My Favourite Resources for Running a Small Business

My Favourite Resources for Running a Small Business

There are literally hundreds of resources online, all there to help us with the day to day running of our businesses and organisations. I’ve got a handful of my own that I go to on a regular basis, whether it’s for creating graphics or getting ideas. I’d love to know your favourites?

Canva

I’ve recommended Canva to a lot of my clients, and they always come back with some great feedback about the platform. I tend to use it mostly for creating some interesting graphics for social media, and once you upgrade to the Pro (around £12 a month), the world really is your oyster.

If you go for the Pro version, you’ll have access to thousands of stock images, as well as a lot of funky gifs, stickers, backgrounds, music and more. But, the big attraction for me with the Pro version was the resize option – you can create your graphic specifically for posting on Twitter, and then easily resize it into an Insta story or Facebook post. It means, you won’t ever have to worry about horrible looking cropped graphics again.

My top tip would be to use the templates as inspiration, but avoid using them too often – you can spot a Canva template on social media very easily! And with so many options yourself, you don’t really need to rely on the templates.

Go on, design anything.

Biteable

I pay for a Biteable subscription but you can use the free version (it just leaves a watermark at the end of the videos). Biteable is a super easy, “drag and drop” style video making platform, which is great for social media and small businesses. If you pay for the subscription, you do also get access to a lot of stock footage too, from the likes of Shutterstock.

I use Biteable for a LOT of my clients, either to make their Facebook cover videos, or to add some interest to posts. Biteable is constantly expanding too, which is great for me!

Similar to Canva, Biteable have a whole stock of “template” videos, so you can just go in and edit the words. I’d be wary a bit though, and try and make sure the videos stay on brand.

Color Scheme Designer

This really is one of my favourite resources, and it’s great if you’re working with colours on a daily basis. I’m very aware it says Color and not colour, but we can live with that for the help it gives us.

Open the link and you’ll see a colour wheel. Here you can add your colour in, and it’ll bring up a great square on the right with different shades of that colour populated for you. Sometimes this is enough, depending on the brand you’re working with. Othertimes, adding other colours to the mix is needed, and Color Scheme Designer helps you out here loads. There are a few options:

Monochromatic – this is your one base colour. For this blog, I’ve used #882D61 (note on the square in the right, the different “shades” that go with the base purple).

Add complimentary – this is adding the colour that best compliments your main colour. (Incidentally I remember going on a “design” course a few years ago here in Aberystwyth, and was told green and pink don’t go together. Did you know lime green is the complimentary colour of a very bright pink? I took great pleasure in showing them the colour wheel that day…).

Adjacent – these are 3 colours that are located next to each other, and with all of these options, you can also add the complimentary colour too.

Triad – another 3 colour option, but using two colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel. Choosing between Adjacent and Triad will largely depend on your brand and the look and feel you’re trying to achieve.

Tetrad – you guessed it, the four colours. They’re slightly different to the options above, but all still work well for any brand colour palette.

Where I’ve really found that Color Scheme Designer has come into its own for me, is when I’ve got a client with NO brand whatsoever, and doesn’t want one (thinking, community council perhaps, where the website is just an information portal). I then find a colour I quite like to work with, and take a look at the options the Color Scheme Designer gives me.

Website Colour Schemes

Stuck for inspiration? As I said above, sometimes a client comes to you with no brand whatsoever, and rather than do the hard work all over again, I find it easier (and more enjoyable) to have a good root around the web for some inspiring colour schemes. I particular like the article by Canva with 50 colour scheme ideas!

FreeAgent

Business banking – sorry if it’s dull! We started way back in the old ages, using spreadsheets to keep a track of our ingoings and outgoings. It wasn’t until the other half eventually convinced me to switch to an accounting system that life very much got easier. We actually bank with Natwest, which means we get FreeAgent for free with our monthly fees, but it’s not too expensive if it’s the route you want to go down.

What I love about it is that the templates for invoices are super easy to use, and they look professional. I can allocate languages per client (useful, in Wales, we’ve got many Welsh clients), and set up different “payment” requirements per client too. The system sends automated reminders for outstanding invoices, and also thank you receipts when the invoice is allocated against a bank transaction. I can also use it on my phone, which comes in handy for both sending invoices and inputting receipts/expenses if we’re away.

They have a great customer service team too!

FreedCamp

You reach a certain point with any business where you need a decent customer relationship management tool, and we’ve spent many, many hours trying to research one that works for us. Our main priority was a place where we can add tasks and allocate them to staff members, and also a place where we can ensure the same process is followed for each client. Especially from the early enquiry stages.

Previously I’d just relied on either doing all of the work myself (let’s say for example, during a website design, from enquiry to live), or having to ask where we were at, and what needed doing.

FreedCamp lets you set up a whole host of projects and groups, where you can then do a lot of funky things like time tracking, issue management, add Gantt charts, task lists etc. You can set up email alerts so you can track when tasks have been completed, you can create templates to copy per project (super handy for us with our website enquiries) and so much more. It’s really all been about optimising and ensuring we’re efficient at what we do here in the office. Less time on admin = more time on client work. Yippee!

Office365

I always feel like Office vs Google is a vbit like Apple vs Android – but, we’re Office 365 fans!

I really love the flexibility that having Office365 gives us. Primarily I use it for emails and for the cloud storage (the One Drive). I use it on my computer in the office, I can login via a browser from any location (so hot desking, on the laptop at home or on holiday) and I’ve also got the apps on my phone.

Perhaps some people don’t like the constant access, but if you’re running a small business, and juggling all of the aspects of a business between 1 or 2 of you, then having cloud emails and storage is a must.

From a business point of view too, we’ve also helped a lot of clients move to Office 365, and I have to say, the support team at Microsoft are fantastic.

Social Media Resources

I’m going to write another insight into the social media resources I use, but in general, I tend to follow websites like “Like of the Year” for content ideas, and have app upon app on my phone.

Our favourite tool at the moment for scheduling is Hootsuite BUT, I am on the lookout for something new. I do feel that Hootsuite isn’t moving with the times quite as quickly as other content scheduling platforms appear to be, so if you have any suggestions – I’d love to know.

Key Steps to Create a Great Brand

Key Steps to Create a Great Brand

We all know how important a strong and consistent brand is for your business or venture, just what are the steps to get there though? If you have the budget, you could hire a designer to help, but the following steps should always have you involved.

  1. Create your amazing mission statement! This runs alongside all of your visions, aims, goals, dreams for your business and it does really help shape your brand. For example, with Gwe Cambrian Web our tagline is “Getting Wales Online”, but our mission statement is to increase the use of Welsh on digital.
  2. Always check out your competition. See what other people in your field are doing, not only for ideas, but also it’ll help you see some gaps and give you ideas as to where you can fill in. You might already have a good idea for a brand or logo, but spot competition already has it, which is another great reason to check them out. Just don’t get bogged down.
  3. Figure out your target audience. It’s a horrible task and I hate doing it but it’s really useful. One method I see often is thinking of your “perfect client”, and mapping that client out (Sophisticated Sarah anyone?)
  4. When it comes to creating your logo, there are a few considerations. You’ll want to decide on colours (colour theory is a major part of any brand creation), fonts and your tagline. You can even extend this further and think about how you want to come across – because your logo is going to be your first impression to many clients.
  5. Decide on your brand language. This comes up a lot when I go to conferences, and it’s really easy to think, “yes, I’ve got it down”… and then write completely differently. Tone of voice and the language you’re going to use is all part of creating that authentic (sorry, buzzword!) brand.
  6. Finally, get yourself a brilliant brand message and “elevator pitch”. Super important if you’re going to networking events and conferences, so you don’t stumble over your words when someone asks what it is you do? I’ve been there, and usually end up saying, “oh not much really, just design websites”. Which is bonkers.

Branding

Branding

I’m keeping the title simple. I absolutely love branding – I love everything it encompasses, and am always taken aback by the businesses that don’t take branding seriously.

Is it because they don’t know what it is? Is that the challenge? I don’t think so. I think that most businesses do know what branding is, but they don’t actually appreciate or value its importance. That’s the challenge.

A strong brand is super important for a few reasons. Not least because it leaves a memorable impression of your business to your possible and current customers. People begin to recognise the brand, especially when we now live in a world where marketing is all around – offline and online. The stronger your brand, the more likely it is that customers and potential customers will both recognise it, and become loyal to it.

In short, a strong brand encourages trust. It can inspire employees, supports your advertising and creates a strong message for your potential clients.

Now, we should move onto some buzzwords: what makes a good brand? A good, strong brand will have excellent and memorable aesthetics, it will evoke trust, be easy to understand, be honest, have a personality and be innovative. I’ve talked about this a lot with Gwe Cambrian Web, so if you already follow my businesses these words shouldn’t come as a surprise. Think about a brand, and does it evoke all of those buzzwords? Remember, a brand isn’t just the logo, it’s the colours used, the fonts, the tone of voice, the style and feel. All of this comes together to create a strong brand, with personality. And isn’t that exciting!

Personality and Social Media

Personality and Social Media

Social media is the perfect way to show off your personality online, and in an age where we crave that personal touch, what could be more important?

Let’s focus on a small business perspective – a lot of my social media clients will ask me what they can post about, because quite frankly, they feel that they don’t have a lot to say.

This is where personality comes in.

Every business has its own personality, whether you meant to let it happen or not. It’ll come from the graphics you use, the content you usually share, the brand – colours, fonts. At some point, if you didn’t mean it, you’ll be able to look at your social media and brand and see a clear personality.

I have two main businesses – the first, was set up 7 years ago and is the core business for me (Gwe Cambrian Web). We focus on providing great website designs, excellent customer service, honesty and transparency and basically being very helpful whereever we can. Alongside that, the main focus is to promote the use of the Welsh language online. Our tone of voice is usually professional and informative, but we do have a bit of fun if we’re at events.

The second business, Digida Marketing, was created literally to target a younger audience who want to make an impact on social media. So what we share, and how we speak is completely different for the most part. It can be tricky, but we have two very clear personalities.

How does this help when it comes to social media?

One of the ways I try and describe this is, you have to treat your business as it’s own entity. Imagine it as a person. What sort of things would this person share and say on social media? What sort of things is the person interested in? Will your target audience be interested too? Rather than thinking “what business things can I share on social media”, you can start thinking “what is my business interested in that I can share online/what would I share online?” based on the personality.

And always a good top tip, no matter what field you business is in, your audience will always love to see those behind the scene clips. Just don’t be too repetative!