Edupreneur: Cut Your Business Card Clutter

Conferences like SXSWedu are great opportunities to meet and network with other professionals. But with that community building inevitably comes a pile of business cards.

I'm someone who hates clutter. As a writer I already have more than enough notebooks, loose leaf paper, and little ideas scribbled for my home office space. What I don’t need are even more little slips of paper hanging around!

After any conference where I get a the contacts of a bunch of wonderful people I have a strategy for both documenting and communicating with them. It starts by simply typing up cards into a spread sheet. The sheet has columns labeled:

Name

Company

Position

Email

Phone

Website (personal or company's) 

How/ where we met

With the pertinent information running vertically across the cells.

If you want to go an extra measure you could also add a column (or two) that says when you contacted them and whether or not they responded or took action (such as connecting over a media platform) as a result of the email. I choose not to do this, in part because I'm more interested in continuing conversations than quick boosts, so the hope is that my reaching out sets off a thread of emails, a Twitter conversation, phone call, or similar back and forth to build our relationship. 

I send the email as soon as the card is typed up. Going one at a time so I don't procrastinate and let things pile up. Or slip into the habit of saying, “first I’ll do the easy thing and type the cards, then I’ll email,”… and never actually email. I also know, without having to make an extra column or any highlights, who has been contacted when I work at this slower pace.

Pile of business cards, mostly white with colored text and images, on top of a brown wooden desk.

Pile of business cards, mostly white with colored text and images, on top of a brown wooden desk.

Finally, when it's all done, I recycle the cards. As someone who has cards and adds onto the pile of others I know this might seem cruel. "These cost money to make!" and "What if you want to pass it on to someone?" Are two common quips. In answer, I know they cost money and also take time to design, but it makes me feel better and write more efficiently having a clear space and keeping the cards in storage would just add unnecessary clutter.

And if I want to pass on the info, I'd simply send that person an email or text. It's more seamless too, they can copy the email right from their account and send a message or highlight the number on their phone and make a call.

Give it a try next time you come home from an event with a stack of business cards. And if you have any organizing strategies you like please share! 

Oh, and if you do go digital, don’t forget to back-up your spreadsheet!


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Patreon

If you’ve noticed and clicked the new button at the bottom of the site, then you’ll see I’ve gotten a Patreon account!

 This is my first time trying out any kind of crowd funding or donation model and I’m a bit self-conscious about it. While Donnie Welch Poetry is a consulting and programming service and therefore a business, there’s a lot of content I’d like to keep free.

For example, this blog!

I want this blog to be a resource for both entrepreneurs and educators to find tips and learn from my experiences. I’m also working on video content on YouTube, these short readings and conference clips will be free for people to enjoy and learn from as well.

Another goal is to keep my curriculum affordable. The market for classroom texts is wild, but both of the texts I have available are purposefully under $20 and I intend on keeping them that way!

Beyond my online content, I run some after school and community workshops free of charge for both the organizations and participants who can’t meet my rates because a part of my mission in starting Donnie Welch Poetry is to make poetry more inclusive and equitable.

However, all of these things come with a big time commitment. And who ever came up with the saying “Time is money,” wasn’t wrong.

I’m hoping Patreon can be a resource that helps me keep this digital content free, my products affordable for parents and educators, and my workshops available to anyone who needs some poetry in their life!

Give the page a look and see if you can help, I’ve purposefully kept my donation tiers pretty low and even the $1/MONTH “Haiku Hero” offering goes a long way!

Patreon home page. In the top is an avatar image of Donne Welch, a young white male with glasses, followed by a description of a $1 donation tier.

Patreon home page. In the top is an avatar image of Donne Welch, a young white male with glasses, followed by a description of a $1 donation tier.

Edupreneur: Business cards

At the start of Donnie Welch Poetry I was resistant to getting business cards. In part because it felt a bit wasteful to get a bunch of tiny, paper cards made. I also thought it’d be silly for a teacher, or a poet, or a teaching poet, to have business cards. Admittedly, I had a card for when I was performing more regularly, but I kept that a bit silly, with a big bear on it, because I wanted be a bit tounge-in-cheek about it.

I tried going my first couple months without them, but after being asked time and again, “Oh, do you have a card?” I finally caved and accepted the fact that as an edupreneur I’d need to buckle down, make some, and get them ordered.

((Alt text: Three white busines cards on a blue background. One on the left has a black and white bear and info for Donnie Welch Poetry. Two stacked on top of eachother on the right have the current, ink well logo for Donnie Welch Poetry and the current contact info, also in black and white.))


My advice though, don’t order them until you have to.

Like I mentioned, I only made them once people started asking or once I ran into opportunities where I wished I had them.

While they aren’t exuberantly expensive, when you’re first starting a business there will be a lot of things to spend money on and business cards shouldn’t be the priority.

Make sure you budget appropriately and once everything else is in line, like your LLC paperwork, any supplies you need to get started, or office space needs, then invest some money into getting cards. There are a lot of boutique and expensive options out there, but I just did a basic, black and white, Vistaprint order and feel good about it!

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Edupreneur: Productivity Plan

One of the hardest transitions to entrepreneurship for me was keeping a consistent schedule. I consider myself a pretty self-motivated person, but I still found it easy to waste whole chunks of time on the days I didn’t have workshops booked. Whether doing something actually unproductive, like scrolling through Twitter, or spending an inordinate amount of time on something that’s productive, but not directly related to my businesses, like photo editing for blogs or planning an instagram story.

I wanted to think about how I spent my days and figure out if there was a smarter way for me work. I decided I’d build daily itineraries for myself and be my own personal assistant for a bit.

I would schedules parts of the day for deep work like writing blogs, curriculum planning, and workshop prep. Other parts for meeting and communicating with clients. And still other parts for media work and less mentally intense effort.

But before I did that I wanted to know: when should these things happen? What’s the optimal time for each of those activities?

To help answer that question, I found this chart from UNC-Chapel Hill that would allow me to keep track of what I do, when, during the day.

While it starts at 8am, and I often wake up before that, I just tracked those first hours separately. It was a big time save for me to find a pre-made chart! If you’re adept at making spreadsheets and know all the short cuts, you could just as easily make your own with a broader time range.

Chart on white background with black writing and lines. The title is in large bold letters reading “Weekly Planner (30min intervals) and on the right most end of the header is a “Week of” area with a line for the user to write the dates. The cahrt is broken up across a week Monday- Sunday horizontally and vertically listing times from 8:00am to 12:30am in half-hour intervals.

Chart on white background with black writing and lines. The title is in large bold letters reading “Weekly Planner (30min intervals) and on the right most end of the header is a “Week of” area with a line for the user to write the dates. The cahrt is broken up across a week Monday- Sunday horizontally and vertically listing times from 8:00am to 12:30am in half-hour intervals.

I took a week to journal every half half, listing out everything did in that block of time.

What I found was really interesting! Admittedly, for the first two days I think just knowing I was journaling made me a bit more productive, but by Wednesday I had fallen back into old habits and the data I collected on myself proved useful.

For example, my most productive writing time is between 8am and 11am, so I decided I would front end my days with deep work in that morning slot and make sure to schedule meetings and client calls for the afternoon when, as my data showed me, I’m more restless and distracted so it’d be a good time for me to travel for a meeting or set up a phone call.

This is still very much a work in progress for me, but charting my habits has helped me optimize my days. Not necessarily to do more, but to respond to the way my body and mind (or attention span) prefer to operate and in doing so, ensuring that I’m doing quality work in for all the different aspects of Donnie Welch Poetry.

Try it yourself for a week and comment with any surprising results you find!

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Edupreneur: Early Bird

There’s the old saying, "the early bird gets the worm." While the twenty-four hour nature of the world today renders that a bit invalid, in education and the education market that phrase still holds true.

Everyone who works in schools: teachers, administrators, staff, custodians, etc. knows how it feels to get up early. Making the shift from an edupreneur didn’t change my natural (or real) alarm clock as I still find myself waking up before sunrise most days.


Four alarms set on a smart phone at various times: Rebecca School 6am on Tuesdays and Fridays, BX Museum 6:30am Monday and Wednesday, NYRP Workshop 10am on Saturday and Sunday, and Nap 3:15pm on Sunday. A light blue slide shows us that all the alarms are currently turned on.

Four alarms set on a smart phone at various times: Rebecca School 6am on Tuesdays and Fridays, BX Museum 6:30am Monday and Wednesday, NYRP Workshop 10am on Saturday and Sunday, and Nap 3:15pm on Sunday. A light blue slide shows us that all the alarms are currently turned on.


This skill is useful though, not only in terms of time management and efficiency, but in keeping me in the same time frame as my market.

For example:

I know if I send an email in the morning it’ll be answered faster than one sent in the afternoon because so many teachers check their emails as part of prep before school starts.

So if I want to blast out a newsletter with important information or a deal, I'll be creating content at the same time my audience is ready to interact with it.

It’s little tricks like this that allow me to stay ahead and make sure I’m speaking to my intended audience.

Think about what you know about your corner of the education world:

Maybe you're a social worker and know specifics about the timing of parent and caregiver phone calls.

Maybe you have an understanding of the organizational skills and prioritizing of an administrator.


Whatever it is, leverage that time so that you and your customers can make the most of it!

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Edupreneur: Stay in School

A lot of business books and blogs I read when I was starting out on my edupreneurial adventure talked about making your current employer your first customer or client. Like any entrepreneur, edupreneurs can do the same!


Still of Dorie Clark’s  Enrepreneurial You , hardcover edition on a wooden table

Still of Dorie Clark’s Enrepreneurial You, hardcover edition on a wooden table

Anyone in education knows how stingy schools can be with their budgets. And rightfully so! Schools have a lot of expenditures to make sure students needs are met. But that makes it difficult for new contractors and outside work to get a foothold.

You can drop resumes at booths and tables at conferences, make phone calls, send emails, but what if the better answer was right in front of you all along?


Table at the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. Two older Caucasian women look at pamphlets on a red clothed table. A Third middle-aged Caucasian women is seen checking her phone behind the table.

Table at the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. Two older Caucasian women look at pamphlets on a red clothed table. A Third middle-aged Caucasian women is seen checking her phone behind the table.

Rather than cold emailing a school and trying to convince an administration that doesn’t know you or has never worked with you that you’re worth part of their discretionary spending, ask the people who already know you.

Assuming you have a good reputation with them, the administration that knows you is way more likely to hire you! Then, not only do you have money coming in, you also have a reference for future schools and institutions to see when they view your resume or client list.

Somethings to consider:

Show that you’ve developed this idea in order to help. If your service offers something you find lacking or in need of improvement in education, chances are your school could benefit from this service too. The trick is: how can you offer this service without offending an administration you’ve worked closely with?

Is there staff that would speak on your behalf? Testimonials are always good, even with people who know you. Sometimes administration can be pretty removed from the everyday, so having teachers, therapists, and teaching assistants willing to say how interested they are in you and your service can be helpful in securing a contract.

Would you be willing to offer a reduced rate? The first client is an important get and the familiarity with this school can give you some wiggle room to negotiate, but it can also give them that same wiggle room. Make sure you have a bottom line that you won’t go lower than before you start talks!

What can your school do for you that you can’t do on your own? You can take this any direction you want: school culture, professional development, health care, money. One big thing for me was the financing to attend and present at education conferences. Make a list of 5 things that your school can offer you that would help sweeten the deal if the budget really does require them to go lower than you’d like.

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Edupreneur: NYC Resources

I spent this past summer vacation getting myself official and forming Donnie Welch Poetry LLC! And while it’s wonderful feeling having that weight off my shoulders, it definitely took some time and money to get here.

Scan of formal document from the State of New York Department of State. White paper with black text including the state seal of New York and a formal signature form the Executive Deputy Secretary of State Brendan W. Fitzgerald

Scan of formal document from the State of New York Department of State. White paper with black text including the state seal of New York and a formal signature form the Executive Deputy Secretary of State Brendan W. Fitzgerald

This is a post for anyone hoping to start a small business in NYC. I’ve compiled some of the resources I used, whether attending their events or just viewing the content their sites offer. I’m sure many other cities and states have similar resources and I definitely recommend you look into those. Any help you can get will go a long way!

Many of these services are free and it’s worth the initial investment of time to gain the knowledge they’re offering you. It’s also great practice talking about your business and vision with strangers.

I went to a free legal clinic though City Bar Justice’s Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (listed below) and realized it was the first time I explained the vision of Donnie Welch Poetry to people besides my family and close friends.

While the clinic was helpful with logistics, it was the experience of defending and explaining my business that really stuck with me. It was an important moment of personal development that built my confidence and gave me some momentum moving forward!

Below are a list of services, some maybe right for you, others not. Feel free to use them as you need and in ways that make sense for you and your business!

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