Running Your Business in the Cloud

A few quick tips…

I have been running TAR Productions since 2004. Over the past decade we’ve grown and learned a lot, mostly through trial and error (the hard way) and occasionally via other’s experiences (the easy way).

For this reason I want to share how we run our business and how we’ve increased our efficiency over the years. I’ve been an integral part of a few other companies and I’ve seen several different ways of operating a business. If you’re thinking of running your business in the cloud this article will be especially beneficial and valuable to you.

In some circumstances I was in the trenches, crawling on spreadsheets trying to figure out where all our money was going. I would call this the analog method for running a business- which might explain why they ultimately didn’t succeed. Simple tasks would take hours, tasks that should have been automated were not, such as receipts and bookkeeping.

TAR Productions is now in a place where we run virtually everything on the cloud, from email to payroll, contracts and even file management. We’re a small company and prefer to always be- this allows us to be nimble, pivot and most importantly tell the stories we want to tell. In other words, we don’t have a huge payroll and need to bring in every project that comes our way.

Here are the cloud services that we use with a quick write up on why and how we use each.
Gmail for Business – This is an obvious choice. Gmail has so many apps and extensions for developers to build on. And, all of Google’s other services such as YouTube and Google+.
ZenPayroll – Payroll made easy. I’ve worked with a bookkeeper to manual report payroll (this is expensive), Paychex (slightly expensive, but easier/faster than manually) but both are painful. ZenPayroll is easy to setup, easy to pay freelancers (a huge bonus for an production company), easy to report taxes (the biggest pain). The other reason that sealed the deal for us is it’s integration with Freshbooks.
FreshBooks – Freshbooks is an easy to use, online invoicing service. Over the years Freshbooks has grown into offering more functionality and services, such as the ability to easy accept credit card and PayPal payments and import your business expenses from your corporate card and organize them. This alone has cut our bookkeeping expenses by nearly 2/3s. We’re able to keep track of all money coming in, all money we spend and easily organize it. Once a quarter we have our bookkeeper clean it up (I think she backs it up in Quickbooks but we never see this). At year end, she reconciles the entire year and we’re off to our CPA. Books have been the biggest headache and timesuck I’ve ever experienced in owning my own business and Freshbooks pretty much eliminates this.

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Dropbox – You should be using an online file sync & backup software, they’re worth every penny. We prefer Dropbox for it’s simplicity, ease of use, functionality and integrations with other services. Whether it’s Dropbox, Google Drive, Box or any of the other services, they all do the same thing essentially, and, they back up your files. We have several devices including phones, tablets, desktops for editing and laptops – it’s essential that we can access important documents anywhere at anytime. We don’t have the resources to call into a dedicated receptionist who can pull up documents at any given moment, and Dropbox has saved us from this more than a few times.
Google Drive – For all the reasons stated above, but with a few caveats. Dropbox is our go-to for all our files, but Google Drive has a place, too. It’s much cheaper than Dropbox and integrates seamlessly with Gmail and Google Drive. The main reason we use Google Drive is for our contracts. We have a master contract on Google Drive and edit accordingly for each new client or project. It makes more sense to have this on Google Drive because of the editing abilities and integration with HelloSign (see below). It’s also nice to separate these from Dropbox as we need to keep these documents confidential.
HelloSign – The easiest way to get contracts signed and organized. HelloSign lets you upload your document, store it on the cloud and get it signed by all necessary parties. They automatically send reminders after 3 and 7 days so you don’t have to worry about being a pest to your client. We put our Scope of Works in our contracts and this allows us to quickly reference any contracts anywhere.
Stripe – Stripe allows you to accept payment via credit card. This isn’t revolutionary by any means, but it is easy to use, integrates with Freshbooks (amazing) and, most importantly, it eliminates another reason for a client to say “no” to a project or delay payment/start.
Buffer – Easily handle all your social media channels. We typically spend 1 day a month organizing all our social channels making sure they don’t go dry. As current events arise, we blast out to all our networks strategically.
Vimeo – The best hosting solution for video. Vimeo has the best player and they do all the work to convert and compress your video so it will be playable on any device, any where at anytime, without ads. What else do you need?
Rapportive – Rapportive is a plugin for Gmail. It lives in the sidebar of gmail and quickly displays the email addressor’s social profile. I can quickly see who is emailing me, what his/her position is and at what company.
Streak – The CRM that lives in your Gmail inbox. It’s never been so easy to create reminders and track emails for potential projects. It’s free, easy to use and highly recommended.

Our goal is to remain small, offer incredible service to our awesome clients and tell great stories. Being a production company and wanting to remain small, the cloud let’s us achieve a lot more and run more efficiently. The beauty of many of these cloud based services is that they integrate with one another.