Client Relationships: Management Tools for Creative Entrepreneurs

CRMs for Creative EntrepreneursEmailing prospects.

Following up with retailers after a show.

Tracking who you’ve sent catalogs and samples to in an organized fashion.

These are all good business practices that shouldn’t find you scrounging through old business cards or digging into your inbox. With the right customer relationship management tool, you can do all of these things (and so much more). And many of our favorites have added benefits too.

Here, we have a short review of some of the CRMs used by Paper Camp alumni, and resources we’ve found to really help you have positive client communications and relationships.


Podio is one of the more popular CRMs favored by our alums. It’s a project management system and contact management system rolled into one.

From a CRM standpoint, Podio allows you to track clients, their purchases, add notes and upload files to company profiles or specific contacts. When you send a retailer a catalog and a few samples, you can mark it for follow-up in a few weeks.

For project management, Podio enables you to create systems and project workflows for things like order fulfillment and other internal processes. Everyone on your team can see what tasks have been completed and what items still need to be tackled.

Depending on the level you choose, you can create visual reports, sync contacts with other tools, automate your workflow and more. Packages start at $9 a month for the basic plan.


If you like to keep your contacts in your inbox, Insightly is a free tool that integrates with a number of accounting and business tools. Track leads, enter notes, create projects and milestones, know where a potential customer is in your sales funnel.

Additional benefits are available in paid versions of this tool, which starts at $12 a month per user.

FreshBooks & QuickBooks

FreshBooks and QuickBooks are both accounting programs, but they’re also handy for maintaining your customer lists and notes. You can also track revenue by client so you know which clients order more frequently and who places the highest volume orders.

If you’re doing custom work or collaborations, these tools also offer time tracking and reporting systems for revenue and expenses by project. Added bonus: Many accountants prefer QuickBooks for bookkeeping and organizing your finances for taxes. QuickBooks and Freshbooks are easy to use if you’re doing your own bookkeeping and taxes too.


While Postable isn’t a CRM service, they sure make it easy to build strong relationships with clients through snail mail. Their address book feature makes it easy to manage your mailing list and ensure your contact list is up-to-date. Simply send your contacts a link requesting their physical address and Postable will collect and/or update them in your address book for you.

You can also request birthdays of your contacts and Postable will send you a reminder so you can choose a card, type a message and they’ll print and send it for you. It’s a great resource for staying connected to your personal and business contacts. You can also export the list and move it to a full CRM at any time.

Whichever direction you decide to go, we recommend choosing something that helps keep you organized and efficient. We don’t know what we’d do without our own systems!

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By |January 24th, 2017|0 Comments|

Booth Brainstorm: Signage

Booth Brainstorm: SignageThe sign you hang in your tradeshow booth is your “address” for the show. It’s how people find you and it’s up to you to make sure that you’re easy to find!

There are a lot of options when it comes to signage and we encourage you to weigh several considerations when choosing:

  • How much does it cost?
  • Is it easy to transport?
  • Is it easy to install?
  • Can I reuse it?
  • Does it match my brand aesthetic?

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular signage options and their pro’s and con’s to help you as you make the best decisions for your business.


Cut vinyl is, by far, the most popular signage option for several reasons. It’s cost-effective, easy to transport and install and it comes in several colors so you can match your branding. Because it’s inexpensive, we recommend ordering a few extra duplicate pieces so you can practice installing it at home and have a back-up at your show.

The downside to vinyl is that it’s one and done. Once you install it, you can’t remove it and reapply it somewhere else. If you’re looking for something you can use for multiple shows, this isn’t the signage for you. But vinyl is a great option for elements that change over time, like your booth number, reps wanted or even the names of your product categories.

Pro Tip: Check your vinyl when it arrives to make sure it’s the right color and style. Don’t wait until the show.

Wood or Acrylic

Wood and acrylic signs look great and can be customized to your brand style and colors. These signs are sturdy when transporting and can be easy to hang. If the sign is large, you’ll want to consider shipping it and factor in more time for installation.

The biggest downside to wood or acrylic signs is the cost. These types of signs are a larger investment, so you’ll want to use it for signage that will have a larger lifespan; your logo, for example. You may not want to use it for things like your booth number, which changes every year.

The best part about wooden or acrylic signs is that you can reuse them at future tradeshows, craft shows or hung in your office, which saves you money in the long run.

Fabric Banner

A mid-level sign, the fabric banner is relatively inexpensive and can also be used multiple times before the wear begs for a new one. Being made of fabric, the banner is lighter than most, travels easily and is quick to display just about anywhere.

The drawback with fabric banners is that fire code requires that it be fireproofed, an extra step you have to go through to be up to standards.

Aisle Signs

While not allowed at every tradeshow (check the guidelines first), an aisle sign is an additional sign placed in the aisle of the show, hanging off your booth wall. It draws more attention to your booth than just the sign at your booth, increasing foot traffic as potential customers and partners wander the show.

Of course, because this would be an additional sign, there’s an added cost involved. Consider going a more conservative route on sign style for this secondary sign.

Your booth signage is just one thing to consider when budgeting for your next tradeshow. Keep your eyes peeled as we help you brainstorm other costs in future Booth Brainstorm posts. And for budgeting help on your booth, grab our budgeting worksheet.


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By |January 17th, 2017|0 Comments|

How to Time Your New Product Releases

Timing New Product ReleasesCreating new products and tinkering with new design ideas is why many of you went into business. It’s the draw of the creative process. You love to brainstorm, create and then create some more. And it keeps your business exciting and alive—for you and for your bank account.

Releasing these new products is your ticket to business growth. It sets you apart from the competition and shows retailers that you’re serious about your business and your product line. But it’s important to realize that timing is a major factor with new releases, particularly when you’re selling wholesale.

At Paper Camp, we talk a lot about scheduling and timing, but we’ll give you the quick and dirty version here.


It’s important to recognize that the wholesale buying cycle is very different than retail buying schedules. Retailers are buying product months in advance of the season.

For example, holiday cards should be ready by May; love and Valentine’s Day cards should be ready by October. And calendars and planners need to be ready for market a whole year in advance. Buyers are currently looking at 2018 calendars and planners and we’re not even a month into 2017!

If you’re late to market, you’ll miss out on sales. So know your production timelines and work backward from your intended release date to make sure your products are ready. Knowing and abiding by these wholesale buying cycles will enable you to maximize your sales and ensure you’re not leaving money on the table.


In an ideal world, we’d like you to release new products three to four times a year. Most companies new to wholesale release products once a year, commonly in May to coincide with the National Stationery Show. If this is you, don’t stress. You’re not alone! But make it a priority to add more frequent releases throughout the year. It will be worth it, we promise.


Buyers want to see that you’re serious about developing your product line. Paying attention to buying cycles and releasing new cards are two positive ways to get their attention.

Samantha Finigan of Gus & Ruby has told us, “We love longstanding partnerships and are committed to developing strong relationships with our vendors, but we do expect commitment from them to continuing to develop their line and keep us interested.”

We’ve heard repeatedly from retailers that they’re more likely to place reorders with manufacturers that release new products regularly.

So know the buying cycles, build out your production schedule and work your way up to three to four release schedules per year. You can also keep our handy sample release schedule guide nearby to keep you on track.

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By |January 10th, 2017|0 Comments|

What to Pack for Paper Camp

Paper CampOur February Paper Camp is filling up fast, and we’ve started getting requests for packing lists. Paper Camp isn’t your traditional industry conference; it’s truly an opportunity to learn and grow your business alongside some of your new best friends.

But to have the best experience possible, you’ll want to be prepared. Use our list of packing tips to make sure you have everything you need.

Product Samples

During camp, you’ll have at least two opportunities to talk one-on-one with a camp speaker. This is a great time to show off some samples, ask follow-up questions after their presentations and get to know industry leaders a bit better. Having samples handy will give you a starting ground to talk about your business and any plans you have down the road. And you can get some great feedback from those who have been in the trenches for a while.

Business Cards

You will meet your new biz bff at Paper Camp. We’re sure of it. And you may even meet a new collaboration partner or two. No matter who you’re connecting with, you’ll want to stay in touch. Bring a stack of business cards to hand out so you can find one another again, once you get home.


Paper Camp is all about getting you the information you need so you can move your business forward. We know that it’s easy to come up with questions when you’re working your business, but it’s equally easy for forget them when you’re away. Be sure to come to camp with a list of questions ready. Keep them with you during the presentations and when you’re mingling with other attendees and speakers so you can clear up any confusion you have before you pack up to leave.


This is less a “what to bring” and more of a “what you’ll use” while you’re at Camp. You’ll receive a Paper Camp binder, complete with handouts, a quick reference calendar and planning tools, and we’ll also provide you with a notebook to capture all your big ideas and amazing plans. You’ll be armed with a playbook to help you create or refine your wholesale program and prepare for your tradeshows, and be able to plot dates on your calendar.

If you are joining us for Paper Camp, welcome! We can’t wait to dig in. You’ll be joining a stellar list of Paper Camp alumni who are doing amazing things in their businesses. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, what are you waiting for? We’re almost sold out. Sign up today!

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By |January 3rd, 2017|0 Comments|

3 Rules of Processing Wholesale Orders

Wholesale RulesSelling wholesale is a great way to scale your business, but it is a whole different ball game than selling direct to consumers. There are important rules you need to follow when wholesaling, specifically surrounding shipping orders and processing payment. Rules that you may not know when you’re new to wholesale (I didn’t!) but when broken may hurt your relationships with buyers or impact future sales.

If you’ve been hesitant to sell wholesale because you don’t know what to expect or you’ve been unsure how things work, we’re here to help.

It’s time to brush up on some rules for wholesale order processing so you look professional and polished–even if you’re faking it until you make it! We’ve even included a list of 23 wholesale terms you need to know if you’re just starting out. Find the download at the end of this blog!

Ship on the Requested Date

Buyers carefully choose their ship dates based on a variety of factors that you are not privy to: credit card cycles, turn schedules in the store, other orders they have coming in and available storage space. If they request a specific ship date, ship on that day–not a day sooner; not weeks early or late.

But we’re ready early. They’ll love to have my products a week early. Not likely. When you ship, that messes up their schedule and makes you look unprofessional. Stick to your agreed-upon ship date to avoid any issues.

Process Payment When Orders Ship

Charging the buyer’s credit card before the ship date (see above) is a red flag that you’re new to wholesale. Run the payment when the order ships, and send your customer the shipping details so they know the order is on the way.

Communicate Clearly

Things happen in business, and your customers understand. But only if you communicate with them to let them know what’s going on. When you run into backordered items or shipping issues, talk to the buyer about what’s going on. If possible, have a solution ready when you communicate so your customer knows you have her best interest at heart.

Creating a profitable, sustainable wholesale program is our main focus at Paper Camp, and one that we talk about often here on the blog. If you haven’t already registered for Paper Camp, we’re almost full. Get your ticket today!

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By |December 27th, 2016|0 Comments|

Beyond Bootcamp: Deciding What to Delegate

Deciding what to delegate

“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” – John C. Maxwell

There comes a time in most businesses when you’ll want to start hiring a team. You simply cannot do it all, and if you want your business to grow, delegating is key.

I recently did a webinar with Heather Crabtree about delegating, where I identified four steps to figuring out what you need to delegate.

Track Your Time

Before you can hire someone, you need to know where you’re currently spending time in your business. Spend a week tracking everything you do—how much time you spend on social media, talking to clients, checking email, engaging with your clients, etc. You can use a time-tracker like Toggl or use a spreadsheet to check off what you are doing throughout the day. It’s up to you how detailed you get, but don’t try to analyze the time just yet. Just track. And as you’re doing this, you may see some habits that you can adjust to save yourself some time (too much social media, maybe?).

Get Organized

Next, you’ll want to organize your time into “buckets.” Create some high-level buckets of where you spend your time—client work, marketing, accounting, administration and even family/personal are good places to start, but feel free to add any others that work for your business. You will use information from your time tracking to help you decide which buckets you need.

Then, within these bigger buckets, try breaking out some of the smaller tasks. In the accounting bucket, you might find bookkeeping, taxes, payroll, invoicing, etc. In the marketing bucket, you’ll find content creation, content scheduling, research, advertising, etc.


Now that you know where you’re spending your time and how those buckets fit together, it’s time to analyze. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What is taking up the most time in your business?
  • Which tasks do you love doing?
  • Which tasks feel like they drain you?
  • Which tasks are revenue-generating?
  • Which tasks do you not need to do yourself?

Keep in mind that what works for one company may not work for yours. Don’t jump on the bandwagon and hire someone for a task just because someone else hired her. You may not need help in that role and she may not be a good fit for your business—through no fault of her own.

Once you’ve determined where you’re spending your time and which tasks you may want on your plate, it’s time to think about bringing people onto your team.


It’s important to hire people who have a specific expertise. You wouldn’t hire a general virtual assistant to take care of your books for you; you’d hire a bookkeeper or an accountant. And you wouldn’t hire a social media manager as a full time employee without first trying her out as a contractor.

Focus on hiring the right people for the right roles in your business to make delegation more comfortable for you and a road to success for your new team members.

I encourage you to watch my free webinar for more on how to delegate. This is the perfect time of year to start thinking about what kind of team members you’ll need so you can hit the ground running at the beginning of the year!

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By |December 20th, 2016|0 Comments|

Pushing the Envelope in 2017

2017As we put the finishing touches on 2016, we’re eyeing 2017. It’s common (and an essential) practice, to start planning out goals and intentions for the coming year.

But what if lists and planning aren’t your forté? What if you’re happy flying by the seat of your pants, and seeing where business takes you?

It’s time for a wake-up call. If you’re looking to grow in 2017, or wanting to stop the wheels from constantly turning (without really going anywhere), it’s time to sit down and really get some goals onto your pretty paper. The only way to be truly profitable is to be more strategic.

Planning in your business can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to plan for an entire year. Taken in smaller chunks, it can be done. And with minimal stress.

Look at the Big Picture

Before you look at some of the little things you’d like to accomplish next year, think about what you want in the bigger picture. Do you want to scale your business and expand? Are you looking to gain more visibility next year? Do you have a big event you’ve been eyeing? Are you interested in expanding your team, bringing on sales reps or collaborating with other brands? Once you know, in the big picture, where most of your energy needs to go, it’s easier to plan smaller chunks of time because everything should be done with the bigger picture in mind.

Start by thinking about what went well last year and what didn’t go quite as planned. That’s a good starting point for finding your big picture for next year. Then think about where you’d like to be (and then stretch it just a bit, for a challenge).

Where Can You Invest Now?

It’s almost the end of the year, which means time is running out to take advantage of tax deductions. If you have a big investment you’ve had your eye on, and you have the funds available, maybe now is the right time to take the leap. Just be sure that whatever you decide to invest in fits into your bigger picture for 2017. And be certain that the numbers add up.

Update Your Systems

One of the biggest hang-ups in business is usually systems. If you don’t have good systems in place, you’re wasting your time backtracking, following up and searching through emails to find that order (that you know you sent out, but need confirmation). Sound familiar?

Systems are hard to nail down, especially for us creative types who don’t always think in a linear manner. But the resources are out there—from email tracking to project management to automated invoicing. All you need to do is figure out where you need the most help and start there.

We only have a few short weeks left before we ring in the new year. Are you ready? Do you have intentional goals written down, ready to tackle? Let me know what they are, and let’s find out how I can support you!

And remember, start small and build up from there. You got this!

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By |December 13th, 2016|0 Comments|

Paper Camp: Your Ticket to Business Growth

Paper CampThe entrepreneurial world can feel very lonely. You’re working on your own, trying to make headway in your business and figuring things out as you go. Sometimes you’re lost. Sometimes you’re jumping for joy. And all the while you feel like you don’t have anyone to share any of it with. But there’s a whole community out there to help you and support you—if you only know the right places to look.

That’s where Paper Camp comes in!

Paper Camp is your go-to resource for all things paper, wholesale and tradeshows. It’s a community of like-minded business owners whose top priority it is to build and grow together to make each business stronger, lifting up the stationery community.

This two-day event is jam-packed with everything you need to know about creating a product line, taking it to market and exhibiting at large-scale wholesale shows. And after two days of action-provoking information, you’ll have a better idea of where you want to go next in your business, along with the tools, resources and confidence to get there.

We don’t believe in reinventing the wheel. And we don’t believe in pitting similar businesses against one another. There’s room for us all in the marketplace, and strategically marketing yourself to the right audience will help your business grow.

At Paper Camp, you’ll learn exactly what you need in your tradeshow booth—including where to splurge and where to pull the reins in. We’ll talk about how to go wholesale with your business and what to look for in a partner. And we’ll wrap it all up with how to market your business and prep your budget and calendar for your next event.

But really, community is what we love to celebrate at Paper Camp. Our panel of experts have been there and done that. And so have many of our attendees, because camp is not just for those new to the business. We all learn and grow together, no matter where you are in business. #alwayslearning

This our 10th Paper Camp conference and we’ve got several fun surprises planned. Early bird pricing ends January 6 and we always sell out, so don’t delay. We can’t wait to see you there! Sign up now!

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By |December 6th, 2016|0 Comments|

Tradeshow Lessons: What to Consider When Budgeting for Your Booth

tradeshow booth budget

Budgeting for a tradeshow can feel like a shot in the dark, especially when you’re a newbie or trying to scale up. We have some experience in the tradeshow realm, working with everyone from side hustlers to experienced pros and everyone in-between. One thing we’ve found across all our students and clients is this: Splurge selectively and skimp elsewhere to stay on-budget.

Tradeshow booths tend to cost more for new stationery makers than seasoned because of the start-up costs involved in creating a booth from scratch. Designing a booth is a lot like a kitchen remodel or planning a wedding; it’s going to take longer and cost more than you expect. Count on it. Average costs for the National Stationery Show is about $7,000 to $10,000, but we’ve seen costs soar to $20,000 or come in at about $5,000.

At the end of the day, you will ultimately decide how you want to invest in and show up for your booth. But as you’re planning, take into account the four booth buckets, as we like to call them: booth, marketing, sales tools and travel/lodging. Here’s what you need to put in each bucket:


A tradeshow booth is essentially a blank canvas, with either white or black curtains hanging from 8-foot pipes. It’s up to you to find décor for your booth that is both on-brand and on-budget. Consider lighting, walls, furniture and displays you’ll use in your booth and opt for “green” items—things you can reuse at the next tradeshow. It may cost you more initially, but you’ll save money in the long run.


Make sure your ideal client knows you’ll be at the tradeshow! Use promotional mailers and flyers leading up to the event to help with this, and send marketing emails to those already on your list. You can also plan for giveaways and gifts during the show, but be sure to include these in-kind items in your budget. An advertisement in the tradeshow promotional materials is also a great way to let your audience know you’re there.

Sales Tools

You participate in a tradeshow so you can make sales—so be prepared! Budget for order forms and catalogs so customers can place an order right at your booth. iPad ordering systems are a streamlined way to receive orders, but keep in mind that you’ll need a hotspot to capture wifi and access to QuickBooks Online, Handshake or Shopify. And don’t forget to add processing fees into your budget.

Travel & Lodging

Travel costs vary widely depending on where the tradeshow is located and how you travel there. If you have frequent flyer miles or points on your credit card, use them to reduce your overall costs. Share a hotel room with an industry friend or check out Airbnb to save on hotel costs. Chances are you won’t be in your room for long, so this is probably a great place to scrimp.

You’ll notice that we don’t include product development in our tradeshow budgets. This is something you should be doing year-found, whether you attend a tradeshow or not. So product development should be part of your general budget, as cost of goods sold or part of running a business.

Budgeting for a tradeshow can be a challenge, and you want to make sure you’re staying in the black and making sales. Our Set Your Budget worksheet is the perfect way to map out a budget, and then keep track of how you did. Download it and start planning your next tradeshow!

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By |November 29th, 2016|0 Comments|

Wholesaling: Target the Right Partners

wholesale partnersRelationships are key in any business, and working with wholesale buyers is no exception. You need to do your homework to ensure that you’re targeting the right people in the right organizations before ever reaching out to anyone.

Retailers are looking for vendors who communicate openly and deliver on their promises. You’re looking to establish a relationship that will buy from you consistently—because finding the right partners takes time, which can cost you money.

Here are some tips to finding the right wholesale partners the first time, with the homework you need to get there:

  • Focus on quality over quantity. It is much more cost-effective to have a few good, quality partners than many so-so partners. Look at potential partners’ store aesthetic and whether they sell complementary brands. When you partner with the right store, you’ll find the return is much higher. And you’ll spend less time and effort marketing to partners that aren’t ideal.
  • Go beyond the website. The internet is a good place to start researching potential wholesale partners, but there’s so much more to a business than just its website. Are leaders attending trade shows? How are they showing up on social media? Is there a brick-and-mortar location? What’s the clientele? What types of products and which brands do they carry? The more you know about the potential partner, the more effective that first point of contact will be.
  • Hunt down hashtags. The stationery business is all over Instagram. Are you following the leaders? Find out what they’re posting and hashtaging on social media and start following those that resonate with you and your product, then join the conversation.
  • Above all, relationships. The retail stores you work with are your customers. Focus on customer experience and do everything you can to build up your relationship and lift up the customers you work with. Find out what their customers are looking for, answer their questions quickly and completely, be flexible (but have written terms and conditions) and use every contact point as an opportunity to grow your relationship with them.

When you have the right partners in your pocket, you’ll be set up for long-lasting relationships with stores that will help you build your business—just as you’re helping them grow theirs.

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By |November 22nd, 2016|1 Comment|