I was thrilled to debut my new Email for Personal Connection class at Camp Thundercraft! This is the first in a new series of classes I’m preparing that focus in one way or another on writing.
There are loads of courses and tutorials for how to set up an email list, how to build your list and how to get into the nitty-gritty of using any of the wide variety of email platforms, but there aren’t many resources out there about what to actually say in your emails.
Email for Personal Connection walks small business owners through the steps of identifying their most salient and important stories – the big ones that define their business and the small ones that provide peeks behind the scenes – and then establishing an editorial calendar and clear workflow to make the work of prepping and sending emails low-stress and high-impact.
Look for an online version of the class in coming weeks!
Now, for the event itself. Camp Thundercraft is a retreat for indie craft business owners, held at an actual summer camp on Vashon Island, near Seattle. Campers sleep in cabins and otherwise enjoy the camp setting, bordering on both the woods and water. Even in the pouring rain, it was such a welcome getaway to be out in nature this early in the spring. (And the food was amazing.)
For a relatively small retreat, there’s a huge variety of classes and programming running the gamut of business topics and including lots of hands-on crafting. I took both Blair Stocker’s class on sashiko embroidery and Yuko Miki‘s class on block printing on fabric. I’ve long wanted to try sashiko (man, are my stitches uneven!), and even though I’ve done lots of stamp carving over the years, I learned a ton about printing on fabric, specifically, in Yuko’s amazing class.
I so enjoyed this retreat, and I’m already looking forward to going back next year.
These are the apps and programs I used the most, relied on, or simply found the most valuable in 2016 – both in my writing and creative work, and in my personal crafty life. All of these are available on pretty much any platform (I use a Mac laptop and an Android smartphone, in case you find that relevant!)
Leave a comment at the end and add your favourites, too!
Some of these are referral or affiliate links. I don't recommend anything I don't actually know and love!
CoSchedule – Though I've used this editorial and social-media calendar for quite a while, this fall I started using it hard. With their introduction of the ReQueue feature, which loops designated posts to be reposted automatically, I cancelled Edgar and haven't looked back. In 2017, I intend to use it for blog planning, too (because in 2017 I intend to get organized).
Trello – I use this list-making app every day. It's where I keep track of links I'll share in my Friday newsletter, and I use it to manage the editorial content for Clarinet News. I also use it with my client to keep track of everything else we work on together – from files to to-do lists to contact information. The free version of Trello is robust on its own; I only upgraded to the Gold version (worth every penny!) when I needed to exceed the free version's file-size limit for uploads.
Evernote – I've used Evernote for years and it continues to be a catch-all for a huge variety of information I need to capture, and I draft a lot of things I write in there, too. I wrote about it a while ago (um, five years ago!), and I pretty much still use it the same way, pretty much every day.
Canva for Work – I started paying for this browser-based graphic-design tool as soon as they launched their paid version a couple of years ago, and I've never questioned the decision. Canva for Work makes it dead simple to set your brand's fonts and default colours, and to apply them to a huge number of predesigned templates for all manner of imagery and documents (including the image at the top of this post, for example). For people like me who aren't graphic designers but rely on great graphics, this is a must-have tool. I even used it to design the cover of my latest ebook.
Facebook Live – Live video isn't new, and I was eager to try out Periscope when it first came on the scene. But Periscope rapidly fell to sexist trolls, and it's only accessible to people who have the app (or maybe they broadcast to Twitter now, too? I stopped following it). Everyone is on Facebook, though. And Facebook weights videos very favourably compared to other kinds of media content, which means that when you go live, and when you archive your broadcast on your page, there's a pretty good chance people will actually see it. And watch it. And comment on it. When I make stuff live on Facebook, my videos get far more engagement with people than any other kinds of posts, and I gain followers. Live video requires no postproduction, so it's a very easy way to enter the world of video. I highly recommend it!
Overdrive – When my family went on a six-week road trip in 2015 a brilliant friend recommended we borrow audiobooks from the library for our kid to listen to in the car. Overdrive is the app most public libraries use to allow their patrons to borrow ebooks and audiobooks. This year, I finally got into audiobooks for myself, and I'm so grateful that I can borrow them without cost from the library! So good.
ConvertKit – When I first committed to writing my weekly newsletter back in 2014, I used TinyLetter to send it. Eventually, it became clear that the newsletter is central to my business, and I switched to MailChimp for its more robust features. MailChimp is a bit of a beast, though, and I never managed to take the time to learn how to do the fancy things I need to do to make email work for my business, especially because I'm not a one-trick pony. Enter ConvertKit. All the things that broke my brain in MailChimp are simple, basic features of ConvertKit. ConvertKit allows me to reach people about specific topics that interest them – like crochet or bullet journaling – while also reaching people with my more general newsletter. It's also what I use to send email content for my online classes. The lower-level plans are more expensive than MailChimp's, and I consider them to be 100% worth the extra expense. I've used ConvertKit for a year now, and I look forward to using it for a long time into the future.
Harvest – Thought I've worked as a freelancer for a long time, this year I took on a major client. I keep track of my hours and send invoices using Harvest, which has super simple apps for my phone and laptop so I can track my time even when I'm on the go. Bonus: Because I'm only working with a single client these days, I can do all this with the free version.
Boardbooster – Pinterest is the single greatest driver of traffic to my website. I used to use Tailwind to manage and track my pins, but after a while I stopped taking the time to use the analytics, and I switched to Boardbooster. It doesn't have as sleek an interface (in fact, though it does very contemporary things, the design of the app seems super dated), but it has great features and it's less expensive than Tailwind. I use the pin-queueing functionality almost daily, and have my biggest boards set up to have older, successful pins automatically reposted. Whether you already rely on Pinterest as a central social medium for your business or you're looking to up your game with it, I recommend checking Boardbooster out.
Chatbooks – This one isn't work-related (though it could be if I wanted it to be...), but it saves me so much time and makes me so happy. Chatbooks is a phone app that takes the snapshots you take, and when you've queued up 60 of them, it prints them in a book and sends it to you. I spend a few minutes each week curating which photos I want to be used, and I love it when a book arrives. No need to worry about printing photos! I get hard-cover books printed, and the quality is great. Shipping to Canada isn't prohibitively expensive, and I've come to rely on this simple service to bridge my digital and physical worlds. So good.
VSCO – Speaking of photos, VSCO is my go-to app for editing photos on my phone for posting on social media. Its interface is a little too designy for my taste – it uses its own icons and gestures instead of more standard iterations, which is like the opposite of user-friendly, but whatever – but it has great filters and straightforward editing tools for functions from cropping and rotating to adjusting exposure and white balance.
Do you use any of these apps? Got tips or tricks? Use and love something that's not listed? Share in the comments!
My ongoing attempts to address the challenges of running a totally made-up kind of business doing totally made-up kind of work finally (some of you may heave a sigh of finally) have me considering that it’s quite possible my work is more an ongoing effort in participatory performance art than it is like any other kind of definable business that involves making products and selling them.
This is much of why I’m so excited about Patreon – OMG to make a living and continue doing this weird/awesome work? Yes, please.
I explain it better in the video above.
I can’t believe it took me so long to uncouple myself from the rules of capital-B business so I could finally see things clearly enough to maybe have them succeed. Holy crap!
I’d love it if you’d become a patron. Like literally and truly and deeply love it. Your patronage will enable me to continue forcing myself to see my work as a totally nontraditional artsy business, which is what makes it what it is.
And in doing that, it’ll enable me to make way more work, and I think you’ll enjoy that very much.
(I’ve just learned about a couple of very cool things that will enable some amazeballs spontaneous, interactive fun for patrons – so stay tuned for more to be added to the rewards!)
Don’t be shy if you have questions about Patreon and how it works. Ask away!
Join me this Friday when I appear as the first guest on Michelle Ward’s new free monthly series Women of the World!
It’ll be webinar format, and if you aren’t able to make it during the live broadcast at 1:30pm Pacific / 4:30pm Eastern, no worries because you’ll be sent the recording within about an hour of us finishing up.
If you aren’t familiar with Michelle’s work, she’s a career coach who helps women achieve their dreams in business. She’s a fellow New Yorker and adoptive mom, and though those things have nothing to do with what we’ll discuss, they sure do make me love even more than I already would for her kindness, good smarts, and sparkling disposition.
We’ll be discussing fun in creativity, both at work and in our personal time. I’m sure there will be some good Mighty Ugly in there, too.
Because this is a new series, I love the thrill of not knowing exactly what to expect. If you love some serious spontaneity, I think you’ll be happy! And here’s what I know: We’re going to go deep, and we’re going to be specific. We will not wave our arms around for a while and chat about fluffy bullshit and expect you to think you learned something. Oh no. We’re going to talk about specific things you can do to explore the role of fun in your creative and business experiences, and we’re going to help you up the fun factor without sacrificing the good work you do.
“But, it’s not even how much you achieve, it’s what you achieve. Does it matter that we spend all day finishing tasks if those tasks do not significantly contribute to the realization of our company’s goals, or our personal vision? Is having a hand in every little thing more valuable than making sure that a couple of key projects are done in time and thoroughly? I would say no.”
I started my first Bullet Journal two years ago, and it (finally) made me into a notebook-keeper. Which is good, because, being a writer, I was starting to feel like I was doing something wrong in my inability to stick with a notebook habit.
Like with many systems, though, I suppose I got a little antsy, or bored, and when the Get to Work Book came out last year, I thought that maybe its more structured design would enable me to be more structured, while still being flexible enough to accommodate some simple bullet journaling. So I ordered one and fell in love with it.
But the GTWB is big. Quite big. It’s not as easy to tote around as a plain-old notebook. So after a while I started looking around some more, and discovered the Hibonichi planner. Which is small. And lovely. With surprisingly solid, very thin paper my fountain pen wouldn’t bleed through.
And though I enjoyed adapting to the Hibonichi, and it’s just so fabulous, after a disappointingly short time I found myself longing for the less rigid structure of a plain-old notebook Bullet Journal again. The grass is always greener, people. The grass is always greener.
I wanted to be able to take notes wherever I wanted, and have a day’s to-do list be any length it needed to be. I wanted a notebook without much structure that I could just tote around everywhere, to hold all the thoughts, tasks, and notes I need to capture.
DOWNLOAD MY FREE ART & CRAFT HABIT TRACKER WORKSHEET!
So I plucked a brand new notebook from my shelf (which I’d purchased right before the GTWB launched), and took a few minutes to set up a new Bullet Journal. And I felt like I had come home.
Now. In the years since I first came upon this delightfully simple system, bloggers have gone nuts showing off their own journals. I love me some journal eye candy. I love it so much.
But I do not produce an eye-candy journal. No, I most certainly do not. I do not colour-code. I do not adorn. I do not apply fancy hand-lettering to headings and titles. I don’t even try to keep my handwriting in check.
So I thought, though I’ve only been back at it for a week, that I’d show you a few spreads from my new BuJo (that’s what the kids call it these days).
Up at the top of the post is something new I’m trying out this time around: a Calendex; it’s like the love child of an index and a yearly calendar. As you can see, I haven’t actually used it yet. But I do have some things coming up later in the year, so I anticipate I’ll end up using it. Even if I don’t, it sure is pretty. And it’s the first time I took a ruler to my journal. Fancy.
Month & Day Spread
Above is the spread with my February task list on the left, and some daily to-do lists on the right. I didn’t keep a monthly task list in my last journal, but I think I’ll stick with it in this one. It felt pretty good to mark all the February tasks as completed at the end of the month, and it helped to see them all in one place.
For daily to-dos, well. This is why I fell in love with this system in the first place (this, and the whole index idea). It’s second nature to me to make lists this way now (not that it’s terribly different from any other kind of to-do list.) I’ve also added a daily tracker bit in the top-right corner of each day’s list. I’m using this to keep up with exercising and my daily art/craft making habit. In the past, I’ve kept track of my daily making on a dedicated spread, but I’ve come to accept that I don’t end up using dedicated spreads very much, but I do use a daily list. So this is my solution.
(Yes, I totally did end up scoring a pair of Paul Simon tickets on the 24th. Thirteenth Row, Centre. Holy smokes.)
Day & Notes Spread
Heh. So, yeah, I turned the page and totally didn’t do the daily tracking thing on the next few days. I’m back to it now, though.
What I really want to highlight here is that my journal is not tidy. There’s loads of Bullet Journal pr0n around, you guys, and I gotta say it all strikes me as pretty fictional. You can keep a meticulous journal if you write things down after the fact, but there’s just no way that a work-in-progress can be perfect. It’s fiction. So here’s my reality.
On the left, you can see some messy notes. On the right, you can see some very rough notes I started making in pencil, because I knew I’d have to erase things and really mess around.
You might notice that these photos do not feature my beloved fountain pen. I discovered many years ago that two things allow me to keep my handwriting legible: small ruled lines or grids (I was a college-rule student all the way; no wide-ruled paper for me!), and a pen that allows for some friction. In fact, the only time I’m truly happy with my handwriting is when I write in pencil. The friction is ace.
Fountain pens are lovely to write with, and I certainly haven’t given mine up, but they’re just so smooth! Too smooth. I’ve taken to using a Micron pen in this journal, and it’s for sure the right choice.
DOWNLOAD MY FREE ART & CRAFT HABIT TRACKER WORKSHEET!
Do you keep a Bullet Journal? What are your favourite modules and hacks? And is your journal super neat and tidy, or more of a mess like mine?