To entrepreneurs, time is extremely valuable. Most of us have a full-time job to dedicate 40 hours a week to, leaving just evenings and weekends to work on our projects. Designing products which aren’t software-based can be very time consuming. When product designers iterate, it’s not just a matter of rewriting a line of code, but a much lengthier task such as alternating a fabric pattern, or revising a 3D sketch to build a new mold from. While time consuming, these iterations are necessary, on the path to creating something our target audience will love using.
The iterative process includes sketching, prototyping, and user testing. It also may include the task of communicating with vendors who are located in another part of the country. To add to these design-related efforts, we’re also responsible for our own marketing and sales, which includes: scheduling photo shoots, designing our website, running prototypes between editors or bloggers, and so forth. Between juggling all of these activities, we still want to maintain a balanced life to prevent an entrepreneurial burnout.
Luckily, with a plethora of browser apps and web-based software companies that have appeared in recent years, there are numerous free to low-cost digital tools that can help manage our workflow, and gain back valuable time. If well managed, an efficient workflow might even allow you time to rest, socialize, and maintain a balanced lifestyle. When I designed the first set of prototype wallets for my denim accessories line Salvedged Denim, I was lucky to have an apparel background and as a result, reduced the number of times I had to prototype with our manufacturer. Yet, I still relied on many of these digital tools to gain extra time, which I devoted back to my project, and occasionally took a break from work. With a startup, iteration and time to market is key. Having a solid digital toolkit can literally save your life.
Here are some of my favorites:
1. Email Trackers – Sidekick by Hubspot:
Track your emails, and know when recipients open your email so you can time your follow up email accordingly.
2. Email Scheduler – Boomerang for Gmail:
Bulk compose your emails by using automation tools such as Boomerang. Schedule your email ahead of time so you don’t have to do write them last minute.
When you are starting a business with limited resources, even small tasks can take up crucial time. Use Fiverr for small errands that don’t require a particular skill set, but generally take up time such as running samples between your studio and the manufacturer. For tasks that are beyond your core skill set, use freelancers.com and find an expert. Don’t do time-consuming tasks you’re not good at. Sometimes it’s worth it to outsource to an expert.
Never get caught without crucial files. You never know when opportunities knock. Google Drive and Dropbox are both great for sharing files and retrieving them when you’re on the go. You can prepare folders for things such as press kits and have a link available for sharing anytime and anywhere.
4. Collaboration – Google Docs:
Google docs is invaluable for project sharing. Work collaboratively on documents charts and presentations. If you have teams in a remote locations this is perfect for you.
5. Task reminders – Wunderlist:
Wunderlist does a great job of managing your to-do list. You can share the list collaboratively with your team members. It also syncs seamlessly across most devices.
6. Social media post schedulers – Postcron:
Be efficient with your social media posts, and create content for your startup ahead of time. Schedule them to be published later. This app is free and can be installed as an extension on Google Chrome.
7. Video Feedback – Screencaster:
Screencaster is a free chrome extension and great for video feedback on website designs if you work with remote web developers.
8. Annotated Feedback on images – Skitch:
Skitch is great if you need to give feedback on prototypes of images your vendors may send you. It’s easier than having to import images into Photoshop, and making your comments there. The software is designed so that you can drag and drop arrows into the image to make comments and give feedback for product revisions.
I hope these tools will help bring balance to your life and turn your next great idea into a real business opportunity!
If you enjoyed this, here are some more posts about what your entrepreneurial toolkit can include:
Products Designed by Salvedged, Made with Maker’s Row