I need a team, but I cannot afford one - Help!
I was a solo artist for many years. Working alone is a challenge because you must wear ALL the hats; artist, social media manager, office manager, inventory, receptionist, secretary, accountant, bookkeeper...you see where I am going here.
There were times as a solo artist I realized that I really needed help but could not afford to hire an assistant full time. I found many of my solutions using apps. I would like to share some of the apps I use (even now that I have an assistant). Some are free, and some have a monthly charge, but overall, they are affordable.
This might be the most important of all the time-saving apps. For years I used pen and paper scheduling. I spent hours placing, changing, and canceling appointments. Often, when the phone rang, I was working so I would have to call back later, only to find that the potential client booked somewhere else.
The solution for me was using a scheduling app. Now, personally, I used Schedulicity, which does have a monthly cost. Back then there were not too many options, but today there are so many: Schedulicity, Vagaro, Booksy, and Square also has one now, which is perfect if you use square to process your payments (and it’s free). For me, the most important things to look for in a scheduling app is:
Does it allow clients to book/cancel online? This saves hours every month. It also allows you to take appointments 24/7 without lifting a finger.
Does it take credit card deposits? Super important. A deposit lets you know this client is serious about booking and if they don’t show up, they lose their deposit, so it keeps no-shows down.
Does it send reminders? Again, this saves hours of your time by automatically reminding clients of their appointment, will also keeps no-shows to a minimum.
A quick note about Square. If you use Square and have employees, Square offers a payroll service. When we first opened our spa, we were paying an accountant $500 per month to do payroll and I found myself doing 98% of the work anyway, so I went looking for better, cheaper, and easier solutions. With Square payroll I can pay my employees or independent contractors, and square manages taxes and social security, etc., as well as all the tax forms and filing for less than $50 per month. Square also has a workers compensation insurance arm for employers, so if you have employees this is an easy to use, mostly done for you, affordable alternative to hiring an accountant or payroll service. Square also has a loan feature, where you can borrow money directly from square (for a flat fee) and square will automatically take a percentage of your sales until its paid off. This is handy if you need working capital.
I use Google voice for my business phone. I like this option because I can have a separate phone number without having to pay the phone company for another line. With the Google voice app, I can take and make calls or text messages through the app, using my biz number, all from my phone, tablet/iPad, or computer. You can even forward calls to another line. So, for example, during work hours, my Google number forwards to my assistant, so I never miss a call. Google voice is FREE. Using a Google number also allows me to talk and text with my clients without giving them my personal cell phone number. You can also set “Do not disturb” hours so work will not bother you if you don’t want to be bothered!
Even with the best receptionist, there will be times that you will miss calls. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. You have all seen enough mob movies to guess what my accent sounds like. I wanted a more professional sounding voicemail, so I hired a voice talent to do it for me! I use an app called Fiverr, but there are many others where you can hire a freelance artist to do voice overs, content creation, web design, videos, you name it - they have it. Some other apps are Legiit, Upwork, Truelancer, 99Designs, and Guru. Like I said, you can find so many services on these apps to help you do the work you don’t have time to do, or don’t know how to do. And they start at just $5. It’s like having an entire creative team at your fingertips.
To Do Lists
I have struggled for years with my lists. I write a list for everything (even this article is a list). My little cards, notes. and post-its can get a little unruly, so I started using Trello, a free app that allows me to not only organize all my lists, but I can invite other team members and assign tasks. The SPCP board uses Trello to organize our projects and responsibilities. I prefer the desktop layout but there is an app that I keep on my tablet and phone so I can get reminders of things that are due and see notifications of messages from my team. Some other similar apps are Monday, Smartsheet, Wrike, ToodleDo.
Oh, the dreaded content creation. So many of us feel that we do not have the technical skills to create content, but I promise, there are apps to help with that! For basic content creation I use Canva. There is a free version and a premium which isn't very expensive. The free version will get you going, so no need to upgrade right away. What I love about Canva is that it has an enormous library of royalty free images and graphic elements that you can use. I do not use this for my before and afters, but I do create all my other content here. There are predesigned templates that you can customize to match your branding so you can create really beautiful graphics with little to no expertise in just a few seconds. If you are feeling a bit tech savvy, you can also create reels, stories, and TikTok videos. There are tons of videos on YouTube if you need a tutorial.
Canva also has a scheduling feature, so you can connect your social media accounts and use Canva's calendar to pre-schedule posts. This is an incredible feature because you can sit down once a week and set up all your social media posts in about an hour and it will automatically post for you. No social media manager is necessary! Speaking of prescheduling posts - I manage three accounts. My personal, my spa business, and my training business. So that means I have 3 Instagrams, 3 Facebooks, 3 Linkedins 3 Google businesses - you get my point. So even using a scheduler like the one that comes with Canva can be a pain in the booty. For all my social media posts I use an app called Zoho Social. It is a little pricey ($100 per brand per year, so for me its $300 per year). What I love about this is that I can schedule one post and have it post to ALL my social media accounts, instead of scheduling each one individually. Since I have 3 brands to manage, this makes everything super easy. Similar scheduling apps are HootSuite, Eclincher, Netsuite, Loomly, Buffer. and Later.
What Do I Write?
Well, different marketing and social media experts will tell you different strategies, but whatever you choose to write, you will probably use the same copy over and over (with some tweaks). I used to have a Google word doc that I stored all my copy on (including hash tags) and I would simply cut and paste it. But of course, I found an app for that called Boards. This is a super simple, free app that allows you to create different boards that you can put text, photos, links, pdf documents, really anything in, and quickly copy and paste to your social media scheduler, or even text messages. This saves tons of time and will make your social media posts a breeze.
I did mention text messages. We get messages all day long from clients and potential clients and the answers are roughly the same every time, so why not make it easy breezy? Save your most common answers on Boards and when someone messages, you can quickly answer them. Even with an assistant, I use Boards because I am able to compose the exact answers I want her to respond with.
Before and After Photos
For my before and after photos I use the free version of the app called PhotoGrid. I like it because I can make photo collages, add a watermark, and even tune the skin a little without compromising the work. There are many collage apps out there, find the one you like to work with the best. I used to take my photos with a DSLR camera and then I would have to upload them to my computer, edit in photo shop and then download back to my phone and upload to my social media. Fortunately, those days are over, and my phone camera is just as good as a DSLR. Also, with all those steps, I would find myself struggling to make time to put my photos together and they would really pile up.
You will want to find a collage app that you can use quickly. To streamline my process and to make sure everything is getting done, I use the collage app immediately after I finish a client to put their before and after pics together. I can quickly watermark the photo, then send it to them through the Google Voice app. This way, I know they have a high quality photo to send to their friends and family, and it has my social media name on it, so they know how to find me. Clients love having the photos, and by giving them my personal cell number they feel like they can reach me if they need me without giving them my actual personal cell number. From there I open my social media scheduler (Zoho Social) and put the pic in, grab the copy from Boards app and pick a day/time to schedule, and BOOM, I am all set. I just did the job of an artist, assistant, and social media manager in under five minutes, while my client is getting herself together to pay. It will take a little time to master this, but you will run smoothly with a little practice.
This one is really easy, and you already have the app. Do you ever feel like there isn't enough time in the day? That a task which should have taken 30 minutes, took 2 hours? Do you easily get bored or distracted while you are trying to complete boring work stuff? Try setting a timer. This is called the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have—rather than against it. Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as pomodoros. I use 25 and 60 minute intervals to break up my tasks. When you know you only have a set time to complete something, you will be surprised how efficient you become! Your phone already has a timer in the clock app, but if you want to be fancy there are a bunch of Pomodoro Technique apps, including Pomodor, Marinara Timer, Forest, and Be Focused.
Even using all these apps to help me with my workflow, I still sometimes feel like I don’t have time to do the daily minutia, and since I can’t afford a personal assistant full time to help me, I use apps. I always felt like I couldn’t afford a cleaning service, but I work 6 days (sometimes 7) per week and on my day off I am usually running other errands. I realized that it was cheaper for me to hire someone to clean once a week for a few hours, than to lose that precious time. Especially the weeks that I work 7 days, I am making more money in those few hours than it costs to hire someone. Finding a reputable cleaner is difficult, especially if you aren’t going to use them consistently. I use an app called Handy. I can schedule someone to come clean at a specific time for X number of hours and even specify what I need cleaned. They will even do your laundry. To justify this, think about it this way: You time is precious. In the amount of time it takes me to do 1 brow, someone can come tidy up my apartment for $100. I charge $650 for brows, so my time is best spent tattooing rather than cleaning. Similar apps are Angi, Thumbtack, Tidy App, JustMop and Zyp. You can also use an app called Task Rabbit to hire people to fix stuff or put things together that you ordered online.
Speaking of online ordering, I am addicted to Amazon. It’s fine, I'm willing to admit I have a problem. I would love to shop local more often, but honestly, it’s a time issue. By the time I get home from work, find parking (in NYC this is a total nightmare), walk the dogs, make dinner...it’s already time to go to bed, so who has time for shopping? I find myself ordering most things I need on Amazon, and several years ago I tried their grocery feature (Amazon Fresh) and it has literally been the highlight of my adult life. I can order groceries and schedule them to be delivered as I arrive home from work. Personal assistant level 100! If you don’t like Amazon, many grocery stores have delivery services such as PeaPod and InstaCart.
Although you might feel like apps are too techy for you to use, consider trying some of these (use YouTube to learn how to use them if you need to), you may find that your day runs smoother and more efficiently. It’s like having a full team of assistants to help you organize and free up your day. Now, if you are already using some of these and want to kick it up a notch, most of these apps can be integrated with your Alexa. Instead of having to open the app, you can simply say, “Alexa, order more paper towels,” “Alexa, set a timer for 25 minutes,” or “Alexa, add ‘Make a Doctor Appt’ to my Trello List”. The possibilities are endless and new skills are added all the time.
There is one more app to be aware of, but this one takes a little more tech know-how. The app is called Zapier. Think of Zapier as a middleman that performs a designated task, when something triggers it. For example, you can program a ZAP so that every time someone schedules a new appointment, an email will be sent from your email service (like Mailchimp) welcoming them as a new client and giving them pre-appointment instructions. Just about anything can be a task and just about anything can be a trigger. Like I said, this requires a little more than a basic understanding of apps and computers, but if you learn how to do it, it's incredibly powerful. Basically, it’s an app that helps you integrate different apps that do not usually work together. Similar apps are ITTT (If This Then That) and Integrately, Make, and Pabbly Connect.
I hope you found this list helpful. If there is an app that you use to make life easier that I have not mentioned, I would love to know about it! I am always looking for more ways to automate and simplify my home and work life.
What will YOU do with all that extra time?
Angela Torresiani, CPCP