Best of the Wedding Web: 2013

bestAs we say goodbye to another year, it’s an excellent time to look back at some of the best articles written just for wedding pros. Here are some of my favorites:

What’s the Value of an Industry Conference, a Webinar, an Article?
Alan Berg cuts to the chase about investing in ourselves and our businesses while asking our clients to invest in us.

How to Schedule an Entire Week’s Worth of Social Media Posts in Just 30 Minutes
Heidi Thompson lays out her straightforward plan to knock out a week’s worth of social media without pulling your hair out.

Six Embarrassing Reasons the Bride Blew You Off
Jeff and Steph talk truth about why potential clients aren’t getting back to you.

Jealousy and Success
Liene beautifully articulates how to deal with naysayers and jealous-types in this short post.

Pricing is a Marketing Decision
If you’re wrestling with pricing (or just second-guessing yours), Michelle has some great questions for you to ask yourself.

Why Couples Say They Can’t Afford You’re Wedding Services
Kathy gives it to you straight about what’s really going on when couples say those dreaded words, “you’re out of the budget.”

There were so many great articles, it was hard to narrow it down. What was your favorite article? Did it make the list?

Guest Post: 3 Systems that Save Me 3-5 Hours Per Week

As business owners we all have a lot going on but you can choose to do tasks sporadically or organize those tasks and maximize your time. We all have the same 24 hours and anytime you see a famous entrepreneur and wonder “How does she do it?”, the answer is probably systems. I’m going to take you through 3 systems I have in my business that save me 3-5 hours each week.

My Email System

I prioritize learning and for that reason I am subscribed to a lot of email lists. That sounds like a great thing until you realize that your inbox fills up with an insane number of emails in the time it takes to have a coffee break. I don’t like to completely close out my email but I also don’t like to get distracted every single time I see a new and interesting email come in.

And then I discovered Unroll.me

Unroll.me has allowed me to create an actual system for going through all of the great emails I get. Every afternoon, Unroll.me sends me a digest of the emails I got in the form on 1 single email. That allows me to take 30 minutes to go through it all at once at a time that works for me. If you use Google Apps to host your email, check out Unroll.me here.

My Social Media System

Social media can be a huge time-suck for people and it’s easy to get lost in it. That’s why I knew I had to figure out a way to scale back the amount of time I spent on social media while still sharing great content. I had been using Hootsuite to schedule posts but it’s not the easiest way to schedule them so that didn’t stick. I came across Buffer and it has totally changed the way I use social media. It let’s me schedule posts to my Twitter account, Facebook page, Google+ profile and LinkedIn profile with the click of a button. Now, I only spend about 30 minutes each week scheduling my social media posts.

One thing that I love about Buffer is that you can fill it up and let it post for you and it will email you when your Buffer is empty. This means you can pre-load all of your tweets and Facebook page posts for the week in one sitting. They also have extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari so that you can add the page that you are on to your Buffer with 1 click. And it gets even better. You can choose the times that your posts will go out at or use the Buffer integration with FollowerWonk to analyze your accounts to figure out the best times to post.

One of the traps that many people fall into is thinking you have to always be posting new original content that you created. That limits you to only posting to your social media profiles when you have a new blog post or spending way too much time trying to come up with topics. It is far easier and effective to curate great content that your audience will love in addition to your original content. Bearing this in mind, I set up a Feedly account and added all of the websites that my ideal client loves so that I can keep up with their new content. Each week I log into Feedly and add selected posts to Buffer.

Every week I have a block of time in my calendar that prompts me to add content to my Buffer. At that time, I simple log into Feedly and add some content to Buffer and add some of my own content and voila! A week’s worth of posts done in 30 minutes!

My Scheduling System

In order to make sure I get everything done that I want to get done, I use Google Calendar to manage my schedule. I actually make appointments with myself and treat them as appointments with other people. Let me explain. If I know I need to write 3 blog posts this week, I’ll put a 2 hour appointment in my calendar. Now I’m not meeting with anyone but if I schedule it, I know I’ll do it. Also, I’m horrible in the morning so if I don’t have my day planned out the night before, I’ll just be totally lost until about noon. When I start my day, I can see exactly what I need to do and when so I don’t have to waste any time figuring that out.

Google Calendar is collaborative so if you do have a team or an assistant, you can make appointments with each other. It also lets you set up different color-coded calendars so that you can see at a glance what is going on. You might choose one color for client appointments, one for admin work and one for content creation. It’s also cloud-based so you can access it from any device, anywhere in the world. It’s pretty much the best calendar ever and I’d be lost without it.

These are just 3 systems that I have in place in my business and they save me about 3-5 hours per week, every week. That’s 18-20 hours per month and 156-260 hours per year. Systems can save you serious time so I’m sure you can see that they are well worth setting up.

If you’re serious about getting out of overwhelm, you won’t want to miss the exciting free webinar I’ve got for you. It will help you get systems in place in your business and put them on autopilot. To find out more and save your spot visit www.evolveyourweddingbusiness.com/webinar

Heidi Thompson of Evolve Your Wedding Business helps wedding professionals market themselves on a budget and create a consistent flow of leads because in business, it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do if no one knows about it.

Check out her free video training designed to help you turn fans into buyers, perfect your website and crank up your cash flow.

 

Pick the Best Accounting Software for Small Business

This is a guest post from Sara Collins over at NerdWallet.

As a small business owner, you know how incredibly frustrating it can be to keep track of records and finances accurately. By this point, keeping huge binders filled with indexed files and spreadsheets is an almost archaic practice; if you’re still operating this way, ask yourself “why?”. Doesn’t your small business deserve the same top-of-the-line software used by almost every mid-large scale business for financial planning and budgeting? You work hard enough to run your business – let these programs take at least a little of the weight off your shoulders.

I’ve taken a look at two of the best accounting software programs for small business which should just about cover your every need. These options are super intuitive and all about usability, so even if your expertise lies with event organization or food prep, you can still be your own accountant. If this English major can get a basic grasp on bookkeeping, so can you.

quickbooks1.) QuickBooks by Intuit
QuickBooks can easily organize your records, freeing up your time for other tasks. It consists of a double-entry accounting system, which means that it follows standard bookkeeping rules. You don’t have to worry about that because the program takes care of the debits and credits in the background. The 2013 version also allows users to create and share report templates. Reports can be sorted by industry type, user rating and/or popularity. QuickBooks is designed to be simple to use regardless of how clueless you may be when it comes to accounting. There’s even an online troubleshooting database and a community forums section, featuring many accounting professionals who can provide assistance for those of us who still aren’t quite sure what we’re doing. The site will even help you get in touch with a local expert if one exists near your location.

Information about your customers, vendors and employees is stored in the form of individual records. When you begin entering financial data on forms like invoices and purchase orders, these records will be used to automatically populate fields on your transaction forms. Record and transaction information will also be used to create the reports you’ll need to run. QuickBooks contains dozens of ready-made templates (again, catering to us newbies) and allows you to customize your output and/or export it into Excel. Because of the close integration throughout the system, you should be able to avoid duplicate data entry. QuickBooks is generic enough that it can be a good fit for a wide variety of business types and sizes. A Premier version of QuickBooks is available in several different industry versions, including Contractor, Manufacturing & Wholesale, and Retail.

sage502.) Sage 50 Complete
This accounting software is cleverly designed to anticipate the needs of small-business owners, from billing clients to tracking down inventory. Sage 50 Complete is specifically designed for small businesses and includes all the modules you need to run every aspect of your business, including accounting, billing, customer and vendor management, payroll processing, banking and inventory management. Providing everything you require and yet simple enough for non-accountants to master, Sage 50 Complete are one of the best leading industries accounting software on the market. It’s compatible with other products, and Sage software is scalable up to 40 users or 499 employees. Data entry screens in Sage 50 are easily navigated, and contain excellent look up options as well as tabs for related tasks. This software can do everything from printing pick lists to generating income statement reports.

This accounting system can generate more than 140 reports and includes the option to filter and track custom data fields. This small business software produces professional-looking invoices, prints checks and manages direct deposits. Sage 50 offers an excellent selection of third party applications that easily integrate with its core financial products. It has a powerful inventory manager that can handle a wide range of inventory data, including location, preferred vendor, substitutions, and assemblies. The payroll and employee module is also impressive. Sage offers excellent scalability in its products, where users can scale up from the Premium version up to the Quantum version, which can handle up to 40 system users. It can manage all employee details such as emergency contacts, accrued vacation time, commissions and overtime. Sage 50 is, as the name implies, complete.
If you’re looking for a new way to manage your business’s finances, don’t be intimidated by the software programs that can help you do it. All of their intricate capabilities are only designed to make your life easier. Making the decision to get started will be the toughest part – do your business a favor by checking out these programs today.

Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet, a site dedicated to helping consumers find the best interest rates.

Guest Post: Protect Yourself from Gmail’s Recent Changes

By Kathy DalPra

If you’re a savvy wedding professional who uses email marketing to stay in touch with engaged couples, you may want to let your subscribers know about some recent changes to the Gmail system and what steps they need to take to make sure they don’t start missing all your messages.

Here’s What Happened

Google recently added 3 new tabs to the Gmail interface, which automatically sorts incoming messages into one of three groupings: Continue reading

Tuesday Tech Tip: Life hack with EasilyDo iPhone App

easilydoI love saving oodles of time. And I love sharing my best hacks and apps with you. I’m pretty excited about this week’s Tuesday Tech Tip: saving time with the iPhone app EasilyDo (also available for Android).

The app strives to be your personal assistant. I’ve used a few apps like this and they all have one major flaw (and EasilyDo does not escape this fate): they’re slow. Worse (I guess I’m starting with the cons this time) it’s a battery drain, even though it claims it isn’t. Because of the sweet location-based stuff it does, it needs constant access to your phone’s gps which results in serious battery loss.

If it’s slow AND  a battery hog, what makes it worth using? I’m so glad you asked. Here’s why I’m keeping it on the phone:

  1. It tells me when to leave for appointments. Seriously. I was hanging out with my new pal, Nancy, author of the super-fabulous introvert-energizer e-newsletter (if you’re an introvert, you need to be on that list), at a coffee shop today, when my phone beeped. Sure enough, it’s the EasilyDo app saying “It’s time to leave for your next appointment” with an option to go straight to Google Maps (you read that right, you can choose whether it defaults to Apple’s crappy maps or Google’s) for turn-by-turn voice-guided directions. How cool is that? It actually analyzes how much time it takes to get from where you are to where your next appointment is. Don’t rely on this, but it’s really cool when it works. And it’s super helpful for people like me who get sucked into super interesting conversations and lose track of time. Thanks, Nancy!
  2. I don’t miss birthdays. Check this out: On Friday, directly from the app, I can see who has a birthday coming up (this is all through Facebook and relies on people sharing their birthday with you) over the weekend and send them a quick note, to be sent on the correct day (automatically) at the time of day I choose. (People can tell you use the app, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I mean, if you really cared, you’d call anyway, right?)
  3. It reads Facebook for me. What? That’s right. It catches me up on important and popular posts and even suggests that I congratulate someone (when appropriate). I check Facebook three times a day most days. And this app still caught important things that I missed. Word.
  4. It dials into conferences for me. I don’t know about you, but I find myself dialing into conference calls a lot. I must admit, I haven’t used this yet, but as long as your calendar-event is titled “phone number, access code#” it’s supposed to dial right in (and enter your access code for you so you don’t have to remember it, phew) with the push of a button.

This thing has saved me a ton of time. It keeps track (cool for people who like to track everything or just justify the app) of how much time it’s saved you. But here’s the thing, it says it’s saved me something like fifteen minutes. That would be true, if you only counted how long it would have taken me to do those things. But in order to check birthdays and write messages, I would need to log in three days in a row (something I’m not great at anyway) and check for birthdays. And I don’t know about you, but if I’m on Facebook, I may as well check notifications and my newsfeed. Goodbye 45 minutes. So I estimate this thing has saved me a week.

Is it worth it despite the battery-killing thing and slowness? Yup. Just make sure you have a phone charger nearby.

 

Day 4: Avoid the Wedding Season Website Traffic Rut

Kathy DalPra Bride AppealIt’s Day 4 and Kathy DalPra from Bride Appeal has some awesome ideas for you on how to stay ahead with content this Summer. Have a pen ready, because she’s got some homework for you. Settle in and enjoy this great mini-webinar on how to get your website traffic to make sure you stay in front of brides all season long (without pulling all-nighters to write blog posts in July).

Make sure to get on the waiting list for Bridal Traffic Domination with conversion-genius Kathy DalPra, CEO of Bride Appeal, right here: http://brideappeal.com/btd.

Get the rest of the Simplify Your Summer expert tips delivered straight to your inbox and get access to the live Q&A with Jeff Hellenbrand on May 20th at cakecoaching.com/kiss.

Day 3: Three Tips to Streamline Your Wedding Business

For Day 3 of the Simplify Your Summer series, we have some ideas for keeping it together this wedding season (and beyond) from Heather and Jennifer of Outstanding Occasions. Check it out:

Heather and Jennifer from Outstanding Occasions
If you want to simplify during wedding season, these three tips will help you streamline your wedding business so that you can really focus on your clients and their weddings.

Calendar it: Whether you use iCal, Google Calendar, a traditional paper calendar or something else, make sure that you schedule everything. In our company, if it is not in our Google calendar, it is not considered real. Each team member includes all of their tasks, appointments, vacations, blog posts, team meetings, reminders to review our monthly finances, due dates for client projects, etc. in our company calendar. If you have a team, we suggest using an online version, because (1) it can be accessed from anywhere, (2) you can email or send text messages as reminders, and (3) the calendar can easily be shared with others.

Organize it: Whether you use the traditional paper and file system or an online project management system such as Basecamp, try to organize each of your projects in a way that is easy to recognize where you are in your process. Remember, organizing is a form of planning. By taking the upfront time to consolidate your project with to do lists, meetings, due dates, etc. you will be more efficient when things are busy. Good organization results in less mistakes, avoids duplicate work and gives clear objectives for you, your client and your team. A well-run organized company is in a stronger position in a competitive marketplace.

Automate it: While we do suggest you give a personal experience for each individual client, some things can be automated and will quickly help streamline your business. Invoicing a client is one of those monotonous tasks most wedding professionals do not enjoy doing, but we must get paid. Setting up recurring billing with an online invoicing system such as FreshbooksHarvest or Curdbee can be very beneficial to your company. An automatic online billing system reduces time spent sending invoices each month, gives clients the ability to pay via credit card, and provides a more professional way to send your invoices.

Take action today so that your wedding season can run smoothly. Calendar, organize and automate it!

Get more tips from Heather and Jennifer from Outstanding Occasions on how to run an outstanding wedding business: http://www.outstanding-occasions.com/business/.

Get the rest of the Simplify Your Summer expert tips delivered straight to your inbox and get access to the live Q&A with Jeff Hellenbrand on May 20th at cakecoaching.com/kiss.

Tuesday Tech Tip: Eliminate Social Media Overposting with Buffer

buffer-app-logo

Instant Gratification: Buffer is a great service that automagically spaces out your social media posts to Facebook and Twitter so you don’t fill up your fans’ news feeds.

I love finding great stuff to share with peeps on the Cake Coaching Facebook Page. But I have two problems. First, I tend to find a bunch of great content at once, followed by a dry spell. Second, I’m too lazy to schedule every post in Hootsuite, which is a great service, by the way. Hootsuite also has an auto-schedule feature which is worth a look. I tried it a couple of times and didn’t like when it was posting or how close together it posted and that’s why I decided to try Buffer.

In comes Buffer, the magical service that lets you quickly and easily add content from all of the web (the Chrome Extension is a must-have) and posts it at the best time. I have to admit, I just started using this service, but so far I’m impressed. You can control how often and when you post to different social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There’s also a WordPress plugin for automatically putting new blog posts in your Buffer queue. Pretty cool, huh? Keep in mind the free version is pretty limited (you’ll have to choose between your company page or your personal account). The paid version is $10/month, not bad for the time it frees up.

If you have a tendency to overwhelm your followers with content one day and then not post anything for two days, this is a great way to spread things out so that you’re reaching the most people and not being annoying.

Tuesday Tech Tip: Songza Saves the Day

staring-monsterFor today’s tech tip, I wanted to do something fun. Music is like breathing for me. If I go too long without hearing it or making some, I start to lose my mind. Songza.com is my go-to place for free streaming music. It’s not for everybody, but it’s my cup of tea, especially now that I’ve used it for a bit. Songza was one of the very few online music services that also worked in Canada, which has been nice for the last six months.

 

 

Why not Pandora?

Pandora is pretty sweet, except that when I want to listen to Elliott Smith, I create a channel based on him and then I get to listen to everything that sounds like him. But almost never him.

Why not Spotify?

Don’t get my wrong, Spotify is amazeballs. I’m just not cool enough to create my own playlists every day. I want a service that plays music I like and introduces me to new stuff without me doing the legwork.

Why Songza?

Songza’s claim-to-fame is it’s music concierge service, which is really cool in theory. When you first land on the site, it gives you some listening options based on the time of day and day of the week. So on a Friday evening at say 6pm, it will give you options like “Cooking Dinner,” “Pre-Partying,” and “Chilling with Friends.” You then choose from a short list of genre’s and lastly pick from three different playlists. If you like to work with music on (I know I do), there’s even an option during weekdays for “Music without Lyrics” so you don’t get too distracted.

I’ve used the concierge a bunch and I pretty quickly found that I didn’t like a lot of the playlists. However, I also found a handful of playlists I absolutely love. And those playlists occasionally get updates so I can keep listening to them without things getting stale.

Here are my top lists (I’m into Indie bands that aren’t cool anymore):

  1. Handclapping & Footstomping
  2. Guitars & PBRs
  3. Coffee Shop Indie

And just like Pandora, if there are a couple of songs on the list you’re not into, you can always give them the thumbs down.

Enjoy!

 

Tuesday Tech Tip: Gratitude Journal iPhone App

gratitude journal screenshotIf you aren’t familiar with the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, it can be pretty damn awesome. This study revealed that people who kept a gratitude journal (as opposed to a journal about neutral or negative events) exercised more regularly, felt better and were more optimistic. It also suggested that people who kept gratitude journals were more likely to have made progress toward their goals.

If that’s not enough, I can attest to the power of gratitude. Keeping a journal has made me more optimistic and happier. Instead of focusing on all of the stuff I don’t like in my life, it’s training my brain to constantly seek out the good. I end up feeling more fulfilled and satisfied on a daily basis. It’s made me more productive and even more confident.

As a coach, I help people reach huge goals. And it’s awesome. But here’s the thing: reaching your goal won’t make you happy. If you aren’t happy now, nothing is going to change that. Especially (according to studies) if you’re living above the poverty line. It’s faster and easier to change your perspective than it is to try to make a bunch more money to buy shit you don’t need (to impress people you don’t like). Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best, most sure-fire ways to change your perspective. And it’s cheap!

I don’t care if you keep a paper journal, use this app or find another one. I just hope you start taking note of what you’re grateful for.

I personally use the iPhone app Gratitude Journal, which comes in at about two bucks. It’s clean, simple, easy and fun to look back at things I’ve been grateful for over this past (very busy and adventurous) year. One surprise for me were the daily quotes. Some of them suck, sometimes they repeat, but overall I’ve loved the quotes and I’ve been impressed by the fact that they’re lesser known (I don’t often say “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.”) and still really powerful. Why shell out for the app? Because it looks better than my handwriting, the alarm reminds me each day and the calendar view lets me see whether I’ve been staying on track or slacking. What are you grateful for?

Enjoy!