I am frequently asked, "What do you use for [bookkeeping, graphic design, documents, organization, websites...]?" I forget that we spend a ton of time finding and customizing software and online systems for our clients and ourselves, and that you might be interested in our solutions for your own business. So, here it is for y`all, I hope it's helpful.

Of course, around here we're ALL about the customization to make life simpler and more efficient for us and our clients. These are great solutions for just about everyone who needs to run their own small business, they can be customized for a better fit, and there are many other solutions out there too. Let me know if you have questions about any of this.  

Bookkeeping - Xero.com

We recently switched from MYOB to Xero.com. I LOVE it. It's saving me several hours per month in time, and my bookkeeping stress level has gone waaay down. They have a variety of monthly plans and is well worth the monthly fee.

We looked at Freshbooks, Quickbooks, MYOB and others and did free trials of several to see how they would function for us. Xero can do everything we need, and it's easy to understand and set up. I can keep track of multiple bank accounts; generate estimates and then convert them to invoices; track inventory and client/business expenses; automatically reconcile the bank accounts; generate cash flow and other reports; enter bills to be paid; track time and attendance for employees and pay them; prepare W2s and 1099s, and export them all to tax software. They even have mobile apps for when I'm on the run and need to enter something.

Organization and To-Do Lists - Evernote:

I replaced Basecamp with Evernote a couple of years ago. I did love Basecamp, but at $50/month it was too much of an expense just to keep track of clients and their to-do lists, and share notes/images/files. Evernote is a gem, it's secure, very low cost, and it does everything I need.

I keep client to-do lists and project info in Evernote. Each client (and our company) has a Notebook, and each notebook contains notes and info for projects and to-do lists. Evernote syncs across computers which is very handy. I can update and edit the info from any devices we use for business (and we use seven) and immediately see it on the other devices.

You can also clip from anywhere on the web and share and discuss. With paid plans (that's what we have) you can also access notes when you're offline, save emails to Evernote, search in Office docs and attachments, annotate attached PDFs, digitize business cards, turn notes into presentations, and add a passcode lock on mobile apps.

Email - Mac Mail or Outlook:

We use Mac's, and  Apple's mail software that comes with their computers. Our clients on PC's use Microsoft's Outlook mostly. Both are great. If you're like us and have multiple email accounts, know that whether you are on a Mac or a PC all your email can all feed into your Inbox. That's very convenient.

I like things to sync across devices, so mostly we use IMAP email accounts, even for Gmail (different than POP3). POP3 email accounts are the most common, but they don't sync. When we purchase email accounts, we always buy IMAP, they will function as POP3 and can be changed at any time.

We buy domain names at Godaddy and get email accounts from them as well (yourname@yourcompany.com) - very low cost and great support. We have Gmail accounts also, and as I mentioned, they all come into our email software, so we don't have to go looking for email in more than one place.

Websites - Squarespace:

Our website has been a Squarespace website for years and years. Awesome company, we use them to create very customized websites for most of our clients. Some of our clients have Wordpress sites, and we work on those too. However, for ease of use, super support, responsive and mobile-friendly templates, extensive customization capabilities, integrated and supported modules, and much more, Squarespace is our go-to company.

Many of our clients want to learn to maintain their websites on their own, and Squarespace is great for this capability. We tutor them and help them along the way, and they maintain control over their content and save a ton of money updating it themselves.

For domain names and email accounts, Godaddy is wonderful and they have very low cost website templates as well. 


Microsoft Office is what we use the most, along with Apple's Numbers, Pages, and Keynote

For PDF files, we use Adobe Acrobat Pro via an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, so we can get and use all their software for $50/month. For us, it's a good deal because we use so much of the software.

Image Wrangling and Graphic Design - Adobe Creative Cloud:

Again, for us it's cost-effective to have a subscription to all the Adobe software: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Lightroom, Dreamweaver, Muse, Acrobat, Bridge, and many more.

For quick image resizing to use on websites and for tutoring clients I use free Skitch. It's really easy and fast for grabbing and annotating screen shots from the web, sharing them in Evernote, and lots more. Works on mobile devices too.

For powerful image wrangling without a membership or $$ commitment, Photoshop Elements has many of the same features as Photoshop at a fraction of the cost.

But before you buy, check the software on your computer. You may have something you can use, like iPhoto. I don't think you should spend money when you already have software that will do the job. When you grow out of it later, great, move on up to something else.

Oh, it's also very helpful (and a big time saver) to have your phone camera sync your snapshots with your computer and other mobile devices. Google your device ("Image sync on Android" for example) for more info. Apple's Photos software on our iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and iMacs keeps all our images sync'd on all devices. Nice.

Backups - Two is Better Than One:

We learned the hard way to have more than one backup system. A few years ago the backup drive crashed, taking with it a lot of files that were not on any computer (any more). Lesson learned. Now we have two backup systems:  External hard drives with Time Machine on the Macs is backup number one. Check your PC as Windows may ask you if you want to use your new external drive for backup. Backup system number two is online secure, encrypted cloud storage via Mozy which backs up all computers to one safe place that can be accessed from just about anywhere. It's come in very handy when we're traveling and a client has an emergency and we need to access their files. 

Okay, that's enough for one article. There IS more, but these are the basics. Again, contact us if you need some help with any of this.

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There are so many ways to market your products and services: Websites, SEO, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, blogging, email blasts, direct mail, presentations, events, workshops, teleclasses, videos, postcards, business cards, brochures, newsletters, seminars, shopping carts, advertisements, meet-and-greet events, and many more.

Each of the items listed above comes with its own set of "rules" on how to use them to best advantage - you know, the stuff you read about in all the marketing newsletters and books, best practices that tell you how to set it up and make it work, what it should looks like, how many and when... Advice everywhere, good advice, time-tested and very helpful.

However, there is one rule that overrides them all and that helps make marketing decisions sooooo much easier. It's a rule that we follow in everything we do for you because it's the very most important one of all: PEOPLE FIRST.

Of course, it's important to know those best practices and to incorporate them into your marketing so that you maximize your return by following time-tested guidelines. But always, always remember this first:  It's about real, honest connecting with the person on the other end. What problem do they have that you can fix? Put yourself in their shoes and view all your marketing as if you were them. Then structure your marketing. If connecting with your audience violates one of the marketing "rules" then ignore the rule.

Photo caption: Unamed climbers on a hard-glazed Rulten. Lofoten, Norway. MARKO PREZELJ

Photo caption: Unamed climbers on a hard-glazed Rulten. Lofoten, Norway. MARKO PREZELJ

Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia built his business by following that one most important rule of putting people first. 

Yvon loved climbing, didn't love that all those pitons got left in the rock, so he decided to make reusable climbing hardware. He was 18 years old, he set up a shop in his parent's back yard. By 1970, Chouinard Equipment had become the largest supplier of climbing hardware in the U.S. In his catalogs Chouinard broke just about every direct mail catalog rule because he designed his catalogs to help people become better climbers and not to just sell them merchandise. For example, the well-known rules for success said do this many images to that much text, have an 800 number for orders, and so on. Instead he had oodles of pictures, and a 14-page essay on "clean climbing." 

In his book Growing a Business, author Paul Hawken (of Smith & Hawken) profiled Yvon & Patagonia and mentioned how (in the beginning) they had an 800 number, but only for talking about climbing. If you wanted to place an order, you had to pay for the call. 

He knew it was the right thing to do, he knew it was more important to connect with his readers than to follow rules.

Now, go out there and break some rules!


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AuthorRobin Sagara
CategoriesWorking Smart

Using blog categories and tags properly will go a long way towards helping the search engines find you and your content, and they will help viewers find what they need once they get to your website, via a search box (consider adding one if you don't have one).


What's the difference between Categories and Tags?

Think of categories like drawers in a filing cabinet, and the tags as the file folders in the drawers.

  • Categories are broader, like entree, dessert, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack(type of meal). They are topics you address on your blog.
  • They are the table of contents for your blog. Do as few categories as possible so it doesn't get unwieldy.
  • Tags are more specific like chicken, beef, cream, potatoes, butter (the actual food itself). They are specific and address items you discuss in your blog post. Use one or two words only. They should reflect the keywords or points of your article. Tags are your blogs index (categories are the table of contents). Use as many tags as make sense, although less is more when possible.
  • Then use them consistently and train anyone you have helping you to use them the same ways you do.

Tips for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for blogs:

  1. Do not duplicate tags and categories. This applies to synonyms also (Google understands similar phrases and will consider them duplicate content - bad). This is essential.
  2. Be consistent so tags and categories don't get out of control.  A well-organized blog actually adds to the usability of the site and makes it easier for your visitors to quickly find what they're looking for.
  3. Minimize "link bleeding."  Each page starts with 100% of link value, that value is divided up between the links on the page. Minimize links to worthless pages like Contact page, About page.
  4. Use widgets judiciously, they can dilute link values.
  5. The best links are links to relevant content.
  6. The category and tag links listed at the top or bottom of the post will help increase relevancy of the post (better ranking). If you are doing well you will see your category and tag pages/posts doing better than other pages on the site.
  7. Pages that change content often (like a blog) are good. They provoke the search engines to crawl them more often.
  8. Tags and categories can have multiple pages with tons of content within them. It's a good thing.
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AuthorRockin Robin
CategoriesWeb Sites

Judy is a wonderful artist and writer who lives on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Her work is what she calls "Painting the magic in life" and what I call "eye candy with spirit" as it speaks not only to our eyes but our souls as well. Thank you Judy for your work and your wisdom!

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Just Cut That Out!

by Judy Aveiro

Every moment counts, in very meaningful ways.  Your energetic savings account depends entirely on you. The math is simple and consistency is key.  So is awareness, diligence, and a willingness to put a check on unconscious habits of thinking.

I’m concerned today with energy leaks and how debilitating they can be.  Putting off a not-so-fun task, changing who we are to please someone else, or fretting over how to say no to a friend are a few examples of what I mean.  A common leak occurs when we choose to focus on the one thing that’s not working well in our lives (business, relationship, the world) instead of all the many things that are.

First Wash, outlining drawn with non-dominant hand, white-out still on structure outlines and waves.  My intention was to feel carefree, loose, light-hearted.  I really like how this turned out.

Stuff just keeps happening, right?  Our choice is simple:  positive thought, or not.  We don’t have to insulate ourselves from our lives.  It’s more about consciously choosing the thought or action that can immediately improve our mood.  This is the only moment that matters.  Teaching yourself to feel better right now helps clear the way for more future fun things to find you. 

Simply put: Something bugs you, which starts a mental downward spiral.  Whatever you focus on grows, and every force requires food.  Since you’re the closest, most recognizable resource, that means you.  Given time and the snowball effect, this negative slide can consume thoughts, rewire emotions, and deplete health.  

Fortunately, no Herculean effort is required, merely a gentle shift in focus.  For example: that icky-feeling task?  Spend a few moments to prepare the day before.  Say to yourself, “Tomorrow, first thing, I am going to take care of this and won’t that feel great?”  Take a moment to visualize how good it will feel to cross that item off your list.  Next, get everything you’ll need lined up.  Now, let it go.  You have already prepared yourself for action so you can now relax.  The self-appointed time arrives,  the stage is set, you feel refreshed, and off you go.  

It doesn’t even have to be the whole task, either.  A sense of accomplishment is what you’re after, the feeling of empowerment which comes from organized, thoughtful action.

I’m having a blast following my impulses, choosing random colors to outline the now lifted white-out parts.  Very happy with the fun, quirky feel of this painting.  Is it a city?  A birthday cake?? Are those statues???  I’m going to follow my impulse to somehow shadow the grouping, something like a sunset-halo, so here goes...

Other suggestions for self-talk include:  “I won’t always work like this and it’s ok for me right now.”  “I’ve survived stuff like this before; I can do it again.”  “Things usually work out fine for me.”  “I’m responsible for my own happiness and it’s not my job to make others happy.”  Personally, I use, “Change!” and, “Judy, mind your own business!”  Both make me laugh at myself which immediately frees me to move on.  Another great question to ask yourself is: “What would make me happy right now?”

Creating anything invites chaos.  Especially at times when you reach for more.  I’m exploring, what if-ing, giving in to impulses a lot lately.  Feeling brave one moment and then, “Yikes!  Why did I do that?!”  So easy to start in on myself.  Happily, I’ve been able to switch to, “I can make this work” or “It sure will be interesting to see how this turns out.”  Sometimes, I close up shop for awhile; other times, I feel compelled to keep going, curious to see what I’ll do next.

And…Oops.  Rats.  Sigh….I’m disappointed at this stage how the right side where I added the halo looks too closed in, too heavy.  I'll put this painting aside (as every time I look at it, I mentally kick myself in my creative butt).  My new self-talk?  “Change!” and  "Hmmm, I wonder how I’m gonna fix this one?”  (For now, it’s a mystery but I’ll keep you posted.)

Employing these kinds of phrases builds your personal energy account.  You’ll feel immediately better, a bonus in itself.  In addition, you’ll have freed your brain to think up other options or ideas.  In a flash, you’ve become more attractive to anyone or anything out there that might prove beneficial to you.  Positive thoughts emit positive signals which attract more of the same.  It’s magnetic, it’s powerful, and it feels great.

So, the next time something starts bugging you, remember you have a choice.  Honestly, why settle for anything less? 

Just go make a mess!


Source: http://www.judyaveiro.com/blog/2016/6/17/j...
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AuthorRockin Robin
CategoriesFine Artists

Have you noticed that unless your office is a castle tower with a locked door and no technology it’s pretty much impossible to keep your work and personal life separate?  


We tried, oh we tried. For years we struggled to follow the very popular advice of “not bringing our work home with us” (even though we worked from home) believing that the separation would give us the work-life balance we craved. Finally, we asked ourselves the same question we ask clients all the time:  “Ignoring what's considered to be the 'right' way, would another way maybe work better for YOU?” 

We admitted to ourselves that it probably wasn't possible nor we didn't really WANT to keep them totally separate. So, it began (the big mix) and it temporarily got worse before it got better. Have you noticed that many things are like that? Without the walls up and the “rules” in place, work issues managed to saturate every corner of our lives, fast. There were bedtime work discussions, mealtimes turned into meetings, car rides discussing client strategy, and trips that became working vacations. It was stressful, and not much fun.

However, we stuck with it. We noticed what worked for us and what didn't. Lunchtime meetings?  Fun! Bedtime work discussions? No, seriously, nope. Over time things started to mesh and flow, stress levels went down, fun and creativity went up and so did our income. We found a balance that works for us.

So, to whatever degree you want to weave your business and personal lives together, that's okay. It’s not just about making money, it’s about sculpting a life that you love that is doable every day and sustainable over the long haul. 

All our best to you and yours,


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AuthorRockin Robin
CategoriesWorking Smart

You may not have a clean separation between your work life
and the other parts of your life. You may love that every part of your life infuses and inspires your work. But, there are times when the interruptions can drive you crazy.


Working from home with the flexibility to make your own schedule is awesome. However, sometimes the inevitable interruptions can make you hopelessly unproductive (and really irritable). 

When I started our business back in the late ’90’s interruptions were a huge problem. Family figured that because I was home, I was available. They didn't seem to understand that I was working and needed to focus. Setting some boundaries was in order. I told them that between the hours of 10 and 4 I was not available in person, by phone, or to be yelled at ("Are you available now?") from the hallway. I even put up a Do Not Disturb sign. They didn’t like not having me instantly available but I sure liked being able to focus on my work. 

These days it’s just me and Harry at home being empty nesters so it's not such a big issue.  For those times when I need to focus 100% without interruptions I let him know how long I'll be in "do not disturb" mode, and then I don't check email or answer the phone either. It works.

I read somewhere about an executive at a big company who set his "no interruptions" time in hour and a half increments (emergencies excepted). He knew that there is almost nothing in life that can't wait and hour and a half. For him, having that time to focus was what enabled him to be effective at his job and maintain his sanity. 

Set some limits, allow yourself the space and time you need to focus. Put up the Do Not Disturb sign. You can even have a sign for later that says, "Available now. Free hugs!"

My family got over it, so will your yours.

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AuthorRockin Robin
CategoriesWorking Smart