Guest Blog from Ruth Buckingham – Kandu Marketing: ‘6 Useful productivity and blogging tools for small business’

Guest Blog from Ruth Buckingham – Kandu Marketing: ‘6 Useful productivity and blogging tools for small business’

I’m really thrilled to welcome Ruth Buckingham from Kandu Marketing to my blog this week. Ruth offers jargon-free content marketing support for small business owners. Here, she has some brilliant tips to improve your productivity:

When budgets are tight and you are managing your marketing yourself, any tools that can help improve your productivity or increase engagement with your blog posts can be beneficial.

Below are the top 6 free tools that I am working with on a daily basis for different client needs. 


  1. Toggl – Take your timesheets to the next level

As my business has started to grow I have moved on from a timesheet approach to tracking time that I spend on different activities and clients using Toggl.   Toggl is a simple to use, free time-tracker tool that also provides reports as and when needed.  

I can ensure that my precious part-time working hours are well-spent.  I also have a record of how much time various activities require on a regular basis.  This can help me when preparing quotes for customers so that I can be accurate in budgeting. 

  • Buffer – social scheduling covering LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Facebook

I use this tool for my own accounts as well as my clients for scheduling social media posts. Prior to discovering Canva I also used to love the Pablo extension which has a range of free images which can be customised for my needs or you can upload your own and edit with logos, quotes etc. 

Once the posts have been published you can also go back and view analytics on engagement at a basic level.    By scheduling batches of social media messages in advance it allows us to be active on multiple platforms but still have time free to focus on core business activities.

A note on images – I always like to use my own but on the occasions I am sourcing images for client or for a specific image, another two great free picture resource sites are Pixabay and UnSplash.  Always credit the photographer if you can, even if it’s not required on these sites, I think it is good etiquette!

I also use Later for my Instagram scheduling.  I probably will combine them at some point but for now I’m happy to keep them separate as I do use the platforms differently and Later shows you a lovely graphical view of your posts to check that everything flows nicely.

Recently, Instagram updated its platform so it is now possible to auto-publish to your account, rather than get a notification on your smartphone to post.

Blogging tools

  1. Co-schedule headline analyser

If you are writing your own blogs or email campaigns you might find this one useful.  I love this tool, it really does what it says on the tin, by helping ensure the title of your blog will get more opens and ultimately engagement.  The teacher’s pet in me loves getting a score of over 70 and a smiley face! 

As an example, for this blog post I started out with the basic topic “B2B blogging and social media tools” which scored 44 points and used the headline analyser to refine it to “Useful social media tools for small business” which got a whopping 71 points!  On review I didn’t feel this accurately reflected the content of the blog so have compromised on the title above –  a score of 64 so not too bad!

A well-known plugin for WordPress, Yoast is great to help you ensure you have your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) basics in place on your blog post and also to edit the post for readability.  I find this is a great last sense-check before posting a blog.  A “virtual” second set of eyes so to speak.

As a copy-writer I find it quite easy to come up with blog ideas for my clients, less so for myself!

However, you may feel a little stuck sometimes.  Perhaps further down your blogging journey and have already covered why you started your business and key trends in your industry.  This little generator can help spark your next great idea to think about what your customers might want to read about and what ties into your own usps

I hope you have found this round up of tools useful!  Most of the companies I have recommended also have great blogs of their own that you can follow for further marketing tips. 

*About Kandu Marketing*

My name is Ruth, I am a Freelance Marketing Consultant operating as Kandu Marketing.  I provide jargon-free B2B marketing support.  This usually starts with content strategy or copy-writing but also covers a range of other marketing activities.

Six months of Clear Desk!

I can’t quite believe it, but my business is six months old today! I felt that this half birthday deserves a wee bit of reflection on where I’ve come from and how much I’ve achieved in this short space of time because, to be perfectly honest, I am pinching myself every day at the moment.

Six months ago my husband and I invested in two days a week of childcare for our youngest daughter, to allow me to attempt to start my VA business and gain clients. Well, six months on and I will be working four days a week from the middle of March and I have an advert out to recruit an Associate VA!

Growth has been swift, and amazing. With this, of course, comes a lot of learning and swift change along the way and I think – nay, I know – I have kept up with everything. I am SO so fortunate to work with clients who are on the same page as me. All women, so far, who are fitting a busy lifestyle around their passions and businesses, but who need some virtual administrative assistance to quell the dreaded overwhelm and ‘The Noise’, as I like to call it.

I have assisted with things from as diverse as: redrafting privacy policies, researching event locations, contacting prospective venues, filing and sending out invoices, blog creation, social media content creation, scheduling, logo design, redesigning web pages and more! I have one wonderful international client (hello, Canada!) and I have had face to face meetings, video meetings, Wattsapp chats and all types of communication that you can think of to help my clients feel that they have that someone there, when they need me.

Now, I have got to the point in my business when it’s time to outsource some work for myself and to begin growing my team. This is part of The Dream for me: to create a team of experts who can support business owners with everything that they need to help them to achieve a Clear Desk by the end of their working week. What clients need, understandably, differs from person to person and my aim, with Clear Desk, is to create a brand that encompasses everything from social media support to invoicing. I know that no man (or woman!) is an island and so I am advertising for an Associate to support me. I have been, honestly, blown away by the quality of applications and feel extremely humbled that there are other women out there who’d like to work with me.

See – I told you – I’m pinch-myself happy!

But, if there’s one thing that I have learned over the last six months that underpins everything else, it is that belief is what gets you places. I have a strong sense of purpose and self-belief, as well as belief in the value that I bring to my clients, that drives me. This isn’t ‘being big headed’ or that negative horribleness, it comes from a sense of determination. I’m often asked by other VAs how I have done it so quickly and the only answer that I have is: believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself and what you are offering, then others will, too.

I’d love to hear from you, if you’d like to work with me:

Come and achieve a Clear Desk, the view is lovely over here.

Natalia x

Guest Blog: Rachel Brown

Guest Blog: Rachel Brown

Yes, I’m an artist and I also love spreadsheets

Can you do something for me? Conjure up a picture of an artist in your mind…

… got one? I’ll bet that 9 out of 10 of you have pictured some flouncy type lounging on a couch looking forlorn with a half finished painting in the background and a glass of red in hand. There is a stereotype that artists are a bit, well… flakey. And that doing the ‘business’ side of things is difficult for them because they can’t pull themselves away from their art to get organised. I’m here to debunk that myth, and if there is living proof that artists can also be organised, it’s me.

I studied Fine Art at university. A lot of it involved painting pictures, spending hours in a dark room developing photos or writing ironic phrases on the walls of my studio space. But, as it was a course where we mainly worked to self-directed briefs, I also learnt important skills around self-discipline, managing my own time and prioritising workload. It didn’t surprise me that lots of people I knew from art school went on to be project coordinators and managers. I myself went on to coordinate programmes, events and marketing in charities for a decade after graduating. Now that I run my own graphic art business, I love the admin side as much as designing!

So, if you are a creative person and find it hard to get your head round the admin side of your business, here are a few tips from me to help you get on top of things:

  1. Make sure you allocate time each week for admin. I find keeping the whole of Monday morning free works as it get’s it done before you’ve even picked up your paintbrush (/graphics tablet/knitting needles/chosen creative weapon of choice). Don’t start designing and making until after you’ve ticked off some of the admin you know needs to be done.
  2. Find a way of working that works for you. If you can get on board with a spreadsheet or find an app that helps – great! But succumbing to technology isn’t the be all and end all of getting organised. I’ve tried so many different spreadsheets to plan my marketing contact, but at the end of the day they all get forgotten and a pencil and paper list is actually what works for me for that task. Try different things and go with what achieves results for you.
  3. Shift your mindset. I find it helps to re-frame how you think about the concept of ‘creativity’ and apply it to things other that artwork. Software developers write creative code, sales managers make creative pitches and administrators think of creative processes to manage offices more efficiently. Does that mean they’re an artist? No. But that doesn’t mean they lack the ability to CREATE. I love to think of a good colour coded budget spreadsheet as a creative task – could you apply this to the admin tasks you’ve got on your list?

Of course, if you’ve tried to get organised but are still struggling to keep on top of your admin, consider getting help from a VA. They can help on a regular basis or with one-off tasks, and sometimes a small investment getting support with tasks that you just can’t get your head round means that you can get on with other things that will help to drive your business forward.

Rachel Brown runs Brownlow Brown Designs, creating colourful cards and prints that brighten up your life. You can find her on Instagram @brownlowbrowndesigns and at

How could a VA help you?

How could a VA help you?

Imagine the scene: you’re a business owner who works a lot. By ‘a lot’, I mean everyday. Now, this working everyday may look different from one business owner to the next but, the point is, you are often ‘on’. You are often ‘working’. Even if you are not sat at your desk / easel / car / in meetings / creating / selling, your brain is on and your brain is working most of the time. Does this sound familiar?

On top of this, you have the rest of your life to consider: your family; your home; your hobbies; your commitments; your fun stuff. The stuff that you do to keep you sane (apart from work!) but it needs to be done, even if it’s loading and unloading the washing machine three times a day, it needs to get done and the fact that it ‘needs to get done’ rings and dings around in your brain, adding to, what I like to call: The Noise.

The Noise drains us. It can be constant. Some of us are better than others at tuning in and out of The Noise but, let’s face it, in 2019 we have a lot of Noise: rolling news; social media; sick children; piling laundry; Watts App groups that feel we need to keep up with; diaries that can mount out of control; dentist appointments; sales meetings; assemblies we need to get to on time … you get the picture. Forget The Juggle – I’m saying that The Noise Is Real.

At least, it can be. It has been for my clients and now, hopefully, their Noise is quieter. Their Noise is quieter because they took the positive, progressive step to outsource some of their Noise to my Virtual Assistant business: Clear Desk VA. And that, in itself, can be a scary thing, particularly if YOU ARE your business. As a sole trader, outsourcing anything at all can be scary, but to hand over a regular portion of your business, and invest in it, takes guts. It is scary. But it pays off. In fact, it pays dividends. Here’s some of the things that you may start to feel if you start to outsource some of your administrative tasks to a VA:

  • The Noise may dim
  • you have peace of mind that things are getting ticked off your To Do list, without having to physically do them yourself
  • like you have more time to do the things that you love
  • supported: a VA can be a brilliant sounding board or professional ear for you to run ideas by
  • in control, rather than out of it
  • successful
  • profitable
  • flexible
  • content

My business is built around the foundation of helping other business owners to achieve a Clear Desk and a Clear Mind. I know that these things are achievable and that they have a drastic, positive impact on my clients’ lives.

Often, the type of enquiries that I get from prospective clients are almost a cry for help: business owners that are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of tasks that they need to complete and the switch on The Noise button is twisted right up to ‘high’. I find that they, almost, don’t know what they need help with first, because the feeling of being overwhelmed can be all-consuming. That’s why I thought I’d kick off my first blog post on my website with a list of things that a VA could help you with (this list is by no means exhaustive! VAs are magical creatures: we often have our own niche and I know a few of us who work for ourselves but recommend each other to prospective clients, if we feel the work is more suited to their particular niche, so always ask!) Services can include:

  • regular finance tasks: sending out invoices; chasing invoices; data entry; recording your business receipts, profits and losses
  • email organisation: ‘cleansing’ your Inbox; sorting out folders; creating automatic replies; determining which emails you need to focus on first and which can wait; helping you to establish healthy email habits; setting up signatures and account forwarding
  • web design: creating websites; designing pages; SEO
  • branding: design; marketing and theme
  • email marketing: creating, implementing, analysing and updating your email marketing campaigns
  • note-taking: minute-taking and typing
  • CRM: client management; updating; storing; organising; matching with your email system to streamline your business
  • creating marketing documents
  • social media content writing and scheduling
  • taking telephone calls and responding to voicemails, so that you only have to respond to the most essential communication
  • content creation, copy-editing and proof reading
  • researching information that’s helpful to grow your business
  • personal life admin: I’ve even sent Christmas cards for one client!

So, as we set sail on the ship that is 2019, rather than allow The Noise to grow to deafening levels, why not take a breather to look at your goals and aims for this year, then ask yourself ‘what could a VA do for me?’ I promise you, it will be one of the best investments that you make this year.

If you’re interested in working with me this year, then I’d love to hear from you. You can either contact me via my website here or email me at

Let me help you to achieve a Clear Desk – Clear Mind in 2019.