Software Solutions for Knitwear Designers
Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Your knitwear design business is up and running, your designs are starting to sell, and you are becoming known in the community. All good things. But things are starting to get busy. The number of emails you field each day is increasing, customers are calling asking questions, you are trying to keep track of your projects, your finances and so on and so on. So much to do, so little time to do it.
You need help. There are thousands of apps, programs, and websites out there all willing to help your business go. Which ones do you need now, and which ones will you need once you get a bit bigger? This, and the articles that follow, will give you some ideas on what parts of your business will be helped by software and how to get the most bang for your hard-earned buck.
These articles are focused on how technology and software can help in the business of knitwear design. Knitwear designers are part creators, part makers, and part business operators. They also must be focused on attracting customers, selling their designs, and marketing their business. Most knitwear designers are small businesses, and many are sole proprietorships where they have to wear all of the hats in the business. We are here to offer some advice and help.
We will break down this search into manageable pieces. The list below shows the broad areas in which technology can help your business. We will focus on free to low-cost tools that can make a difference right away.
Once you get bigger then you can spend money on subscriptions and hire consultants and take trips to New York for fashion shows. Until then, lets dive in.
1) Finance & Accounting
2) Website Management
4) Sales and Marketing
5) Illustration / Artwork
6) Business / Project Management
7) Customer Service
Our first step will be a review of software that will help you in the Finance and Accounting arena.
Every business needs to keep track of income and expenses. Some of this you may already be doing but it is especially important to track and record all your expenses. Remember, since you are a business owner you can deduct things like supplies, advertising, mailings, etc. from your business income for tax purposes. You can even deduct some of your travel and entertainment expenses if you use your car for work.
Before you leap into using any system or piece of software, even if its free, you should think about what you want it to do for you. In this case do you need to track inventory, create invoices, calculate taxes, reveal your cash flow situation, etc., etc.? Create a list, for your business and what you want the software to do, and then choose the solution that best matches your needs.
You can keep track of your business’s finances (and I have done it) by writing things down in a book or on a piece of paper. Let me tell you from firsthand experience – don’t do this. Seriously, don’t do this. One step forward is a spreadsheet. You can arrange a blank Excel sheet to do this or you can search for and download ready-made templates. If you are going to use a template, I recommend that you use the Microsoft site. They are free and Microsoft won’t spam you later.
Google Sheets is another option. There are a bunch of free apps that Google offers for personal and business use. Google offers gmail, cloud storage called Google Drive, a meeting app, a calendar, Docs (similar to MS Word), Sheets (similar to MS Excel) and so on. Setting up a business account with Google isn’t free but could be worth the $6 per user per month. Just having an email account that matches the name of your business is probably worth the small fee. But, we will save that discussion for a future installment.
If you want a more sophisticated accounting system but still don’t want to spend any money, there are alternatives.
Wave offers an extensive list of features. With Wave you can:
· Track income, expenses, and taxes
· Use a double entry system
· Generate reports on overdue invoices, cash flow and profit and loss
· Have connections for banks and credit cards.
Wave is a cloud or web-based software with automatic back-ups. One downside is that it doesn’t allow you to track accounts payable. This is an important task for any business so you must be aware of this and perhaps use another app to help
you do this.
Wave is simple to set-up and get started and does offer email support.
Is another cloud or web-based software that offers a free plan called the ‘Starter’ plan. ZipBooks gives you the same features as noted above from Wave and their free plan lets you send custom invoices, quotes, and estimates. You can also add extras such as VAT and or discounts to these statements. You can accept payments via credit cards, Square or PayPal. You are also able to generate simple reports such as Income Statements, Balance Sheets and Accounts Receivable aging.
ZipBooks does limit you to one user and one connected bank account in their free plan.
Is a downloadable program. For some this will feel comfortable while others may prefer to not be concerned about updates and online support. We will leave this to you and your personal preference. You can download GnuCash for Linux, MS Windows, and Mac OS X. The program handles multiple languages and currencies.
GnuCash is a single user system so it may be best for sole proprietorships or for personal expense tracking. GnuCash does include a double-entry system and a checkbook style register. You can add automatic banking imports which help maintain accuracy. There is also a bill payment reminder system.
GnuCash offers a range of standard reports. One drawback is that there is no formal support system.
Sunrise is another web-based app which provides bookkeeping services for small businesses. Using Sunrise, a business can:
· Customize invoices
· Schedule recurring invoices to steady customers
· Send unlimited invoices
· Create standard financial reports
With Sunrise, you may only receive payments via credit card. For some users this may be a deal-breaker. For others, not so much.
All the software solutions mentioned above are free and, except for GnuCash, all offer subscription plans as well. Check out each site to see which best suits your needs. For example, if you want to receive payments via Square or PayPal then you should avoid Sunrise as your solution. We provide our recommendations below for every option discussed in this article.
If you can afford to spend a few dollars every month then you can consider some of the fee for service web applications. As of this writing, in late 2020, most of the applications are offering discounts for the first two to three months. As a word of caution, you should consider the full price of the service before you sign up. Changing accounting software in mid-stream would be a hassle so pick one and stay with it for at least six months before deciding to stay or leave. We have included a review of the four most popular small-business accounting software applications.
Xero is the only application that allows unlimited users even at the lowest price point. They do however have, at the least expensive service level, a limit on the number of invoices that you can send (20) and the number of bills that you can pay (5). Xero integrates with at least 800 third-party business applications.
Xero’s least expensive service plan ($9/month, pre-discounts) is among the lowest of any accounting software out there. If you have a few people who need access to your accounting software Xero is a good choice.
* Unlimited users with every plan * Limited invoicing and bill paying with
least expensive plan
* Track inventory with all plans * Expense tracking & project mgmt. only
with the most expensive plan
* Has a good ‘resource’ section * Multi-currency support only with the
most expensive plan
This is the grand-daddy of them all. The least expensive service offered by QuickBooks is also the most expensive of the web-based services reviewed here. Like the other services, QuickBooks offers to track income and expenses, invoice and accept payments and run standard financial reports.
QuickBooks does offer a good library of business resources. They also offer a mobile app so you can manage your accounts from anywhere.
* Has a good mobile app * Higher starting price
* Easier to get started * Inventory will be tracked only at a higher
* Good accounting tracking features * Limited project tracking
If you have a few clients that you bill frequently then Fresh Books is worth a look. They allow unlimited expense tracking and unlimited invoicing. You can access Fresh Books through their mobile app. Fresh Books also integrates with over 100 business applications.
* Good for projects with unlimited estimates, * May only have five (5) billable clients
proposals and time estimates per month
* Moderate starting price * Inventory will be tracked only at
higher price point
* Customizable proposals & estimates * Each price point is limited by the
number of clients that can be billed.
Zoho Books accounting service is part of a larger suite of software services; if you are forecasting growth in the near future you may want to look at Zoho as an entry to other services such as a CRM or Project Management system.
Zoho’s key feature is their workflow automation. If you have things that you do frequently such as sending recurring invoices, Zoho is a good choice.
* Automated workflows with every plan * Limited payroll capability
* Custom client portals *Inventory will be tracked only at
higher price points
* Customizable proposals and estimates * Integrates more with Zoho
applications than other business web
Recommendations: - Which ever way you decide to go you have taken a good step forward by vowing to keep track of your business finances. Whatever size your business you will be able to focus more on the creative side if you automate your finances somehow.
Our recommendations, for whatever you decide to do, are as follows. If you decide to be a DIY'er then we recommend using a Microsoft template. If you want to keep your expenses to a minimum the free Wave software application is our choice. If you want to add capabilities, then Wave has a few pay per service options as well. If you are able to afford additional services, then we recommend you start with QuickBooks. QuickBooks has multiple plans as your business grows and is easy to get started.
Whichever way you go, best of luck and Happy Knitting.