Self-Employed? Get Organised.

I’m writing this five years after landing my first client. If you’re just starting on your own or thinking about it, I know how overwhelming it can get. At this point, being organised is the best gift you can give yourself.

WHAT TO EXPECT | In this post, I will not go into branding and content creation. This is the backend of the backend and these are tools that will help you stay on top of your game.

✨ DESK SPACE

My first ‘office space’ was not an office at all. I have been working from home way before COVID-19 hit us like a storm. I used to work from the couch, at the dining table, from cafés – you name it. One thing I learned along the way is that it’s better to have a space dedicated to your work. Even if it’s just a small desk (I managed to fit one under the stairs) and a shelving system for files, paperwork, and books. I want work-related stuff to be at arm’s length – literally.

Mind you, I still go to cafés to work. It’s usually more to brainstorm on personal content ideas, find inspiration and write – rather than client work. But I find the change in scenery to be refreshing. Sometimes, much needed.

Stationery Essentials:

Planner/Yearly diary – the physical kind to complement your online calendar. It will keep you more accountable and it feels good to tick or cross out tasks.

Highlighting System – colour-coding your work schedule so that you don’t overlook anything.

Sticky Notes (and a memo board) – perfect to pin ideas that pop out of the blues, scribbles, reminders & quick notes.

List Pad – I promise you, you will thank me later.

Filing System – We live in the digital age but you will still have papers to sort out and file. Especially (and I cannot stress this enough) for your VAT, TAX, and Social Security Contribution.

I have separate, transparent folders – labeled by date – for the above-mentioned which I keep in a simple white box I got from IKEA. Why transparent folders? I love knowing what’s in the folder just by looking at it instead of rummaging through it.

Envelopes – Have them at hand. You’ll have VAT receipts and receipts to send eventually.

Stamp/Stickers – with your logo. Having one or the other on your envelope gives off a professional vibe. Tried and tested! You can also have one with your return address.

✨ ONLINE PLANNERS

Now that you have your faithful diary/planner by your side, it’s time to set up an online version. For calls, meetings, and tasks, I use my Outlook calendar. If you want to assign tasks and have ‘stricter’ timelines and deadlines, may I suggest:

  • Outlook Live – Everything in one place: emails, calendar, to do list, tasks & notes
  • Asana – a great way to manage tasks and add projects – especially if you work with a team. Basic package is free of charge.
Source: https://asana.com/product/workflow-builder
  • Trello – Again, basic package is free of charge. The workspace is easy to use and manage + it’s also customisable.
Source: https://trello.com/guide/trello-101

There are loads of other web-based softwares to keep your tasks in check. A quick google search will uncover the long list of options!

✨ ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE

Zipbooks has been my personal online accountant since the beginning. It’s easy to add expenses along the way, create and issue invoices. You will be able to keep records and transactions in one place.

  • It’s free of charge (for the large part – add ons/other options are at a charge)

Ideally, get in touch with a trusted financial advisor to guide you through the hoops and loops. If, like myself, numbers do not course through your veins, seek professional help. Still, accounting software is super for day-to-day operations.

Source: https://zipbooks.com/accounting/

✨ SOCIAL MEDIA PLANNING TOOLS

You’re running a business, staying on top of accounts, coming up with new product or service ideas, making sure your customers are happy, AND planning posts for social media (SM)? Well, yes and no.

Yes – if you are winding through the roads of self-employment, you will realise (if not already) that you will wear many hats.

No – acknowledge the fact that you do not have to do every single thing yourself and sometimes it helps to have, well, help – from the right people.

If you’re just starting out, outsourcing social media work may seem like a waste of money. I’ll be honest with you – if you know what you’re doing it might as well be. However, when your business picks up (or if it’s not your thing, to begin with), you can then start thinking about having extra hands on board to help with strategy and managing your socials. In the meantime, here are some SM planners that may come in handy:

Buffer – it’s great to start with. The basic package is free of charge and you can add up to 3 social channels (e.g. FB page, IG account & LinkedIn page) including 10 posts per channel.

Source: https://buffer.com/publish

Meta Business Suite – If you want to avoid the hassle of having an external planner like Buffer, this is your go-to planner & scheduler for Facebook & Instagram. It’s easy to use & you can customise your copy easily for one and the other.

Planoly – for Instagram. This is perfect to visually plan out your grid and schedule posts. Again, the basic is free and then you can have upgrades. With the free package, you can add 2 social profiles (e.g. IG & Pinterest) and have 30 uploads per month, per social.

Source: Planoly | https://pages.planoly.com/about

Mind you, our good old friend excel/sheets, works just fine as well. Edit in a calendar in your sheets and you can map out your timeline there. If you’re working with other team members, simply upload it on a shared drive and you’re good to go!

MORE ON THIS! I’m sharing my self-employed journey on Instagram and will be showing what I find most helpful over there. Feel free to follow for tips & updates!

If you’re starting on your self-employed journey or even if you’re already on board that train, hopefully, you found some of this helpful! If you have any questions or would like me to write about a related topic, don’t be shy – get in touch!

Until next time,

Amanda x

Mobile Marketing: 3 Must-knows

I have a couple of questions for you. Let’s go!

  • Where is your phone right now?
  • Where do you put your phone while you sleep?
  • Do you use your phone to check the time?
  • Do you take your phone to the bathroom with you?
  • Has the time you use your phone increased?
  • Are you reading this on your phone right now?

Hey, relax. This post is NOT about smartphone addiction. I wanted to help you realise (if you haven’t on your own already) that smartphones have become a necessity. We can live without them, mind you. I spent 10 days in Cuba, back in 2018, without any internet connection and it was BLISS. But the fact that I’m even saying that it felt good to not look at my phone for a long time goes to show how much I am on my phone. Sometimes, without even realising it.

What is mobile marketing?

➯ A digital marketing strategy aimed at reaching a target audience on their smartphones, tablets, and/or other mobile devices, via websites, email, SMS and MMS, social media, and apps.

As a business owner, you have to think mobile. You want to hook your audience, engage with them and make a sale.

As a consumer, and an avid smartphone user, you want to browse through aesthetically pleasing shops without a hiccup.

COVID-19 was a setback. It turned our lives upside down. BUT one thing that came out of this, when businesses had to close their doors temporarily, was the realisation that being available online was the only viable option at the time.

Locally, I have seen a rise in e-shops and an improvement in making a customer’s online shopping experience a pleasant one. Still a long way to go but we’re getting there.

How is your mobile marketing doing?

If you can’t answer this, I believe it’s high time you pay a little more attention to mobile.

Everyone (or almost everyone) is on their phones – constantly. We chat, play, work, listen to music, shop, scroll endlessly through TikTok and tap from one story to the next on IG.

3 Must-Knows

To get the hang of mobile marketing, you need more than just three (3) tips, I know – BUT – we need to start from somewhere.

1. WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?

Understand your audience. Sure, you’ve heard this a million times. But do you truly know who and where your people are? How do they use their mobile devices?

The most simple thing to do is to ASK. Run a super short survey/poll and ask your already-existing customers short and simple questions. Example:

  • Are you on Instagram?
  • Do you prefer shopping on your phone or desktop?
  • Which devices do you use? (Phone, tablet etc.)

Know who your people are. Listen to online discussions and be present – start a conversation. It’s NOT ENOUGH to just be there. You have to be seen and heard.

2. WRITE FOR MOBILE

It’s not the first time I came across a Facebook post that simply NEVER ends. Your message needs to come across clearly. Being clear and concise is essential. I cannot stress this enough. Even your call to action needs to be clear so that users will be able to understand what to expect.

When it comes to writing for mobile (e.g. online – social media & offline – SMS) avoid writing chunks of paragraphs. This is not an essay. Write short, punchy headlines and straightforward messages, use visuals – make it count!

3. GREAT USER EXPERIENCE

Make it easy for users to navigate through your shop. Having a mobile-friendly website is a must and not an option. Mobile devices call for interaction and users expect a more personalised experience.

You don’t want them to end up frustrated because they’re having trouble with browsing or making a payment. So, make it seamless for users to purchase with a few clicks as possible.

Nowadays, having social media presence is essential for any business. So, BE SOCIAL. Grow your business around a customer experience focused culture.

Think of all the things that bother you as an online user as you browse through other social media accounts and pages, learn from them and avoid repeating their mistakes.

Where is your business at right now?

If you haven’t already, start working on how to build and maximise your mobile presence.

And hey, don’t be afraid of change. It’s good to spice things up. You know, there’s always room for improvement and I’m sure you’ll do great!

Amanda x

Start your business: a guide (part 1)

We have been through a lot of ups and downs this past year. Some of us lost their jobs, some of us changed their jobs and some decided to start out on their own.

I’ve been there back in 2017. The first year (not month) was the toughest. I remember forking out money to set up my website and everything else before I had any income. And when I did have an income, it was only a trickle the first month. But when you successfully land your first client (and you will), I kid you not, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Mind you, it never gets easier. If you think that running your own business and being your own boss is a breeze, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise. Add being a parent to the mix whose child is at home due to COVID-19 restrictions, and there you have it.

But, I’m writing this to help you out, not to frighten the living daylights out of you. I’ve always been one to say it as it is; no beating about the bush. Bear with me.

So, now that you are ready to get started, I’d like to give you a helping hand. I didn’t have any guidance when I set foot on this path and always thought it would be nice to have had someone shed light on the road ahead.

OK, let’s cut to the chase. Where do you start?

1. Research, research!

Assuming you know what your products or services you’re going to offer are and that it is the right business venture for you, research first. Make sure there is a market for what you’re offering. Never assume people will buy your product just because YOU (or your family) like it.

  • Who are you selling to? Who are your primary customers?
  • What are their needs, frustrations?
  • How does your product/service help them?
  • Are there any products/services similar to yours?
  • Who is your competition?
  • How will you set yourself apart?

2. Plan it out.

A business without a plan? That’s a no-go. Don’t even think about going there. A business plan can be simple, nothing out of this world, but you need to have one. Specify your objective and map it out. What direction are you planning to take? This will change as your business grows.

Sample Business Plan to help you with writing your own: Samples by Hubspot.

3. Funding.

Service providers, online businesses, brick & mortar businesses – you all need the same thing: funding. The expense may differ depending on the business type but it costs money to start any business.

First you need to determine how much startup funding you will need. I can assure you that you will have bills and invoices to settle way before your business takes flight.

  • Will you self-fund?
  • Will you look for investors?
  • Will you be taking a small loan?

So make sure you put a lot of thought into this because you need this information before you launch. You can even seek (or perhaps it’s better if you do) professional guidance from trusted financial advisors.

  • List the expenses
  • Estimate how much these expenses will cost
  • Draw a full financial picture
  • Use this to calculate your initial fund

What kind of expenses? Equipment, office space, utilities, marketing, salaries, market research, website, communications etc.

  1. Refine your idea
  2. Conduct market research
  3. Check out the competition
  4. Write a Business Plan
  5. Draw a financial map

This is PART 1 of my guide. What will you expect in PART 2?

  • Registrations
  • Location
  • Structure
  • Marketing

Becoming self-occupied or self-employed also mean: paying your own taxes, vat and social security contributions. But we’ll cover that in PART 2 😉

You will probably start small and you will have moments of failure. Learn from them. Don’t toss everything to the side as soon as one thing goes wrong. That’s life, it’s a learning process.

Amanda x

Temporary bathroom office setup

Featuring The Learning Curve | Bath Toys

Most of you may have gone back to their place of work. My place of work was already my home way before COVID-19 took us by surprise. Truth is, working on my own business whilst taking care of Beth (who is now a toddler) has been the biggest challenge yet. So my options were to work:

↠ At night once my hubby is off work (he’s employed fulltime and has been working from home for a year now)

↠ When (and if) she naps in the afternoon

↠ During 1 hour Hey, Duggee! or Peppa Pig breaks (I hate doing this but sometimes, it can’t be helped)

↠ AND, during her bath time.

Last week, while she was playing in the tub, I was sitting on the closed loo with my laptop, tapping away. I glimpsed at the mirror and seeing me like that thought out loud, “what has my world come to!” This has become a thing and the fact that I was talking to myself out loud, doesn’t paint a better picture.

So, this bath time routine is playtime for her and worktime (or reading time) for me. Usually, I work from my phone. The laptop is too bulky to balance on my knees. And Beth, who loves water, splashes away in her tub. Having said that, most days, I tend to end up playing with her, and end up drenched.

Until a couple of weeks ago, she was still playing with her beach toys and I have been looking for actual bath toys for a while. Last year, I vowed to support more local businesses and not just during Christmas time but throughout the whole year. So instead of going on Amazon, I looked at the local scene first.

QUUT Bath puzzle | Mini Review

I rediscovered The Learning Curve whilst browsing Facebook. Rediscovered because I was already following them but their sponsored ad gave me a nudge. Turns out, they’re a husband and wife team with two kids of their own. Their online toy range is eco-friendly and sustainable – and that’s a big plus for me. I also loved how readily they helped with tips and suggestions according to Beth’s age.

After a little research (I can’t help it) I purchased a QUUT Bath puzzle and so far, Beth loves it. These BPA free puzzles are made of durable yet soft foam, encourage creative play and given they’re puzzles, stimulate fine motor skills: hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and concentration.

If you’d like to see the whole range, this is it: QUUT Bath toys. And HEY, good news! For a limited time, you can get 5% off your purchase 🙂

Use this code: byamandalia5 

Until next time,

Amanda x

Find your brand voice! 7 Questions to get you started.

I can’t help but come back to writing about brand voice and tone. I think mainly because it’s just so essential and yet easily overlooked.

2020 has seen the rise of e-commerce and a further shift towards mobile marketing. Having and maintaining an online presence is now more important than ever. You can take your business much further if you have established your brand voice.

A brand without a voice is like having a latte without the milk. Pointless (albeit doable, apparently, with xanthan gum – but still not the same. You get my drift).

Your tone of voice is what sets you apart from the rest. It’s what makes you different, unique and relatable. 

What is a brand voice? What is tone of voice? Before getting started, learn more about brand tone & voice here ↠ WATCH YOUR TONE!

Now that you know the WHAT and the WHY, let’s get on with the HOW. Answering these questions will help you develop the voice of your brand:

↠ What are your company’s core values?

↠ Who is your audience? Your customers, clients, community?

↠ Which companies or brands do you admire the most?

↠ What 4 adjectives best describe your brand?

↠ Now, describe your brand as if it were a person. What kind of personality would s/he have?

↠ How do you want people to feel when interacting with your brand?

↠ Why you? Why should people choose you over others?

Mailchimp Content Style Guide is one of my favourite style guides, which I hope you will find helpful.

QUICK TIPS

  1. Find your purpose
  2. Be Authentic
  3. Look & listen to your audience
  4. Be consistent across all channels

Amanda x

bBrave AntiBullying Campaign

bBrave is Malta’s first (and only) Anti-Bullying NGO. I’ve been part of the team since 2018 because it’s a cause close to heart. All of us at bBrave are volunteers; each and every one of us do this because we truly believe in what we do.

I set my mind on improving bBrave’s online presence whilst focusing on building a more cohesive brand image and the right voice.

ANTI-BULLYING WEEK CAMPAIGN | NOVEMBER 2020

Tagline: UNITED AGAINST BULLYING

Mission: Anti-bullying awareness & support

Platforms: Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn

Anti-Bullying Week is a yearly one-week event taking place in November.

Bullying doesn’t have an age, so our target audience here was (and still is) quite broad. We aim to reach kids, parents, teachers, employers and employees. The pandemic had me rethink our strategy and pushed mainly for online & mobile.

The objective: spread the anti-bullying message.

The idea: be bold yet simple to get the message across as loudly and as clearly as possible.

Content writing for social media was created in both Maltese and English to maximise our reach.

The Results: 460,000 Reach | 598,000 Impressions | 1K+ New followers

However, we broadened our reach further and made use of traditional media (TV appearances, radio, newspapers) and collaborations with local organisations to get the word out.

The work doesn’t end with this campaign. It’s ongoing and challenging.

Show your support & go follow!

Amanda x

What’s NEW? MADUMA products & a mini-interview.

I have been following @madumamalta right from its birth. I even (and unashamedly) entered a giveaway and actually won. I was stunned; the last time I had won anything was in primary school (back then, I won a plant against a 25c fee. It died a while later).

If you follow MADUMA on Instagram, you know they’ve been hinting at launching new products TODAY. Well, guess what? I’m sharing the news IN THIS POST 😍 Here’s a sneak peak.

But first, let me introduce you to the person behind this much-loved local brand who is super nice and, let me tell you, down to earth. Kimberly takes the time to check in and see whether everything is OK whenever I publish a story featuring the MADUMA products. The last time she did, I asked her for an interview and she said YES 🙌

Photo by Naomi Gradel

We decided to keep it virtual for the sake of everyone’s safety.

I would love to know more about MADUMA. How did it all start?

The idea of MADUMA began when I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree at MCAST. I decided to focus my thesis on the demise of local trades, especially the historically rich floor tiles that you used to find all over Malta. I wanted to create awareness about this beautiful trade and do
my part to preserve Maltese culture. This sparked the idea of combining my two biggest passions, design and fashion, that led to me creating my own fashion label, focusing on the beauty of the Maltese floor tile.

So, tell me, Kimberly. What inspires you?

Whenever I walk into an old house or shop with traditional Maltese floor tiles. But not just that. My inspiration for new colours and ideas derives from exploring new places; especially when I’m on holiday and more relaxed.

I know for a fact that there are many creative people out there with great ideas who are afraid to take the leap. What advice would you give them?

Listen to your gut and just do it, even if people around you don’t believe in you or your idea. Do not let people discourage you from following your dreams, even if these people are the closest to you. If you believe in your idea, that’s all you need.

I have to ask this. What is your favourite MADUMA product (and why)?

It’s hard to pick, I love them all! I think it’s like asking a mother, who is your favourite child? This might be an unfair question, but I think if I really had to pick, it would be the organic cotton t-shirts because they were the first products that started my brand.

You, in three words.

Ambitious, brave, detail-oriented

Something on your bucket list:

To see MADUMA products being sold in brick-mortar shops around our beautiful island.

I’m sure it won’t be too long before you tick that one off your bucket list!

Now, for the good news! MADUMA launches these Maltese-tile inspired and potential stocking fillers today!

☆ Pocket mirrors ☆
★ Magnets ★
☆ Pack of 4 Magnets ☆ (so you can get all patterns if undecided)

Maybe we’ll be seeing other products in these new colours as well? 🤔💙

I’m always looking forward to see what Kimberly comes up with!

Show your support & go follow!

Amanda x

Why I keep photos of my toddler off social media

If you scroll through my Instagram feed or skim through my stories, you will occasionally see my little bee. But never her face.

Before reading this post, know this. This is my personal opinion, and for the record, everyone can do whatever they like. To each, their own. It’s not the first time that I liked a picture a friend of mine shared of her kids.

And as a mum, I know how it feels. My fingers itch to share a story of my toddler and show her insanely cute moments to the world. Her first smile, her first step, her continuous blabbering while we play.

But that’s just it. I don’t want the world to have access to her photos and videos. Her face. Once publicly online, they’re there forever even if you delete them. I have no way of knowing who saved her pictures on their devices.

I pondered on this throughout most of my pregnancy. On the one hand, I wanted to share happy pictures of our little family. On the other, my paranoid side kept kicking in. What if a stranger sees them? How would I feel if her pictures and videos had to fall into the wrong hands? Do I want that nagging feeling of doubt? No, I didn’t.

Unfortunately, it happens. Images, sometimes even retouched, resurface on the Internet. I revolt at the thought alone. But how can you know where the picture of your child is?

I’m quite a private person, so not sharing her pictures didn’t feel like anything out of the norm for me personally. Instead, I got creative. I include her in pictures, always fully clothed and her face never shows. The people closest to me, the ones who matter, see her in real life anyway 😋

She can start her own digital footprint when she comes of age. At least, I hope that when she’s a teenager, she’ll appreciate that I haven’t shared any ’embarrassing’ pictures of her 😅

Are there any parents out there who are on the same wavelength or is it just me?

Until next time
Amanda x

Featured image by https://www.instagram.com/kagrabowska/

Watch your tone!

Finding your brand voice requires more effort than you think. In my first post discussing tone of voice (TOV), I pointed out how some businesses tend to spend all their energy on perfecting their image and not spare a thought for their voice.

For those of you who missed the intro, you can catch up here 👉#TONEOFVOICE

I understand that not everyone is good with words. I see this everyday, everywhere I go. Both offline and online. That is why a TOV guideline will come in handy for your team. Different people, different manners, different ways of communicating. However, your brand must be consistent on all fronts.

The way your brand logo, colours, and fonts are of significance in recognising your name, so are the words you use and most importantly, how you use them.

Think of your voice as your personality. Your tone reflects that personality and sometimes changes depending on the context.

Source: CoSechedule

Both your tone and voice are about expression. An expression of your company’s values. Here, we’re looking at how and what you write rather than following writing rules per se. Mind you, grammar is just as important. I shudder every time I see desert on a restaurant menu.

Quick tip: revise everything before publishing a message or sending material for printing. Have someone else take a look. A fresh pair of eyes can save the day.

Here’s an example of what you might think is a simple greeting. When you’re representing your brand, which one would you go for?

Or, think about this example below:

A. “Thank you for reaching out.”

B. “Hey, thanks for reaching out 🙂”

Phrase A reads more serious than phrase B. The latter reads more easygoing and fun. Different word choice and use of emojis have set a different tone to the same phrase.

Take a look at these Brand Voice Examples:

Starbucks
Mailchimp
Old Spice

Quick tips

  1. Be straightforward and avoid jargon.
  2. Use the active voice and write positively.
  3. The tone of voice needs to reflect your business objective.
  4. If in doubt, read aloud. Is it too humorous? Too formal? Too sassy?
  5. Write all this down & create a guideline.

Why does it matter?

Your tone of voice is what sets you apart from the rest. It’s what makes you different, unique and relatable. It helps in creating an emotional connection with your customers. This familiarity you create is most likely to lead to loyalty and trust.

That’s why having a brand tone of voice matters.

Need help? Let’s talk.

Amanda x

#inthespotlight @Malcolm Gauci

Fashion is not my cup of tea. Those who know me best, know this only too well. Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t follow at all. I do have a couple of friends who are stylists; one of whom has been trying to take me on a shopping spree for months now (you know who you are).

I got in touch with someone whose social media accounts are consistently active and who does not shy away from the camera.

My second guest interview this year is with the greatly talented @Malcolm Gauci.

  • Award-winning fashion stylist
  • Style Influencer

 

While scrolling through his Instagram feed I couldn’t help but wonder how he manages to do what he does. I have known Malcolm for a while now; so we met over a coffee to talk about his world (pre-COVID-19).

Care to tell me more about what you do and how it all started?

I started out as a freelance photo model. There, I learned more about styling and met up with people from the fashion industry. I’ve always been passionate about styling; I guess you can say it comes naturally to me. Still, it’s not something that happened overnight. It takes a lot of hard work. Plus, a lot of people believed in me – and that gives you quite the boost.

At first, I wanted to have a space where I could interact with people and show my work. It’s how I started out on Instagram. Over time, I wanted to show more than just my styling work; I wanted to show them who I am, what I personally wear and connect with my followers even more.

Favourite social media platform?

Instagram. It connects you to a whole world of other people. You can easily find your niche there and can interact very easily.

I personally think that being online all the time can be a bit exhausting. Do you ever feel the need for a digital detox?

Having a full-time job that is completely different from styling and the social media world – that alone is detox enough.  Truth be told, I am sucked into the digital world. Apart from sharing relevant content with my followers, I also love documenting random things.

What does the future of influencer marketing look like in your eyes?

I think that over time, brands will reach out to the less- famous. This is already a thing; they’re called micro-influencers. And, I think having the everyday person as an “ambassador” will be the way forward.

Quick advice you would give someone just starting out? 

Stay true to yourself. If you’re not comfortable doing something that you do not believe in, then don’t do it.

Ok, super quick questions that have nothing to do with anything above. Just for the fun of it. 

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee

Favourite film?

I would have a favourite if I actually made it through the whole film

Would you rather read minds or the future?

The future

One thing you would like to cross off your bucket list?

Be part of Gucci’s creative team

Who or what inspires you?

There isn’t just one thing. I get inspired by random things I come across along the way

Go follow!

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