This post is by Guy Earnshaw of BlueHub who are Cloud Consultants and Xero Integrators. They have a blog where they cover topics such as Cloud, Xero, technology for SMEs and tips for small businesses.
The life of a cloud graphic designer
People and businesses are moving more of their digital life to the cloud and for good reason: cheaper software and storage, remote access and in place of constant upgrades, consistent gradual improvement.
Small and medium businesses - especially in the 3-50 employee range - receive the biggest benefits of the cloud. The applications stretch far beyond just Xero and Google Docs. There are systems that cost only tens of pounds a month that cover: project management, time and cost tracking, invoicing, reporting, industry tools, debt collection, cash flow management, reporting and the list goes on.
The low monthly cost of these tools is a huge factor for smaller businesses, where cash flow is the most important financial factor. This with the efficiency gained from using integrated cloud systems helps business looking to adopt a lean business model.
The early adopters of lean cloud business practices have been unsurprisingly the tech, creative and professional services industries.
Creatives in the Cloud
For creatives the benefits have been massive, with systems that save time and energy, improved reporting and with their financials streamlined, focus can be fully applied to the creative process.
In this post we will profile Graphic Design as an example of how the cloud has helped many of these early adopters, this is part of a series of posts profiling different professions before and after the lean cloud revolution.
Graphic design before cloud
First let’s take a look at a usual software and processes seen in a small graphic design business before implementing the cloud.
Usually using the select few Adobe products they needed on a regular basis. Buying the latest software when it came out, which came with a big upfront costs in the thousands. The alternative choice is to stay with the older versions, which is not ideal in a tech heavy industry.
To cover operational needs like tracking time and cost tracking, project management and financials we have seen all kinds of Excel, Word and paper systems that graphic design companies use to project manage. All of them assure us “It’s actually a pretty good system”, but lack any automation, reporting, complex scheduling and access levels.
Software is great but without changing and optimising internal processes it is impossible to become a streamlined business. Most small businesses’ time is flooded with manual processes for easily automated task.
Manual processes for; quoting, scheduling, invoicing, debt chasing, shared work and double keying between systems.
No process for; Time and cost tracking, per job profit/loss and document management.
Why creatives are moving to the cloud
With these old systems or often lack of any systems, graphic designers end-up spending anywhere between 5-20 hours a week on admin, accounting and menial tasks like double keying between spread sheets and unintegrated systems.
By moving to the cloud this wasted time can be refocused so graphic designers can play to their strengths and do what they do best; create, complete projects and grow their business.
Cloud Graphic Designers
Let’s take a dive into the world of the lean cloud graphic design business.
Adobe have seen the cloud revolution coming and this year have grown the Adobe Cloud Creative packages, which have now become Adobes primary sales model.
This is great for small graphic design companies, who can now unlock all the features of Adobe’s creative package for just £38.11 per user per month, which includes 20+ systems, app versions for mobile and 20GB of cloud storage. There are numerous packages to suit each creatives’ needs and budgets, with single application packages for £11 per month.
Choosing Xero as a cloud accounting application opens up a world of cloud systems that feed into the Xero API known as Add-ons.
There are a group of project management Add-ons that cover time and cost tracking, quoting, invoicing, scheduling, work allocation, reporting and much more. Systems like WorkflowMax, TidyWork and Harvest are commonly used, each system boasts different features and each has its place in different business structures.
Help manage, organise and automate your lead management and grow your sales funnel with smart cloud CRM systems that integrate with your other business systems.
Financial Add-ons aid cash flow management, invoicing, debt collection and customer profiling.
There are no upfront costs to these system just affordable monthly subscriptions that start as low as £5 per month for mature enterprise level systems. This is how the cloud has levelled the playing field for smaller agile businesses, as a full suite of end-to-end business and design systems comes in around £50-£200 per month.
Most cloud business systems have well thought out workflows, which make them a great foundation to build internal processes on. Good project management systems cover each step of a jobs lifespan, group check list like Asana help promote good group work and tools like Chaser provide an automated invoice reminder process.
Why the cloud works better
The positive effects of implementing lean cloud business principles stretch far beyond the much regurgitated image of being sat on a beautiful beach responding to email.
The increased efficiency and visibility these tools offer small and medium business results in completing jobs faster, react to real-time data and get paid faster. This combined with cash flow friendly monthly subscriptions means that they can access the same level of process efficiency previously reserved for large enterprise.
This trend continues to grow along with the volume of cloud business tools in the market, developers are hurrying to fill every niche.
If there is one thing creative entrepreneurs reading this should take away is, pick your cloud tools carefully, seek help from cloud integrators if you can and if you can’t, follow these simple steps before choosing your cloud systems:
- Write a list of your required features grouped into must haves and nice to haves
- Calculate your monthly budget
- Search for systems that fill these requirements
- Use the trial period to test it live in your business for one job end-to- end
This may sound obvious, but many companies dive head first into a system because they like the sounds of the marketing and end-up wasting lots of time trying to use a tool that would never be a good fit.
Readers of this article can get a complementary consultation with a professional Cloud Consultant to avoid this by clicking this link. This is a chance discuss how cloud can work in your business with a professional, whether you are already using cloud and looking to optimise, or ready to take your first steps into the cloud.