some magic. Before I knew it, I had not only shut down the situation that was costing my client sales during a holiday weekend, but I went on to provide each of my thirteen Facebook clients with very special, vacation-savvy attention by using nothing more than my fingertips and my digital device. I sat back in my chaise lounge and thought, "WOW! I just rocked out my job, and I wasn't stressed out at all. How did that just happen!?"
The idea that as a small biz owner, I had to always be seated behind a desk surrounded by digital marketing and design textbooks, cords and wires, clipboards, sharpies and knick-knacks suddenly went away. I now had a new mission: How do I create a business for myself that would allow me to work remotely, from wherever I may be (stress-free), all of the time. I spent the rest of that vacation laying beneath the palm trees, in the pool with my son, sipping on champagne at sunset with my husband and then scaring the crap out of him when it was my turn to drive the jet ski... and all the while, continued to be the boss lady I knew I could be.
Once I returned home, I packed up my office and turned it into a spare bedroom. I'd have more time to spend with visiting family and friends now, after all. Overnight, my office became wherever I was and I've never been happier.
Now, I'm not saying I NEVER sit behind a computer (I'm typing this blog from my iMAC right now). But the point is that I don't NEED it anymore; access to a computer can no longer make or break my business. I can do my entire job right from my iPhone. And though I realize not every small biz owner will be able to do this, I thought I could throw a few great tips at you that may help! Because if I can help alleviate even a tiny bit of stress from a fellow entrepreneur, then I'll consider myself a better human being for it!
Tip 01: LET'S CHAT ABOUT TYPING (WITHOUT CRAMPING YOUR STYLE)
So you know how to update your Facebook status or Tweet from your smartphone. That's all fine and dandy, but what are you supposed to do when you don't have access to a computer and you need to update your website, take notes, complete a form? Sure, you could use your device's keyboard. But that takes an insane amount of time and... it kinda hurts. I'm going to show you how to overcome this hurdle, without giving yourself carpal tunnel!
Are you ready?
This crazy, little tool up there saved my fingers from a lifetime of misery and despair. It's foldable, so I carry it with me in my bag and when the moment arises that I need to get busy with my mad wordsmith skills, I just flop it out onto the nearest surface and get to work!
Tip 02: LET'S GET PRINTING... PRINTING... PRINTING... (CHA-CHA REAL SLOW!)
If you're reading this - in blog format - chance are you're like me and enjoy things in digital format. If I can sign something digitally and send it back via email, I'll do it! I hate paper (and it's not because I want to save the trees.) The problem with this is that some businesses, individuals and ESPECIALLY our beloved government agencies (hello, DMV) are still loving on their old school filing systems. And so, as a small biz owner, you will eventually come into a situation where you need to print and complete and/or sign some type of document.
When his happens, I recommend a WiFi-enabled printer. These allow you send your documents directly from your mobile device to your home printer with ease! My favorite model is Canon Maxify. I also HIGHLY recommend making friends with the guys at your local FedEx! Each FedEx store has its own, personal, email address. If you get that... you're golden! Anytime I'm on the go, I send them my documents via my mobile device and it's hot off the press in less than 30 minutes!
TIP 03: PROCESS THOSE PAYMENTS... AND SHOW ME THE MONEY!
I don't do a lot of selling online, but I do collect payments for services rendered. Sometimes, when I'm not in the office, I'll have a client call me to make a payment. I've also had clients ask to make their payment while I'm visiting their brick and mortar location. So, how do I make that work?
Apps like Square or PayPal allows me to turn my mobile device into a credit card machine anytime I need to take a payment! Once you sign-up for one of these great services, your card reader - or your "swipey thingy" - as my son likes to refer to them - is shipped to you (free of charge) and then you just have to download the free app. Depending on the payment processor you use, you will typically need to choose between a flat monthly fee OR pay a percentage per transaction, so be sure to research this before you make that first swipe!
If you are a Maker/Artisan who works the trade-show circuit OR you are into direct selling (ie: Lularoe, Lipsense, Scentsy, Pampered Chef, etc.) and visit the homes of you clients and/or work a lot of home parties, tech like this just makes sense!
TIP 04: START SHOOTING EVERYTHING... like a pro!
Oh, how I love my camera phone... and I'm willing to bet you do, too! But did you know that there are so many amazing tools out there that can turn those nice images into professional ones? The best part: They're all portable and you can bring them with your mobile office! Let's break this one down
YOUR DEVICE: Ensure you're using a quality, up-to-date device. Whether you're an Android fan or love you some Apple (which apparently makes me EVIL, according to my husband), those cameras just keep getting better and better!
YOUR PEOPLE PICTURES: If you are taking pictures of people for your website or social media, turn that device flash OFF. I recommend ring lights. They can make anyone - and I DO mean anyone - look like a movie star! They are especially helpful when capturing your apparel, jewelry or cosmetics on a model.
YOUR PRODUCT PICTURES: If you are taking pictures of products for Instagram, I love authentic backgrounds! There's nothing that will capture my attention more when scrolling than a handbag laying in the sand on a beach, a great pair of shoes being worn by a model as she strolls down a cobblestone road or a bottle of handcrafted Kentucky bourbon chillin' on the bar. But these are LIFESTYLE shots. What happens when you need your product to take the center stage for your website or marketing collateral.
This is when you need a great light box and tripod for your mobile device. My favorite Lightbox kit, available here on Amazon, comes with tabletop LED lighting, a tripod, a universal phone holder, various box colors and the box itself. Forget renting out a studio, hiring a photographer or spending hundreds of dollars on stock. You've got this...
YOUR APPS: If you think you take great images and don't need a photo app on your device... you're wrong. Creating great visual content is vital to marketing your small biz, and you want to avoid moments when you've captured the perfect moment... but discover that the picture itself is not as great as you'd like it to be. Try apps such as Afterlight and PhotoShop Express to make quick adjustments before posting... and then get on with your day!
TIP 05: I DON'T ALWAYS SKIP OUT ON QUALITY GRAPHIC DESIGN, BUT WHEN I DO... I USE THESE APPS
I'm a graphic designer, guys. So I can spot the difference between a good, quality Facebook tile vs. something created on a phone or tablet. I will go to grave recommending that your small biz should invest in professional branding and design, but when you don't have the budget for it or a great idea jumps up and smacks you right on the forehead and your professional designer isn't available, there are other options that will keep visual content opportunities right in your pocket!
OVER = Funky Fonts + Cool Layers Feature
PICMONKEY = Unique Effects + Photo Enhancement
ADOBE SPARK POST = Magic Text + Animation Tools
WORDSWAG = Easy + Savvy Pre-Poppulated Design
CANVA = Drag N' Drop + Desktop Sync
WARNING: These apps are getting quite a bit of attention, and some of their templates are becoming a bit overused. Try to lean toward their newly released templates or keep things simple and clean!