Over the last several years, I’ve had lots of random questions and survey responses that brought up great topics, but maybe not enough to write a whole blog post about. So I decided to throw them together into a 20-questions style post – except it’s 15 questions. Close enough, for this tired mama. So below you’ll find some answers to random questions about the interworking of my business, systems, apps, and resources I use, and a grab bag of topics like travel, motherhood, taxes, organization, and even TV shows.
How do you handle DBA / other options, health insurance, etc.?
There’s lots of options out there for what type of entity to setup your business as, and honestly I don’t know much about any of them. My business has been set up as an LLC from the beginning (well, since 2015). Since it’s literally just me that runs the show, this makes the most sense. I do have a part-time virtual assistant (shout out Jessica!) who works as an independent contractor. Health insurance was definitely something that intimidated me when I was considering taking my business full-time. I liked my employer-payed health insurance, and it was convenient to not have to mess with it much or have the extra expense. But since I’ve gone fully self-employed in 2015, I’ve paid for my own insurance for me and my daughter privately, and yes it has been a big expense (next highest bill after my mortgage — eek!). My premiums continued to increase each year, and so this year I switched to a medical sharing health plan which has much lower monthly costs.
What are your reasons + methods for blogging over vlogging / youtube?
I enjoy writing WAY more than I enjoy recording myself on video. Ugh, that makes me sweaty just thinking about it. I’m an introvert (obviously), and so blogging makes way more sense for my personality. Also, I’m a perfectionist, and the times I have recorded a video of myself, I take way too long editing it, and my weird schedule as a single mom just wouldn’t gel with that type of setup. And honestly, I write a lot of my blog posts the night before they're posted (I know, the shame!), so shooting + editing a video the night before just doesn't makes sense for me.
What’s your take on course sites like Skillshare or Creative Live?
I think they’re a great place to start if you don’t want to mess with creating your own environment to host your courses, or if you don’t want to spend much time on the marketing. I’m not super familiar with the terms and conditions of hosting a course on these sites, so be sure you thoroughly read through the fine print, in case you ever want to take your courses elsewhere someday. Also, they take a huge cut of your profits, and there’s not much room to customize the pages that sell your course, so that’s something to consider. (I use Teachery for all my courses, and here's why I love it!)
How do you decide on projects that are in-tune with your audience, and how do you weed out the duds?
Ask your audience. Send out simple + quick surveys. Reply to emails. Track what questions people are always asking you. Analyze what blog posts or social posts get the most engagement. It’s not hard to look at all the places in your business where you share content, and see which types of content are the most popular. From there, I always make sure I can present the information I’m wanting to share in a unique + original way, that it’s something I truly enjoy teaching about, AND that it’s something I’m qualified to teach. If I don’t feel like all 3 of those things are met, then I’d say it’s a dud.
How do you balance travel with work, schedule work around trips or do you work while you’re away?
This last year, I traveled more than I ever have, and it was a blast. I’m a single mom, and while that brings with it a whole host of challenges, it also includes a whole other parent for my daughter who will never go on a trip with me. Don’t worry, I know how weird that sounds! But it’s true. I learned to embrace my single life this last year – not knowing how long it will last, which is both comforting and terrifying. I traveled with my siblings, I went for long weekends to visit old friends who live all over the country, I took lots of trips to Nashville to see family, I went on a mastermind retreat. Traveling will probably get harder and less frequent if and when I remarry, so why not take advantage of that freedom now? When I decide to take a trip, I block off those days in my Asana calendar, and schedule all work tasks around it. If I’m going somewhere that I know I’ll have downtime or want to work (confessions of a workaholic), then I can schedule in some light tasks to do during the trip if I want. But certain trips are good to completely unplug – and I’ve learned that leaving my laptop at home will force me to do just that.
How do you balance motherhood with running a business?
Great question, and it’s one I get asked all the time! I actually wrote a 2-part blog post on this – here’s Part 1, and there’s in link at the end of it taking you right on to Part 2.
How do you organize your files for your Etsy shop?
I have 4 main folders where I house all my Etsy shop files. Native Files is my folder for all the raw InDesign files for my printable planners. Final PDFs is my folder for all the final PDF files that get uploaded into my shop and end up in the customers’ hands. Mockups is my folder to house all my digital mockup files to use in my Etsy listings (both raw/native files and final JPGs are in here). And lastly, Shop Graphics, is my folder to store all the graphics needed in my storefront itself (logos, profile images, banner images, about section photos, etc.).
How did you grow your email list, and is there a magic number of subscribers to hit before selling a product?
The main way I grew my email list has been through content upgrades on my blog posts. I’ve written over 60 blog posts to date since the middle of 2015, and it has been a huge factor in my business growth. Granted, I do think it’s harder to stand out in the crowd now with blogging, because SO many people are doing it. To drive traffic to my blog posts, I was consistently active and engaging on social media, I did a lot of guest posts on other blogs, interviews on podcasts, and did some joint webinars / workshops with industry friends. Any way you can put yourself in front of someone else’s audience will help you start multiplying your numbers. Is there a magic number to hit? Nope, not at all. And more subscribers does not necessarily mean more sales. I launched my first course to a list of less than 1,0000 subscribers. I’ve also launched the same course to over 5,000 subscribers and made the exact same amount of sales. More subscribers does not always equal more money.
What does a typical week or day look like for you?
I get this question a lot, too, and I’ve written two posts on this to give you a fun day-in-the-life view. Here’s one when my daughter was a little under 2 and still napping, and another one when my daughter was 3 and no longer napping. As you can see, much of my schedule revolves around her!
What are your favorite business resources, courses, books, etc.?
My favorite business books have been Purple Cow by Seth Godin, The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (good for business and writing and basically all of life). Honestly, these might be the only business books I’ve ever read, but I plan to do more reading in 2018! The only online courses I’ve taken (and all of these literally revolutionized my business) were Mariah Coz’s Your First 1K and Ashlyn Carter’s Copywriting for Creatives. And the weirdest + coolest investment has been in Jason + Caroline Zook’s BuyOurFuture, where I basically bought in for everything they’ll both ever create for life. Such a cool concept, and these two are doing business outside the box and it’s been fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes seat for it. They no longer sell BuyOurFuture, but they’ve got some other fun things up their sleeve, so follow along with them if you’re not already.
How do you do boring admin stuff like accounting and taxes?
For taxes, I’m a nerd and totally enjoy doing them myself online with TaxAct every year. I pay quarterly taxes to spread out those payments throughout the year and avoid a huge bill in April – if you make a regular living off your business, this is super important! Same with general accounting – I record + reconcile my business finances myself once a month using Quickbooks, and I weirdly enjoy it. While I don’t have a designated accountant, I occassionally use the lovely accountant for creatives, Amy Northard, for random tax questions or to fix a hiccup in my Quickbooks account. Amy also helped me get my entire business setup in Quickbooks in the first place, and helped me get a system in place to do the bookkeeping myself. Amy has a fantastic course called Be Your Own CFO that can help you do this, and figure out some of those other legal + accounting things that can be so confusing.
You’re the InDesign guru, but what resources do you have for using Illustrator and Photoshop?
For Illustrator, there’s two fabulous courses to check out – Melissa Yaeger’s Illustrator Essentials course and Lauren Hooker’s Adobe Illustrator Basics course. For Photoshop, I recommend Create The Cut’s free Photoshop course (yes, free!).
Where do you recommend finding free stock images that aren’t cheesy or overused?
My go-to stock image site is Unsplash. The photos are free to use and SUPER high quality. There’s such a wide variety there that I don’t worry about other business owners using the same ones.
What apps do you use for your business?
For planning, I’m pretty exclusive with just Asana and Evernote. These have been the backbone of my business since the start, and I’ll probably always use them. I use Evernote for note-taking and planning and idea dumps, and I use Asana for all things scheduling + calendars. Why not Trello? Everybody loves Trello! I’m sure Trello is great, but I was already deep into Asana when the Trello train revved up, so no point in switching if I like what I have, right? I also use Numbers (the Mac version of Excel) to track – you guessed it – numbers. I briefly used AirTable for a project last year, which is like Excel on steroids, and it was pretty cool. For all the other business stuff, you can check out what apps + programs I use for these three parts of my business on these respective pages — Organizing, Designing, and Marketing.
Most importantly, what are your current favorite TV shows?
This is definitely the most important question here. Currently: This Is Us (ugly cry, every time), Grey’s Anatomy (can’t give up on Meredith now), loving the return of Will & Grace, The Crown (sooooo beautifully done), The Brave (a little cheesy, but who doesn’t love a good ‘Merica show), and anxiously waiting the return of The Handmaid’s Tale, House of Cards, and Homeland. And shows that I sadly had to ditch this year? Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder – I was committed for a good long while, but realized I don’t even like any of the characters anymore because of all the negativity, and the plot lines are way too confusing to keep track of (or care about). RIP. Also still hanging on with The Bachelor, but really just for 2 hours of cackle-laughing at tweets every Monday night. I really like TV, can you tell?
Any burning questions you’ve been wanting to ask me about Paper + Oats? Anyone else a closeted accounting nerd? Or not so thrilled with this season of The Bachelor?