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    Category Archives: technical tips

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    12 productivity tools and tricks for creative businesses


    By Monica Ng

    As a small business owner, it can be difficult juggling multiple responsibilities simultaneously. On top of the day to day of fulfilling orders, planning for and creating new products or services, updating multiple social media channels, connecting with fans and peers in your niche, replying to a seemingly endless stream of emails, blogging, and project management, trying to manage it all without the right tools can be overwhelming!

    So today I’d like to share with you my top 12 productivity tools, tips and tricks I use everyday for my online jewellery business.


    1. Use Boomerang to schedule emails

    With this Gmail plugin, you have the ability to write your reply whenever it’s convenient for you and schedule it to be sent at a specific time in the future. Not only this, but you can schedule email reminders. Hurray if you’re a night owl or an early bird (but don’t want clients to know you are working after business hours ;))

    2. Use Gmail Undo when you regret hitting ‘send’

    Ever regret sending an email, because you accidentally added someone in as cc when they were supposed to be bcc, attached the wrong document or sent an email or addressed it to the wrong person? After this, there’ll be no more email regret!

    • Login to your email inbox, click the gear drop down menu in the top right, select settings
    • Scroll to “undo send” and click enable
    • Set the cancellation period and save changes
    • After you click send, a yellow box pops up to confirm your message was sent complete with an “undo” and “view message” link.
    • Click “undo” within your chosen cancellation period to retract the email you just sent.

    3. Write template email responses to save time

    Do you receive a lot of emails for wholesale enquires, PR requests, advertising queries etc. that require a very similar response? Having a pre-written response to these types of emails can save you a tonne of time each day. In addition to a basic cut-and-paste technique, Gmail’s canned responses let you insert a pre-written response with just a couple of clicks. TextExpander for Mac allows you to create keyboard shortcuts for anything from a lengthy response to a simple phrase or web address you find yourself constantly typing out.

    4. Turn on Inbox pause

    Do you constantly get interrupted and distracted by the familiar ‘ding’ or notification popping up, alerting you of a new email? Take back control over your inbox!  This plugin for Gmail allows you to temporarily pause emails from arriving into your inbox with a click of a button. You can choose to send an auto-responder to anyone who sends you an email whilst your inbox is paused. All messages are rerouted to a special label until you un-pause your inbox.

    5. Use Unroll.me to declutter your inbox

    It’s easy for your inbox to get clogged up with junk emails you can’t even remember signing up to. This service scans your inbox for all your subscriptions and lists them all, allowing you to keep them or unsubscribe with a simple click of a button. Keep the subscriptions you love and unsubscribe from the ones you don’t.

     Social Media

    6. Make Photoshop templates for your social media updates

    Create set size templates for all your social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Then, when you need a new image, just change the text and image and voila – perfectly sized images for each social media platform.

    For your reference, here are the current recommended sizes:

    • Twitter header: 1500 x 500
    • Twitter profile: 400 x 400
    • Instagram: 1080 x 1080
    • Facebook cover photo: 851 x 315
    • Facebook profile: 180 x 180
    • Facebook link preview: 600 x 315
    • Pinterest board cover: 217 x 146
    • Pinterest pins: 735 x 900-2100

    7. Use Pinterest secret boards

    Need a bank of inspiration ready for you to share and curate on your social media channels? Start up a secret Pinterest board. Only you (and anyone else you invite to the board) can see the pins and the pins you’ve pinned won’t show up anywhere else on Pinterest.

    8. Make text-based images with Notegraphy

    Funny, inspirational or motivational quotes spread like wildfire on social media, so this mobile app makes it easy to create and share beautifully designed images for your fans in under 20 seconds. Simply just type your message, choose a style and share it on your chosen social media channels.

    9. Use Buffer to schedule social media updates

    Schedule your social media updates with ease amongst multiple platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and most recently, Pinterest. Spread out your updates across the day and the week, so you don’t need to be constantly glued to your computer or phone in order to have a social media presence.

    Blogging & Project management

    10. Organise your life with Trello 

    Organise, plan and schedule projects and blog content with your team or as a solopreneur. Think of it as virtual post-it notes that allow you to track your progress for your tasks. Provide comments for instant feedback, set due dates, checklists and add attachments. All updates occur in real-time and you can see everything at a glance. It also syncs with your smartphone for list-making on the go!

    11. Reduce email noise via Slack

    Real time messaging to help you communicate with your team and reduce email clutter. Create channels for specific projects, topic or team members, send direct messages or make private groups. Slack syncs up to services like Google Drive, Dropbox or Box too – they sync in real time and all documents are searchable too.

    12. Plan for the future with Wunderlist

    Though not as robust as Slack, Wunderlist is a fantastic mobile and desktop app I use for personal planning. It’s a space that helps you plan for anything, whether it’s your grocery list, an upcoming holiday or work related tasks etc. You can set due dates, reminders and share your to-dos with others.

    If you liked Monica’s 12 tips, hop over to her website to download her guide to 8 more productivity apps for creative businesses!

    Monica Ng left her accounting career at the end of 2013 to run Geometric Skies, her Etsy jewellery business, alongside her jewellery and object design studies at the Design Centre in Sydney. Find Monica at her blog or on Instagram @geometric_skies.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: business tips, technical tips, what's new in social media | Comments Off
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    How to give an amazing talk: Part 1 – the killer visual presentation


    By Jes Egan

    So, you’ve been asked to give a talk to an audience on a topic that you’re somewhat of an expert in (even if the topic is yourself and your career/business!). Congratulations! Speaking publicly may strike fear into the hearts of some, but for those who want to overcome this hesitation or who simply love engaging with a captive audience and sharing your story, I’ve composed this two part series to make your talk even more amazing.

    While the ‘talking’ part of the talk is a given (I’ll go into this in more detail next month), what is optional is a visual presentation to highlight key sections, underline points, and generally give the audience something else to engage with. But, you can’t just create a visual preso ‘off the cuff’ – it requires careful preparation and planning, even if your presenting style is more freeform on the day.

    What is on your slides, paper, boards, or whatever it is that you are presenting from, can be simple but it needs to be considered. Here are my top tips for designing a killer presentation.

    1.Text on screen: Less is more.
    This is personally my biggest bug bear, but also one that I have been guilty of in the past. When putting the presentation together, it is very tempting to put every single word you want to say as copy on the slides. But often times this distracts your audience from what you are saying, given that they are trying to read and listen at the same time. This practice can even lead you down the path of simply reading your presentation from the screen. Use a text slide to highlight the topic or key phrases, and if you are worried that when you leave your audience won’t remember what you said, consider summarising via a flyer, emailable presentation file, or other takeaway item.

    2. Images are your friend.
    Images and infographics on screen can replace words in many instances. Heard the saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words’? For a killer presentation, it is true. Find relevant imagery that helps communicate your story, and let the image support what you are saying while your audience listens to your words.

    Infographics can be a creative way to present information/data in an attractive visual format, and it can make it much easier for the audience to digest information that might otherwise be technical or dull. There are many online applications that will assist you to create infographics. Using these where you can keeps your presentation interesting and visually exciting without losing the integrity of the information.

    3. Don’t overlook the basics
    When putting together a presentation, some basic things can be overlooked, but they may be crucial when the purpose of a presentation is to pitch for a job or represent your brand in its best light.

    • Spell check! If the program you are using to compile your presentation doesn’t have a spell check option, simply copy and paste the text into a program that does and fix errors where required. Don’t forget to double check that the company or client’s names (if they appear in the presentation) are spelt correctly. It’s a rookie mistake but often overlooked, and these types of errors are unfortunately more obvious on the big screen!
    • Name your sources. If your presentation includes any statistics, quotes, images or content created by a third part, be sure to give due credit or ask permission from the source. Name it, either on the relevant slides or at the end of the document. Don’t claim it if it is not yours.
    • Check the presentation file loads correctly on a third-party computer, and have a backup saved somewhere else with you when you go in (e.g. on a USB stick or online). Make time to ensure the equipment at your presentation location is able to handle your presentation file, and test it (with time to make changes, or come up with a plan B if necessary).
    • Consider adding slides that ‘Open’ and ‘close’ the presentation, to make sure your audience know when you’re done.

    Finding the balance between what goes in the presentation slides and what you say can be difficult, but spending a little time to consider these things can make for a stronger and more successful presentation. Plus, feeling prepared can help to make you feel more confident for when you get up and present.

    Stay tuned for my next post in September, where I’ll cover things to consider when you actually get up to speak!

    Jes is a ‘practical creative’ and a very busy lady, doing the business in a digital agency, being an artist, a university lecturer, and small business owner who can creatively be found cutting up a storm at paperchap.com. Follow Jes on Instagram and Facebook


    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: advice for students, business tips, how to, technical tips, workshop | Comments Off
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    7 Tips for Starting a Podcast

    7-tips-for-starting-a-podcastBy Tess McCabe

    Now that you’ve had a week since my article ‘How to download and listen to podcasts‘ to download shows, binge-listen and basically become obsessed with podcasting, perhaps you’re thinking: I could do this!

    That’s great! Today I’ll offer some tips on how to start your own podcast.

    But first, another tech disclaimer: Emma and I are relatively new at this too, so we don’t have it all down pat yet. But the info contained herein is a pretty good foundation for getting your first ep online

    1. Decide on a topic.
    As discussed last week, most podcasts have a niche theme or overarching format, and that’s what draws in listeners. When deciding what to make a podcast about, I first looked to my interests. One of my main interests involves asking people about their creative businesses (which, lets face it, I do a lot of already in various other forms!). I like TV and film, but I can’t really talk about those topics in a ‘critical analysis’ kind of way without sounding like a dum-dum. I do like talking about my kid though, and asking people about their family situations, and talking to my mum friends. Ding! Hours of interesting content ideas suddenly presented themselves.

    Having some kind of structure to your talk-topic also helps. Emma and I have somewhat of a content calendar in terms of planned interviews (which helps when one or the other needs some time off, to, like have a baby or other such important life event). We also have a running list of interesting conversation topics and topical questions to ask, and apply these to guests as we see fit.

    2. Decide who you will talk to.
    Most of the podcasts I listen to feature between 1 and 4 people talking. Grace Bonney, for example, sometimes does an episode of After The Jump on her own about her business experiences, and sometimes she has a guest or two to interview. WTF with Marc Maron and Conversations with Richard Fidler are usually a one-on-one interviews with a different person every episode. Chat 10 Looks 3 (the brilliant new podcast by journalists Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales) is just the two of them chatting. On The New Normal, it’s generally always Emma and I interviewing a guest.

    Having different guests on your podcast comes with its pros and cons. Pro, you (and your listeners) get to meet and hear different perspectives from different people. Con, it can be a logistical effort to organise guests and find new people to feature every episode.

    The pros of working with a partner on a podcast are obvious: halve the workload, double the fun! Given that I have a podcasting partner, I can’t think of any cons right now… probably just the logistical effort of coordinating schedules.

    3. Practise talking.
    This one sounds like a joke, but it’s not. I did NOT realise the weird and annoying (to me at least) things that I do when I talk until I heard myself recorded! Eek! With the help of editing software (see below) one can edit out unnecessary ‘ums’, voice cracks, and pauses post-recording, but it helps to train yourself instead to be conscious of how you talk. If this involves practise, then do it. If it involves writing down notes re: witty anecdotes or questions for your guest, then do it. No-one likes to hear drawn out ‘soo… um, there was something else I wanted to ask… ummm’.

    It’s also worth considering the format. Practise holding back if you’re inclined to talk over people. Practise speaking up if you tend to mumble. And most importantly, if you’re interviewing a guest, practise listening – it’s likely your listeners will want to hear what they have to say slightly more than you!

    4. Figure out how and where you’re going to record your podcast.
    We record TNN on an iPhone through an app called iTalk. It’s free, and the quality of the recording is decent even without needing a separate microphone.

    Considerations such as how quiet your location will be is important. Again, test your equipment in your location to see what works (I never realised how squeaky my dining table chairs were until I thought about sitting down to record there!)

    5. Edit and add music.
    Who doesn’t love a catch jingle at the beginning of a radio show? Our theme tune was custom written just for us (helps to have friends with songwriting/producing skills!), but for the CWC podcasts and recordings I found some royalty-free music online for which I pay an reasonable annual license fee to use.

    Remember, you can’t just use any old song as your theme song, as these would more than likely be protected by copyright.

    In terms of editing a recorded file, we use Audacity. It takes a little getting used to using but once you’re accustomed, you’ll be cutting and editing like a pro. In an editing program you can add your theme music to the start and end of your episode, tighten the episode by removing ums, ah’s, coughing fits and even boring conversational tangents, and export the file ready for uploading online.

    6. Get it out there.
    There are a few ways to get your complete audio file online and into the ears of your loyal listeners, but often it can be a bit of a convoluted process of workarounds if you want it to remain free and (relatively) easy. Our episodes are uploaded to our BandCamp page, embedded from there via HTML code into our website blog, and then that RSS feed talks to iTunes so the episode pops up there.

    iTunes is where you really want your podcast to be, but there are a few rules – you have to be 5 episodes deep before you can apply, and they have to approve your show before they put it on their system.

    7. Promote and build an audience.
    Just like any blog or creative business, promoting your podcast and building an audience takes time, determination, and some marketing know-how. Becoming more readily ‘findable’ on iTunes involves gathering listener reviews, and encouraging listeners to subscribe, so that you pop up in search results near the top. TNN has its own social media accounts and listeners can sign up to receive an email whenever a new episode is released. We’re still building our audience, so you can follow us over here, here and here!

    Let us know if you start your own podcast this summer!

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: podcasts, technical tips | Comments Off
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    How to Take a Break from Social Media (Without Your Business Suffering!)

    How to take a break from social media without your business suffering

    Do you ever feel stressed about taking a break from your social media and losing all your traction with your followers/clients/customers? It can be hard to switch it off, especially when it’s such a great marketing and customer service tool for your creative business. But every once in a while you will need to step away.

    Here are some great ways to do it without losing your following:

    • Let your readers/clients/customers know before you go, and if possible, how long you’ll be away. Keeping them in the loop is better than just disappearing without a word.
    • Ask them to sign up for your blog’s RSS feed and schedule content for the time you are away. Consider organising guest posts where it’s appropriate or re-publish a series of your most read posts.
    • Have someone take over your social media accounts for that time. If you’re taking significant time off, like maternity leave, and have a business that mostly works without you there (passive income or a shop with ready made goods), consider taking someone on for that time to post to your social media accounts and pack orders.
    • Use a service like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your Twitter posts in advance, so you don’t lose your reach. Facebook has recently improved their scheduling service too. Let your readers know that you’re doing this and that you might not be there to answer questions a couple of times before you take the break.
    • Decide if Instagram will be included in your social media break – it might seem weird to take a break but still use one social network, but if you’re taking a holiday to a great destination, you can keep your followers in the loop with a holiday happy-snap here and there.
    • If you’re still working but taking a ‘digital sabbatical’, let your clients know that you’ll still be available by email or your regular channels. But if you’re closing up shop as well as taking a social media break, consider preparing some great “we’re back” social media content that’s ready to go when you are back and working again.

    Taking a break from social media, or even from your business, doesn’t have to mean that you’ll be back at the beginning once you log back in. Most people understand that everyone needs a break to recharge their batteries. Having a clear strategy for your social media while you’re away – frequency, content – can help you truly relax while you’re on that break.

    Dannielle is a blogger, serial organiser and passionate traveller. She has a secret love of 90s teen movies and can often be found hanging out on Pinterest. She is on a mission to help people bring happiness (and fun) back into their homes with a dash of organisation and a sprinkle of their own awesome style over at her blog Style for a Happy Home.

    Image from © Lime Lane Photography

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    Posted by: Dannielle Cresp
    Categories: business tips, organise me, regular columns, technical tips | Comments Off