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Tools of the Trade :: Product Recommendations

To say ShipStation has been a lifesaver is an understatement. If Etsy is my right hand, then ShipStation is my left hand. When I first started selling my products in 2011, I had "buy now" buttons on this website, my Etsy shop, and a few other e-commerce sites. Trying to arrange shipping for orders coming in from different channels was at best, time consuming, and at worst, frustrating and confusing. When I finally consolidated all my ecommerce onto Etsy (and recently Ebay on a trial basis), shipping continued to be a pain point. Enter ShipStation, September 2015. I have the basic $25 per month plan, which uses their cloud platform to pull in orders from Etsy, Ebay, Shopify, and many other e-commerce channels, and then links to your shipping carrier accounts to generate labels. It becomes a one stop shop for order fulfillment. While I prefer to use Etsy\\\'s "receipt" pages, I do not like Ebay\\\'s at all, so when Ebay orders come in, I just print the receipts right from ShipStation. Further, for orders that weigh more than a few pounds, I can quickly compare costs on my USPS (Stamps.com), UPS, and FedEx accounts, though usually USPS works out best for me.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
This is actually the first new computer that I have ever bought. At all of my jobs, I have been able to use my work computer, or even buy a used one from the company, but when I got serious about growing my business, I knew I need to invest in something that would be completely my own and my Samsung Galaxy Tab S just wouldn\\'t cut it. Initially, I was sold on the Microsoft Surface, but I still needed USB ports to use with my Silhouette Cameo, so this Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro looked like a good fit. It functions as both a laptop and a tablet, plus it is light, fast, slender, and under $1,000. Admittedly, the reviews on amazon are lukewarm, but since buying mine in 2015, it was worked out fine for me.

Silhouette Cameo 3 Wireless Cutting Machine
I will admit to having mixed feelings about this beast. I\\\'m on my 2nd one since my original Cameo 2 died last year. The Cameo 3 is their newest version, and unlike previous versions, it has bluetooth capacity. Thing is, I have found it to be quite temperamental. Lately, I\\\'ve been using it in the "old school" way, that is, using a USB cord tethered to my computer, which defeated the purpose of buying this upgraded version in the first place. Still, it does get the job done.

Silhouette Cameo 12" x 12" Replacement Cutting Mats
I take my match striker sheets and stick them on these cutting mats, which I then feed into the cutting machine. After a while, I tend to need spray adhesive, since the phosphorous tends to create a layer of film on the cutting mats over time. They look quite gnarly then. These come in letter size, as well.

Silhouette Cameo 3 Auto Blade Replacement
This tiny little blade is the workhorses of the cutting machine. It makes all the shapes you see in my Etsy shop, from letters, to US state silhouettes, to circles and squares. I clean them regularly with nail polish remover and blow it dry with a compressed air can for good measure.

Silhouette Spatula
Out of the 6 items sold in their tool kit bundle, this is the only one I actually use. It's basically a tiny flat edge that I use to peel the strikers off the cutting mat, and when I'm completing orders of hundreds of strikers, this spatula is like an extension of my fingers.

My domain host for more than 10 years.

Similar to how I feel about ShipStation, ULINE's foldable white indestructo mailers, laser labels, and thick mailers are necessities in keeping my shipping operations running smoothly. During the holiday season when my order volume is the heaviest, being able to just fold my boxes together, as opposed to taping them together, just saves me time; plus, I just like the clean look of the boxes. You can also receive samples of most of their products at no charge, which has been invaluable in figuring out exactly which boxes and envelopes work best for my products. Also greatly reduces trips to Office Depot for laser labels!

US Post Office Online Supply Ordering
Free boxes and envelopes shipped right to your door! Saves so much time, energy, and gas. I was wasting so much time going to a physical post office just to pick up a few priority mail "sleeves" and often they would be out. I just bit the bullet and ordered a pack of 25, which I probably won't even use in a year.

Adobe Photoshop
I am by no means a master of this software, but I know enough to be dangerous. I use the camera on my Samsung Galaxy S8+ to take all my product shots, and then do some light editing in Photoshop. No fancy light kits, though I might invest in something small in the future. Mostly, I just take advantage of a slightly cloudy day, which offers naturally diffused lighting, and take pics of my products by window, using paint canvas material or white poster board as a backdrop.

Drive Time University, kids! I had gotten very lazy about my ongoing education in entrepreneurship, until a gentle kick in the pants by a mentor got me going again. My favorites so far, with the first 3 marked as required reading:

- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It

- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

- Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, 10th Anniversary Edition

- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't

- The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand Out From The Crowd

- She Means Business: Turn Your Ideas into Reality and Become a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur

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