Tag: productivity

Open Source Software

Open Source Software for Small Business

Computers offer the small business owner such amazing tools to create, publish and promote one’s business that marketing your business, art studio or next book has never been easier. And with such a vibrant Open Source Software community, today’s business owner can build a great computer that does almost everything required by a small business or artist.

Here’s some of our favourite Open Source Software:

Web browser: Firefox

All the top browser makers will let you have a browser for free. They’re mostly not open-source but all basically do a similar thing. Mozilla Firefox is my choice for an Open Source browser, it is hugely popular, stable and comes with some great add-ons.

 

Open-Source Email:

Google’s Gmail and MSN Hotmail are the two most popular webmail services. Most people have at least one of these even as a secondary email account. They are simple to use, easy and accessible anywhere. But they do have their issues: Some people don’t like the idea of cloud based software whilst others don’t trust what large companies do with your information.

But there is an open-source alternative:

Mozilla Thunderbird is an open-source email management program, very similar to Outlook. You download your mail from the mail server to your own computer’s hard drive so you have access to your messages even when offline. The great thing about storing your information is you control the information, there’s no advertisements distracting you and you can access your emails when an internet connection isn’t there. Read our full review of Thunderbird here
These are things like sending emails, writing letters, designing simple flyers. Also you might need to calculate monthly budgets, income and outlay statements, more business type administration.

 

Open-Source Documents: Word

Most new PCs come with a trial version of Microsoft Office or are included in the (premium) price. Yet it does cost a reasonable amount of money to purchase the software. This is especially apparent when looking at schools and education departments that are still running Microsoft Word 2000. If it wasn’t so expensive the schools would have upgraded by now. The most common name in open-source office software is Open Office & LibreOffice. It might take a bit longer to relearn some things but mostly works the same way as Word. You can even open and save Word files.

 

You might need a spreadsheet for doing basic accounting, budgeting or timetabling. Open Office has an excel equivalent in the suite. It also has presentation (slideshow) software, a database package and a drawing package (more on this below). If you can use Excel then you can pick up Open Office’s version very quickly and easily. There’s some subtle differences but for most purposes it’s basically the same.

Open-Source Image software:

If you’ve ever played around with Windows you might have found the Paint program. I haven’t met anyone who has been able to use it for much more than child-like drawings with the mouse… So you’ll need better image software to scan your work, create digital artwork, professional posters and invitations, that sort of thing. Open Office has a drawing program that seems like a set above Paint but in my opinion, real artists need real software.

For many years the industry standard has been Photoshop. Only problem with Photoshop is it’s expensive and the learning curve is steep. If all you want to do is resize your family photos or add a watermark to your work then its hard to justify the price tag of Photoshop.

Enter: GIMP

is an image manipulation program similar to Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. It has an equivalent function for most of the functions the other software has, and is available under what is called a GNU Public Licence. This means that you are free to use and distribute this software.

We’ve done a more complete review of GIMP here….

Audio software

It really depends on what you want to do with audio. If you want to record podcasts then you might only need something like Audacity, which is a multitrack audio recorder and processor. You can record your voice on one track, put some music on other tracks and then mix together your podcast, ready to post on your blog.

If you are a musician looking to produce music then you will want a multi-track digital audio workstation that you can record and use synthesizers with. DarkWave Studio is such a package. VST-compatible, which means you can plug in other synthesizers and effects to create and produce professional-quality audio.

Video

VideoLAN Movie Creator is a video editor you can use to make films or video blogs. The VideoLAN organisation (creators of VLC player which you may have heard of) states on their website that it is ‘A project and a non-profit organization, composed of volunteers, developing and promoting free, open-source multimedia solutions’. Perfect for video blogs, projections for gigs, or video art.

Beyond the scope of this article is Ubuntu Studio, an Ubuntu total package developed specifically for artists of every medium, as well as multimedia artists. A brief glance seems promising, especially if you’re happy to embrace the open-source philosophy whole-heartedly and spend the time learning a completely new system. Look out for an article soon about this awesome product.

Conclusion:

The open-source philosophy isn’t just about free stuff. It’s about freedom from restriction and freedom to share. The community that develops and maintains this software does so because of their beliefs. If you use open-source software commercially it would be nice to consider donating some of your profits to the continued development of whatever you find useful.

Donate to the Gnome Open Source Software Community

Why use an RSS Feed Reader?

What’s an RSS Feed Reader used for?

RSS is a tool for getting information from people without having to keep visiting their website to get it and is a fantastic digital marketing tool. You can subscribe to their information, have it sent to you and read it whenever you like. Once you have set up your subscriptions, you can then choose from a list of them all in the one place.

company bulletins – news bulletins – arts launches – performance updates – weather updates 

personal blogs – podcasts – club updates – sporting fixtures – fan newsletters – special offers

Use an RSS Feed Reader to subscribe to blogs, news &  podcasts
  1. Install an RSS feed reader:

An RSS  feed reader is basically a storage space for your subscriptions so you can read through all your items without having to visit each website. It really is as simple as that – the feed reader searches for the latest updates to your subscriptions and downloads them to your computer.

There are two types of feed readers you can utilise. We used to have to install a dedicated feed reader program to manage our subscriptions, and this is still a great method – though you need to run the program to get it to update your subscriptions. This used to be a concern with older computers (another program to use up thinking space!) but these days our computers easily handle the additional program. And as the RSS reader downloads the content to your computer, you can read your feeds anytime you want without having to be connected to the internet.

The other type of feed reader being used more frequently these days are web browser-based readers. These take up less space and don’t require an extra program to be installed, but reading your feeds offline can be a hassle – in fact, it’s recommended that a separate program is installed to synchronise with your browser-based reader if you want to read feeds offline. In this age of constant connectivity via mobile devices browser-based readers are becoming more popular.

  1. Finding RSS feeds you are interested in:

First thing is to visit your favourite websites and look for the RSS symbol . Clicking on this symbol on a website triggers your feed reader to set up a subscription and you’ll be able to keep in touch with all their latest news directly from your reader.

A great place to start looking for feeds you might be interested in is an RSS Feed Syndicate. This is a website that collates feeds and sorts multiple RSS Feeds by categories, so you don’t need to go trawling around the internet searching for new feeds to read. There are a few comprehensive general syndicates, as well as some specific topic-based syndicates – check out your favourite search engine for a list.

  1. Podcasts using an RSS Feed:

Audio and video podcasts can be collected in a very similar way, though you will need a media player to play them in. Most computers will have a media player installed already, though if you have problems make sure you have the correct codec installed for the type of file you are trying to play – check out your media player’s help.

Many RSS feed readers will be able to subscribe to podcasts as well as text. And newer media players will be able to subscribe to podcasts. So you can really treat podcasts and feeds as the same thing, these days.

In these days of an over abundance of information using an RSS Feed can really help you stay on top of what you want to know, whilst not wasting your time on things that don’t interest you.

 

How to use Excel in your art business

Using Excel in your arts administration:

Arts Administration – for many artists it’s the side of their practice they’d rather not think about, but in our economic culture it’s an integral aspect of any successful Art Business. Luckily with the advent of technology, we have tools at our disposal that can help us manage this side quickly and easily.

Spreadsheet applications like Excel are my favourite way to manage the administration of art – in fact I consider it an artform in itself. The beauty of Excel for me is the simplicity of its function, and its ability to be manipulated to perform various tasks.

How to use Excel: The Basic Theory

Quite simply, Excel is a sheet of rectangles, or cells, into which information can be entered. This information can be two types:

  • Data
    • Words
    • Numbers
  • Instructions involving other cells
    • Total the list above
    • Calculate the total price times the number of items
    • Add up the total hours worked for each day

So it can be used either as a database or a spreadsheet. What do these terms mean?

A database is a record of information that can be maintained and sorted through easily. Some examples of how artists could use a database are:

  • Using Excel as a Contact list
    • A mailing list of people to invite to exhibitions or performances
    • A list of contact people in the industry
    • A list of possible venues to stage events in
    • A list of galleries that can be sorted by the area they are in or the styles they show
    • A list of annual competitions that can be sorted by area or genre
  • Catalogues of works
  • Timetables for events

For example, here’s a database for galleries you may approach for exhibitions:

 

Galleries in Melbourne

name

suburb

painting

sculpture

photography

contact

email

Star Gallery Sunshine

x

x

Bill a@b.com
Moon Gallery Blackburn

x

x

Sam c@d.com
Ocean Gallery Fitzroy

x

x

Judy e@f.com

Using this database we can then use Excel to sort a list of all the galleries in a certain suburb, or which medium they exhibit. And you have the contact details recorded for easy retrieval. And as you discover new galleries, you can add them to the list as you go and have a comprehensive list to draw from.

A spreadsheet like a blackboard with rows and columns marked to create rectangles where they intersect. You choose what the rows and columns mean, whether they are some data or an instruction. Some examples of how artists could use a spreadsheet are:

Using Excel to keep track of costs of a project:

  • the budget for a project
  • time slot calculations for events
  • ticket pricing for events

For example, you may want to work out the budget for an art project. You would make the columns represent the cost of an item and the rows represent each item:

Arts project budget

projected cost

actual cost

materials

paint

cost

cost

brushes

cost

cost

spray compressor hire

cost

cost

total materials

total above

total above

admin

wages

cost

cost

contractors

cost

cost

studio rent

cost

cost

transport costs

cost

cost

total admin

total above

total above

total budget

materials plus admin

materials plus admin

 

We can use this for the projected budget and then the actual budget on the same page, so we can compare how accurate the projections are. You can see that we also have two sections, materials and admin. This could be any number of sections, depending on how complicated your project is – an arts festival might have sections on venue hire, technical services, equipment hire, admin, volunteer expenses, commissions…

The purple boxes are where you would enter the data, as mentioned at the start. The green squares are where you would enter instructions, in this case the sum of all the costs in the list above. The orange squares would also contain an instruction, but this time it would be the sum of the two green squares above, to add up the cost of the materials plus the cost of the admin.

 

 

Arts project budget

projected cost

actual cost

materials

paint

10

20

brushes

20

15

spray compressor hire

180

180

total materials

210

215

admin

wages

180

270

contractors

400

400

studio rent

360

360

transport costs

40

75

total admin

980

1105

total budget

1190

1320

 

The beauty of using a spreadsheet to calculate budgets is that once you have all the cells programmed, any changes you make to the cost of an item will automatically alter the total figures. The project can be planned with a budget limit in mind, making the job of projecting a budget quicker and easier – you can see the effect of the changes in the total immediately.

These are just a couple of simple examples of how to use Excel to make the process of managing your art quicker and easier. I’ve also used it in events to create colour-coded timetables, in corporate administration to extract accounting information from reports and even in classical music composition to calculate musical pitches from manipulations of formulas.

It can be a really useful tool and well worth a small effort to familiarise yourself with it.

If you don’t want to go to the extent of purchasing Excel there is a wonderful Open Source Program called Calc that is part of the Libre Office Suite.

Clicking on the logos below will take  you to their respective official websites so you can download the program.

 

 

For more great resources on running a successful Art Business see our resources page here….

Overcoming A Creative Block

8 Tips to Overcome a Creative Block

Being creative is easy when it’s a recreational process, it is something you do in your spare time to relax and take time out from your work or personal life. A passion for creativity starts from an early age, and is taught to be a recreational hobby . In society, art is considered a pastime and children learn to do art as a fun aside to otherwise tiresome school work. Holiday and weekend activities often include creative endeavours, whether it is painting or sculpting with clay, building or playing in the sand pit, or making cupcakes and cookies.

As you grow into adulthood, so can your passion for art grow to become a bigger and bigger part of your life. For the more talented among us, the possibility of creating a career from your talent becomes a real prospect. It makes sense, it’s something you’ve always done and are good at. And let’s face it everybody’s dream is to make a living doing what they love.

Starting any business can be a long and hard slog. Like any new venture, there is always a plenitude of things to do and steps to implement along the way. The process of starting an Art Business can be very involving, albeit also very fun and exciting – organising a business name, arranging price scales, colour coordinating your workspace; all are very empowering moves towards your ultimate goal of running a successful creative business.

Once the business is set up, whether it starts as a market stall, space in a gallery or a stand alone shop front, the next major step is the creating of and maintaining adequate art stock levels. The magnitude of this task will vary depending on your area of expertise – you may be making sock puppets, selling your poetry, or creating large scale oil paintings. Whatever the product you are selling, you need to keep up with the demand. Sounds easy enough doesn’t it, after all this is something you’ve been doing all your life and it’s something you are passionate about.

But sometimes it becomes a little harder to come up with constant inspiration and motivation.  Unfortunately what used to be a loved hobby, usually indulged in at your leisure, no matter how hard you try, has become work..

And no-one likes the pressures of work, no matter what it is.

Creative Block, or Writers Block, is common. It happens to everyone at some point in their lives. In any line of work, people get tired and need a break. That’s why we have business hours, a weekly work load and annual holiday leave. Otherwise people get burnt out and productivity drops.

Unfortunately for a small art business owner, especially someone who is working full time in their creative pursuit will hit a creative block sometimes.

If a creative block hits, and let’s face it – in the span of a career, it is bound to happen at least once – there are many ways to minimise its effect and damage, and to stop them impacting on your career.

Tips to overcome creative Block:

  • Amass as much of your work as you can before ‘opening the doors’ of your business. Not only will this help sales by having a larger variety of product for people to choose from, but you will also have plenty of stock to fall back on if inspiration leaves you for a spell.
  • Make hay while the sun shines. No I’m not suggesting you become a farmer, but If you have a large bout of creativity, make the most of it. Put off what you can and put all your energy into your art.

Create, create, create. Everything else can wait.

 

  • Carry a journal with you everywhere to jot down ideas and thoughts as they pop into your mind. Often the most brilliant ideas hit in the most random of times & places. You don’t want to be caught unawares and lose the idea of a lifetime!
  • Declutter your work space. It sounds simple and too good to be true but sometimes a de-clutter and dust of the cobwebs is all it takes to feel fresh and unencumbered and let those creative juices flow. Here’s a previous article on saying no to a messy office.
  • Think about collaborating with a like-minded artist. This way when you can’t keep up with demand you may be able to bolster stock levels with their work. An easy way to achieve this and have optimum stock levels would be by sharing a shop or stall. This obviously may not always be an option depending on your field – a fiction writer certainly can’t substitute but an article writer may be able to get away with it for an article or two.

 

  • Work together with another artist. Sitting down with a fellow creative and just create can be a great circuit breaker. Not only can it be fun, but bouncing ideas off each other is one of my favourite ways to overcome a creative block
  • Great inspiration often hits in new places so if your head is full of bricks and that’s not the angle you’re going for, get away from it all. Go for a walk, have a swim, drive to somewhere beautiful and have a picnic, hit the town for a night out and let your hair down. Extreme cases of creative block may even call for a holiday – why not, if you’re not getting anything done at home, you may as well work on your sun tan!
  • Try not to get stressed and worry. It just puts more pressure on you and compounds the problem. Remember that you became a full-time artist for the love of doing it. Inspiration will return, often better than before.
  • Stay at your old job one or two days a week, or get a part time job. As demoralising as this may seem when all you want to do is pursue your dreams, a part time job can bring in the money needed to pay bills and rent and just take the pressure off and allow you to relax a little. It can also help replenish dwindling business funds and keep a new business afloat before demand increases. Just remember, you can always give up the part-time job when you’re on track.

 The important thing to remember is not to lose heart when you hit that creative block.

Although following your dreams is fulfilling, no one ever said it was easy, that’s why so many people work for others in menial jobs. But if you can stick to it and keep a fresh perspective, the rewards are huge.

When the chips are down and the inspiration has fled, seriously think about that holiday, even if it’s camping by a river or staying with a friend in the country rather than a tropical escape to a luxurious island, it’s got to be better than pulling your hair out in the studio.

We’ve just come across a new study by The University of Melbourne on the Study of ‘Creative Blocks’ read more here.

The Present Moment

The Present Moment

The digital age thrusts countless offerings of serious and trivial communication at us in our work and personal lives. Smart phones connect us anywhere, anytime. Mundane and micro business tasks can be accomplished in a touch. To increase our effectiveness and our wellbeing requires cool mastery of each new machine and warm regard for those with whom we live and work. By the choices we make and share with others we can remain authentic people.

This present moment is all we have. Our business and personal partners will be delighted when we give them our complete undivided attention. Withdrawal symptoms may set in at first.

Persevere with your new habits and it will get much better. Your productivity will soar.

Both Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and her mother Elizabeth had the practiced skill of making each person they met their only focus.

Active listening pays!

Look and truly see. Your sense of perspective and judgement will grow sharper and more certain. Listen for each subtle message behind the spoken words. Both are real. Both can influence future reactions and responses.

Turn that phone off in meetings. You are not indispensable.

Check emails a few times a day. Deal with important items first. Close out distractions when you are meeting with one person or a group. Honour their time and presence. The relationship will be enhanced; the partnership strengthened. Use the present moment whether in action, in transit or in a waiting pattern.

Small chunks of time create great value for the still mind. Move confidently in the direction of your personal goals. Do the hardest tasks first.

Face the things you fear early in the day. This opens your energy flow to meet the cavalcade of new things that demand attention and decision.

Treasure this present moment. Hold it lightly. Share the joy.

 

 

Thunderbird Email Review

thunderbird-logo

Thunderbird Email Review

thunderbird-logo

While much of the world is transfixed by the Cloud, life as a desktop based email is still hugely popular with much of the community (including myself). There’s something that is reassuring about having access to all your emails on your personal computers without an internet connection.

For the most part if you had a PC, you ran Microsoft Office, but at around $200 Australian it isn’t cheap and really is not necessarily the ultimate email client anymore. It’s a great product but there is another Open Source program from the Mozilla organisation called Thunderbird. It’s a free program that really does everything a start-up, artist or small business might need.

Thunderbird Email Review:

Thunderbird’s awesome features:

  • The program is exceptionally responsive and seems to use less system resources (perfect if you’re a cash strapped artist using an old PC or a Netbook).
  • The Search Function is far superior to Outlook. You can separate your searches a lot easier so if you have a regular client where you’ve sent 300 emails back and forth over the previous 6 months it is quicker finding it in Thunderbird.
  • Calendar integration is a free add-on. Lightning is on par with Outlooks great Calendar. Download Lightning here. As you would expect the Calendar does everything you might require in a small business. You can tag events according to significance, whether its work, family, community and the length of the event.
  • Security is a big feature of Thunderbird
  • You can easy synch your email across your PCs and laptops by using Firefoxes in-built Synch Key
  • Can be used in parallel to Outlook (ie. another of your PCs is running Outlook)
  • It files things into Archive 2011, Archive 2010 which makes things realy easy to go through your emails. I find most people have far too many folders on their email clients with only a fraction being used properly. By having something as simple as:
    • INBOX
    • DRAFTS
    • SENT
    • TO DO
    • ARCHIVE 2011
    • ARCHIVE 2010

It is easy to keep on top of your ever expanding inbox.

  • Thunderbird has thousands of different ‘personas’ or skins so you can personalize your email easily.
  • Huge choice of add-ons from Mozilla.
  • Drag and Drop open emails. Much like modern browsers you can have 5 different windows open with tabs at the top so you can move between emails.
  • Can import contacts from other email clients such as Gmail or Outlook.
  • Tagging, colourising, and separating emails is easy as pie.
  • You can use multiple email addresses from the one screen.
  • The vast majority of SPAM won’t even make your inbox

Some Small Issues with Thunderbird:

  • Due to its security settings it is still often a little tricky to set up (though it is getting better)
  • Some of the formatting of text takes some getting used to. As an example it auto corrects some typing due to your history. This is not inherently a bad thing but it is very different from what most of us are use to.
  • Web addresses don’t natively turn into hyperlinks you need to highlight the text and then override it to link to a website.
  • It has a habit of auto-saving into drafts. So if you’re sending a long email that takes half an hour, you might end up with 3 drafts of the same email which can get confusing. If your computer crashes during this long email then at least you’ve got some recent back-ups though.

The Thunderbird Email Wrap-Up:

Overall Thunderbird is an amazing bit of software that will save you money, increase your productivity, and due to its customisation make your inbox look prettier. There is still a place for emails to be stored on your PC and Thunderbird is my pick of the bunch. If you are already using Outlook then the benefits maybe less discernible but if you have just bought a new PC then Thunderbirds for you.

Download Thunderbird from Mozilla’s Homepage

Productivity Software

5 Awesome Free Productivity Software

Once you have organised your studio in the way you like there are many tools that will aid productivity. Some of my favourites are listed below.  These tools are all free for small usage and generally speaking will be enough for a small organization, however as you grow there are paid upgrades that are very affordable.

Productivity Software #1 – Drop Box

Overview: Drop Box is a great way to share and store information in the cloud.  It runs on the same principals as Hotmail or Gmail. You set up an account with a password and upload the information into this account. You are then able to view those items on another computer with a password.

It is perfect for designers to share large files. Collaborating on projects, especially design oriented ones means HUGE files and that means clogged up email addresses. That’s one of the great things about Dropbox.  Instead of emailing back and forth just upload the latest images or documents to your Dropbox account and invite your collaborator to share that particular folder. They will have access only to the folder you want them to, not the rest of your DropBox account.

http://www.dropbox.com/

Productivity Software #2 – KeePass

Overview: KeePass is a free password manager. These days most people must have at least 2 dozen passwords. It’s little wonder that people use really obvious passwords  like  abc1967. Either that or they write them down in places they shouldn’t.

With a password manager you keep all your passwords in a central database, encrypt this with one master key file and then you can access all passwords with only having to remember the one.

KeePass is not the most pretty program to use but works tremendously at keeping prying eyes away.

Download it at Cnet-  KeePass:

Productivity Software #3 – MyLockBox

My LockBox is a similar password protector that is easier to use for non-technical users. The advantage of My LockBox is that it password protects any folder you wish on your computer with one universal key. You can ensure your kids, work mates or partners can’t access the folder.

Their website can be found at   http://www.fspro.net/

Or download it at Cnet- MyLockBox

How is this efficient- being able to find your passwords within seconds when you ring the telephone company saves you time and headaches.

Productivity Software #4 – Glary Utilities

Glary is a great program that helps keep your computer running smoothly. It improves your system performance by cleaning unwanted junk files, redundant (empty) folders, finds duplicate files, fully uninstalls programs and defrags (reduces data access time). This will free up valuable disk space speedy up your computer so you can be more productive.

http://www.glaryutilities.com/

Or download it at Cnet- GlaryUtilities

Productivity Software #5 – Gmail

Most people would have either a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo account as well as their main one through their internet provider. Now that i’m on an ever increasing list of email blasts from so many different companies I was finding it difficult to get to my normal work emails instead of the emails i have signed up for.

Simple solution- use a Gmail account for your subscriptions and an ISP based email account for your important work/ private emails. In that way you’re not wasting half a day finding out the latest deals, beautiful photos, and all the rest that seem to be flowing into your inbox every ten minutes.

 

Great online collaboration example

Stop Press: mathematicians being social?

online-collaboration

People forget that the internet was invented in the early 1960s as a tool for sharing information on research at universities. C.R. Licklider of MIT and Leonard Kleinrock of UCLA began experimenting with connecting two computers over a standard telephone line.

These days all the talk about the internet is Rock Star programmers making it rich, companies worth billions without ever turning a profit, big brother watching over us and all the other headline grabbing news.

However real research and real collaboration is happening amongst the people who the internet was initially designed for. Chancing upon a copy of  New Scientist Issue #2811- I came across a great article on an online collaboration project called Polymath.

It is a project set up by two mathematicians whereby complex mathematical problems are placed on their website and anyone interested can try and solve the mathematical stumbling block. Many of these people are professors in mathematics but also enthusiastic amateurs can contribute to the project.

The first analysis is in, and the speed and efficiency to which some problems were solved has been exceptionally positive.

Just goes to show many minds make problem solving easy.

This is a direct quote from the article- its too good to paraphrase;

‘The rise of a global mathematical brain may even help redefine what it means to be clever. As Luca Trevisan of Stanford University has remarked, genius “could just be in the union of many minds, each doing nothing more than saying what is obvious to them”.
 
 

Tips on Choosing the Right Printer

Choosing the right printer is not as simple as it first appears. Taking your time to research the right printer for your situation will save you money in the long run as well as countless one way arguments with your machine.

Where do you start; you head to the local computer shop only to find there are Inkjets, mono-lasers, all-in-one colour multi-functions, non-networkable inkjets, portable printers and that’s even before you start to look at the ppm (pages per minute), fpt (first print out time), & even the number of pages per ink cartridge.

Most printers sell below manufacturing cost- why do they do this? There must be a catch? Of course there is – ink cartridges. Toner cartridges are right up there in cost with liquid gold and Dom Perignon.

Make sure you find out how many printed pages each cartridge will do, and importantly, the percentage of ink used per page. Having a cartridge guaranteed for 1,000 pages at 7% as opposed to 700 pages at 9% will greatly affect your costs.

This might not be so important for home users, but come end of year reporting time and that $100 machine will be costing you more than your car to keep in the office.

These days with faxes being used less and less, every office needs a scanner. All in one multi-functions are a great space saving solution. For the most part they print good quality black & white, very passable colour, scan well and send faxes easily. Keep in mind the vast majority scan slightly smaller than A4- this might be fine for contracts, business cards etc but if you need to scan things that are exactly A4 they may miss the mark. Always look at the full tech sheets for exact measurements. Another good way to is to make sure the cover on the all-in-one is removable so that when you get larger sized pages you can still use scan them in properly.

If you are a typical small business then you might be printing reports, accounts, invoices, documents, and pdfs. In these situations using a mono-laser printer can be a good option. Mono-lasers only print black, thereby only having one cartridge. This can save you hundreds of dollars every few months, The limitations of mono-lasers are the fact that when you need to print colour you will need to pop off to the local printer.

If your office has the room I would advise having a mono-laser for all the large scale standard printing jobs needed alongside an all-in-one colour printer for times when colour printing/ scanning is necessary. One that prints double sided would be even better.

If space is at a premium and you really need to print colour regularly then a colour laser would be a good option. There is a bewildering amount of laser printers out there. Colour lasers range in price from $250- $4,000. Whether it’s the CDN 5670 or the CDN 5678, the differences can be negligible in appearance- but appearances can be deceptive. The Laser printer on special for $600 can be a great investment but you need to realise that inserting a black, magenta, yellow, blue and drum cartridge might not give you much change from $1,000.

Now you can see why checking the printed page range is so important.

If you are in graphics or photography you probably need a better quality printer. These machines can get mighty expensive- and in my opinion probably not necessary. If you are a big design house then it will be worth the investment, but a small business owner- think twice.

What you see on the screen is never what you see when you print out. It’s important to be able to print a reasonably good output in the office but it will never be as good as the professional print shops. If you, like me, design business cards and logos it is far cheaper to send the file to a professional printer and get some colour mock ups printed. Only then can you tell the ultimate quality.- and its going to be cheaper for you in the long run.

Setting up a wireless printer now will future proof your office for a few more years. How many more devices do we have now than three years ago. iphones, iPads, Androids, eReaders – they have come out of nowhere to be everywhere in under 24 months. Who knows where the next few years will take us. One thing is sure connectivity is vital.

If you have a business where printing is very time driven (such as a retail outlet), keeping an eye out for the first print out time will be vital. Leaving your client waiting 30 seconds before their invoice print out is not professional enough.

A rough guide to what a small business may need:

Essential
Important
Cost of cartridges
First Print Out Time
Wireless – Networkable
Scanning Surface Size
Double Sided Printing for reports
Pages per minute
Low Energy Consumption
Estimated number of Pages per cartridge
  • If you print a lot make sure the printer handles double sided printing.
  • Is the printer you choose wireless- if its not make sure it can be upgraded.
  • What is the Energy Rating of your printer- whether or not you’re an environmentalist is not important; power costs are significant.
  • Always look at the pages per cartridge as well as the % of the paper that the ink has been tested on.
  • Find out the exact dimensions of the scanning surface

Say No to a Messy Office

Organising your office

Making sure your studio space is organised will not only save time wasted looking for that piece of paper but you will be able to think clearer as well. admin-ajax

As someone who isn’t naturally a neat, it became essential that I kept a tidy studio/office. The number one thing I needed in order to do this was to get a filing cabinet. Even if you are just a startup and feel you don’t need one, having everything organised from the start will save you time once business picks up. Besides, if you’re like most start-ups you’re probably doing everything yourself so wasting 30 minutes per day chasing your tail is 30 minutes of lost productivity.

  • Do your filing at least once a week. Much like cleaning your house – if you leave it a week its manageable – leave it a month and its a nightmare.
  • The next step that is just as vital, is to organise your computer files in some sort of order. Only you know who your clients are, whether you use word documents mostly, just email, or images; whatever the files- keep everything where they are easy to find. Regularly clean up redundant files, move old files to an archive so you don’t confused them with current files. Separate all your business files from your personal ones.
  • When downloading a file, save it under its relevant file position not just the last place you downloaded a file to. This saves plenty of time when a client rings you requesting a copy of the pdf you were discussing earlier. For documents that get referred to constantly, save them as a desktop icon or in two different folders so you can find them quickly.
  • This is going to be a little naff but do as the yellow pages do. Your local plumber calls himself AAAPlumbing, so she is the first plumber in the Yellow Pages. Do the same with the file you use the most. The file I use the most – I call AAAExplainafide, that way its always at the top of the folder.

Who said the yellow pages was redundant?

This is just the bare basics of keeping an organised office, and where I consistently see clients still suffering office disorganisation.

Outsourcing Staff

Antique_Telephone

Antique_Telephone

Generally speaking, the office is part of the business most proprietors struggle with. The more time spent doing bookkeeping and general office work, the less time spent doing the things that actually drive your business (and probably why you started a business in the first place).

I’m a firm believer that wherever possible in outsourcing the work you hate doing (like accounts). This is not to say you don’t need to keep abreast of your accounts, but outsourcing to someone who actually enjoys working with figures (yes they exist), will eliminate wasted time, frustration, and lets face it – also errors.

There are also amazing new automation tools that can help you manage your paperwork easily.

Many small business owners resist this idea. If you are a sales oriented person ask yourself-  if you work an extra four hours on the phone selling, are you going to make the $120 its going to cost in outsourcing to a professional book keeper?

Do what you’re best at and outsource the tasks you’re not good at.