Two of My Small Business Essentials

Two small business essentials

We made it! This week felt simultaneously quick and long…regardless, I’m excited to get out of town for a couple days this afternoon! We’re kind of in the midst of a lot of travel (like, out of town for six out of nine weekends) and are heading down towards Charlottesville this afternoon for some skiing. The bad news is that there’s a 100% chance of rain and temperatures are supposed to be in the 50s-60s…ideal skiing conditions!! #ugh. Regardless, we’ll be with some of our besties and close to some of the best wineries in the area, so it’s tough to complain. Hope you all have a great one and if you’re in the path of the midwest storm, stay safe and warm!

Today’s post will hopefully be a resource to fellow small business owners and an interesting read for those who are simply curious about what goes on behind the scenes of running a small biz. As you may remember me mentioning a few months ago, I have a couple of freelance clients (for design + marketing work) and have also been working under the wing of Victoria, who is sure to be one of the most talented designers you’ve ever encountered. She’s also a boss b*tch when it comes to running her own business, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be learning a lot from her. Our time together has also helped me figure out a shortlist of resources that are not only essential to running my own business, but make a lot of the necessary admin work a lot easier to manage. Admin and client management are such a large part of what often just seems like content creation (so when you’re designing something, you actually spend only a small portion of time designing and the rest of the time on the admin/client management side of things) that finding ways to increase efficiency is a necessity.

So today, I’m sharing two resources that have made my life much easier over the past few months. Hopefully they’ll help you (or a friend who you know may benefit!) as much as they’ve helped me!


Victoria told me about the time tracker software Toggl a few months ago after hearing about my barebones timekeeping process, which consisted of recording my start and end times of a project in a Numbers (Mac’s version of Excel) spreadsheet. Not only was “my process” inefficient in terms of physically tracking time, but it was tough to break down how much time was spent on each project (vs. just each client) and given that I’m hopeless with building my own formula-based tables, graphs, etc., it’s nice that the app creates summary reports that can be sorted by days, weeks, months, and years. You literally click one button and it starts recording time, and you can create “Clients” and “Projects” and select them to associate with a chunk of recorded time. There are a bunch of other features that I haven’t even looked at, but if you’re looking for a way to track your time–whether you’re at your 9-5 and curious how much time you’re spending on particular tasks, or if you’re in a similar position with tracking client time–I really can’t recommend Toggl enough. Oh, and the basic plan is free!

Contracts for Creatives

So, it seems like a no-brainer that every small business owner should be aware of legal implications related to his or her work. When it comes to contracts and protecting yourself, blogging is funny because it doesn’t necessarily prompt you to formulate a contract or binding agreement as soon as you start working with brands…honestly, I don’t know anyone who went into their first collaboration with a set of written terms. But you hear it all the time–it’s really important to protect yourself. I remember a couple of years ago, when I worked with a hotel for the first time, what they were providing in exchange for a blog post + social media coverage seemed too good to be true (spoiler alert: it wasn’t, not even close, but still a great, mutual collaboration!). I remember Googling “how to write a contract,” drawing up the most barebones, one page document, and sending it to a more experienced blogger friend in a panic asking her to review it. The hotel signed the document and even though it felt like the most ridiculous thing, I can’t tell you how much more at ease I felt going into that trip and producing content surrounding my stay.

Since I’ve had this blog for a few years and have been fortunate enough to have some more collaborations come my way–coupled with my aforementioned freelance work–it became a goal of mine last year to prioritize getting myself a properly constructed contract created by a legal professional who understood the type of work I do. Thankfully, my good friend (and fellow blogger!) Ashlee happens to be an attorney by trade, and recently started her own business to help creatives with their legal needs. After we started working together on my contract (read: I provided Ashlee with background on what I was looking for, and she did all the heavy lifting), I kicked myself for putting this off for so long…the process (on my end) was so insanely simple. I literally sent her an email with context around the types of contract I was looking for–one was a catchall for blog collaborations, and the other was a catchall for freelance clients–and Ashlee assured me that a template would work for both and I’d easily be able to update the contents on a client-by-client basis.

Essentially, if you have a business of some sort, get.a.contract. It’s worth the investment, and Ashlee’s rates are very, very reasonable. If you think about the costs (both monetarily and emotionally) of a potential lawsuit, it quickly becomes apparent that getting ahead of things with your own legal paperwork is 100% the move. It sort of feels like health insurance for your biz :)


If you’re a small biz owner (and blogging does count!), I’d be curious to hear about things you rely on or have discovered lately…the best way to learn the tricks of the trade is from others!

PS: Five blogging tools I love.

Background via Spoonflower

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  1. Debbie wrote:

    I love Toggl! My small in house legal department has been using it for several years. It’s totally worth it, we use the paid version. The reports and ability to analyze are so useful! They even came and visited with us from Estonia once when they came to LA to check in with us. Great tool!

    Posted 2.9.18 Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      Love!! That’s so cool they came to visit (I had no idea they were based in Estonia!)–clearly a good way to have a customer for life :)

      Posted 2.12.18 Reply
  2. katie wrote:

    Ah good to know about Toggl! We use Harvest at work to bill our hours and it sounds like a very similar product. You know I absolutely love Contracts for Creatives!

    ​xx katie // a touch of teal

    Posted 2.11.18 Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      Oh I’ve heard good things about Harvest, too! Ashlee is da BEST.

      Posted 2.12.18 Reply
  3. Ashlee wrote:

    THANK YOU for including my business! So happy to be able to help!


    Posted 2.20.18 Reply