Bells will be ringing this time of year, right? Here’s my holiday gift guide for the creative entrepreneur, featuring a mix of things I want AND tools that have gotten me through my second year in business.
Now, I left out the techy things—I’m guessing you already had a savings plan for that replacement MacBook … or that FitBit so you can make sure you’re not sitting at your desk TOO much … or the Yeti microphone that is a game-changer … or the Roomba that’s on your Black Friday hitlist because #outsourcing.
Instead, I went for the lower-tech tools that are either on my “if there’s money left in my office supplies budget in December” list—or things I’ve already put to work.
Oh, and want to read more about my opinions on spending in your business? Click here to read the post on where to spend your money as a small business owner.
Let’s do this!
1. 35 mm Nikon lens + the Light & Airy Preset Suite
Okay, sneak attack, but I sorta treated my business to this a bit earlier than the holidays. 😉 In my defense, I was going to a conference in Charleston—I needed it, right?
I posted a silly Instagram about how I’m the most novice photographer ever, but I will say that investing in a basic Nikon body and then upleveling my kit lens (to note, I had no idea what a “kit lens” was 2 weeks ago) to a 35 mm lens has helped me get that pretty blurry look that professional photographers achieve.
If you REALLY want to go for it as a non-photographer, there’s a 50 mm lens that every one of my photography clients tells me to save for, but I’m just not there yet. I’m still learning, but for now, it’s been nice to be able to take my own images for social media and the blog!
I also *highly* recommend my criend (client-turned-friend, it’s a thing) Jordan Brittley’s Light & Airy Preset Suite. Y’all, I am NOT a photographer … something I joked around on Instagram the other day about! However, my client roster and student roster is around 60% photographer—I’m a wordsmith girl living in a visual world.
Jordan’s preset suite has totally helped me up my game and get that light-and-airy filmic look I was craving. Totally recommend them for those of you with a blog and Instagram feed that shows off your professional work well!
2. The Blueprint Model from Shanna Skidmore
Hands-down the game changer for my husband and me financially this year.
Working through business coach Shanna Skidmore’s Blueprint Model methodology of discerning what “enough” looks like for you as a business owner, and then building a sustainable model to achieve it and then rest has been life-giving.
We worked with her 1:1 through the 9-step program to set a money plan to steward our finances, define enough, and run my small business profitably. The Blueprint Model is set up like an online course of that same process we walked through, with group coaching elements.
It’s around a $2K investment and opens again in January. I’m coaching a small group of entrepreneurs through the program as an alum—click here to get on the list to learn more!
3. This Aria Diffuser from Young Living
Entrepreneurship perks: back in agency, I ALWAYS wanted to burn candles at my desk.
Then I started working for myself, and realized I went through a solid $10+ candle a week. Oops!
Enter essential oils.
The whole reason I got into them was less for health and more for candle replacement, which is funny because now, I’m all about the health benefits. Whatever. I just wanted pretty smells all around me.
Regardless, I still keep a diffuser flowing for 8 or more hours a day in my office. I use YoungLiving (and I don’t sell them, but if you’re interested, go ahead and buy the “Member” kit they intend for people to use if they want to sell them. It’s 24% cheaper, and you never even have to sell them if you don’t want to).
Now that I’ve got a good collection going, I want to get a few more diffusers for the house/office. This Aria Diffuser may be on my business Christmas list—or at least my tax return list!
4. (More) Books
Entrepreneurship books are my favorite. I try to read one fiction book a month, but otherwise, I love a good business book!
5. Harvard Business Review subscription
I voraciously read books (click here for my always-updated book list!), but there’s something about a periodical that’s always charmed my glossy mag obsessed heart.
I’ve been getting Fast Company for years, but an entrepreneur friend talked me into HBR this year.
I’ll be honest, it takes some focused reading to trudge through, but I always end up feeling a little more elevated afterwards: I start looking at creative industry problems with a different perspective, and it helps me get out of emotional-business-owner land, instead thinking strategically, borrowing ideas from the most intelligent businessmen and women in the world.
6. Leather Letter Blotter
I meannnnn … I don’t need to say much more, right?
This beauty from Master Penmen Michael Ward’s shop is built for calligraphers, since practice (and copious stacks of envelopes) looks best with a moderately padded surface for your nib to do it’s best work on paper.
I usually use an extra pad of paper under my practice, but this leather blotter? Yes, please! Plus, it rolls up for easy travel.
Sure, it’s meant for pointed pen work, but shoot—I’d use it for anything I took a ballpoint pen to!
7. A Real Contract from The Contract Shop
I can’t speak any more highly of my friend Christina Scalera of The Contract Shop. I essentially do trust her with my life—that is, my business’s life.
My first few months of business, I hacked away online until I cobbled together my own calligraphy contract, but I’ll be honest: all it took was one not-so-smooth client process for me to freak out and ask Christina for professional help.
I’m proud to say that both The Contract Shop’s copywriting contract and calligraphy contract were created with someone like you or me in mind, and yes, she’s the legal brain behind my own copywriting and calligraphy contracts.
Even the past few weeks I’ve had a legal situation come up in my business, and while it’s a bit of a pain, there’s no peace of mind like the one that comes from running an integrity-filled business, down to your contracts.
It’s hard to cast a crooked shadow when you’re standing straight, my friend Alex of Prarie Letter Shop told me recently.
8. The Stewardship Series Collection from The AW Shop
Stewardship of your time, talents, and treasure is something I’m passionate about.
When I started The AW Shop, I knew I didn’t want to just include copywriting templates, but tools to help creatives intentionally steward their time and goal-setting practices.
Whether it’s 1-on-1 work taking up much of your day and trying to find hours to create your own content, spending more time with the Lord, making the move to full-time, or just trying to figure out the balance between home office life and laundry/dinner/Netflix-with-the-hubs, time management is a bear.
So, I want to tangibly hand over guides to break down your business into stewardship over God’s precious gift of time on this earth that matters.
I get asked a lot how I manage my time, and how I combine things like Powersheets (below) with my business’s goals. I teach my system inside the Stewardship Series guides.
There is a 33-page and 22-page digital downloads in The Stewardship Series, you’ll find:
- 17 journal prompts to stop and consider where your time is going
- A guide to saying no—which yes, it’s okay to say from time to time!
- How to track your time to see where it goes, plus a fillable time tracker and a link to the one I use every day in my business (hint: it’s free!)
- 8 of my own personal productivity systems that I use in my own life, both personally and what we use in our business
- 15 go-to tools I’ve found that work … and no, I’m not into productivity tools that are just bright and shiny … they have to WORK!
- The exact list of 56 questions I ask myself at the end of every quarter in my business, to see where I need to focus the next quarter
- A guide to how I use my Powersheets, a tool by Lara Casey and Cultivate What Matters
- Behind the scenes of what running a 90 day year system in a creative small business looks like
- A link to the Trello board I use for “maybe one day” goals
- How to make space for seasonal fun lists
Click below to peruse the Stewardship Series (and be sure you’re on the list to know about Black Friday bundles and sales!).
9. A Set of Powersheets
The Cultivate What Matters shop’s Powersheets are #1 go-to workbook for setting grace-filled personal goals, and a few business goals!
Goal setting is one of my favorite ways to worship the Lord and steward my time, leaning into gifts He’s given me (and let’s be honest, without goals, I’d revert to my two speeds: [speed 1] 150 miles an hour working non-stop and exhausting myself and [speed 2] 8 hours of Netflix on British castles with Ben & Jerry’s in hand … neither is helpful.).
Each month on the blog, I tell you about the goals I’m setting for a few reasons–chiefly for (a) accountability and (b) to give ideas about how you can plan your days too with Powersheets, the first grace-filled goal tool I ever found that worked for me.
I’d love for you to join alongside me in the New Year!
10. The Simplified Planner from Emily Ley
Emily Ley’s company message likewise gives me a rally-cry of to pursue what matters with my time: “I’ll uphold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection,” she says.
How my perfectionist-monger soul craves that.
Please be true, it says.
Classic millennial, I’m most at home with my hands on a keyboard and maintain my Christmas card list in Google Sheets. And yes — I use my Google Calendar for work, but I need paper. I need pen. I need to jot to-do’s for the day and to scribble birthdays in my Simplified Planner!
Mine came in the mail the other day and it’s BEAUTIFUL! I’m so excited to get using it for the third year in a row.
11. Caran d’Ache Pens
These guys are my favorite! Little luxury and more than a $2 Bic pen, but it makes me happy. If The Magic Art of Tidying Up teaches you anything, it’s that it’s better to have fewer things that make you happy then a windfall of things that don’t do much for your happiness—I’m much better bypassing the bulk boxes of Office Depot pens and keeping up with my one special pen!
12. Leather Macbook Cover
Okay, but how beautiful is this?!
Back when I traveled for Delta Air Lines events and Alpha Delta Pi consultant work, I had a great foam Tumi case that’s since seen better days. I still travel a lot for work, and I should probably protect my computer a bit more than I do (whoops).
13. Business Basics Email Template Collection from the AW Shop
Since launching The AW Shop, I’ve been blown away by the response to this Business Basics Email Template Collection, which has been downloaded more than 150 times.
You can only #emailninja for so long before you’re staring at a blinking cursor, trying to find professional words to reply back to a client. Before long, an hour’s passed … you’re STILL in your inbox … and well, you’re not alone. There’s a better way: you see, when it comes to serving your clients—those paying a high-dollar amount to work with you—you need to continue to continue to sell your brand, and provide the best experience of your brand.
As a marketing professional, I wrote client-facing customer service emails for brands like Chick-fil-A, Delta Air Lines, Chef Ford Fry’s restaurants, and now? I’ve honed our my own business’s client communications into a time-saving template batch so I can cull my email time down to the bare minimum, get back to the work that *actually* pays the bills, and still give my sweet clients an elevated, high-end experience.
Inside 26-page digital download, you’ll get:
- 20 email templates to personalize and enhance your client experience in less than a minute, giving you a consistent 1-on-1 relationship with your clientele, including:
- How to respond when a client says you’re too expensive … plus, what to fold in if you still think there’s a chance
- What to say when you’re already booked
- A “Checking-In” Template when you (still) need a client response
- The “Whoops! I’ve made a mistake” Template—yes, I’ve used it!
- What to send when a project’s not exactly in your wheelhouse
- The Client Hasn’t Paid Yet Template
- A Smooth-Sticky-Situation Professional Template for when your client’s breached the contract terms
- The Polite No Template, so you have something to send when a project’s a fit
- My Scope Creep Template, when your client asks for something not in the original plan of work
- The Welcome Packet Email Template I send to all new Ashlyn Writes clients
- …. and the Goodbye Packet Email Template I send to our clients, ensuring we button up the process with a smile
- My Basic Pitch Email, honed after pitching and landing clients in USA Today, Bon Appetit, Green Wedding Shoes, and more
- My Testimonial Ask Email … because, y’know … you’d really appreciate that review, but don’t want to sound desperate!
This one’s my baby—I hope it blesses you and helps you whiz through that inbox!
14. I Am Enough Necklace from Jenna Kutcher
In a world constantly telling us that we aren’t enough, it’s time to proclaim that we are, says my client/friend Jenna Kutcher.
What better way to do that than with something pretty, dazzling, and gold? She says it on Instagram all the time—and I love it even more around my neck.
15. The Mood Board Template from Megan Martin Creative
I create mood boards for my brides often, and I’ll be honest: I kinda hate recreating the wheel. My friend Megan Martin has an easy-peasy template in her shop where you can just pop in your hex codes and images, whether Adobe Photoshop or Canva is more your thing.
And it’s $12.99?! Um, yes please.
p.s. Check out Kat Schmoyer’s shop while you’re at it—especially if you’re a wedding planner. Most items don’t apply to me since I know about as much about wedding planning as my husband does, but a little bird told me she’s got a suite of new items coming in time for Black Friday sales!
16. An SC Stockshop Item (or Two)
Sweet Shay Cochrane of SC Stockshop is another client, and I’ve sounded like a broken record telling her how much I needed her stock imagery before I could afford professional images.
Her biggest sale of the year happens around Black Friday—don’t miss out on the 40% off sale starting MONDAY! Use the code “STOCKUP40” to rack up … and go ahead and put some things on your wish list here!
That’s a wrap. What’s on your entrepreneur gift holiday wish list as we wind down the year?
Don’t miss out on The AW Shop’s Black Friday sales, starting next week … it’s my biggest sale yet, and I’m launching 6+ new copywriting tools and prep school workshops to help you tackle your brand’s words, pick up on some productivity hacks, and more.
Get on the list to be the first to know when sales start for The AW Shop!