It's tough to go digital in the paper world of a handmade business owner

Tools & Tips for going digital in a paper world

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Tools, Apps & Tips for going digital in a paper world is our topic this week.  Going digital in a paper world can create quite a few stumbling blocks – change can be difficult and you do need to be organized!

Sometimes the stumbling blocks happen because we just can’t wrap our heads around the idea of change – we have so many things on our plates that we just reach for the comfort and security of that piece of paper and our favorite pen or pencil!  And you know what – that’s definitely ok.

Do I have all the answers for going digital and getting rid of paper?  Oh good grief – NO!

Tips for handmade & creative business owners for going digital in a paper world.You should see my desks, yes, DESKS.  I have two big desks put together in an L-shape in my office of our software biz and at home I have a table that I use as a desk plus a big worktable.  The two desks/tables that I use at home have FAR less paper on them than the ones in my office.  Those look like someone’s filing got the better of them – but all that paper relates to projects I’m working on with customers.

Getting organized for going digital – cloud storage

One of the first things we need to do as we transition to a digital world – is figure out what we use most often when we work.  For me, I work between a Windows based desktop machine at my office and my Windows laptop and an iPad at home – some of you will use your phones as well.

I need to be able to easily access patterns, graphics, spreadsheets, documents, etc. from all 3 of those devices and anything I save or change needs to get updated automatically.

Enter cloud storage.  Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, etc.  These are all great tools, they each have a free version, they all work on multiple devices and platforms, and they keep themselves synced or updated with little effort on your part – which makes it even better.

Handmade business owners who are makers – especially knitters & crocheters – probably have more paper laying around than we know what to do with!

When I first starting crafting again after a LONG absence, I would print out patterns, 3-hole punch them and put them in 3-ring binders.  I started with a simple 1″ binder and it didn’t take me long to fill that puppy up.  And I knew I needed a better way to store the patterns for future use.

Plus, as makers – sometimes we have 2, 3, or 12 things going all at once, that’s a lot of paper to be laying around.  And if we aren’t careful – paper becomes a one-use thing – because we mark it up as we finish each row – and then if we want to make the project again, well we print it out again.

Tools & apps for makers

As a maker, these are some of my favorite tools that help me go paperless.

  • knitCompanion – works with kcDesigns, Ravelry and Dropbox.  Don’t let the name fool you – it’s NOT just for knitting (although that’s what it’s designed for) I also use this for crochet.  It has handy counters and row markers among other things.  I love, love, LOVE this app.  I purchased the additional “tools” for an annual cost of about $13 a year, wouldn’t be without it.  It keeps track of where I left off with multiple projects going on at once – and I use it EVERY single day.  Free & Paid versions for iOS and Android.
  • Stash2Go – access your Ravelry account and work with all the things in My Notebook, browse patterns, yarns, create & update projects, add photo’s.  I think I paid $5.99 for the app and it was a one-time fee.  While you can still access Ravelry from a browser on your phone or tablet – Stash2Go has been designed for mobile devices.  Paid & free versions for iOS and Android.
  • Toggl – if you need to track your time on projects or tasks (and who shouldn’t be doing this) then Toggl is an awesome tool.  I use the free version to keep track of time spent on making projects and all the other admin stuff.  I’m sad to say I spend FAR more time doing admin stuff than actual making these days.  Toggl doesn’t lie 🙁  Free & paid versions for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and has a Chrome plugin.
  • Evernote – do you LOVE paper notebooks?  Then Evernote is for you.  Evernote NEVER runs out of pages 🙂  I use it to keep myself organized, make notes about all kinds of things.  It even has a browser plugin that allows you to save web pages to notebooks that you specify.  Great for doing research or even for pattern storage if that’s what you really want.  Free & paid versions for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac or use it in your browser.
  • Scannable – turn paper into into high-quality scans.  Great for capturing paper receipts and turning them into .pdf documents that you can then mark up.  Made by the same folks who developed Evernote.  Free but ONLY for iOS.  For Android users, check out these alternatives.
  • Trello – (added June, 2020).  The first time that I looked at Trello – it gave me a HUGE headache.  I had heard a lot about creating a Trello board (singular) and I played around with creating just a single board that contained everything and hated it!    Recently, I watched a video on using Trello boards and thought OMG, now it makes sense – you don’t throw everything into a single board – you create boards for specific things!  I purchased a course called Trello Business System, which included 6 pre-made boards and man I AM HOOKED!  What a great organizational tool.  I’ve added Evernote as a power-up and I am so happy.

Tools & apps for designers

Now, just to clarify – I’ve only dabbled in “real” designing.  I design stuff all the time – for my own use, but haven’t branched out into designing patterns for sale and have only offered a few VERY simple patterns for free.  I find all that documentation to feel very much like the documentation I’ve done for almost 19 years for the software biz…..  Maybe once the software biz is gone, I’ll dabble in a more focused way.  But I have thought about the tools & apps that I would want.

  • Desktop Publishing software – to create written patterns that have POP and look super professional.  Adobe InDesign – $20.99 per month,  Microsoft Publisher – $70 per year with the entire Microsoft Office suite of program, Scribus – free, Pages – free.
  • Charting software – create knit or crochet charts that can be added to your patterns.  I found three programs that look very interesting.  Stitch Fiddle – free, Intwined Pattern Studio – $44, and Stitchworks – free.

I think from a design standpoint, that there would be nothing wrong with the good old paper & pencil for the initial design and notes.  And then clean it up and turn it into a great looking digital document.

I think alot of making the move into a less paper more digital world depends a lot on how we work.

Tips for handmade & creative business owners for going digital in a paper world.

How are you making the move to the digital world?  What are your favorite tools & apps?


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