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#19: Ways to Streamline your Admin Work in your Furniture Painting and Refinishing Business

Updated: Nov 6, 2022

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees. I hope you’re doing well, feeling calm and organized and like you have everything completed off of your To Do list, with a freshly cleaned and immaculate home, and you’re well-fed with a healthy, nourishing meal in your body, you’ve gotten the chance to move your body today and get some time to stretch and relax and rejuvenate…. Juuust kidding. I mean, if that is the case and you can tick all of those boxes, then truly, a BIG kudos to you, that’s amazing and that is the goal.

However, if you started laughing and rolling your eyes by the time I said “have everything completed off of your To Do list”... don’t worry, I’m right there with ya!

It’s not easy keeping up all of the time, and sometimes, any of the time. I don’t even have kids or pets yet, but I know for me that it’s a constant battle to have a stocked kitchen, cook and eat meals that I know are good for my body, move my body, keep a tidy and organized house, spend time with my loved ones, keep up with paying the bills and remembering appointments and completing paperwork for this that and the other thing. And that doesn’t even start to look at my business that I’m trying to run and make successful– with bookkeeping, high level planning, content planning, content creation, pitching sponsorships and partnerships, organizing and planning custom projects, working on custom pieces and planning and executing and posting and selling my own designs. Just to name a few things. Oh, and planning and going on a couple of vacations… that’s much more fun than the rest, but still requires some brain power and planning and laundry and things like that. So, safe to say, whatever our circumstances may be, we all have a LOT on our plates at any given time.

*exhale* Wow, it really does feel like a lot once you start going through it like that, doesn’t it? And I know if you’re a parent to a human baby or fur baby, you’ve got about twenty thousand extra things added on top of that. So let’s just take a second here and do a little box breathing because I don’t want us going into this episode all hopped up on stress and anxiety.

Let’s take a deep breath in for 4… 1… 2… 3… 4…

Now hold for 4… 1… 2… 3… 4…

Now exhale for 4… 1… 2… 3… 4…

If you need to, feel free to pause here and go back and do a couple more of those. It’s scientifically proven to chill you out and I try and do it whenever I start to notice myself spiralling or my heartbeat starting to race to knock me out of it.

But, not to fear! Life is busy and if you’re either a part-time or full-time furniture refinisher and painter who has made their business official, you know you have a lot of things that go into the business. But I want to help ease some of those tasks and help you to streamline some of the administrative side of the work, because I know we all prefer to be out in our workshop doing what we love most, and not stuck behind a computer filling out endless lists and trying to remember what the hell we were supposed to be doing.

And if you’re someone who hasn’t turned your furniture refinishing into a business at this point in time.. No worries! I think you’ll still get a lot of value out of this episode and some ways you can apply the approaches and tactics we’ll be talking about today to your life more generally or in other sectors.

However, I will say, if you are someone who has had the thought that you might want to try officially having a business selling your furniture makeovers, you are in the right place, my friend. I came from the world of social work and victimology so I had absolutely no idea what to do when I decided I wanted to start a business doing furniture painting and refinishing– so if that’s you and you’re like, what am I supposed to be doing and how does this all work– I got you!

I put together a free guide and checklist for starting your own furniture refinishing business so you can get started today, and follow a step-by-step road map so you don’t miss anything important. I also recommend this for anyone who found themselves unexpectedly running a business selling their refinished furniture, because that’s often what happens, you do a couple pieces for your own home then do some for friends then get convinced to sell them and then BAM! You’re a business owner and you didn’t even know it. So if that is you, I also think you’ll really benefit from this guide and checklist to help you make sure you’ve ticked all of the boxes and aren’t missing anything you ought to be implementing. So check out the show notes of today’s episode for the link or go to my website to download the free guide and checklist today, and let’s get you started on the right foot!

Alright, so now let’s talk admin work. Some people love it, some hate it.. Depending on the day, I fall somewhere in the middle. I really enjoy getting into the state of flow some days and whipping out a bunch of stuff, but it really does take some intentionality for me to get into that state to do it, so it probably doesn’t happen as often as it should. But since I picked up on that early on in my journey in business, I decided that I was going to take some time upfront to streamline some things and create some systems to help my future self out, so that I wouldn’t have to spend so much time glued to the computer working on things that take more time than they need to.

And, as a side note, if you find you have a mind that wanders or gets easily distracted when you sit down to do this kind of work, here’s some things that I have found that help me:

  • Sitting somewhere intentional for working instead of where I usually sit when I’m playing on my phone or watching TV so my brain knows that it’s work time

  • Wearing my AirPods with brown noise playing - there’s other types of concentration music you can find, but I have found that this is the one that turns my brain off of distraction mode the best and helps me really focus. That or the Mario Kart soundtrack, funnily enough.

  • Make sure you have everything you need when you sit down - if your feet tend to get cold when you sit for long periods of time like me, make sure you’re wearing slippers. Have a coffee and a water bottle beside you. Maybe some lip chap. I play with my hair incessantly, so I make sure it’s up in a bun where I can’t mess around with it and get distracted.

  • And finally, and most importantly… leave your phone in another room. And make sure your AirPods aren’t set up to announce notifications. You’ll survive, I promise. And I guarantee you’ll get FAR more accomplished than you would have otherwise with it sitting screen-up beside you.

Okay, so the big overarching theme of what you want to do to streamline your admin work in your business is to set up systems, simple systems, and maintain them at regular intervals. And when I say systems, I don’t just mean that we are going to find a software or website or some other sort of tool for every single thing we have to do.. Because that’s just as chaotic as our lives already are, it just means that it would now be chaotic online.

You want to look into systems that would be able to do multiple things at once, so that there are only a couple of places you would go looking when you needed something or needed to complete one of these tasks. One of these systems I have set up is Google Drive, which is essentially where I house anything business-related whether it be things for the podcast, any contracts, client testimonials and photos, my goal planning, any engagement spreadsheets I maintain, my media kit, personal development resources I’ve acquired during my learning, and SOPs (standard operating procedures) so if and when I can hire on employees one day, I’ll already have it written out how I do any of the big tasks that I complete on repeat week to week. It’s great to have everything in one place and it’s very organized into a folder hierarchy system that I actively maintain when I am adding new documents or photos so I will always know where things are when I need them.

Another system I have implemented since the day I went official in my business is using QuickBooks. I use QuickBooks Self Employed and it has been an awesome one-stop shop to keep track of all of my income, expenses, mileage, and project estimates and invoices all in one spot. It has a free trial but it is a paid service, I think at full price I pay like $11 a month. And I believe in it so much that I actually applied to be an affiliate with QuickBooks so I do have a code if you’re interested in trying it out for yourself and seeing how it works, click here to get 30% off your first 6 months. I like using it not only because it keeps all of these things in one place, but as someone who files their own taxes using tax software, QuickBooks makes it so easy because as you file your expenses, you categorize them appropriately and then at tax time, the software can spit out your accumulated totals for each expense category making it super easy to file. Last year was my first year filing for my business and let me tell you, I was shoooook at how easy it ended up being because I had the foresight to set this up right away and maintain it throughout the year. So again, feel free to use the link, but even if you don’t want to choose this program exactly, I definitely recommend you find one that works for you, your budget, and that is easy to use for you because that is what is going to make it much more sustainable to upkeep throughout the year.

Along with this, I recommend you have a system for keeping track of your paper receipts so that you don’t lose the hardcopy because if you ever get audited, you will need this handy. The system does not have to be fancy, if I’m being honest, I just put all of the receipts from each calendar year into a freezer bag with the year written on it in Sharpie. Quick, easy, to the point, and makes it compact for storing longer-term. I also recommend you track your income as it is received, and don’t assume that you’ll remember to go back and input it all when you input your expenses (if you don’t do that in real time), because more than likely, since there probably isn’t actually a bill of sale that you’re physically hanging onto, you might end up losing track of some transactions and then your books will be off.

In terms of tracking your receipts and expenses, like I said, you can totally do that in real time if that is the most efficient way for you to do it and you find it easier to just have one or two to track at a time instead of stock piling them for a certain amount of time before you add them into your system. Personally, I find the stockpiling method– with a set timeline– the most efficient way for me to streamline this task. It takes me a little bit of time to get into the groove and get into the state of flow where I can whip them out pretty quickly and am not getting distracted while doing so, so this works great for me. I used to try to do it once per week so it wasn’t a whole lot that I was going at once… now it’s more like once per month, maybe even a little less frequently than that at times depending how busy things are. But the more I book that time deliberately into my calendar and just get it done, the more I thank myself later.

This approach is an effective example of my next tip for streamlining your administrative work in your business: block off a specific block of time, for me it’s the morning of the 1st of every month, and do only admin work in that timeblock. It’s hard for our brains to switch willy nilly from focused, detail-oriented admin work and number inputting and things like that to strategic, creative, high-level thinking or planning. So tracking a few expenses and then hopping over to planning out your goals for the next quarter immediately after might not be the most efficient thing to do.

I timeblock the morning of the 1st of the month, and sometimes I only need an hour or two of that time. Even better! But at least I know that I have the time allocated to get these things done. During that time, I will track any of the outstanding paper and digital receipts and expenses I have that have not yet made their way to the freezer bag for the year. I’ll also fill in my Content Planner notebook and take note of my follower count on my social media platforms because I like to keep a record to see how and if I’m growing, plus I fill in how many times I posted on each platform in that same notebook, if I accomplished the monthly goals that I have set, and I get the page for the following month set up and write out the goals for that month based on where I’m at.

I’ve used The Content Planner for the last couple years and as someone who really enjoys using a pen and paper approach but often turns to technology since it’s typically more quick and streamlined, I love that this is one “old school” thing that I have kept. It’s great because it gives me a chance to unplug from technology so I’m not just constantly staring at a screen as I work on business-related things, and it’s something more tangible that I can turn to and look back on to see how I’ve grown. Sometime in an upcoming episode, I would love to go back and look at my numbers from when I first started using my first Content Planner, because I think that could be very motivating to others that it can be a slow burn as you grow and you can still hit those higher numbers over time.

The last big thing I complete during this time are two spreadsheets that I’ve put together to monitor my social content analytics. Once I input the data into these spreadsheets, it calculates my engagement rates (using two different formulas) on Instagram and Tiktok for the month, I can keep a record of things like the amount of accounts I reached that month, how many interactions I’m getting on posts, which posts performed best, and then I do an analysis of those posts and why they performed better than the others so that I can ideally keep those elements in mind as I plan out future content. Based on the outcome of these spreadsheets, I may also use this time to update my media kit if there has been any drastic changes in the numbers on there that I should reflect when pitching brands.

And if you’re someone listening to this who has a furniture painting and refinishing business and you’re like, what the fuck, I don’t know what any of those things are and I don’t do those things and should I be doing those things and I’m totally lost… don’t worry! Those items are part of my content strategy and are elements of my business because I aim to be able to partner with brands and other creators that align with me, my business and my values to add a revenue stream into my business. And knowing the numbers is a part of that. But if you’re just here to sell some pretty painted pieces, fret not, you’re doing everything you need to be as long as you’re tracking income and expenses and mileage!

My last tip for streamlining your admin work in your furniture upcycling business is one that might sting a little, so brace yourself. You need to get your inbox under control, babes. I’m sorry to say it, but I think you know it anyways.

Listen. I like to say that I work from a Functional Zero inbox by the end of the day. That’s manageable for me, because I decided that was going to be my approach early on and I’ve maintained it for the most part. When I didn’t maintain it as well, I would block off time to specifically work on getting it back there. What I mean by Functional Zero is that my inbox isn’t typically actually sitting at zero unread messages, however, any unread message in there is something that I’m waiting to action. So I don’t have any promotional emails, anything urgent or anything else in there. If a client is contacting me, I’m doing my darndest to get back to them that same day. If I have emails from other businesses or creators that I’m on the mailing list of and I want to read their message, I’ll usually do it in the moment (or at least a quick scan), or sometimes, if there’s just a lot going on, I’ll just Mark as Read. But dear God, please don’t just leave it unread and let that number rise and rise and rise and say stuff like “oh, those aren’t anything important”. Then girl WHY are they still there - delete them, mark all as read, something. Whether you know it or not, that humongous number beside your inbox is stressing you out and feeling like you haven’t closed a loop– whether it’s subconscious or not. So figure it out.

Another system that I set up that allows me to save things of interest to me that come in through my email but doesn’t clog up my inbox, is creating some folders in my Google Chrome bookmarks bar where I can save applicable and relevant things that I will want to access again. So if I get an email from Amy Porterfield, for example, who is a digital marketer that I admire and I listen to her podcasts and receive her emails, and she shares a resource she has found useful like a tool for email marketing, I’ll open the link to the website. If I don’t have time to navigate it and check it out right now, or if I know that this is a tool that I don’t currently need in my business but would be good to know once I get to another step of my growth in business, I will just save the webpage into my Apps/Tools folder on Chrome for safe keeping. It’s tidy, it’s out of my face, and it means I don’t need to have that email sitting there for months and maybe years before I actually need it.

Or, worse yet, I forget about it all together and then when I get to the point of needing something like said tool, I don’t have any starting point and I’m just randomly Googling trying to find something. So examples of folders that I have created that have quite a few things saved under them include Podcast, Collab Platforms, Books where I save books I want to check out, Apps/Tools, Personal Development, and To Read which is articles or web pages that I want to read but just haven’t gotten the chance to. Super handy and it has helped my inbox out a ton because as a lifelong learner, I love to be able to digest this information and content, but I prefer to do it without it clogging up my life and stressing me out.

And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: If you don’t want to burn out, quit living like you’re on fire.

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!

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