Doing Business on a Budget

After working with a few small businesses for so many years, I couldn’t help but noticing all the funny little ways each one had of trimming the fat from their budgets. Everyone had their own little system in place to save pennies and it was fun to try incorporate those practices into the way I run my own business.

That’s not to say that I’m stingy when it comes to spending some coin on my business, but when it comes to running a small enterprise I think there will always be moments where we find ourselves tempted to cut costs in order to run as efficiently and simply as possible. Here are some of my favorite ways to do it.

Make it work for you. It’s more important that you identify your own needs for running your business, instead of trying to adhere to someone else’s vision of what your business should look like. Not everyone’s list will look the same. Other things that people deem essential might differ from yours: you might consider a second phone line crucial; and others might scoff at the thought of using anything but email as their prime form of communication.

It’s important to figure out what your bottom line is so you know much (or how little) you can get by with in order for your business to function. If that means foregoing the idea of an office, or a fancy luncheon every day, so be it. You’d be surprised at how refreshing it can be to simplify your routine.

Get creative. Most people dream of having their own home office, but not everyone can afford to make that dream a reality- and not just due to budget constraints. Time, space, lifestyle- each one of these things reflect when, where and how you conduct your business. I’ve seen people with home offices with all of the latest state-of-the-art tech equipment, and I’ve met people who have conducted their business at the dining table after clearing off the dinner dishes. It’s worth exploring alternative ways to make your office hours and office setting work for you– it may be just what you need to cut costs and find a more efficient way of working.

Be realistic. Just because your vision of owning your own business involves going out for a fancy latté every day, it’s a luxury that entrepreneurs can’t always afford. While it would be nice to reward ourselves for our hard work with things like fancy coffees, special office supplies, or a complete office makeover, those things aren’t always possible when you’re first starting out, or if you’re trying to keep your operations small. As soon as you adjust your expectations for a glamorous freelancing lifestyle, the more satisfied you’ll be with your budget-friendly work style.

Of course, there’s always room for compromise– upgrading your regular office coffee maker to a Keurig or even an espresso machine may still be cheaper in the long-term than buying a fancy latté everyday. Or maybe you use your local Starbucks at your office, and the price of coffee counts towards your “rent”, in which case there’s plenty of room to save money on leasehold improvements!

Cutting costs where possible can be a satisfying and even refreshing way of making sure your business is running as cheaply and efficiently as possible. We often convince ourselves we need the latest gadgets, or the most expensive suits to succeed when the truth is that success is often directly correlated with the amount of work we put into something.

A final note: even the most ruthless of budgets should include at least a little room to be generous to ourselves as entrepreneurs. Running a small business is more like a lifestyle than a job, and when we structure our lives around working all the time, it’s important to have a reminder that your work is more than just about paying the bills. You deserve to have some fun!

Even if that means indulging at Starbucks once in a while.


What are some of the creative ways you’ve come up with to save money while running your own business. Did you sacrifice an office? A phone line? How has this transformed the way you work? Send your stories to me at or comment below.

Professional Development is Your Project


The problem with high school is that there’s a lot of people telling you what to do, where to be, and how you need to complete x,y and z in order to get your diploma.

Then in university or college you’ve got a little more freedom to decide how and when you do things, but you still have to meet the prerequisites to graduate, and do more schooling, or become a whatever and by then you’ll have totally figured out how to do things for yourself, right?

Unfortunately, I’ve found this isn’t always the case. Sure, each workplace has a certain set of rules you have to follow, and most jobs have a job description that you have to adhere to. But your job is just you job; your workplace is just where you work. That is, for now. Who helps you to decide when it’s time to move on? Who tells you what to do to gain upward mobility in your company? What the prerequisites for getting promotions? For changing careers? For scaling back?

For some, knowing that your career has the ability to head in whatever direction you want is really freeing. Others might be totally cool with finding a good position and sticking with it, providing it meets their lifestyle needs. If you’re one the latter, congratulations- it sounds like you’re already in the place that you need to be.

I think most of us meet somewhere in the middle (myself included). We crave the autonomy to make our own decisions about when, where and what we work at (exciting!); at the same time, we wish there was someone to guide us where we need to go otherwise how else do we find our way of getting there? (Scary!)

It’s kind of brutal, but it’s the truth: professional development is your project.

Don’t panic; it’s actually pretty liberating. Does it require a certain amount of discipline and motivation on your part? Totally. But you’re in change of when, where and how you want to develop yourself professionally.

The most exciting (and challenging) part is deciding the what:

  • What skills do you want to acquire?
  • Which skills do you want to improve?
  • What contacts do you want to make?
  • What experience do you want to gain?
  • What do you want to get certified in?
  • What do you want to learn?

Once you’ve figured out the what, the how comes so much easier: take a workshop, join a club, go back to school, audit a class, attend a conference, get a membership, volunteer, shadow a mentor.

And read, read, read: books related to finding your ideal career or better yet, find the biography of someone who has achieved success at what you want to do. Read magazines, newspapers, blogs and other industry publications to keep your knowledge current.

You may want to map out what of some of these steps look like on a long-term scale. What are some of your goals? What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to go? Where do you want to end up?

Or maybe you’ve already found yourself in a good place career-wise and you’re looking to keep the momentum going. Your professional development projects might be more along the lines of expanding your target market, developing a new product, or re-branding your company.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to change it up, or hate challenging the status quo: professional development is definitely a project we have to take on ourselves. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. In a way careers can mimic- they can be ebb and flow and take us to destinations that we never thought were possible.

The beauty of it, is that you have the freedom to choose how you’ll navigate that flow, and hopefully you’ll end up somewhere wonderful.

At the very least, I hope you enjoy the ride.

KBwB-BFlower-50What are some of the professional skills that you’ve been working on? Share your trials and tribulations below, or email me at

For more advice on navigating careers and the workplace, click here.

5 Steps to Making Your Office More Productive

KBB_markersUs freelancers are strange creatures. We keep strange hours, and work strange days, and we develop strange workflow habits. People who telecommute or have another special arrangement with their employers can understand too the challenges we face working from home. On top of the continuous distractions that come with running a household and having a pet and/or kids, it’s a wonder we can find a dedicated, organized space to pay our bills let alone run a small business. Having an unproductive work space can make this journey an uphill battle for even the most dedicated of business owners, so here are five solutions I’ve implemented in some of the offices and homes I’ve organized (as well as my own!) to make them more productive.

Make it light. If you can’t see anything you won’t be able to do anything- or at the very least, you won’t be able to do anything very well. Makes sense, no?

Make it comfortable. Almost as important as your desk (or your counter, or your diniing table, or wherever you work), the seating that you choose can make a big difference to how long and how comfortably you can focus on your work. Obviously you don’t want to be so comfortable that you never want to leave your desk (I have enough problems with that anyway!) but you do want to be able to get up from your desk with some feeling still left in your back. Or avoid this altogether and invest in a stand-up desk- just make sure you pair it with a specialized mat underneath designed to minimize the impact prolonged standing has on your back, hips, knees and feet.

Make it ergonomic. A bright desk lamp and an appropriately comfortable chair are two important ingredients in the ergonomics of your work space, but make sure you aren’t forgetting other important considerations. Is your desk tall enough for your legs to fit underneath? Do you have a place to put your feet? Do you have an accessible electricity supply? Does your work space allow for enough storage to house the things you need on a daily basis to maintain your flow at work? Fitting together all of these elements is like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle- as soon as you have one or two of these answers figured out, the rest are going to start conveniently falling into place.

Make it convenient. Obviously it would be wonderful if we all had the means to create a work space that’s configured exactly the way we want it. However, depending on your position at work, or the conditions of your home life you find yourself in less-than-ideal working conditions. In that case, it’s important that you concentrate on the convenience of your working space. I’ve known many small businesses owners who have run companies from their dining room tables. However, if your dining room table is always covered in junk, or is crowded with kids doing their homework, you may want to consider creating a dedicated space on your kitchen counter, or even on your dressing table to house the necessary supplies to fire off a quick email, pay some bills, or look up an address.

Make it your own. Each individual has their own set of wants and needs that they feel is conducive to a productive workflow. It doesn’t matter if they are deemed necessary by others. What matters is that these are the items that give you the pleasure and convenience required to have a successful workday. I call this set of items your “office essentials” and I’ve shared what’s on my list here. No matter what’s on your list, it should be in amply supply and well within your reach.

Working from home isn’t always easy and without a lot of discipline it can be a challenge to maintain focus even in the most organized of work spaces. But hopefully with a more productive work space, (one that’s designed to fit your needs and store the essentials necessary for you to run your business) you’ll be better equipped to face all of the little battles that life throws your way.

KBwB-BFlower-50Have you tried any of these solutions in your home? Is there anything you’d like to add to my list? Comment below or drop me a line at I’m always looking for ways to improve my productivity (and by that I mean makeover my desk). I could definitely use your help!

Writing and learning about productivity is kind of my jam. If you’d like to read some of my other thoughts on cultivating a more productive lifestyle, why not mosey on over to my productivity page here?

That One Silly Thing


This is going to seem silly, but ever since I was a little girl I have wanted, no, longed for a coloring caddy. You know, one of those organizers designed to hold all of your different art supplies- they’re often available at office or craft supply stores, and sometimes come pre-filled with markers, pencil crayons and other coloring items. I’ve even seen caddies for other types of art supplies, like craft scissors with fancy edges.

Be still my beating heart.

It wasn’t that I suffered from a lack of art supplies; it’s just that the coloring caddy never really materialized. The years went by and my desire for the caddy faded and became this distant dream of mine, like having a gift wrap station in my apartment or meeting Ryan Gosling. These things would all be nice, sure, but are definitely unattainable.

That is, until Christmas 2015 when Santa arrived bearing a sack of coloring books, pencil crayons and markers. And they were all for me. (Cue evil laughter.) The idea of the caddy resurfaced in my mind. My recent change to an open-concept workspace meant I had virtually zero storage. Suddenly the caddy seemed less like a distant dream, and more like a logical solution.

It was after Christmas, and I was poor but neither of those things were going to stop me from seizing my crazy childhood dream of organizing all of my art supplies in that magical caddy. Sometimes when life gives you lemons you have to make lemonade.

My lemonade came in the form of an old metal shower caddy from IKEA that’s followed me from apartment to apartment and held everything from actual shower supplies, to towels- even baking supplies. Up until recently I had been hoarding it in a box destined for a garage sale but I decided to give it new purpose by adding felt feet to the bottom to prevent scratching, and a selection of glass jars I stole from my pantry.

It may not be the picture-perfect caddy that I always dreamed of, but it’s that one special item, that one silly thing that brightens up my day every time I look at it. The handle is perfect to cart it off to wherever I feel like working, whether it be working on my latest coloring book picture or making a birthday card for a friend.

My desk is where I spend the majority of my time and it’s worth it to me to surround myself with special things that make the ordinary tasks in my day feel extraordinary. It may be a foolish thing to wish for, but if that one silly thing increases my focus, improves my functionality and puts a smile on my face, I’m going to do it! My only regret is that I didn’t do it years sooner.

KBwB-BFlower-50Have you ever lusted after anything that seemed ridiculous? Have you D.I.Y’d anything for your desk? Do you also hoard old shower caddies like I do? I want to hear all about it. Drop me a line at or comment below.

Looking for ways to change up your office and get happy? I talk about makeovers here, my office essentials here, and how to get to your organizing happy place here, here and here.


My Office Essentials


I have to tell you a funny story. It’s about one of my co-workers and how her obsession with office supplies actually got her into trouble.

In a busy, paper-based medical office, a lot of faxing and photocopying occurs. We use black pens when scheduling or writing memos simply because the pens with blue ink do not produce legible faxes or photocopies.

However, my co-worker just had to use the blue pens because they were part of her office essentials- the funny, little quirky preferences that we develop for certain stationary supplies or office gadgets that inexplicably make us feel more confident and more productive at our jobs.

Our office manager begged her until she was blue in the face (pun intended) to switch, but she just couldn’t. We eventually removed all of the blue pens from the office, but to this day my co-worker claims that writing with the blue pen just makes her feel better.

Don’t tell me you don’t have your favorite office supplies because I know that you do. And because I’m in the mood for sharing, and I love making lists, I’ve compiled a list of my office “essentials”- the supplies that I need on a daily basis that not only assist me in being productive and staying organized, but make my work honestly more enjoyable. I’d love for you to share yours as well by emailing me at

A paper-based agenda. Writing down my appointments and the time-sensitive actions in my calendar solidifies them in my memory, and I developed a system of storing my to-do lists in my agenda so I can access them on the fly. Bonus points if the agenda is pretty.

Colorful pens. I used to be so obsessed with color-coding that my classmates in first-year linguistics at university made up a verb to describe my unique brand style of transforming lecture notes into a crazy rainbow of reminders and possible study questions.

Pretty notebooks. Anyone notice a theme here? They’re essential for jotting down notes in a meeting or recording an idea you got while waiting for the street car. Much like my pens, I carry these babies around with me until they bite the dust. Or get filled up with ideas. Whichever comes first.

I’m constantly on the go so I am forced to manage most of my emails and phone calls through my Smartphone. It also has a copy of my calendar and a couple of apps I use to manage my time. And I also have the IKEA app which just sort of draws me into this universe of assembly-required furniture.

Highlighters. I make a ton of notes and use these often to color-coordinate tons of reminders, projects, etc. They also make my agenda look pretty. Bonus!

Blank notecards. Because. I. Believe. In. The. Power. Of. The. Handwritten. Note.

Post-Its. Flags, shapes, sizes, colors- I personally consider them to be one of the ultimate reminders- kind of like my nagging conscience, only prettier.

To others my essentials might seem frivolous or unnecessary, but to me, they’re what keeps me happy before, during and after the work day. After all, what’s a few dollars to spend on post-its if they make everything look pretty and organized?

KBwB-BFlower-50To check out more of my favorite office supplies? Some of the stuff I dig is featured on my Amazon store here, and I should tell you that I get a small (small!) kickback if you see something you like. Did I miss one of your favorites on my list? Comment below or drop me a line at and set things straight!

What I Would Have Done, Had I Been You

KBB_bookmark_mugSometimes one of the biggest mistakes we make, both personally and professionally, is not taking our own advice.

It may seem like common sense to trust your own judgment but unfortunately when we’re neck-deep in situations ourselves, it’s hard to maintain the same kind of level-headed thinking that comes so easily when helping to solve a the problems of a colleague or friend. So what is a professional like you or me to do?

A woman I knew was guiding me through a difficult situation and I was getting frustrated that the answers were not coming easily. She asked me, “Well, what would you tell a client in a similar situation?”

I thought about it, told her what I would have recommended, and asked her again what she thought I should do. She smiled and said, “You already told me.”

Isn’t it funny how we have to step out of our own shoes in order to step back into them? When solving a problem in the workplace or at home, try asking yourself what advice you would give a friend or colleague in need. It’s a little like thinking outside of the box- it can take some time to get the hang of it, but the results are more often than not innovative, positive and rewarding.


If you’re not going to take your own advice, at least take mine. Check out my business section for more posts filled with practical advice you can use RIGHT NOW in your own personal and professional lives. If I were you, I’d go read them all right now. Seriously.

What to Do When There is No Problem


Sometimes, there is no problem.

Isn’t that weird? I think most of us spend our day-to-day looking for problems because we’re so used to them coming up. From our email search functions not working properly to that guy who cut you off on the way home from work, it seems like there’s hiccups everywhere, everyday.

So when there aren’t any problems arising in your business and everything seems to be running smoothly, it can be hard to figure out what to do. Where do you go from there?

Most people feel it’s a natural step to hire a consultant for their business when they’re experiencing problems. It’s great to get a fresh perspective on a situation in order to come up with a solution to make it work again.

What a lot of people don’t realize it that hiring a consultant can also be helpful when there isn’t a problem. A consultant may be able to give you an outsider’s perspective on where to take your business next. Some examples of this could be decision on how to expand your business, or take on a new project.

Or why not continue working on what’s already working? A consultant may be able to offer suggestions on expanding your client base, or starting a new advertising campaign, or diversifying a solid advertising base with some exciting new social media adventures.

Consultants aren’t just there for when there are problems that need fixing. After all, there isn’t always a problem to be fixed! Maybe the only problem you should be considering is, what do I do next?


Got some time on your hands? Check out my business section for more inspiration on how to improve your business, or visit my busy section on how to start your next project. Or why not try something completely different to take a break and do some baking? The possibilities of what to do next are endless!