How to Be a Productive Freelancer When Cabin Fever Sets In

5. February 2016 08:17

freelancer on her laptop

The perks of working at home as a freelancer mean you can typically set your own hours, work in your pajamas, and take a walk in the sunshine. But what happens when cabin fever strikes during the darkest throes of winter?

If you don't want your efficiency to take a nosedive, try these five expert cabin fever cures that can help you stay productive.

Freelancer Malady #1: Household Chores & Errands

What Ails You: An endless parade of chores and errands takes your attention away from work.

Maura Thomas (@mnthomas), founder of management and productivity training company Regain Your Time, says working from home presents personal procrastination temptations.

“You think, ‘Let me just empty the dishwasher. That’s a good use of my time,’” Thomas says. “But then you end up frittering the day away doing things around the house.”

The Cure: Use personal chores and errands as breaks, Thomas suggests. “If you’re doing brain-heavy work – spreadsheets, videos, computer work, etc. – mundane chores are a really great way to take a break,” she says. “Physical activity gives your brain time to relax and to switch things up.”

Freelancer Malady #2: Multitasking Mayhem

What Ails You: Multiple projects are vying for your attention.

You’ve got several deadlines looming, but working on them simultaneously won’t get the work done any quicker. If anything, it might take longer. A Stanford University study found that multitasking is less productive than completing a single task at a time.

The Cure: Try the Pomodoro Technique. Professional organizer and productivity consultant Penny Catterall, owner and founder of Order Your Life (@OrderYourLife), advocates this technique to help complete work in set blocks of time, complemented by short scheduled breaks.

There are many free apps and downloads that follow the principles of the Pomodoro Technique. Catterall recommends Focus Booster for its visual representation of your time.

Freelancer Malady #3: Digital Distractions

What Ails You: Technology notifications and incessant emails plague your working hours.

Technology connects your business to clients and helps you complete your work, but it's just as efficient at distracting you from it. Productivity consultant Lori Vande Krol (@lvandekrol), CPES and president of Life Made Simple, says anything that pulls you from your plan is a potential distraction.

“Ask yourself if the phone call, new email, or Facebook notification is worth time away from your defined plan and priorities,” Vande Krol says.

The Cure: Turn off all notifications (e.g., phone, email, social media, etc.) for a set amount of time, Vande Krol suggests. Don’t give into temptations to peek – it will still be there when you’re done working.

Freelancer Malady #4: Kids & Pets Underfoot

What Ails You: A whirlwind of kids and pets compete for your attention.

Whether they are too young for school or they’re on break, children often pose a distraction for freelancer parents working from home. And don’t forget Fido – he needs to eat and go for a walk. Technology may be the simpler distraction to thwart of the two.

As Charlie Gilkey (@CharlieGilkey), author and business adviser of Productive Flourishing, says, “Facebook doesn’t come banging on the door, but your kids might.”

The Cure: Gilkey says work can be more challenging with children and pets, so there may be times you need to work from coffee shops or offices. “To do so, you obviously might need to coordinate childcare and possibly speak with your partner about budgeting for it,” he says.

Penny Catterall says you don’t need to feel responsible for your kids 100 percent of the time. “On random snow days with the kids stuck at home, find a neighborhood teen to watch your kids for a few dollars,” she recommends.

Freelancer Malady #5: Overflow of Inspiration

What Ails You: An outpouring of ideas and an overwhelming list of tasks occupy all your time.

Productivity speaker and consultant Nicole Chamblin, owner of Visions Productivity Solutions (@visionsps), says she’s often distracted by all the great ideas floating around her head for classes, blogs, and solutions for clients.

Fortunately, Chamblin says there are many cloud-based tools that can “make a freelancer kick their productivity into high gear.”

The Cure: Try mind mapping – Chamblin says she uses this technique to help empty her brain and flesh out her ideas. To stay focused, she recommends using a master planning calendar to track your workload.

Additionally, Chamblin recommends tools like 17hats or Trello to set up workflows, reminders, and tasks.

Staying Productive Means Staying Proactive

Staying productive may also be your best form of risk management. While we love talking about insurance for freelancers and independent contractors, we realize most freelancers don’t think about making that purchase until they can maintain a steady stream of work. The more productive you are, the steadier your workflow and revenue stream will be, making it easier to afford smart risk management investments like small business insurance.

Big “Game” Hunting: A Guide for Freelancers

3. February 2016 08:15

folks on a safari

A freelancer's life may seem like a charmed one. You call the shots, do work you're good at, and make a living.

But it's not all poolside calls with clients while sipping a cocktail. You're up against tight deadlines, a moving target of desired skills from job to job, and the constant need for more clients.

If you play your cards right, you can attract the big clients that help keep your business booming. The first step? Remember that larger clients almost universally want to see proof of business insurance, which is one way a business can demonstrate its viability when it’s just starting out.

Once you're covered, follow these expert tips to help you attract and sell big clients on your freelance services.

1. Automate Your Search

Scouring every freelancer site for possible gigs has probably become second nature at this point, but you can save time by having relevant opportunities sent directly to you. Digital marketing strategist and entrepreneur Brad Hines (@BradHines) suggests you "create an IFTTT recipe with your respective keywords so you get an email when a job comes up."

Not a tech-savvy person? Here's the translation: automation company IFTTT (@IFTTT) lets you connect digital channels (e.g., Craigslist and Gmail). Specify which Craigslist job keywords you usually search for and IFTTT will automatically send the job listing to your inbox. Check out Hines' YouTube tutorial for more details.

How this helps the hunt: Hines says this trick has two major benefits:

  1. You don't waste time searching individual sites for job listings.
  2. You're the first to know about a new listing, which improves your chances of responding first and getting hired.

You can use this hack for most job listing sites, but Hines says you might be surprised how many reputable businesses with considerable budgets place ads for freelancers on Craigslist.

2. Understand Your Audience and Be Patient

If you want to land the big-time clients, you have to speak their language. According to Melissa Forziat, founder of Melissa Forziat Events and Marketing (@MForziatEvents), that means consistently demonstrating how your services solve their specific pain points.

That may take some digging. Forziat suggests learning as much as you can about the target and tailoring your message to their problem.

Marketing consultant Tami Brehse (@TamiBrehse) agrees: "People really appreciate when you put in the extra effort to show them how you can help them specifically, rather than just sending some generic proposal or rate sheet."

How this helps the hunt: Big clients may take more nurturing to land the sale.

"Be patient and be prepared to repeat your message over time," Forziat says.

Make sure that message is reflected in all your marketing material – from your emails and website to your social media pages. Once the client trusts you, you may be their go-to solution when they're ready to solve their problem.

3. Spend (a Little) Money to Make Money

Brehse reminds us that if you want to attract bigger clients, it's not a bad idea to invest a little upfront. The good news is you don't have to break the bank to get your name in front of your target market.

"You can get great ROI on a small budget with some targeted Facebook ads," Brehse says. "You can launch a campaign on as little as $3 per day and target it based on job titles, demographics, interests, and more."

How this helps the hunt: It's a quick way to considerably step up your exposure and zero in on your target audience. But before you put down any cash, do your research to make sure you put social media ads on the site your target market most often frequents.

On the prowl for more freelance business tips? Check out our freelancer blog series.

8 Things to Do When Getting New Business Insurance

1. February 2016 08:06

open for business sign

You’re the proud owner of a new small business – congrats! It’s no small feat or easy effort to get a business off the ground.

But nothing can quite derail your grand opening like an accident or lawsuit.Before you cut that ribbon, it’s worthwhile to research and invest in new business insurance. Here’s a checklist to help you find small business insurance at the right price.

1. Compare rates.

Don't just go to the agent you bought your personal car insurance from. It's often faster and cheaper to shop around online. Compare multiple insurance quotes to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Remember: the cheapest deal isn’t always the best one, especially if you’re getting subpar coverage.

Recommended reading: “The Small Business Guide to Cutting Insurance Costs.”

2. Check your state's Workers' Comp laws.

Nearly every state requires some form of Workers’ Compensation Insurance – even if you only have one employee. Take the time to properly classify your employees so you aren’t subject to worker misclassification fines. Find a summary of your state’s regulations in our guide “Workers’ Compensation Laws by State.”

Recommended reading: “5 Key Things to Know about Workers’ Compensation Insurance.”

3. Check any existing contracts you have.

Take a look at client contracts or the lease for your business space. Do they require you to have insurance protection? If so, you need to make sure your coverage fulfills those obligations. New business insurance can also help you land client contracts by proving you have coverage to back up your work or services.

Recommended reading: “When Does a Small Business Need Insurance?

4. Check your Homeowner's or Renter's policy.

If your business is home-based, you probably need business insurance. Most Homeowner’s or Renter’s policies do not cover business items or risks. Look over the fine print of your existing policy to see if you need additional coverage.

Recommended reading: “Have a Home-Based Business? Your Homeowner’s Insurance Might Not Have You Covered.”

5. Read up on the basic policies.

If you’re new to the world of small business insurance, brush up on the basics. Many small-business owners carry...

E&O is mostly for professionals, while GL and BOPs are beneficial for small-business owners of all walks.

Recommended reading: “The ‘Legal-Ease’ Glossary: Helpful Small Business Insurance Terms and Definitions.”

6. Check what’s popular.

Use Insureon’s Policy Analyzer to see which insurance policies are most popular for business like yours. Just input your industry, number of employees, and revenue to see the top small business insurance choices. Remember: every business is different, so these policies may or may not fit your particular business’s needs.

Recommended reading: “What Kind of Business Insurance Do I Need?

7. Get an idea of your budget.

Wondering how much all this new business insurance is going to cost you? Check out Insureon’s 2014 Business Insurance Cost Analysis for a breakdown of insurance costs by policy. Keep in mind that business insurance may be an investment, but it helps you manage exorbitant costs in the long run.

Recommended reading: “How Much Does Small Business Insurance Cost?

8. Talk to an insurance agent.

No one expects you to be an insurance virtuoso. Contact your insurance agent when you need help understanding your policies and coverage options – it's their job to know these things. And don't forget to pick their brain on ways you can save on coverage.

Recommended reading: “How an Insurance Agent Can Help Small Business Cut Insurance Costs.”

Understanding the Loan Amount My Business Can Afford

29. January 2016 08:04

man emptying his piggy bank

This is a guest post by Meredith Wood (@mere_wood), head of content and editor-in-chief at Fundera (@fundera), an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business.

There are plenty of reasons to take out a loan for your small business. Maybe an unexpected storm destroyed some inventory and you need help making payroll next month. Or possibly you’re looking into expanding your operations by exporting, opening up a new location, or hiring more workers. No matter the cause, every quest for financing needs to include one simple question:

Can my business afford this small business loan?

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Well… Maybe. But at any rate, it’s not simply the case that a business that brings in more revenue can necessarily afford bigger, better loans.

It’s true that your revenue can impact what loans you qualify for, alongside other factors like your credit score, the length of time that you’ve been in business, your financials, market trends, and so on. However, the bigger the business, the bigger the loan it needs: your business’s success, rather than its size, will determine what sorts of loans you can afford. A small business with great cash flow management could very well afford a better loan deal than a bigger business without the same financial acumen.

Now that we’ve established the wrong answer to that all-important question, let’s take a look at the right one.

Mo’ Debt Service Coverage Ratio, No Problems

Alright, so it should be “higher debt service coverage ratio,” but you get the idea.

The Debt Service Coverage Ratio, or DSCR for short, is the measure of how available your income is to cover your debt payments. The higher your debt service coverage ratio, the more debt you can take on – and use for emergencies, operations, or business opportunities.

The DSCR is your net operating income divided by your total debt service. In other words, once you find the ratio between your income left over after operating expenses and your monthly loan payments, you’ve got your DSCR. The first half of that equation – your monthly net operating income – takes into account things like your revenue or sales, the costs of your goods sold, and your payroll, rent, utility, and insurance expenses, among other miscellaneous costs. It’s what you make, minus what you need to spend. The second half changes based on how often you make debt payments, and what those payments are. The DSCR is most often expressed as a multiple, and that multiple indicates how much cash you have after expenses to make your debt payments.

Let’s look at a few examples.

  1. Once you’ve gotten your finances all figured out, you find that you have a DSCR of 1.5. That means you can pay back your debt payments in full, and then half over again, with the cash left over from your operating expenses. That’s pretty great!
  2. Alternatively, if you’ve got a DSCR of 1, you can just make your debt payments. Typically this isn’t confidence-inducing enough for most lenders: banks and many lenders generally look for DSCRs of 1.25, while more aggressive or conservative lenders might vary down or up from that, respectively. Demanding a higher DSCR is fair to the borrower as well as to the lender because it provides a vital “what if” cushion.
  3. On the other hand, a DSCR of below 1 means you’re simply not paying your loans – and it’ll be hard to secure another, in that case. A high DSCR, meanwhile, indicates that you’re plenty secure…. But it might be time to look into another loan, because your business is in the perfect place to grow!

Once you understand your DSCR – and from there, how much money you should be looking to borrow – you can use this Loan Affordability Tool to calculate whether a specific loan, with its terms and effective APR, is a good idea for your small business.

And Finally...

We’ve answered “Can my business afford this loan?” in a pretty literal way. These are the formulas and tools you need to figure out, numerically, whether your business’s finances would support a certain loan. But there’s another side to consider.

What if something goes wrong?

Defaulting on a loan can lead to some scary consequences, both short term and for the future of you and your business. Your credit score will suffer, future loan interest rates will hike, and collateral might be seized, to start with. Of the roughly half a million small businesses that falter every year, 33 percent of those that have been around for five years or less fail because of financial causes. Accordingly, you’ll want to do everything you can to ensure that you’re never in a position to renege on a loan.

That means being cautious, even in the most successful of times for your business. Life is an unpredictable adventure – but that’s not always a good thing. Ask yourself: if unforeseeable circumstances might prevent you from paying your loan from the revenue your business makes, do you have other paths to try? Maybe family or friends will step in, or you have strong enough personal finances to withstand a sudden loss, or you can cut costs and liquidate assets to cover the gap. Every smart small-business owner looking for a loan needs to ask this tough question – and unfortunately, there’s no calculator to help you figure out the answer here.

All in all, understanding what loan amount your business can afford can be difficult but rewarding. Once you decide on a range or figure to seek in your loan options, you can start the fun part: planning how to use that cash influx to expand your small business and knock it out of the park.

Law vs. Contracts in Workers’ Comp Requirements: The Law Always Wins

27. January 2016 11:52

gavel and contract

You’re probably familiar with the basics of Workers’ Compensation Insurance. When an employee gets hurt or sick because of their job, Workers’ Comp benefits can pay for medical expenses and replacement wages. It’s also the only type of small business insurance most states require for businesses with one or more employees.

Seems simple enough. If your state requires Workers’ Comp Insurance, you purchase it. If your state doesn’t require it, you’ll never need it, right? Not necessarily.

Let’s explore instances where you may need to carry Workers’ Compensation, even if you think you don’t.

Minimum Workers’ Comp Coverage Misconceptions

As we said, most states require an employer to carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance if they have one or more employees. According to an Insurance Journal report, they must have the state-mandated minimum amount of Workers' Comp coverage to stay in compliance. There's just no way around that.

But what if your state doesn’t require Workers’ Comp (e.g., Texas)? The law may let you sidestep coverage obligations, but there are some situations where you may be forced to carry the policy to land work. For example:

  1. If a client contract requires your business to carry Workers’ Comp Insurance and state law doesn't, you would need to carry it to meet the contract requirements.
  2. If you want a subcontractor to carry Workers’ Comp and state law doesn't require it, that subcontractor has to carry it to get the job.
  3. If state law requires Workman’s Comp but a contract doesn't, you’re still required to carry the appropriate coverage.

Basically, a contract may have more stringent coverage requirements than your state laws, but a contract cannot relieve you of complying with state requirements. You can’t use a contract to allow you to provide less coverage than is required by law.

Many States, Many Workers’ Comp Questions

At Insureon, we receive many questions about Workers’ Comp from small-business owners. We get it. Workers’ Compensation can be confusing and complex – especially when regulations vary from state to state.

The good news: we have an abundance of Workers’ Comp resources that can help you better understand this policy and your state's requirements. Get your sleuth on:

Still have questions? Talk to your insurance agent about the ins and outs of Workers’ Comp coverage.

Best Organizational Apps & Hacks for Small Businesses

25. January 2016 11:12

professionals looking at a laptop

Looking to get your business more organized? There's an app for that – in fact, there are several. These apps can help maximize your…

  • Time.
  • Money.
  • Productivity.

Let's take a look at some favorite organizational apps and productivity hacks straight from the source: small-business owners.


What It Is: Evernote is an organizing app that lets users take, share, and collaborate on notes, and it syncs to all your devices.

Who Swears by It: Mike Veny (@MikeVeny), mental health speaker and founder of , says that taking notes is critical to staying organized and saving time. "I've recently saved time through downloading an app that can scan documents to PDF files in Evernote," he says. "It works faster than most scanners."

What It Costs: The basic app is free, but paid accounts have even more features.


What It Is: Brought to you by the folks behind time-tracking app Harvest, Forecast is all about time management.

Who Swears by It: Mark Tuchscherer (@geekschicago), co-founder and CEO of web development company , says Forecast allows them to track developers' projects and forecast upcoming ones.

"It helps us see if we have some people scheduled for too much work and lets us know when other people will be free," Tuchscherer says. "Project managers (and others) can view and update our info in real time. We used to track developers in a shared spreadsheet and it took a lot of time."

What It Costs: You can try Forecast with a free 30-day trial.


What It Is: A cloud-based accounting solution designed for service-based small-business owners, FreshBooks can help you track time, log expenses, and create invoices.

Who Swears by It: Entrepreneur and business operations strategist (@AlaiaWilliams) says the latest version of FreshBooks is the best to date. "If I'm seeing more than one client in a day, it is so handy to be able to track time in the app," she says. "I no longer have to worry about waiting until I am able to get to my computer to recreate my day and log time."

What It Costs: You can try it for free for 30 days.


What It Is: Insightly can help with customer relationship management (CRM) and project management – whether that's handling client leads, sales opportunities, or generating reports.

Who Swears by It: Marc Prosser, co-founder and managing partner at (@FitSmallBiz), says Insightly makes it convenient to handle both projects and contacts in the same software.

"The key to keeping your small business organized is breaking projects into small, well-defined, and repeatable steps, and then assigning responsibility from there," Prosser says. "That way, you can turn complicated processes into manageable tasks."

What It Costs: Insightly offers a free 14-day trial and multiple price plans.


What It Is: Visual collaboration app Trello uses a kanban system to make it easy to manage and assign tasks.

Who Swears by It: Aytekin Tank (@aytekintank), founder and CEO of online form building company (@JotForm), organizes tasks based on priority and level of progress with Trello. "It's the first thing I log into every day," he says.

Additionally, it gives Tank's team the ability to add checklists, documents, and links to certain projects.

"We break up Trello boards by team," Tank says. "It allows me to check the progress on our marketing, development, and design team really easily."

What It Costs: Trello is totally free.


What It Is: Wunderlist is an all-in-one organizing app to help you keep your business – and life – in order.

Who Swears by It: Shannon Steffen (@ShannonKSteffen), founder and CMO of (@DaymarkDigital), hails Wunderlist as "the best task manager ever."

"You can keep track of client projects, assign tasks to team members, keep running conversations, and even remember to pick up bread on the way home," Steffen says. "Share projects with team members or clients for even more flexibility without breaking the bank."

What It Costs: You can create a free account or upgrade to the pro account for more features.

Additional Hacks to Help Your Business Save Time & Money

Technology and apps are a great way to work more efficiently, but they can also be a distraction. (@JacquesHBastien), digital marketer, professor, and entrepreneur, offers two tips for preventing distractions and increasing productivity:

  1. Only check your email at set times. It ensures emails that appear important and urgent don't distract you until you're ready to give them your full attention.
  2. Use your browser in full screen or presentation mode. With a single tab open, you'll be able to focus more on what's in front of you.

These hacks can potentially help your business save time, which can ultimately help you save money. Another way to save? Hack your small business insurance with these tips:

  • Classify employees correctly for the lowest Workers' Compensation Insurance rates.
  • Estimate your revenue conservatively your first year in business to avoid overpaying for coverage.
  • Bundle your policies to get more coverage for less (e.g., Business Owner's Policy).

For more productivity boosting inspiration, check out "Home-Office Hacks for Higher Productivity."

Keeping Track of Business Paperwork

22. January 2016 08:04

pile of documents on a desk

A cluttered office can make your job more difficult to do in a timely and efficient manner. According to The Paperless Project, PricewaterhouseCoopers found a lost document will cost a company $122 on average.

Bud Roth-Porter (@BudPR), document management consultant and owner of , says that searching for a misfiled document costs time to find, and if not found, the cost to recreate it. An equally important cost to consider: the loss of information in the missing document, which may lead to a business decision based on inaccurate information, he adds.

To get started on organizing your small business, try these paperwork pointers.

1. Establish a file naming convention.

You've got a conference call with a client in ten minutes, so you need to retrieve their project file for reference. Is it filed under the customer name or sales zone?

Thomas McClintock (@Tom_NSI), COO of online marketing company (@NSIpartners), says that firms often have neither a systemized plan that specifies who is responsible for what and how the documentation workflow happens, nor any documentation procedures to ensure that important records are stored, found, and managed in the same way.

Pro tip: Choose a naming convention style and stick to it. Consider these filing methods:

  • Alphabetical.
  • Numerical.
  • Chronological.
  • Geographical.

Don't stray from a system once you've established which method works best.

2. Keep all documents in common filing areas.

Roth-Porter points to lack of common filing areas causing clutter conundrums. "In an average office, files can be filed in a file room, a file cabinet, an office file cabinet, a personal desk, and an archival storage area," he says.

All those options mean more ways to lose track of your documents.

Pro tip: Create a common filing area for specific types of documents. For example, keep bills in a secure, accessible desk drawer for easy reference, and keep old client contracts in a filing cabinet.

Like anything else, organizing efficiently can take practice until you get it right.

"The best way to make any new filing system work is to make it a mandatory part of the daily office routine," Roth-Porter says. "If people continue to hoard documents in their office or consistently ignore the new filing schema, ensure these people are made aware of their lapse."

3. Train all employees on company organizing procedures.

Once you've established a clear organizing and filing method that make sense for your business, educate all employees on these procedures. Documents can fall through the cracks when everyone isn't on the same page.

NSI Partners hired professional organizerGina Caughey (@ACallToOrder), owner of , to help get things in shape. As the company grows, McClintock says their need to train new employees on nomenclature and file-naming schema has only increased.

Pro tip: Design a how-to guide for employees to follow. McClintock says that NSI Partners is developing a procedure manual to:

  • Save costs training new employees because their systems have become more defined and complex.
  • Act as a reference for staff in general.

McClintock also advises reviewing procedures periodically to ensure nothing is overlooked.

4. Go digital with paperwork, but don't forget to back it up.

Active document management and disaster sustainability planning are essential, as illustrated by one particularly harrowing story Caughey shares about a client.

The client owned a building that sustained heavy storm damage. "As if this wasn't bad enough, this particular building was used to store client documents and valuables," Caughey says. "Fortunately, eight months prior, A Call to Order had set up a disaster-sustainability system that the company was able to implement within hours."

Caughey says this allowed company officials to:

  • Assign priority status to key construction vendors who fixed the damage within 72 hours.
  • Use a media plan to instruct employees on contingency plans and to conduct public outreach.
  • Minimize downtime.

An event that could have bankrupted the company ended up being a three-week hiccup.

Pro tip: Keep digital copies of important documents in the cloud, as well as paper-based backups in a storage facility, Caughey recommends. When disaster strikes, you'll have peace of mind that your important documents are safe.

For more on creating a disaster recovery strategy, check out "What's Your Business Interruption Plan?"

Small Business Spotlight: Getting Organized with HAUTEheadquarters

20. January 2016 07:46

HAUTEheadquarters logo

Nicola Ford (@nicola_ford1) is CEO and founder of (@hauteheadqtrs). is an online designer jewelry and accessories retailer committed to bringing customers the most glamorous, stylish, and fashionable jewelry available.

We talked with Nicola Ford about HAUTEheadquarters' efforts to get organized and to streamline its business practices. Learn how small-business owners can declutter to save time and money. The transcript below has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your background?

After studying in France and then graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in international business, I set my sights on the world of e-commerce.

My love of fine jewelry ultimately led to my introduction to fashion jewelry, which I felt was more accessible to everyone. My newfound passion for designer jewelry resulted in the launch of in 2012, where I exclusively edit an extraordinary compilation of faux and fine designer jewelry available to women of all walks of life and budgets.

Where did you recognize the need for this type of jewelry buying process? started just over three and half years ago. I recognized a need in the market after doing jewelry styling. A lot of people began asking me where I was getting the jewelry and wanted to buy it. There was a demand for fashion jewelry that was not junk. I gathered independent lines like Kenneth Jay Lane, Elizabeth Cole, Marcia Moran, and other high-quality costume jewelry brands that didn't have a significant online presence.

What motivated you to get the business organized?

I said, "Enough is enough," and decided it was time to get organized when we began re-ordering things we had in stock – mainly shipping and packaging supplies – which ends up costing us money. Also, we have a small office space, and keeping all the look books and printed line sheet materials just became too much. We wanted an organized, chic, and clean space, and we felt overwhelmed with clutter and paper!

How was your business organized (or unorganized) before you decluttered?

Our jewelry samples that go out for press requests were a disaster. We kept up with tracking who had them and who returned them, but they had become a bit jumbled up in drawers with no real categorization. The supply closet was a mess of boxes compiled into small sections, but there was no inventory control. We knew we had supplies, but we didn't have a count on them or a method set up for re-ordering.

What approach did you take to getting organized?

We trashed all the extra paper, catalogs, and line books that had expired. We scanned anything else we needed and recycled all the old paper. Next, we counted all the boxes and supplies and made a database that kept track of the count and what needed to be re-stocked.

Our jewelry inventory was already organized, but we tackled the samples and organized them by color, style, and vendor. It is essential as the brand grows to have a system in place to keep track of sample merchandise. Otherwise, we lose pieces and opportunities to garner press for those items.

How long did the entire process take?

The task seemed daunting, but once we got the ball rolling, it took about three days total to finish. The more we cleaned and organized, the more accomplished we began to feel and we got excited about the prospect of knowing where everything was!

How did organizing benefit your business?

We know the exact amount of items what we have, what we don't, and what we need! Ultimately, this saves us time and money and reduces waste. This leaves us with more money that we need for other aspects of the business.

Now that we have a structured organizational system in place, it is not as hard as I assumed it would be to maintain the current level of organization. Everything is flowing at a much smoother pace, and we are much more efficient.

Do you think you’ll be able to maintain your current level of organization?

I cannot imagine going back to being as disorganized again. I truly believe I can maintain this organization, and I am now working on organizing my personal life as well.

Tips from HAUTEheadquarters on Organizing Your Business

  • Just do it. Don't make excuses. Commit to getting organized and follow through.
  • Don't put it off. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to clear the clutter.
  • Take a deep breath. Though it may seem overwhelming, once you get your business organized, you will be thrilled with the result – as well as the money and time you'll save.

Looking for more small business pointers? Check out our Small Business Spotlight series on the blog.

What’s Your Sick Day Plan?

18. January 2016 07:50

sick woman in bed with her tiny dog and laptop

Before I started my own small business, I fully believed no one should come to work if there was a chance they’d infect other employees in the office. In a larger business, there always seemed to be more time to get things done or someone else to take over temporarily if someone wasn’t able to come to work.

But when you’re the only one and a client is waiting for you to finish a project, priorities change and you feel the need to keep going no matter how you’re feeling.

So far, I haven’t missed any deadlines because of an illness and neither have my partners (knock on wood). But I also think the way we set up our company in the beginning allows us to keep it together even when one of us is under the weather.

Here are a few things we’ve learned over our years of business ownership:

    1. You need to communicate. No one is an island in business and everyone knows everyone’s business. It has to be that way for a small business to survive. We all know what the others are working on and can jump in if need be. We do this by constant communication, either by email, text, or phone conversations, and by keeping documents in the cloud for easy reference.
    2. Build a buffer. We’ve learned leaving things until the last minute is a big mistake. If a deadline is Wednesday, we have it done by Monday. (One of my partners even has it done the week before.) That way, if one of us is overwhelmed or gets sick, we’ve built in some time to still meet our deadlines.
    3. Make health a priority. No one does their best work if they’re not feeling well, so we have found it’s better to first take care of the sickness and then take care of the business. If you don’t take some time to rest and recuperate, the illness will just linger. We also discuss health topics and share health tips. We all try to eat right and exercise – and we’ve learned it pays to talk about it because that helps each of us stay on track. We’ve learned that to keep our business healthy, we need to keep ourselves healthy so neither suffers.


Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

4 Neat Things You Didn't Know about Small Business Insurance

15. January 2016 07:39

two surprised people in front of a laptop

You know a Business Owner's Policy can protect your business's property and assets. You may have heard General Liability Insurance can cover customer slip-and-fall injuries. But that's just scratching the surface of what your coverage can do.

Here are four little-known tricks your small business insurance has up its sleeve.

1. Product Liability Protection When Your Products Go Rogue

Whether you make shoes, toys, or cookies, your business is liable for physical harm your products may cause. Liability complaints may arise from a…

  • Manufacturing or production flaw.
  • Design defect.
  • Defective warning or instruction.

If you're sued over an injury or property damage caused by your products, a General Liability Insurance policy with Product Liability coverage can help pay for legal expenses. See "5 Tips for Understanding Potential Product Liability" for more information.

Bonus perk: A Product Recall endorsement may cover the cost of recalling a defective product, disposing of it, and notifying affected customers about the recall.

2. Advertising Injury Coverage When You Step Out of Line Online

General Liability Insurance does more than cover physical damages your business might cause. It may also cover personal injuries, such as lawsuits over:

  • Slander or libel.
  • Using someone's images or words without permission.
  • Copyright or brand infringement.

This can come in handy, for example, if someone claims you used a copyrighted image in an email campaign without permission. Check out our eBook Tweet or Twibel: The Small-Business Owner's Guide to Advertising Injury for ways to avoid these risks.

Bonus perk: Even if you're up against a frivolous advertising injury lawsuit, your business's General Liability policy can cover the associated legal expenses.

3. Business Interruption Coverage for Forced Downtime

If you have a BOP, you may also have Business Interruption Insurance. This coverage can step in when a covered Property Insurance event (e.g., a fire) forces your doors to temporarily close. It can help cover lost income so you can pay for ongoing business expenses, such as…

  • Loan payments.
  • Employee wages
  • Rent.

In other words, Business Interruption Insurance can help you weather a disaster and recover quicker. Learn why it's an essential part of your business's recovery plan in "Fire Damage at Chicago's Second City Illustrates the Benefits of Insurance."

Bonus perk: If your policy includes a Contingent Business Insurance rider, you may receive coverage for continuing expenses when your primary supplier's interruption keeps your business standing still.

4. Cyber Liability Coverage for that Inevitable Data Breach

Yes, even small businesses get breached. And as cyber threats continue to grow, it's smart to invest in Cyber Liability Insurance. This policy comes in two types:

  • First-party response coverage, which may help pay for forensic investigations, notifying affected customers, PR services, and crisis management after a breach.
  • Third-party defense coverage, which may cover legal costs if your business is sued over allowing a data breach to happen.

Bonus perk: Cyber Liability Insurance may also cover cyber extortion expenses when hackers hold your data hostage and demand a ransom or when a DDoS attack knocks your business offline.

Wondering how much the nifty coverage detailed here may cost? Check out Insureon's 2014 business Insurance Cost Analysis or fill out our online application to receive free small business insurance quotes.

And for more hidden insurance gems, read "7 Things You Didn't Know Insurance Could Cover."

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