Just Ride the Seesaw (a surefire way to be happier in your business and your life)

If you scroll the internet you‘ll see article after article of what people believe will make you happy. You will see the philosophers. The meditators. The people who have left their jobs to pursue an anti-nine-to-five career. Those with families and those who travel the world only responsible for themselves. Some wake up early others go to bed late. Others fast once a week and some profess the necessity of three meals a day. No matter what point you take, there will be someone arguing for and against it. Vegetarians and meat-eaters, god-fearing and atheist, republican and democrat – making it harder and harder to know how to live right. You will hear phrases like; if you love your job you will never work a day in your life. You will receive statistics about the hereditary influences of depression and ten supplements to combat its effects. You’ll see social posts about how people didn’t know what true happiness was until they got married, had a child, found their higher power.

'Happy Hour • Tomorrow' is written in multicolored neon letters against a black background.

So the easy question to ask is what makes you happy? Many of us are able to pinpoint moments of happiness. But are we happy enough? If we don’t enjoy work as much as the happy hour afterward, does that mean we are unfulfilled – not doing what we are destined to do? If you are disappointed with your husband or wife, from time to time, does that mean you are in a loveless marriage? If you woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning does that mean you will never find the right side again?

Perhaps we are too caught up in how others think we should feel or even how we think we should feel instead of just feeling. As children, we partook in many activities for the sheer and instantaneous joy of them. I am going to go play on this seesaw – why? Because it makes me feel happy. We simply relished in the act at present, no more, no less. As adults, we tend to ride the seesaw and wish it were a boat or question who we’re riding it with or what happens when we get off of it. Just ride the seesaw. Even if you feel like riding the seesaw is a compromise for something more interesting – that the pure weightlessness you feel when you’re launched above the ground will never take the place of a first-class flight over Paris – ride it, and know that you are likely to be on that plane at some point as well. And even if you never go to France – there will still be a ton of other places you’ll see.

Converging railroads in a desolate landscape.

Do we make compromises in life? Sure. Do plans deviate? Hell yes. But sometimes the compromises we make lead to a substantially better journey and an even greater journey’s end. Some of the plans we make for our life, and want so badly at the time, are made before we have completely matured – and now, as we continue to grow, we will understand that adapting our dreams is not the same as giving up on them. The creativity and interests you hold can be sculpted, altered, and expanded. Sure, you may not have written your great American novel or invented a cure for cancer by thirty, but odds are you have several opportunities in your daily life that allow your talents to shine through – whether at work, with a group of friends, with your significant other, or by yourself. And if you don’t, you’re not trying hard enough.

A good piece of advice for being happy with yourself – with your present and with your future – is to act more like a child while acting less like a child. What do I mean by this? As children we experience some really great raw emotions – we experience wonderment on a regular basis, we are never more excited and more interested in simple pleasures and things then we are as children. As young adults, we are more impressionable, but also more inspirable. But by the same token, we don’t deal with things as well either, sad events feel gloomier and the ways in which we cope with certain types of adversity are not always logical. We are less likely to think about consequences, but in many ways, we are more apt to take rewardable risks, be more honest with ourselves and with others.

Adulthood asks us to think before we act, and respond to any given situation in a socially appropriate manner, but this can sometimes result in feelings of fear, apathy, anger, or depression. However, when I read an article where the writer tells their audience that to fully enjoy life they must abandon all unenjoyable tasks, I have to laugh. I don’t enjoy housework, it doesn’t inspire me, but I do enjoy a clean house. Do I feel more clearheaded when the tasks are complete? Yes. Do I feel more appreciative of the things I have when they are sparkling and organized? Sure. When I feel more appreciative does that better my chances of becoming inspired? Absolutely! Our ever-growing maturity is, in part, based on being able to see a series of moves as you would the win at the end of a chess game – Knowing that these moves will ultimately result in a happier state of being.

A large pile of multicolored puzzle pieces.

As we continue to grow, we must learn to take life less seriously while being more serious about life. We must worry about the right things, and not everything. We must try to see things, all things, with the excitement and possibility that a child would. And if they don’t quite measure up to our expectations, so be it, each experience is worthwhile, both as a single event and as part of a much larger tour de force.

 

The next step in your networking efforts

Here are a few steps you can take in your networking efforts to ensure you’re casting the widest net possible.

Networking is the ultimate way to get to know other people in your industry and learn more about your customer base. However, it can be tough to determine exactly how to continue your efforts after that initial connection. Here are a few steps you can take in your networking efforts to ensure you're casting the widest net possible:

Prepare an elevator pitch
Networking won't be effective if you stumble over your words and fail to make a good impression. Prepare what you're going to say when someone asks what it is that you do or what you're looking to achieve. While you're well aware of what your business is and what your aspirations are, being asked this information right off the bat can be intimidating. Devise a casual, 45-second – give or take – pitch that encompasses the main points of your business. Having this memorized will make you sound prepared and professional.

"Keep in contact with your connections."

Don't leave it at the event
Networking events are incredibly useful, but if you leave all of your knowledge and newfound connections with your business cards and never follow up, you're throwing away opportunities. The most important part of forging relationships​ is to keep in contact with them.

Work It Daily suggests reaching out to your new connections every four to six weeks, whether you're sharing industry information with them or just asking how their new business venture is going. While adding someone new on LinkedIn is great, it's a passive action that won't garner anything substantial in the future if you don't foster the relationship. Regular contact also makes it seem less awkward if one of you has a favor to ask of the other in the future. You would never ask someone you hardly know for career advice, but questions like that will be genuine and natural with someone you've had multiple conversations with. 

Create friendships
Though you shouldn't go to a networking event with the intentions of making friends to go out with on the weekends, you should look to create genuine relationships with your connections. Desperation can be sensed a mile away, and keeping it too professional can come off as disingenuous. You shouldn't hesitate to make casual conversation about anything from pop culture to light details about your life. Don't get too in-depth, but you don't only have to talk about your business!

Once you've connected with people you've met at networking events, don't hesitate to propose meeting up for coffee. In a more casual setting, you'll get to know him or her better and you can determine how you can help each other out.

Crafting Your Award-Winning Company Story

Success in unexpected places

Two mugs of beer with thick foam heads sit adjacent to an almost-empty green bottle and a pile of potato chips against a woodgrain background.I knew these two guys that started a car service in Buffalo, New York – they drove you and your car home after a long night of partying. The whole idea started after several rounds of drinks in a local bar. When it was time to go home, they decided to leave their cars in the parking lot, positioning notes on their windows explaining that they would return tomorrow to move them. After an ungodly cab fare home and another one the following morning, they returned to find the cars gone, placed in the care of a notorious towing company. Another cab ride and several additional fees later they vowed to never let this happen to anyone ever again, spawning the idea for a business that has since made them quite a bit of money.

How did your story begin?

Blank storybook opening on a woodgrain table with the two center pages folded in to look like a heart. A white coffee mugs blurs into the background.So how did you and your employees begin? From the couple that started making cupcakes in their kitchen and now own a major catering service to the small time mechanic that jumpstarted the manufacturing of revolutionary car parts – tales of entrepreneurial success are everywhere, reminding us that everyone has a story. The key is finding yours, and presenting it in a way that speaks resoundingly to your customers.

Writing for your website

If you’re just starting out, a website is an essential tool for weaving that thread. Even before you have a business card in place, a URL must be established for anyone to (a) find you and (b) take you seriously. Without a website, in today’s world, your business does not exist.

Now, the tone of your company may be lighthearted, perhaps even humorous, but this in no way excuses a sloppy web design – you can be fun and professional at the same time. I also want to caution readers, that this article is about brand storytelling and not about the intricacies of search engine optimization. The meat of this particular piece is about how to tell your story and not how to ensure its presentation on page one.

The cinematic qualities of brand storytelling

Moving on…I encourage you to think about the presentation of your company story like a great film. What are the main elements of any cinematic experience?

  • The plot
  • The characters
  • The dialogue
  • The scenes

There are underlying elements to each of these as well, many of which are the determinants between a straight-to-Redbox flop and an Oscar-winning feature. The presentation of your story is dependent upon your characters and your characters are dependent upon your audience’s ability to connect with them. Perhaps, you have decided to create a fictional mascot that somehow intertwines with your company, like the late Joe Camel or the more recent Man of Mayhem featured in State Farm® commercials. Or, you have chosen your actual employees to be the basis for your plot. Either way, the material needs to be relatable – customers must empathize with their plight.

Many businesses, with companies like Apple and Airbnb being among them, have decided to present their story through the eyes of their customers, showcasing the heartfelt and stimulating interactions between their products and those that use them. For this, the dialogue must be naturally engaging; an honest, yet artfully executed representation of how you have improved their lives. This, as mentioned before, does not discount humor as an effective way of presenting this.

Selecting your tone

Whichever tone you choose to present your company narrative, selecting a theme or set of themes is greatly important. What is your company about, what does it represent, and what is your content saying about it? When directors create films, all of the moving pieces are designed to convey central themes, whether it’s love, jealousy, ambition, courage, and so forth. Your company must do this too, from the words you use in your blogs and social media, to the images you present in your catalogs, to the colors you use in your brochures and business cards, and the background music you select for your videos – everything has a distinct purpose.
POV shot shows color swatches, a laptop with a design program selected, a tablet with a corresponding program, and various office products on the desk like colored paperclips, a plant, a calculator, and a colorful arrangement of pencils in a glass.. A pair of hands extend into the shot - one hand holds a cup of coffee and the other works on the computer.Choosing colorful themes

Every choice you make conveys a specific message and with this message there comes a specific set of emotions. Take, for instance, your dialogue. Two words can have very similar definitions but come with either a negative or positive connotation. Two images, although seemingly alike, can evoke very different emotional responses, based on the angle, lighting, and corresponding elements such as text and context. Colors can be representative of specific tones (no pun intended) too, where black and gold can be hues of sophistication, green can be fresh, yellow can be stimulating, blue can be calming, red can be energetic or dangerous, and each, depending on the ways in which they are used, can cause you to feel a certain way. Take the color red, for instance – in one light red can make you think of love, if presented in a different way it can cause you to become agitated or fearful.

Your company arc

Young woman paints a diagram of a colorful brain on a whiteboard.Movies, books, a simple card in the mail from your business, or a brochure that you present at a tradeshow all have something very powerful in common. They can cause people to feel a certain way, actually altering chemicals in the brain and triggering a specific neurological response. This knowledge gives you an edge, it gives you the command to captivate your customers and sway their decisions through direct mail, in-person interactions, and various forms of digital media. Therefore, establishing a distinct voice and story for your brand is a vital component to marketing a successful business. This story must be given a fascinating arc, with a beginning, middle, and an eventual ending that out-rocks your competition. Build the anticipation of your audience with the promise of a feel-good conclusion where each obstacle that your characters’ face are overcome. What helps them to overcome these obstacles? Your products and services.

The end.

Alternative ways to promote your business

While social media and email campaigns are considered common sense at this point, that doesn’t mean this is where you should draw the line when looking to promote your new business. 

All small business owners face tricky marketing challenges. While social media and email campaigns are common sense at this point, that doesn't mean this is where you draw the line when promoting your new business. Here are a few out-of-the-box ideas that will help get the word out:

Hold contests
Leveraging free marketing tools like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are effective options for promoting your brand. But there's only so much you can do on your own, especially if you don't want to invest in sponsored advertisements. Focus on encouraging your followers to spread the word. A great way to promote your business is to hold contests that require followers to share a post to enter. 

To do this, post a photo on Instagram of a new product and tell your followers to share the photo and tag your company in the caption. Each person who shares this image exposes your brand to his or her whole following. This is an especially useful tool for businesses involved in niche markets with a large social media presence, like wedding planning, artisan food or drinks, or cosmetics.

Blogging is a great way to become an informative voice in your industry.Blogging is a great way to become an informative voice in your industry.

Start a blog
Blogging on your company's website is another useful way to market your business, especially if you're able to incorporate your company's goods and services into topics that are shareable to the masses. Become an informative voice in your industry, and you'll drive traffic to your company's website, even if people aren't looking to purchase your goods or services immediately. This gives potential customers the impression that you're a trustworthy entity to do business with in the future.

If your content can loosely tie back to your product without seeming too sales-y, you'll also gain more publicity each time a reader shares your blog posts with members of his or her online network, especially if you utilize search engine optimization.

Use your business cards
 Business cards may seem like an old-school method of marketing, but there are plenty of ways to bring them into the 21st century. Of course, you can bring business cards to other storefronts in your neighborhood for promotion. However,  the best way to get people to pay attention is to give your card another purpose. Entrepreneur suggests using your business card as an event ticket, note card or sticker. Add an even bigger impact by having your business card's function coincide with what your company does. Get creative in a variety of ways. For example, if you run a publishing house or bookstore, print your business information on a bookmark. If you own a hair salon, a comb with your contact information would be fun and functional. Do you make custom artisan candles? Make your business card a book of matches!

Networking as a small business owner

Here’s what each new small business owner should know when beginning to expand his or her network.

In today's professional world, networking is a necessity. With the rise of technology, however, people discount the benefits of getting to know and talk to people in their industry. Through building a network of colleagues, you're not only spreading the word about your business, but you're also gaining valuable insight from people who may have experience in a particular field that you should know more about. However, it can be tough to get out there to start networking if you've never done it before. Here's what each new small business owner should know when beginning to expand his or her network:

Get to know other business owners in your community
Many neighborhoods have a very tight-knit business community. If your store is located in an area with many other independent stores, try holding a mixer for other owners in the area. This way, everyone can get to know one another. Each business owner can benefit from meet his or her neighbors as well, because everyone can band together to to publicize the whole community and cross-promote each other's brands. This could consist of simply hanging fliers for each other's stores in your own, or even working on a collaborative product – like a coffee shop and brewery putting out a partnered drink. Locals will respond positively to this as well.

"People like to work with businesses they're connected with."

You'll learn about new opportunities
When you're keeping in touch with other business owners in the area, you're more likely to know of events before they happen and how you can contribute. If you run a small bakery, for example, you might be able to get a tent at an upcoming street fair. If you run a printing press and another business owner's daughter is getting married, she may be interested in getting her wedding stationery from you. You're far more likely to be suggested for opportunities like this from other colleagues as well if you keep in touch with business owners in your community. People are more likely to work with a business to which they're personally connected. You may even get to know people who can provide you with much-needed services in your personal or professional life!

You can ask questions
Though each industry is different, getting to know the ins and outs of your particular community can be very beneficial for any new business owner. You can learn a lot about your neighborhood's spending habits, like what kind of marketing tactics work best and when foot traffic on the block is heaviest. While you should certainly network with the business owners in your community, you should also branch out a bit to talk to people in other areas who own businesses similar to yours. This way, you can gain valuable insight on both sides of the fence – the local aspect of your business and the consumers of what you produce. 

Are you ready to turn your side gig into a career?

Some people are looking to supplement their income, and others are taking the opportunity to pursue their passions because their full-time current position isn’t as fulfilling as they would like it to be. 

When it comes to bringing in an income, it's no surprise that a large portion of millennials aren't just relying on their 9-5 jobs. According to a recent study from CareerBuilder, though 29 percent of surveyed workers in general have a second job outside of their full-time position, 39 percent of people aged 18-24 do, and 44 percent of 25-34 year olds do. From childcare to blogging, bartending to tutoring, there are a variety of reasons that people work more than one job.

Some people are looking to supplement their income, and others are taking the opportunity to pursue their passions because their full-time current position isn't as fulfilling as they would like it to be. If you work a second job and fall into the latter category, you may have wondered when it's appropriate to turn your side gig into your full-time job. Here's what you should consider:

Can your freelance gig sustain you financially?Can your freelance gig sustain you financially?

Your finances

Do you rely on your side gig to make the bills, or do you use it as supplemental income? If you were to lose your full-time job right now, would your second job bring in enough cash to keep you from dipping into your savings? If you live with a spouse or a partner, is his or her income enough to supplement what you may be lacking in the beginning? These are important things to take into consideration, especially if your side job isn't as lucrative as your full-time job is at the moment. If you aren't making enough money on your second gig right now, think about what it would take in order to bolster that income. If you had more time to dedicate to it – say, 40 extra hours a week – would you have enough work to make up that income gap? Think about what changes you can make in your spending habits to make this as smooth of a transition as possible.

Your time

Are you able to count your spare hours each week on one hand? If you find that every evening you come home from work and dive head-first into your second job, you run the risk of burning out. It's crucial that you really love what you plan on making your new career, or you may begin resenting it when it becomes your primary source of income. Everyone needs some time to decompress, and if you don't have enough time to do that between your two jobs, it might be time to focus on just one – let it be the one you're most passionate about.

On the other hand, your time commitment might be what's prompting you to make a career out of your side gig. If you're considering children and don't want to pay for daycare, it might be beneficial to be able to make your own hours. When you make your own schedule, you will also be more reliable to your clients.

The ABCs of Business Cards

Here is everything you need to know about business cards and how you can make them work for you.

Ordering business cards is simple enough, but you don't want just any piece of paper. As a small business owner, your goals include standing out from the crowd, spreading your company's name and impressing potential clients and partners. Choosing the right custom business card can help. Here is everything you need to know about business card prints and how to make them work for you:

Include Plenty of Information

The perfect business card balances necessary information and simplicity. After all, you want your acquaintances to be able to find your phone number or email without having to search. With that in mind, pair your cards down to a few pieces of information, including:

  • The company's name.
  • Your full name.
  • Your title.
  • Your work phone number.
  • Your work email.
  • Your company's website.
  • Your company's address.

This list combines employee and company information in one card. Most business card templates inherently include fields for this info, so it's difficult to go wrong when ordering your prints.

Two business cards propped up against a wall. Colorful and graphic.Include important information on your business card, along with personal flair.

Design and Layout

While business cards' main function is to give recipients a way to get in touch with your company, they can also draw attention and create a lasting impression. In fact, the design is often just as important as the words you incorporate into it. Here are a few design tips to keep in mind when creating your cards:

Include Your Logo
You created your company logo with care to ensure it reflected your goals, brand image and mission statement. With so much packed into one graphic, it certainly speaks volumes. Include it in your business cards to keep your company front and center.

Consider Images
Photo business cards present you with the opportunity to showcase your company's work. Whether you have a new product or want to share a project you've just finished, you can do so with your business cards. However, make sure you use professional photography – a featured image on the back of your card should be beautiful. Headshots are another use for photo cards. They help the recipient put a name to a face long after your networking event is over.

Don't Forget the Back
The backside of your business card is valuable real estate, so make the most of it. From featuring a company logo to including product photos, there's a lot you can add. Even QR codes have been popular for businesses to print.

Keep it Simple
To reiterate an earlier point, err on the side of simplicity when printing your cards. A beautiful design won't feel cluttered or overwhelming. 

When to Use Them

"Keep a couple of business cards in your wallet at all times."

While you should keep a couple of business cards in your wallet at all times, here are a few occasions that require you to bring a stack:

Business Travel
Regardless of location, if you're traveling for work, you might be faced with an opportunity to give away a card. Pack a few in your carry-on in case you spark a conversation mid-flight.

Conventions and Trade Shows
Even if you don't have a booth, bring business cards to conventions. The whole point of these events is to meet others in the industry, so they're perfect opportunities to make connections.

Business Meetings
Talking to a client? Meeting with a vendor? Bring your cards. They might already be familiar with your company, but existing partners and customers can help spread the word about you. Give them a few cards to hand out to others who might be looking for services like the ones you provide.

When to Update Them

It's time to refresh your business cards when the information is no longer relevant. That could include any of these scenarios:

  • Your company moved locations.
  • You have a new title.
  • Your business rebranded.
  • You have a new email/social media account/phone number.
  • You launched a new product and want to feature it with a photo card.

Social Media Management Tools for Small Businesses

These social media management tools allow you to work on marketing when you want and still get the results you’re after. 

With so many social media platforms available, choosing the right ones for your business and managing all of the accounts takes time. What's more, for your accounts to be effective at driving traffic and interest, you have to know when to post and what kinds of content to share. Sound like a lot to handle? Fortunately, you don't have to do it alone, even if your small business doesn't have dedicated social-media team. These social media management tools allow you to work on marketing when you want and still get the results you're after:

Illustration of a man surrounded by social media icons with text: "For your accounts to be effective at driving traffic and interest, you have to know when to post and what kinds of content to share."Social media can be a strong part of your marketing strategy, especially with these online tools at your disposal.

SproutSocial

SproutSocial aggregates your small business's social media activity into one easy-to-understand management platform. This tool lets you post, plan, track and analyze to better utilize social media.

No matter what platforms your company is on, you want to get your name out there and build an active community. With everything else your small business has to take care of, streamlining the social side of your marketing efforts ensures you spend time on achieving your next goals, not signing in to post.

You can also use Sprout to put out content during high-traffic times when your followers are most likely to see it. Don't let your content go to waste.

Price
Prices range from $59 to $500 a month depending on the size of your business, what features you want and how many users you'll have.

Feedly

Social-media marketing isn't just about promoting your own company. Users are more likely to trust and follow your pages if you share third-party content, like industry news. Keep track of all of your favorite sources and share relevant content on your social channels by using Feedly, an RSS aggregator that makes building your social media presence easier.

Feedly also lets you keep tabs on what others are saying about your company. The tool will send you alerts when your company is mentioned on social media, allowing you to stay up to date on your own growing reputation. Further integrate your social media with the rest of your business by using Feedly in conjunction with other tools.

Price
Feedly Basic is free, but for more advanced tools or users, you can purchase Pro for $5.41 or Team for $18 a month.

ManageFlitter

"Social media requires a serious time commitment."

A time-saver for both individuals and businesses, ManageFlitter makes running a Twitter account a breeze. From allowing you to perform bulk actions to getting you connected with other users, ManageFlitter helps companies make the most of social media. Businesses can also track analytics. To get the best results in your numbers, use this tool to schedule posts during times and days when your audience is most engaged.

Other helpful features this tool offers include alerts when other users mention set keywords and the ability to see who unfollowed you.

Price
ManageFlitter ranges from free (for limited tools) to $49 a month for companies.

Commun.it

Part of running a successful business is maintaining an engaged community, which is why social media is so important. However, you have to be active for your community to thrive. Commun.it helps you do that by allowing you to respond to tweets, identify users who interact with you the most, find others to follow and more. This tool is all about creating strong online relationships that'll help your business grow.

Commun.it is available on major social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook, with Instagram and Pinterest versions to be released soon.

Between the in-depth reporting, user information and scheduling capabilities, Commun.it will save you time and evolve your company's social media presence.

Price
You can create a free account, or choose from a variety of plans geared toward businesses. The top tier runs $139 per month and allows up to 18 users.

Buffer

Social media is a must for most businesses, but it also requires a serious time commitment. Buffer allows you to schedule, publish and analyze all of your social media posts, helping you stay on schedule and make the most of your social channels.

Additionally, Buffer allows users to coordinate with their teams to stay on top of their cohesive social-media strategy. Use the analytics reporting to make smarter marketing decisions and reach your target market.

Price
Small companies can purchase a subscription to Buffer for $10 a month. However, for more users and features, check out the Business and Enterprise plans, which cost $99-$399 and $898 a month, respectively.

From scheduling posts to watching industry news to tracking analytics, these tools help you make the most of social media. Use them to grow your marketing strategy and drive new business to your company, not to mention build a loyal following of existing customers.

Graphic Design Software for Small Businesses and Startups

From posting to social media to enriching your marketing content, graphics are essential elements for every business. These online tools will help you create visual content.

You might not have the resources to have a graphic designer on staff, but that doesn't mean your image needs disappear. From posting to social media to enriching your marketing content, graphics are essential elements for every business – after all, people are drawn to well-made images. Fortunately, you don't have to hire a designer right now. Save your money and instead start by using these affordable graphic design software solutions:

Illustration of hand using computer mouse and a monitor with a pencil on it, with text: "From posting to social media to enriching your marketing content, graphics are essential elements for every business."Well-designed images can enhance your company's online presence.

Pablo by Buffer: Free

Increasingly, social media is a visual environment, which means users are more likely to engage with image-based content. With this tool, you can create fun and appealing social graphics in under 30 seconds! Choose from stock photos or your own images, and then add your own text or logo.

This simple tool can help you elevate your social media-marketing strategy so you can increase follows and user interaction.

Price
Pablo is free to use.

Canva: Free

Canva is a free graphic design tool that lets you upload your own images and assets or use the ones provided to create custom and contemporary graphics that enhance your social media, web design and content marketing. Millions of images, thousands of layouts and hundreds of fonts will all be at your creative disposal.

Layout templates allow you to create targeted graphics best suited for specific platforms. For example, you can create tall images for Pinterest or square ones for Instagram.

Once you're done, simply pay for any upgrades you use and download the file onto your computer to implement however your company sees fit.

Price
Canva lets you create a free profile and grants access to an array of free elements, but you will pay extra for certain, monetized assets.

Squarespace Logo

"Social media has become a visual environment."

Another product from Squarespace, this logo designer allows businesses to create their brand image. It's best for doing what the name implies: designing logos. You can select icons, type text and use the editor to move elements into positions you like. Squarespace Logo also lets you see how the image will appear on business cards and T-shirts before you finalize it.

Price
This tool is free for Squarespace customers. Non-customers pay $10 per image.

PicMonkey

This simple tool was designed for individuals who do not have a background in graphics, making it ideal for budding businesses. With PicMonkey, you can edit photos, create custom graphics and more with just a few clicks.

Add filters, clean up blemishes, insert text and texture, and bring it all together with a theme. The easy-to-use editor lets you enhance your marketing and social media assets at little to no cost.

Price
PicMonkey is free for basic tools, but costs $3.33 per month for one year of the Royale package. Or, pay $4.99 per month for the Royale package without required one-year contract.

Freebbble

With Freebbble, you can find thousands of free design resources made by Dribble users. Browse by background, template, illustration, mock-up and many other design elements to find what you need to take your website from "ho-hum" to "wow!"

You'll find tons of designs, from social media icons to labels to packaging to app skins. Use these beautiful resources to help your business stand out visually, whether you're creating labels or building a new website.

Freebbble is ideal for users who plan to do some of their own design work but want to take the hassle and time out of creating individual assets. Simply plug Freebbble features into your own designs.

Price
Freeb​bble costs $10 to $25 depending on the package you purchase and how long you want access. Some items cost extra while others are available free of charge.

Pixlr

Make your images even cooler with this free photo editor. With more than 2 million combinations of free effects, overlays and filters, you can ensure no one will ignore your photos. Plus, once edited, you can load photos directly to a number of social networks, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

Pixlr will feel familiar to Photoshop users, as it features tools like the lasso, stamp and gradient creator. As such, Pixlr gives you more control over your image creation than many other free online software options.

Pixlr is available both on both mobile and desktop, allowing you to create marketing materials wherever you are.

Price
Pixlr comes in a range of prices, from free to $14.99 a month, depending on which version and what tools you want for your business.

With appealing logos, social-media images and website graphics, you can create a brand that's polished and trusted. These tools help you establish visual elements with ease, saving you both time and money. 

Collaboration and project management tools for small business teams

Brainstorming with team members who might be working from home or sending files to everyone at once can be easy with the right tools. Here are apps to get you started.

Sharing files, communicating with your co-workers, checking on progress or just telling jokes to make the day a little brighter: These are all parts of the modern office. Brainstorming with team members who might be working from home or sending files to everyone at once can be easy with the right tools. From project management to collaboration, creating a seamless team dynamic can help get the job done well. Here are apps to get you started:

Illustration of co-workers talking with text: "Sharing files, communicating with your co-workers, checking on progress or just telling jokes: These are all parts of the modern office."Project-management tools can help small businesses stay organized and collaborate effectively.

Germ.io: Free

Move through the brainstorming to realization phase seamlessly with germ.io. The software allows teams to log ideas and thoughts, break them down into next steps, act and reflect – all with a sophisticated and appealing UI. No matter what you're workshopping, be it a business plan or product, germ.io will take you through the process in a way that leads to better, more achievable outcomes.

This tool comes with templates for a number of project types so you don't have to brainstorm without support. Germ.io is also ideal for task management and project planning.

Price
Germ.io is free to use.

Witkit

Need a place to safely store files and collaborate with peers? Witkit is designed with communication, brainstorming, storage and management in mind. The platform offers end-to-end encryption so you never have to worry about the safety of your company's confidential information.

With access available on multiple platforms, including mobile and web, your team can stay connected, whether they're on the go or in the office.

Price
Witkit offers a free trial, but for more in-depth pricing and packages designed for your business, contact the company.

Producteev: Free

Comprehensive project management allows your team to stay on top of deadlines, communicate updates and ideas, and know what's happening across the company. Producteev

"Comprehensive project management allows your team to stay on top of deadlines"

​ makes project management a breeze, with shared to-do lists, intuitive labeling and assigning systems, and messaging. You can even set deadlines, add subtasks and have different employees follow projects they're working on. Sort through all of your tasks using different filters, such as late or upcoming deadlines.

Producteev provides control across numerous platforms, including iOS, Android and desktop.

Price
Producteev offers a free account with unlimited users, projects and tasks. It has all of the features that make the tool a must-have for project management. However, for customization and personalized, 24-hour support, companies can purchase the Pro subscription for $99 a month.

Slack

This team-centric messaging tool allows you to connect with everyone in your company. Users can instantly message each other individually or reach out to everyone involved in a project. Channels for specific assignments or teams connect users, giving them space to plan and brainstorm.

The tool can be accessed online or via mobile devices, and users can set alerts so they never miss important information. Just turn on Slack notifications so you can see what your colleagues are up to even when your app or browser isn't open.

Slack also allows you to connect with other online tools you already use, such as Twitter, Dropbox, Google Drive and Mailchimp, among others. And it's not just about chatting at the office; Slack allows you to share files, whether they're design documents or images. Simply drag and drop them into the conversation.

Price
Slack's free version has limited storage and capabilities, so if your company needs a little extra, check out the paid subscriptions. These range in price from $6.67 per user per month to $32 per user per month.

Project management and collaboration tools save your team time and energy. Try one (or all) of these apps to get the ideation train rolling.