What I'm Loving... My A to Z Productivity Must Haves
The following is a Guest Post by Alberthe Buabeng:
About 3 years ago when I decided to take my visual merchandising expertise and switch gears to focus on interior design, I honestly had no idea how that would look. I began by working with a furniture showroom & after a whirlwind of events, ultimately decided to launch my own business. After a year of working with different e-design platforms, I discovered what kind of designer I wanted to be and more importantly, what kind of entrepreneur I wanted to be.
So here I am hitting the reset the button, focusing on virtual styling and building the subscription service, all while completing my masters degree. My plate runneth over! The hardest lessons I've had to learn while wearing all these hats have been on the more administrative/operational side of things. I remember getting my first client outside of being an independent contractor and wondering how the heck do I manage all this information?! In my head, I knew how I'd want this to play out, but here I am, business license, website, trade memberships, and all that jazz, yet still foggy on how I was going to accept payments or send swatches or upload designs; basically all the stuff that would ultimately enhance (or destroy) the customer experience, I couldn't decide on.
Fast forward to today, and I think I've got this. If you're any kind of entrepreneur or just wondered, "How the heck does she do it?!" here's a peak behind the scenes that is my life as an entrepreneur, student, and mom...
Amazon. Yes, the WHOLE Amazon.com umbrella. Doesn't matter if it's Prime, Prime Now, Subscribe & Save, or even the occasional one off non Prime item, Amazon has been and is clutch for everything from supplies to furnishings to groceries.
I'm not saying this because I now live in the land of all things Amazon; I sipped the koolaid a LONG time ago while living in NYC -- my very first documented order was July 8, 2010 and it was a 3 pack of hard shell protectors for my Blackberry! I've since made THOUSANDS of Amazon purchases for my car, home, school, gifts, and everything in between. The subscription has been an absolute God send for everything rom toilet paper to bustelo k-cups to diapers -- you know all the things you always need but tend to forget until you're down to the last; and prime now has been my go to for things I need RIGHT NOW but can't (or won't) hop in the car and go pick up myself, i.e. a Sunday evening craving for chocolate chip cookies and ice cream.
Amazon has especially become clutch for hard to find, budget friendly furnishings (if you're willing to search around) including my ever popular replica Eames Eiffel Dining Chairs.
Bustelo. On most days, I run on hope, prayer, and caffeine, and by caffeine, I mean Bustelo. I don't discriminate against my coffees, and living in the city of coffee, I can't in my pantry, Bustelo is king! Aside from being my daily battery pack, the aroma & taste are divine.
will also say this, I've had the k-cups, the can, and the instant, and although all 3 have been good to me, for me the k-cup is especially boss because it's easy -- no muss, no fuss!
First we drink the coffee. Then we do the things.
Creative Cloud. If Amazon were to change their name to anything else that doesn't start with an 'a', adobe would instantly top this list, especially for Creative Cloud because it is everything. I'm all about having easy access go my stuff and Creative Cloud does just that for my design apps & projects.
I don't use the full Adobe catalog of apps, however, the ones I do use, I need to be able to access across 2 computers and sometimes my phone. Photoshop, for example, is where I refine & finalize all my design boards. With CC I can seamlessly update & access the app, and with the storage capabilities, my projects are safely stored away. You'd be surprised how many times I've needed to access a file while on the go.
Dubsado. To be honest, I could dedicate an entire post to Dubsado, and probably still not say enough. It has become the virtual assistant I never knew I needed. Sending contracts. Invoicing & payments. Forms & proposals. Lead tracking. Workflow automation. Client portal. Dubsado has substantially transformed & elevated my productivity!
My email notices, PDF downloads, blog bonuses, contracts, design briefs, and SO MUCH MORE are all through Dubsado without their branding all over my correspondence, which I really appreciate considering how doggone hard I worked on my branding!
I've tried quite a few different platforms and hands down, Dubsado is the most efficient AND affordable I've encountered -- by leaps and bounds at that. I remember thinking to myself, "ugh, I don't want to rush through another trial just to hate it" and then I found out the trial isn't time sensitive; instead, you can have THREE whole jobs on the platform to test it out. SAY WAHT?!!?!? So I don't have to to burn through 7, 14, or 30 days to make a decision?? Sign. Me. Up.
Lastly, I'm going to also take a moment to fangirl over their team, because they're just an amazing group of human beings. And to be clear, they're not skimping out on awesomeness because they're a "mom & pop" biz because they're actually constantly churning out new features. I don't know how they do it but I don't care how becuase I'm here for all of it either way.
Ebates. It's no secret that I shop. A lot. Whether it's for me, my familythe business, or whatever other reason I give my husband, boxes are delivered to my front door almost daily. I can say thanks to Ebates, I can at least earn at least some of that back.
The biggest value add is when I'm shopping online, but with some retailers, I can place an online order for IN STORE PICKUP and I still get my cash back AND the instant gratification of shopping brick & mortar. #winning! Ebates also recently added in store offers which is great for the occasional in person shopping trips.
Family. On some days, I look at myself in the mirror and go what the hell am I do this to myself for?!?! The sleepless nights. The emotional burnout. All of it. And then someone will bust in the bathroom needing something and it all comes back to me -- I do it for them. My husband and my daughter are my motivation and the backbone behind everything I do. They're also great distractions, whether I ask for it or not.
In tandem with this have been other family members & friends that have become family. They've been my cheerleaders, sounding board, focus group, therapists... just everything a girl could need to keep from going completely off the rails.
Groups. Specifically Facebook Groups. When I decided to go on my social media hiatus, I really wasn't sure how this would play out. It's clearly part of a social networking platform, but the groups I'm involved in have become my perfect little online community and been beyond helpful -- I've learned from my peers and been able to just have some much needed conversations. Working from home and being a stay at home mom, these "human" interactions are invaluable and thankfully Groups has it's own separate app; no more getting sucked into the social media abyss.
H&M. Say what now? Yes. H&M. Roll with me here...
H&M Home is my new absolute favorite go to for one of my fav decor obsessions: throw pillow covers! Add to that their super cute but classy decorative pieces, and it's become my new way to punctuate every design project.
iCloud Drive. So remember I mentioned that I'm all about having easy access go my stuff? Hello iCloud Drive! If I haven't already made this knows, I'm an Apple user -- iPhone, MacBook, Mac mini, iPad, Apple TV -- so obviously iCloud Drive for my Cloud storage is a no brainer. I don't have to download anything extra & it's as seamless as seamless can get.
I remember when iCloud Drive first rolled out, I thought to myself, "GAH, another native app on my phone that I can't delete!" Then I ran out of space on my phone and decided to investigate a bit further. After learning that 50GB of storage would only cost me 99¢ a month, I said this might be worth looking into and it totally was! When they incorporated desktops (as in the desktop screen, not desktop computer) as a part of the iCloud, it was a total game changer. I can literally see the files that are on my Mac'ss desktop ON MY PHONE. I mean cmon! If this isn't worth a geek-out, I don't know what is.
Jesus Christ. I don't know where I'd be without my faith and lots and LOTS of prayer. It really is that simple. I am not the most religious person, but my faith keeps me grounded and gives me clarity. A really good cry & chat with the Man above does wonders for my mind & spirit.
"All I need today is a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus"
Keynote. I'm a very visual person. Duh. So I can appreciate a really clean & simple presentation. That is a big part of the mood boards I present my clients with whenever I am starting out a project. It sets the tone, not only for the design, but for them, in terms of what to expect from me. With Keynote, yet another resource brought to you by the good folks over at Apple, I easily pull together my mood boards for projects (and idea boards for just stuff swirling around my head). And because it is automatically synced with my iCloud Drive, no matter where I am, I have access to all this creative wonderfulness.
Later (alternative: Planoly). Even before "leaving" social media, I really didn't enjoy having to go on to post because I would almost always get sucked into this black hole of mindless scrolling and time wasting. Later & Planoly would let me skip that by planning & scheduling my posts from my computer; and automation is always a win because I don't want to always have to be "on".
Although they both essentially serve the same function, here's why I use both:
- I have 2 Instagram accounts -- Albie Knows & Decor Discovery -- and because I'm cheap, to avoid paid plans, I have two apps
- Planoly is also a VISUAL planner, and we all know how I love my visuals! What this means for me is I can plan my posts by how they'll look on my grid feed. Because Decor Discovery is fairly new, I loved the idea of trying it out for this account.
Both apps also work with Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter without all the hurdles that Instagram has. Good times all around.
MailChimp. At the core of any successful business is you... the people. But let's face it, it's a digital age and the only way to reach you is here, on the inter-webs. At the core of that is email marketing, aside from blogging, of course.
ailchimp is the simple, easy, and FREE way I can tell all of you about something awesome and amazing I have going on -- a new service, a new feature, a new haircut... whatever I need to share with my people; and since chances are, you filled out the pop up when you came to the site, now you're my people! And as such, I want to make sure your Albie Knows email experience is as awesome as your Albie Knows website experience. Because MailChimp is intuitive and customizable, I have the ability to do just that.
Notes. So this is twofold...
I am currently typing this in Notes, as in the Notes app... on my iPhone. This entire draft happened on my phone before transferring it to a blog draft, making it awesome & amazing, then scheduling it out for your reading pleasure. You're welcome :)
Like with most of my built in app features, having it seamlessly accessible is invaluable. I'm starting to really sound like a broken, I know, but when something works, it just works! After typing up whatever idea I'm fleshing out, I can easily transfer it to wherever else I need it.
As I said, this is twofold & the other side of notes being part of my productivity is my actual collection of sticky notes and notebooks. What can I say, I am still pretty old school and absolutely believe in the power of putting pen to paper.
Over. Any blogger worth their salt will tell you that graphics are just as important, if not more sometimes, than the written content. The graphics are what's getting pinned, posted, and shared over & over again because the graphics are what's drawing you in. With Over I don't have to buy graphics or painstakingly create them myself. I've used it for everything from branding images (hint: my logo) to the pretty little graphic in this post.
There's a free account, as well as a paid pro account, which can be paid monthly or annually. Over is one of the FEW apps I actually pay for and it's worth every red cent.
Pinterest. I mean really. Who DOESN'T love Pinterest?!?! When Pinterest first popped up on the scene, I would periodically go on and binge pin, but I never took it more seriously than a place to hoard pretty ideas. Like most people, I had boards for recipes, planning ahead for daughter, home decor and such, inspirational quotes, and then miscellaneous "whatever else I thought was cool".
As I started to outgrow this haphazard pinning phase, I began to become more purposeful with my pinning, realizing that oh snap, Pinterest is just a visual search engine. I began to use it to stockpile decor & furniture finds; but this resulted in even more hoarding with no real organization.
A few weeks back, I attended a Pinterest webinar and WOWSER! Talk about a game change for real. I completely revamped my Pinterest and its now a curated, organized catalog of ideas and inspiration for everyday life! Everything is categorized -- furnishings & decor by room, recipes, motherhood, and so on and so forth. I've even learned how to get my site out into the pins of the world and share everything that Albie Knows.... *see what I did there*
It should also go on record that Pinterest is one of my first stops when looking for inspiration for mood boards, and it's such an awesome visual resource for my clients.A lot of times those "feelings" that they can't verbally express to me, they're able to pull together in their own Pinterest boards, and so the design process with me just taking a lot at what they're loving AND hating on Pinterest.
QuickTime Player. At this rate, I may have to rename this post "how have Apple products have taken over my life" because, you guessed it, this is built right into my Macs. People pay however much to download apps for screen recording, yet FOR FREE, I can show you my desktop and my phone screen. How dope is that?
So what's the big deal? I record my screens for YouTube videos, tutorials, and working on collaborations. The time it takes me to type or take a bunch of screenshots or explain a process some other way is cut in HALF by simply recording and sharing the process.
nd sometimes it's just plain ol' fun.
Reviews. The perils of doing anything online is that you may not always know what you're getting. You order a 4 pack of pillows and end up getting a bushel of hay delivered to your front door. And as someone who works in the online space, I know firsthand that reviews are EVERYTHING. Whether its for business use or personal use, I may not always have the luxury of seeing what I'm ordering in person, so I rely on other customer reviews and their photos. But this isn't only the case for tangible goods... Restaurants. Dentists. Pediatricians. Nail Salons. Whatever it is that we're trying for the first time, we're always leery about trying without reviews. Gone are the days of blind faith. LOL.
Shoptagr. When I chose not to manage my projects with a design specific platform, my biggest concern was how I'd be cataloging products I've sourced. I briefly mentioned how Pinterest had been useful for stockpiling but because because it's such a "busy" platform, I still needed something more precise & streamlined & dedicated to cataloguing. Then I came across Shoptagr, “your smart shopping assistant”! Indeed. Saving & cataloguing items has become super easy! If I'm browsing on a desktop, I use my safari plugin & if I'm browsing on my phone, I use the app. I add things to lists I've created & can easily reference them for later. I can even set alerts for stock & sale notifications! Even though it's not available across all sites, it's constantly updating & I can't wait till they add more!
Trello. So remember how I said Dubsado is the assistant I never knew I needed? Well Trello is the assistant I'd been looking for and am so happy to finally have! Honestly, it's probably the closest I'll come to having a virtual assistant, WITHOUT actually hiring another human being!
immediately fell for Trello because I love lists and Trello is like lists in overdrive! Generally speaking, I'm not the best at actually ever referring to said lists but I love them nonetheless. I'm that person who consistently used the Reminders, Calendar, and Notes apps on my iPhone, filling them until they were figuratively busting at the seams; but Trello creates a sort of hub for remembering & storing everything versus me piecing it together with 2, 3 apps. Everything from my editorial calendar to our grocery lists lives in Trello; it really makes me feel like I'm "adulting" successfully.
What's super dope about Trello is that all it's wonderfulness is accessible for FREE. Now, do they have other little goodies that you can access at a cost? Yes. but to be honest, these features aren't make or break.
Unroll.Me. If you haven't noticed by now, I'm all for anything that clears the clutter and Unroll.Me is just that... for my inbox. It filters my emails and I can't quickly keep, group, or unsubscribe. It really is that simple. So, for example, the subscriptions I've decided to keep, I can "roll up" so that I get ONE email with all those subscriptions, versus how ever many individual emails. I use Unroll.Me on 3 of my 5 inboxes and it's been such a time saver.
Voice Memos. Now I told you how I share my screens with you but how do you get to hear my wonderfully melodic voice whilst doing so? Tada! I can easily record whatever it is I need to say directly from my phone's built in recorder then insert that voiceover.
But this isn't the only reason I heart the memos. Sometimes I need to just talk out a thought & voice memos serve the purpose of being a personal recorded diary. Bright idea that I'm too lazy to type? Record & upload to Trello! Anxiety running a muck? Record & purge. Easy. Peasy. Lemon Squeezy.
Wayfair. Another go to favorite shopping destination for price comparisons, budget friendly options, and just plain ol inspiration. You've heard the jingle... so believe then when they say EVERYTHING for your home, they've got it! I'm constantly price comparing between *insert other site here* & Wayfair, especially when working on a very limited budget design, because they have such an array of items; it's like digital window shopping. I can mentally & literally (via Shoptagr) catalogue & source whenever I need.
ayfair has also been a huge go to for personal splurges. I'll admit this -- 70% of my home is Wayfair. What can I say... they've got just what I need!
Wayfair, you've got just what I need. Everything for my home, you've got it for me...
Xcello. If you haven't figured it out by now, I am queen of the apps. I'm not opposed to using a platform that doesn't have an app, but it's always a bonus if I can be productive without being tethered to my browser; so when I first starting using Trello, that's the first thing I went looking for -- an app for my phone and an app for my desktop. Xcello lets me easily update and sync my Trello without having to have yet another browser tab open (because trust me, I have enough). I get all the functionality and features of Trello, straight from my computer's dock.
YouTube. Oh YouTube. Like Pinterest, I undervalued YouTube for a very long time, only tuning into it for the occasional tutorial But now, YouTube has become SO much more than...
- that a distraction for when I need to turn my brain off
- a visual teacher for the things I just don't know
- a creative outlet & additional layer for all the things I want to share
've spent so much time in my biz & life just in YouTube, I'm actually surprised it took me this long to become a creator; although to be fair, in another life, I did have a channel that lasted maybe a month? *shrugs* In any case, It's a great free resource and I'm excited to get better at using!
Zapier (alternative: IFTTT). We've already established that I'm lazy -- work smarter, so not harder -- which has really been the motivation behind this entire list! And it's also why I'm such a huge proponent of automation; so along the same veins of Later & Planoly, I'm absolutely obsessed with Zapier & IFTTT (If This, Then That). At their core, they're the same -- integrations that allow you to marry otherwise separate platforms, as implied by IFTTT's name.
So why both? A major difference for me is that Zapier has a more robust library of integrations & allows for more customization with minimal effort on my part; but again at their core, the same.
How I use them? Every time I upload a YouTube video or new blog post, I have a zap/applet set up that creates a Facebook post on my business & personal pages. Hands free posting y'all! Couldn't ask for much more than that when you're (1) lazy and (2) on a social media hiatus. And that's just ONE teeny tiny example of how I use the apps. The possibilities are bananas!
By Alberthe Buabeng
Find her work here: https://albieknows.design/index.html
Follow her here: https://www.instagram.com/albieknows/