What I Use to Run My Business
I wanted to pop in and share some changes I’ve made over the last few months to run my business as well as how I use these tools to make it easier to provide services to my clients. Also, I have started a Discord channel. If you’re on Discord, please send me your name as well as your number that comes after your name if you’d like to be added.
This post may end up being quite long. Feel free to print it out if you’re reading it on the website. If you’ve grabbed it from the FB group, then you already have it in PDF format so, go you! 🙂
Now, while you are welcome to use any invoicing software you’d like, I use Zoho Invoicing and I have for close to seven years. It’s inexpensive and it’s quite versatile. I can use it to track my one-time expenses or my recurring expenses. I use it to recreate my Upwork invoices (but I assign them to each individual client and I will explain why in just a moment). I can track hourly clients (and even assign different rates to different clients and different projects). It shows me how much of what I spend is divided into certain expenses (such as Upwork fees).
Zoho Invoicing allows ACH payments (e-checks, although I can’t think of a single client that has ever paid me in that manner), PayPal, Stripe, Chase payments, and a few others. I’ve set up PayPal Business and Stripe. My clients also know that I also have Venmo, Google Pay, CashApp, and a card reader. A few clients (long-term) can also send me a check if they’d like since my business account gives me the ability to e-deposit the check.
I cannot stress this enough even if you have a side-hustle. Invoicing software of some kind is super important. You need to be able to account for your business money, even if it is a side-hustle. If you can’t how can you tell it is growing? Additionally, using invoicing software is important because it helps avoid mistakes compared to keeping the numbers by hand.
Now for the super good stuff that I use Zoho Invoicing for at the end of each year… It is no secret that I add new clients every year while continuing to work with my long-term clients. One of the most common questions I am asked is how to figure out which clients are the best clients or the most ideal. It can be hard when you’re actively working to take the time to figure it out. When you have several clients, one thing you can do, of course, is think about which work you enjoy doing the most. The real question is, of course, is whether that’s most profitable…one easy way I do that is to use the reports feature in Zoho Invoicing.
To do this, I go under Reports, Sales by Customer, and Previous Year. From there, it will show me my clients, alphabetized, as well as the number of invoices created and the total amount of sales. Then, I click the Sales column to bring the biggest amount of sales to the top. That will show me which client paid me the most money over the year. Obviously, I know what I did for that particular client. Specifically, SEO copywriting and editing. To get even more specific, it was for a legal forms website. Second, was LawDroid. Third, was a law firm. Fourth, another long-term client. Fifth was a brand new client who, in December, paid me close to $2k for a part-time project. Coming in seventh was another new client, a legal consultant, who hired me to write some white papers and do some web content for their legal clients.
This one simple report can gives me extremely valuable information because I now know which types of clients I can target for 2021 to continue to increase my earnings (although most of my clients continue to find me as opposed to my going out and looking for them).
Oh, and paying for invoicing software is a write-off for my taxes.
Zoho Social does my heavy lifting for social media. If it seems like I’m always on social media as TheRobinBull, it’s because of Zoho Social. Just to be clear, there are other programs similar to Zoho Social, such as Buffer and HootSuite. Those are two of the most popular versions. What these types of program do is first look at your audience and posting profiles to determine the most popular times to post on your behalf.
You can link up some or all of your social profiles. I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google My Business hooked up. I could technically connect others, but it would cost me more money to do so. Instead, I just pay the basic monthly fee for the basic accounts.
In order for Instagram, LinkedIn, or Google My Business to have the best scheduled time to populate, you must choose either Facebook or Twitter with it. So, mine are populated as follows:
- Facebook and Instagram
- Twitter and LinkedIn
I usually populate Google My Business manually because I follow specific best practices (when I use it; I don’t use it as often as I should).
Zoho Social has better reports and stats for the money than other programs. You can also read private messages and send replies. I don’t use it for that, though.
In my opinion, it is a better option than Buffer, especially where Facebook is concerned. I like to @ other accounts and businesses on Facebook. If you try to do that within Buffer, you will a bunch of numbers instead of icons or images. With Zoho Social, you will see the actual image that is associated with the account. It is just so much easier to tell the difference between the real Facebook pages and the fake ones.
And, again, it is another expense to write-off.
Instagram is good for a number of things, even for writers. Unfortunately, too many people get bogged down in clicks and followers. I switched to a business account because it gave me access to metrics. Once I post something, I can look at insights and see how many new eyeballs the post has gotten in front of as well as how many people have gone to see my profile and if anyone has clicked on my bio link.
Hashtags are an important part of Instagram. One big mistake that people make is choosing hashtag with millions of followers. If you don’t have a huge, interactive audience, your post will got lost in a huge hashtag. Instead, focus on using hashtags with 700,000 or less users. You can use up to 30 hashtags in your post. Whether you want to put them in the post or in a comment is up to you, but many social media experts have found it is better to put them in the post unless you have your hashtags saved in a note on your phone and copied so that you can immediately paste them into the comment for best results. Always use a location as well.
You should also make sure to share your post to your Instagram stories. Don’t just reupload it from your phone to your IG stories. Instead, once you’ve uploaded it to your feed, use the little airplane and send it to your stories. Also, keep in mind that if your account is private, you’re going to have a very hard time growing your account.
Another tactic to keep in mind is that the algorithm will keep your post in the feed if you are replying to legitimate comments as soon as possible. This tells the IG algorithm that whatever it is you posted is excellent content that people want to see and engage with. This is very important. When I get spam comments, I delete them. IG also gives you the ability to restrict those comments or accounts to where only you and the other person to see them. It’s up to you how you decide to handle them.
I post a lot of memes (various types). I also post selfies, work from home things, and images from my site here. My goal is to get more new eyeballs on my account as well as more clicks onto my LinkTree (which is my link in bio so that I can have more links).
I get a lot of lawyers (one of my many target audiences) that contact me through Twitter through DMs. In addition to Zoho Social, I am on Twitter a lot. I interact with my followers. I do not argue about politics or current events although I do RT those subjects and often give my opinion without name calling. I criticize policies, not people. Being a writer probably helps me in that I can talk about many subjects without too much flack (especially since I don’t attack people). I share a lot of news. I talk about my life as a work from home wife and mom. I share a lot of stories about productivity. I share a lot of posts from here and my other websites. I share a lot of tips about Upwork and freelancing because, as you know, I do consulting on running a successful business from home. It’s also another site where I use my LinkTree because people can go and click it and see various other things that I hand-selected.
I have a Facebook pages for TheRobinBull and Black Moth Media. I also have two free groups for freelancers that act as an intro group to this subscription group. The paid group on Faceboook essentially holds the files for this subscription area. I also take the PDF for files like this and upload it there and put in events and such. TheRobinBull Facebook page is far more active…because it shares a lot of funny things. People love memes. That’s kind of what Facebook has become. So, the more you can make your audience laugh, the better off you are…and if you can sneak your link in, the better. I share out my images to my personal account. Then, through the memories thing, I reshare it every year. From my phone, I can see who “liked” the previous post and see if they liked the page. If they didn’t, I can invite them to help grow the page.
I can also share those posts to the groups. This is particularly helpful for things like when I update the writing page. I share that to the freelance writers group I started. (Talk about a quiet bunch…I could probably stick a kitten in a blender in that group and I don’t think anyone would say or do anything…but I took a vow of Ahimsa so clearly you do not have to worry about me ever doing something like that.)
Facebook has several free features you can use for a business (despite the fact people love to talk shit about it). You can use its appointment tool. You can set up a free store. You can add “Get Messages” to your posts. You can do so much.
LinkedIn…I have rules for how I use it. I do not accept just any request. People must have a profile picture. They must have a completed profile. I don’t necessarily care if they are within my scope of potential clients. If they send me a sales message, I do not add them.
I use LinkedIn to find potential clients as well as to raise the visibility of my business. I interact with Upwork quite a bit. You can tag businesses on Upwork just like you can on Facebook or anywhere else. This is beneficial because it raises your visibility. You can use LinkedIn to share industry news, write updates, or even to write articles that your target audience might find interesting or beneficial. I like to use it to insert a link to my website, my Upwork profile, or my Google My Business. Just keep in mind if you use it write articles or even use it to write thoughtful statuses with tips for your target audience that you need to include a call to action (which is a fancy way of saying that they need to contact you).
Google My Business
Google My Business is free. You know how you look up a business on Google Maps and you can read reviews and see other information, including images, about a business? Google My Business is how a business gets their business verified. I use mine (and manage the GMB for several law firms) to help raise the SEO (visibility) of the business. I do this in several ways, but it primarily has to do with keywords. This includes how you name the images and using the keyword in the post. You can also include a button to a link (such as to your website).
The ultimate goal is to get into what is known as the local three. When people search “whatever” near me, you want to show up within the first three results.
As I mentioned earlier, I use LinkTree. LinkTree has a free version and a paid version. I use the paid version because it gives me better access to statistics. It also gives me an API for my newsletter so that people can just insert their email address for my newsletter (that I hardly use). I can also include each and every social media account that I have.
LinkTree is so valuable for Instagram since we cannot use live links. I keep the link for my book at the top. I put the link for the writing jobs page at the bottom. Why? Because I want people to scroll through the rest of my links (to see what is there and be tempted to read or listen to other things) before they get to it. With LinkTree, I can have as many links as I want. I don’t know if it is because I use the paid version or not. I do know that the API and the social media links is because I use the paid version.
Of course, there are similar services available. I just happen to like LinkTree (and the price is great: $6 a month). Again, it’s a write-off.
I use Excel to set up a template for some clients for whom I handle social media. It is broken down by tabs into months. To be clear, this particular template is only used for clients for whom I manage their Google My Business. Each tab has every social media channel that is used as well as each week. Every social media channel has room for three ideas. The spreadsheet is only good for ideas. It is not used to hold images.
I have a bigger Google Spreadsheet for a certain client for whom I track their podcasts that are shared through social media. You can see a copy of that spreadsheet in the Facebook group.
Yes, another Zoho product, but this one is free. Of course, I use a paid version of Zoho Workspace or Workplace. It came with Zoho Mail which I use instead of G-Suite. Why do I use it instead of Google Docs? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of Grammarly. Many of my clients love Grammarly. I refuse to pay to use the advanced features.
So, I start everything in Zoho Writer because Zoho Writer has Zia. Zia provides the advanced features of Grammarly…for free. Then, I copy out the document from Zoho Writer and paste it into Google Docs and allow Grammarly to do its thing. You still need to pay close attention to Grammarly…it isn’t always correct.
Toggl Plan is what I currently use as my project management tool. I’ve used lots of different tools in the past, both free and paid. I’ve used ClickUp (so easy that it gets difficult), Wrike (which ends up being a load of bullshit), Trello (which I hate), Asana (hate), Zoho Project (love, but the price for just myself and my husband isn’t worth it)…crazy. Anyway, Toggl Plan offers the simplicity of ClickUp without the bullshit. None of my clients use it none of them know that I use it which makes it even better. I can use a calendar view or a kanban board,
I set up all of my clients as projects. Each client has tasks with it. I just follow the basic Toggle Plan set-up: in-progress, blocked, and done. I also set-up an ideas board. I keep it simple. It keeps me organized because I stay very, very busy.
Toggl Plan has both free and paid plans. I use the free plan.
My oldest son got me started on Discord. I like Discord because it’s easy and requires practically no technical experience to set-up a private server (kinda like a chatroom). I have one set-up for invite only for freelancers that will be used for subscribers. Discord is nice because you can chat by typing, there can be voice conversations, or video can be used. Discord is free.
For the record, I hate Slack. It is on this list because three of my clients use it. So, it’s on my phone. Out of the three clients who use it, only one of them uses it regularly. One of them wants to use it regularly and doesn’t. The other uses it kind of regularly, but still ends up using their email more.
Slack has both free and paid accounts. You can integrate it with a lot of services, including ClickUp, Google Docs, Google Drive, and several other services.
For websites, WordPress really is the way to go. Now, whether you want to have it hosted by WordPress is up to you. It may seem less expensive to do so, but it depends on what you want to do with it. If you want people to be able to download things from your site or sell things from your site, unless you want to pay WordPress $300 a year, go with GoDaddy. It’s cheaper. I should have done that, frankly. It’s why you don’t see a lot of downloadable content here. Unless I want to move this whole site to GoDaddy, which is, in my mind, a giant pain in the ass, I either host the downloads else where and make everyone make multiple clicks which fucks up the user experience, or I leave it as is. But…for you, that’s just something to think about.
The nice thing about WordPress is that it is super simple to set-up. It’s super simple to manage. It’s super simple to make something attractive. There are so many easy plug-ins to manage the site. You will make your website life much easier if you use WordPress compared to something like Wix.
In my line of work, compared to making Viking shields (don’t laugh – what do you think we bought our 22 year old son for Christmas? A handmade Viking shield!), Upwork has been highly beneficial to my visibility. And, no the fees associated haven’t affected me. Remember, fees are write-offs. You can also consider the amounts when setting your rates.
Upwork provides me with the opportunity to use a video intro (I have not taken advantage of this yet). I do use SEO to raise my visibility. They take care of invoicing and ensure payment. They also help me handle disputes if they arise. I’ve worked with some awesome clients that I may never have met otherwise, including colleges and law schools. I’ve also met freelancers that make $250k+ each year.
I buy content calendars. They tell me what I can post every single day. I buy them for various industries. So, I have ideas to choose from. I can reuse them every year if I want…or I can buy new ones. Sometimes I look on Pinterest for “social media challenges.” I don’t sign up for them (I get enough spam, thanks). However, they do spur additional ideas if I don’t know what to post or if I don’t like the current idea. I can also take the various ideas that I have and modify them for my clients
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