behind the scenes

An unexpected advantage of being a business owner in Raleigh is the vast network of other female entrepreneurs. Many I’ve met through Vend Raleigh, our city’s best resource for business owners. (You can check out their directory here.)

  • childbirth educators
  • yoga instructors
  • personal assistants
  • bookkeepers
  • nannies
  • direct saleswomen
  • jewelry makers
  • children’s clothing designers
  • photographers
  • brick and mortar store owners
  • artisans
  • bloggers

One of the cool things I’ve learned by networking with other processionals (and a fair bit of research myself) is how to sift through the resources for entrepreneurs and make a “business”. It takes much more than a half decent website these days! It turns out that AP Computer Science in high school was very applicable to working in this very “artistic” industry. It may have seemed silly to program a game about fish during third period but it’s allowed me to work independently to integrate all this stuff behind the scenes!

Because so many of my clients are also small business owner’s, here’s a quick overview of the vendors that I use and love.

The Website Nuts & Bolts

  • Website Engine | WordPress | Free, intuitive, compatible with just about everything. If you want to make a website, WordPress is the way to go.
  • Hosting Services | Site 5 | Well priced hosting company that is full of features. Plus, they had my site back up within minutes that night I deleted half of it accidentally.
  • Domain Name Management | GoDaddy | Awful Superbowl commercials? Sure. But when you need a domain, GoDaddy is the place to be.
  • FTP Client | Cyberduck | Ever since using an FTP program that made it too easy to delete files, I switched to Cyberduck and have never gone back.
  • Web Stats | Google Analytics | It’s a good idea to monitor site traffic over time. Google Analytics makes it easy to add a snippet of code to your site and track your hits.

The Website Look & Feel

  • Website Templates | Into the Darkroom | These templates are designed for photographers but can be easily adapted for any field. Their “Blogshow” program is the fastest way I know to create a blog post that is image heavy.
  • Client Scheduler | Schedule Once | With many levels of service to fit any budget, Schedule Once allows clients to book appointments directly to your calendar with ease. It’s a pain to set up but provides hours of extra time per month not fussing with emails back and forth.
  • Online Ordering | Photocart or Sytist | Although I primarily work with clients in person, having a capable online shopping cart is important as a photographer. I’ve used Photocart for years and it does the job well. I’ll be upgrading to Sytist eventually because it has a much more modern look.
  • Contracts & FormsĀ  | Machform | The ability to provide online contracts, releases, and forms makes my booking process smooth, even at 11:30pm. These also take a while to set up but the result is well worth it.

The Email Helpers

  • Gmail | Google Apps for Business | It’s easier than you think to run your domain’s email through Gmail. All the messages you send to me at are viewed in Gmail thanks to Google Apps for Business.
  • Newsletters | MailChimp | I won’t lie, I chose MailChimp over MadMimi because I liked the idea of an imaginary monkey sending my newsletters. With drag and drop features, newsletters (and reports) are quick and easy to use.

The Storage Essentials

  • Off-Site Automatic Backup | Backblaze | $5 per month to backup my entire computer and external hard drives? Yes! It’s easy to restore small files and I’ve even gotten a 1TB backup sent by mail when a freak accident deleted all of my files on two drives. Don’t continue postponing your backup strategy.

The Financial Matters

  • Bookkeeper & Tax Professional | My Shoebox Bookkeeper | I hired Lori Aveni this year to take care of my sales tax payments. Hands down, the best investment I’ve made this year. Although I could manage it, she can do much faster and it’s one more thing off my plate.
  • Client Management Software | Quickbooks 2011 | I’m a fan of the computer based version of this software over the web version. Regardless of the version, Quickbooks is the most common accounting software out there. I am not a fan of the user interface but with some practice, it has become fairly easy to balance my checkbook each month and create invoices for clients. Plus, in the event of an audit, I’ll be all set!
  • Online Payments | PayPal | Love it or hate it? Everyone has an opinion. I’m happy to hand over a small part of my paycheck to make it easy for my clients to pay their retainers.
  • In-Person Payments | Square | When on the go, I can accept credit card payments using my phone and the Square app. They provide free magnetic readers and automatically deposit funds within a few days.

The Desktop Programs

  • Photo Editing | Photoshop CS6 & Lightroom 5 | Here’s a before and after that I posted last year that shows what a careful hand can accomplish with this software.
  • Color Calibration | Spyder 3 Pro | All of my editing is done on a calibrated monitor which ensures that the prints you receive look exactly the way I edit them for you. This handy tool keeps color casts a thing of the past and allows me to edit skin tones perfectly.
  • Image Preparation | Blog Stomp | Blog Stomp is my latest addition to the arsenal! It prepares the best looking web images and a variety of blog storyboards.

The Hardware

  • Computer | Apple MacBook Pro
  • Monitor | Dell U2711
  • Tablet & Stylus | Wacom Bamboo | Have you ever tried writing your name with a mouse? It’s darn near impossible. The fine touch required during editing is much easier with this pressure sensitive tablet.
  • Hot Drink with a Push of Button | Nespresso Pixie | Espresso with the push of a button means lattes, mochas, americanos, cappuccinos, and macchiatos with the push of a button. Each day during nap time, I enjoy my daily decaf coffee with ice while I work. It’s heavenly.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for part 2, an overview of the best business related apps for iPad!