Quick Tip to Prevent Losing Content (and Your Valuable Time) if MS Word Behaves Badly

Microsoft Word – Good, But Not Perfectnaughty brown puppy chewing up white pillow

 

Microsoft Word documents are the go-to for many writers because most clients prefer to receive content in a .doc or .docx file. Unless clients request that I share content in some other mutually agreeable way, I submit my writing to them in Word docs via email. That seems to be the standard process for most of the writers I know.

 

Although a useful, universal program, MS Word has issues—and creates headaches—from time to time. Some are predicaments of our own making, like when we accidentally click “don’t save” when closing a document to which we just added multiple paragraphs. Oops!

 

But some problems are out of our control. For example, as I was wrapping up and spell-checking a 500- to 600-word draft last month, nearly every character in my text turned into gibberish symbols. WTH? I scoured the Internet, trying to find some solution to get my words back. But alas, nothing fixed the situation. And so, I had to recreate the entire post from scratch. The unforeseen circumstances derailed my day and hijacked more than 3 hours of my already filled-to-the-brim schedule.

 

I was not amused.

 

And I vowed that would never happen again.

 

How To Prevent Losing Content and Precious Hours

 

In the past, I used Google Docs sparingly. Occasionally, a client would request to share files that way, but otherwise, I didn’t pay much attention to the cloud-based word processor.

 

Since my MS Word-gibberish debacle, that has changed.

 

I now create all my content in Google Docs. Doing so protects me from both of the issues I mentioned above.

 

Benefits of Creating Content in Google DocsGoogle Docs Screen Shot of Share Option

 

  1. Google Docs auto-save in real time.

 

So you never have to worry about closing your docs and losing your changes.

 

  1. Google Docs gives you a backup if a Word file fails.

 

After I finish content in Google Docs, I export it into a Word document, save it to my Mac, and then send it to my client. By keeping the Google Doc in my content repository in Google Drive, I have a backup if Word behaves badly—or if I accidentally delete or misplace the Word doc.

 

If you have clients who feel comfortable using Google Drive, you can eliminate the hassle of back-and-forth emails during the revision and approval process. You can give the people who need to weigh in on your content access to your Google Docs files (and entire Google Drive folders). Even better, you can give them editing privileges, and all of their suggested changes will be marked up within your Google Docs. This avoids the mayhem that ensues when multiple people email you their modifications via separate revised Word docs.

 

Not Just For Writers

Even if you’re not a content creator by trade, you likely have a lot of communicating to accomplish with employees, project partners, vendors, and customers. Whether you have meeting agendas, spreadsheets, to-do lists, or other information that needs the input of multiple people, Google Drive can serve as a viable collaboration tool and backup plan. It’s a rather intuitive program, but if you need assistance in learning to navigate it, Google has a helpful online guide available.

 

Three Sure-Fire Cost-Cutting Moves For Solopreneurs And Small Business Owners

Ever since I started my own solo business, something a SCORE mentor said during a startup workshop six years ago has stuck Dollar bills graphicwith me:

 

“Money is the language of business. For your business to thrive, you need to learn to speak the language.”

 

He didn’t mean that all that matters in business is the money, but rather that your business financials tell how effectively you’re running your business. You need to have some understanding of profit and loss and other accounting basics.

 

No business is too small to care about profitability. Even for a very small business like mine, a healthy profit matters.

 

But what if, like me, you only have so many viable options for increasing your revenue without adding headcount or complexity to your operations? How do you boost your profitability then?

 

I think you already know the answer: Cut costs.

 

Three Ways Your Small Business Can Cut Costs

 

Think Before You Spend

Is it a “must have” or a “nice to have”? Obviously, the “must haves”—the things you need to do your job and keep your business running—shouldn’t be ignored. But the “nice to haves” can usually wait.

 

Before you buy, ask yourself…

 

  • Do I need this to effectively create or deliver my products and services to my clients?
  • Will my brand be at a competitive disadvantage if I don’t buy this?
  • Can I make more money if I buy this?
  • Will I use this?

 

This applies to anything and everything—from business software to networking group memberships.

 

Use Tools That Free Up Your Time

When you’re running a very small business, especially one that’s service-based, your time IS money. The more time you spend on the administrative and marketing aspects of your business, the less time you have to spend on revenue-producing work. Over the past several years, I’ve been using—and have seen others use—a number of online platforms and mobile apps that make various tasks far less cumbersome and time consuming.

 

A few you might want to check out include:

 

Quote Roller powered by PandaDoc – Online software for generating proposals and securing contracts

 

With Quote Roller becoming PandaDoc in 2015, the software also provides sales document management capabilities. I’ve been using Quote Roller for the past two years to send proposals to clients, which then become executed agreements when they sign off with their electronic signatures. With the ability to save pre-written text blocks to a library for future use, the platform makes it far quicker and easier to “roll out” proposals than crafting all pieces from scratch.

 

Trello – For coordinating efforts and managing projects

 

I’ve used several other project management tools when clients have insisted, and I have yet to experience one that is more streamlined and straightforward than Trello. The drag-and-drop interface and simple collaborative features have helped me keep projects with multiple moving parts and players well organized and on track.

 

QuickBooks Online* – For invoicing clients, recording all business financial transactions, and keeping tax information in one central place

 

I’ve used this for the past three years and I enjoy the intuitive interface in addition to the peace of mind that all of my financial data is automatically backed up.

 

Invoice2go – Mobile app providing the ability to invoice clients immediately onsite with a debit or credit card

 

Invoice2go can save entrepreneurs time and help them get paid faster by giving them a convenient, on-the-spot way to take care of business. I haven’t used this app because it’s rare that I would need to invoice clients at their locations, but I can see how it would save other small businesses a lot of time and headaches.

 

Hootsuite – Social media management tool for posting to and monitoring activity on social media platforms

 

I primarily use Hootsuite for keeping up with the fast pace of Twitter. It has saved me gobs of time, enabling me to see activity of users on my various Twitter lists through a single dashboard. And I don’t know what I’d do without the Hootlet browser extension. With it, I can compose and schedule tweets to share content directly from the web pages I’m visiting.

 

Shop Around For The Best Deal

I feel almost silly including this tip, but I know people who buy from the first place they find an item if the price sounds reasonable enough. As you’re equipping your office, whether it’s at home or at another site, look for sales and special deals in print and online. It just seems wrong to buy anything (especially big ticket items like copiers/printers, computers, etc.) at full retail price when there are ALWAYS deals somewhere at all times. Yes, it may take a little research and time, but what you save will likely make it well worth your while.

 

Frugality Pays Off  

Don’t confuse frugality with being cheap. There’s a difference.

 

If you’re frugal, you’re economically savvy and conscious of getting the best products and services at the best possible price.

 

Cheap means wanting whatever costs the very least regardless of quality.

 

Frugality will give you the wherewithal to cut costs without compromising your business integrity and reputation.

9 Questions To Answer Before Asking a Freelance Writer For A Quote

“How much would you charge for writing content for my website?”Question marks

 

It’s a well-meaning but far too general question if you’re interested in getting a quote on content writing services.

 

Just as contractors can’t give you an estimate on your kitchen renovations until they have taken measurements and learned whether you want a hardwood or linoleum floor, content writers can’t quote you a project rate until you’ve given them some detailed information.

 

Before asking a freelance writer for a quote, prepare to answer the following questions:

 

1. How many pages will you need content for?

This matters to writers because it gives them a feel for the volume of content they’ll need to write. Obviously, a website with five pages will take far less time and effort than a 30-page website.

2. Which pages will you need content for?

The specific types of pages make a difference, too. Crafting an “Our Services” page requires more time than writing a catchy blurb for a “Contact Us” page.

3. How will the pages be structured?

A website’s layout and design elements can affect the amount of time a writer will spend on writing your content. Some websites’ home pages have a slider and small content boxes which link to specific pages, some sites are designed as a single page on which visitors scroll to get to different sections, other sites are laid out in other ways. When estimating the work involved, it helps writers to know how content will fit on the various pages of your website.

4. How will you collaborate and exchange information?

Email and easy-to-use online collaboration tools like Trello and Evernote make the process more efficient. Face-to-face meetings require more time, especially with a commute factored in.  And if you prefer to provide information via phone calls and expect the writer to take notes, that’s more time consuming for a writer, too.

5. Will you/your team provide all the key details that need to be included or will outside research be required?

Online research and phone interviews add hours to projects. Most writers will want to factor that into their pricing.

6. How many levels of approval will there be?

If one person is the first and final stop, the revision process will typically be smooth and short. When content needs to be approved by a marketing manager, a top-level executive, and a board of directors, things can get drawn out.  The writer could face multiple revision requests as each tier of approval has its own ideas of what content should say or how it should sound.

7. If you’ll have an “About Our Team” page, how many staff members will be featured there and are there existing bios to draw from?

The number of team members you feature will affect the amount of time a writer will spend on this page. And if those team members don’t have existing bios or LinkedIn profiles with key details, your writer will need to spend time gathering that information from them.

8. If you’ll have “Products” or “Services” pages, how many products or services will need descriptions and how extensive will those descriptions need to be?

The quantity of products and services and volume of content for each can dramatically affect how much work a writer faces. Expect to provide this information upfront. If you’re not yet sure about the quantity of products and services, you might instead ask the writer to quote this page on a per product or service basis. I.e., the writer might quote you $125 per product description, and your cost for that page will then depend on how many products you finally decide to include. For example: 4 products = $500.

9. When is your deadline?

If a writer won’t be able to accommodate your timeline, what’s the point of getting a quote from her? Sharing your content deadline upfront can save both you and the writer from wasting time. And if you’re expecting the writer to meet a rush deadline, expect to pay more—especially if your writer is in demand and will need to either adjust her project schedule or work above and beyond her normal project load.

 

The writers you connect with may ask some of these questions or all of these questions, and they might have other questions as well when considering what to charge for writing your website content. Regardless, you’ll get a more accurate quote and avoid added expense later if you’re prepared to provide as much information as possible about your project from the get-go.

Your turn! If you’ve worked with a freelance writer on your website content, what questions did they ask when pricing your project? If you’re a writer, did I miss anything? What would you add to the list?

 

 

Image provided by Dawn Mentzer/purchased via Canva

 

My Move From P.C. to Mac

It was time for a change. The Acer laptop that had served me well (although lately at a snail’s pace) will soon celebrate its sixth year, and I realize its days are Macbook Pronumbered. Although I have all my files backed up in the cloud, I decided to take a proactive approach rather than wait for my business to come to a temporary halt when the hardware I depend on so much comes down crashing.

After much contemplation, grilling representatives at our local mall’s Apple Store, and asking advice both online and off from people who transitioned from P.C.s to Apple computers, I decided to get me a Mac.

That was one week ago.

Overall, so far, so good. But it hasn’t been all roses.

The Mac is slick. No doubt about that. But expect a learning curve to navigate if you decide to make the change.

Before I share about the hurdles I’ve experienced, let me first say I really, really, really like my Macbook Pro.

    • It boots up and shuts down in the blink of an eye.
    • It’s quick as a whip offline and online (unless you’ve got a shoddy internet connection).
    • It’s super thin and light, which will make by back happy when I need to go on the road.
    • Viruses are less of a threat than with P.C.s. (All signs point to this anyway.)
    • And the lighted keyboard…well, I wouldn’t be typing this blog post at nearly 9 p.m. on my back patio without any other source of illumination if I didn’t have it!

I’m extremely happy with my decision to buy my Mac. But it’s different than a P.C.

Change is good, but it can also be frustrating.

The challenges I’ve faced during the process of acclimation going from P.C. to Mac include:

The Lay of the Land on a Mac

Finding your stuff on a Mac requires some retraining if you’re coming from the P.C. environment.

  • On a Mac, you access your primary programs and apps on the “Dock.” It’s the strip at the bottom of your screen. It goes away when you’re working in an app, but it will pop back up when you drag your cursor to the bottom of your screen.
  • All of your programs are in the Launchpad. It’s simple to get to via a single click on the rocket icon on your Dock.
  • Your files are in Finder (smiley face icon on your Dock).

Not crazy tough to get used to, but you might find it not altogether intuitive at first.

Gmail and Mac Mail – Not a match made in heaven.

Mail is the Mac equivalent (for lack of a better way of explaining it) of Outlook for P.C.s. While I didn’t have problems connecting both my personal Gmail and Google Apps business Gmail account to it, I discovered a few usability snafus. I like the capability to access my separate personal and professional email inboxes in one place and to easily toggle between them, but starred emails from both accounts get all lumped together in a “flagged” box. I also discovered that unless a particular setting is changed, emails sent through the Mail app appear in Gmail as open drafts even though they successfully reached their recipients. Confused, I proceeded to resend clients email messages they already received.

Ultimately, I decided to disconnect my Gmail accounts from Mail and access them in Chrome as I always have.

Pages — It’s like Microsoft Word, but not really!

Having used Word alone (except for the few instances when clients needed me to craft documents in Google Docs) for many years, I find Apple’s word processing app to function somewhat similar to Word, but not nearly identical to it. Granted, in time I’m sure I’d figure it out, but after four days I downloaded Office for my Mac. As much as I need to use a word processing tool in my business, I couldn’t deal with the unfamiliarity factor. Plus, before I put Office on my Mac, I had to save my Pages documents as Word documents before I shared them to ensure clients could open them. Extra work? No thanks! Word 2011 for Mac works nearly the same as the Word 2010 I have on my P.C.

If You Didn’t Use Keyboard Shortcuts Before, You’ll Need to Start

As a P.C. laptop user, right clicking to perform functions like copy and paste was my way. I could do that using the P.C.’s built-in laptop mouse, but not with the Macbook Pro mouse. Instead, you need to use the Command key to make those sorts of functions happen (for example: Command + C for copy and Command + V for paste). However, I can right click when attaching my USB mouse to my Mac, which is great for when I’m working from my home office work station. For times when I’m mobile, however, I’ll need to familiarize myself with the keyboard shortcuts to work more productively.

As I said earlier, I’m happy with my Macbook Pro. The more I use it, the more I’m understanding why nearly everyone I’ve talked with is a stark, raving fan.

I expect I will be, too, after a little time.

If you’re considering making the investment (at $1999 for the 15″ laptop, it really is an investment) and moving from a P.C. to a Mac, just prepare for a transition that’s not completely seamless.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post

 

Things that Make Me Go “Hmmm…” on Twitter

I’m a big fan of Twitter. I use it primarily for business, and have met some phenomenal professionals through the Hmmm...dialogue bubbleplatform. Some of the relationships I’ve built through Twitter have carried over to mutually beneficial offline collaborations. But there are a few things some Twitter users do that don’t make much sense to me.

Twitter practices that make me go “Hmmm…”

Retweeting a retweet of your tweets – If I retweet your tweet, a reply to say “thank you” or the gesture of clicking the little star to favorite the RT works just fine. If you want to show appreciation by reciprocating with a RT, it would be nice if you checked my timeline to find a tweet that is RT worthy and is relevant to your audience. Retweeting your own tweet seems a little self-centered. I’m not saying you are. I’m just saying it might seem that way to others.

Tweeting your daily Twitter stats from justunfollow – I’m not sure what purpose this serves. Why would you want to tweet how many people followed and unfollowed you each day? More importantly, why would anyone other than you care?

People who have a gazillion followers, but who only follow back a handful of people – Really? Out of all your thousands of followers, you can only find twenty or thirty who appear interesting? I get it, you want to keep your feed under control so you can interact more purposefully. But that’s what Twitter lists are for. Generally, when I see someone who has a highly disproportionate number of followers compared to those they’re following, I write them off as egotistical and elitist. Of course, you shouldn’t follow everyone who follows you, but if someone tweets content that’s relevant to your industry or otherwise shows some merit, acknowledge their value with a follow.

“Protecting” tweets –  I get it’s a privacy thing. But I’m not sure why anyone would join a social networking platform like Twitter, and then hide the content they’re sharing. Assuming you’re on Twitter to connect with more people and extend your reach, you’ll want to share your tweets so others can decide whether or not you’re someone they want to follow. While I suppose it’s possible you could use Twitter as a way to communicate only with a select, private group of people, other platforms are better suited for that (Facebook groups, a private G+ circle, email…)

Automating Direct Messages – Why do people do this?? There’s no shortage of blog posts dedicated to the topic of how much people despise auto DMs. For example: Nobody Likes Your Auto-DM, Death to the Auto DM on Twitter, 4 Reasons to Abandon the Twitter Automated Direct Message. I’m in the camp of folks who find auto DMs annoying, impersonal, disingenuous, and typically presumptuous (many take the leap that because I followed them, I’m game for a sales pitch or would gain by liking their Facebook page). While I don’t unfollow everyone who sends an automated DM, I know people who do ax anyone who puts DMs on auto-pilot. Seems the risk outweighs the unlikely reward, so why take the chance. Put the stops on that auto DM now.

If you do any of the above, I mean you no harm or disgrace. What works for – and makes sense to – each of us on social media can be vastly different. You’re entitled to do whatever you want with the Twitter account you maintain… and there are surely things I do that make you go “Hmmm….”

Your turn! What Twitter practices are your pet peeves?

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Making Klout Matter: 2 Tips For Making It a Better Measure of Your PROFESSIONAL Online Influence

Klout has flaws, but it also has merit

Klout has come under fire by many who are quick to point out its flaws in measuring online influence. I agree that Klout Klout   The Standard for Influencescores are best taken with a grain of salt; what you see may not accurately represent someone’s professional influence.  But I do believe that Klout provides some value to small biz owners and solopreneurs – IF you set up your account thoughtfully and IF you use it to monitor your own progress in building influence rather than fixating on the Klout scores of others.

To monitor your professional influence, only link Klout with your professional social network accounts

Because most of us participate on social networks both professionally and personally, it’s easy to blur the lines when looking at our online influence through tools like Klout.  How well – or not – Klout represents your professional online influence is largely up to you.  If you connect your Klout account with social accounts that you primarily use for personal reasons where you’ve got a ton of back and forth with mom, dad, grandma, sons, daughters, cousins, gym partners, church friends, etc. about your favorite food of the day, pics from a party, pet tricks and that sort of thing, you could end up with a Klout score that rivals that of Brian Solis, but that doesn’t represent your influence as your professional self. If you want to use Klout to monitor your professional influence, only connect it with the social accounts that you use primarily for business purposes.

Use Klout to track your progress in gaining influence; don’t compare yourself to others

As I mentioned earlier, the accuracy of Klout depends a lot on how you set up your account. You can’t control how others set up their accounts, so don’t compare your Klout score with that of others. Instead, use it as a tool for monitoring your success in building your professional influence online. Take note of how posting and interacting (or failing to do so) on your connected networks impacts your score. And use Klout’s various dashboard features to determine which networks are showing the most promise in building online relationships that could lead to new business.

Klout Dashboard view

While I’m not glued to reviewing it daily, I periodically like to check my Klout dashboard to get a pulse on the various activity I’ve gotten on my individual social networks.  A few of the things I find interesting:

  • The network breakdown of how much each individual social channel is contributing to my Klout score.
  • The specific interactions – and the weight they carry – that had an impact on my influence over the past 90 days.
  • The summary data for each of my connected networks (which provides a glimpse of the activity each network has seen over the past 3 months).

For the skinny on how Klout works (including how it calculates your score, how others influence your score and how you influence the scores of others), check out the Klout website’s “How it Works” page.

Again, I don’t dwell on my Klout score (and don’t advise that you dwell on yours). But I do believe Klout – if you set up your account to focus on your professional social networks – provides a decent way of baselining your level of online influence and following how well you’re doing at improving upon it.

By Dawn Mentzer

What are your thoughts on Klout? Do you regularly use it to gauge your online influence?

25 Worst – and Most Risky – Passwords that You Should NEVER Use

Secure Passwords Are Often a Passing Thought

Yes. As sensible solopreneurs and small business owners, we know we should create passwords that are long, random and Protecting your online passwordsdifferent for every online site we access so hackers can’t crack them so easily.

No. A lot of us don’t do that.

Why? It’s a pain in the @$#. Who has the time and patience to keep track of unique login info for ten…twenty…thirty sites? And what’s the point? With hackers using sophisticated techniques, does it really make a difference?

According to Kevin Doel, spokesperson for SplashData (developer of the popular SplashID password management software), although hackers have more and more tools at their disposal, they still look for easy targets.

In particular, hackers seek people who:

  • Stick with default or common passwords (admin, password, 12345, abc123)
  • Use the same passwords over and over again on different sites
  • Use short passwords of less than 7 or 8 characters
  • Don’t change passwords often
  • Write down passwords or put them in a spreadsheet or other unprotected document

The Bad and the Ugly in Passwords

Every year, SplashData compiles its annual list of “Worst Passwords” representing the most common passwords used on the Internet and posted by hackers. If you use any of these passwords, you’re among the most likely to be victims in future breaches.

On SplashData’s most recent list, “password” (uh…no comment!) reclaimed it’s #1 ranking.  But “Jesus” has made His debut on the list – giving hackers a reason to sing “Hallelujah!” And the hacker’s savior is joined by “ninja”, “mustang,” and “password1.”

The top three passwords on this year’s list – “password,” “123456,” and “12345678” – remain unchanged from the previous list.

Top 25 Worst Passwords:

1. password
2. 123456
3. 12345678
4. abc123
5. qwerty
6. monkey
7. letmein
8. dragon
9. 111111
10. baseball
11. iloveyou
12. trustno1
13. 1234567
14. sunshine
15. master
16. 123123
17. welcome
18. shadow
19. ashley
20. football
21. jesus
22. michael
23. ninja
24. mustang
25. password1

“SplashData compiled this list from files containing millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers,” explains Doel. “They advise consumers or businesses using any of the passwords on the list to change them immediately.”

By posting an annual list of frequently used passwords, SplashData aims to demonstrate that many people continue to put themselves – and even their customers in some cases – at risk by using weak, easily guessable passwords. The company hopes to motivate people to adopt stronger passwords. More complex passwords really can protect individuals, small business owners – and their identities – from criminals.

While the tools for hacking into accounts get more sophisticated, thieves continue to prefer easy targets.  That’s why even a just a little more effort in selecting better passwords will go a long way toward making you safer online. “These days, your most valuable asset is digital information,” says Morgan Slain, CEO of SplashData. “Just think of the implications if someone got access to your usernames, passwords, email, and online accounts.”

And that happens all too often because hackers are skilled at discovering or guessing information that lets them log in to  people’s accounts and services on the web.

How can you make your passwords more secure?

SplashData recommends that you do the following to help protect your passwords from hackers:

  • Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters. To create longer, more secure passwords that will be easy to remember, consider using short words with spaces or other characters separating them. Some examples: “bake pie at 9!” or “car_drive_city?”
  • Don’t use the same username/password combination for multiple websites. Whenever you sign up for a new website, use a password you’re not using for any other website. Particularly risky is using the same password for entertainment sites that you do for online email, social networking, and financial services.

So how on earth can you remember so many different passwords? Don’t even try! Instead, consider using a password manager application that organizes and protects passwords and that can log you into websites automatically.

Given what’s at stake – your identity, client information, your bank accounts… – it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to strengthen passwords and protect yourself from hackers.

You’re turn! How do you manage your passwords? Please share about what’s been working for you to keep your passwords organized and secure.

Image courtesy of foto76 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Time-Saving Chrome Extensions that Rock for Solopreneurs

Like so many other time-strapped solopreneurs, I’m constantly on the lookout for tools that can save me time. Saved time means increased productivity – because there’s more of it up for grabs to get things done!

Often, it’s not just one big whopping tool that will make all the difference…it’s a combination of several that will help you work smarter. And if you’re a Chrome user, choosing – and consistently using – some well-performing extensions will give you the ability to conserve minutes (or even hours) every day and let you accomplish more.

My Personal “Couldn’t Live Without” Favorite Chrome Extensions:

G+ Button
Google Plus +1 Extension

This extension makes it super easy to +1 and share a web page to your circles on Google+ without going directy to your G+ profile or page. When you’ve read a blog post or happen upon a web page that’s worth sharing, you simply need to click on the little G+1 icon on your browser bar. A window then pops up which automatically attaches the link to the page you’re on and +1s the page.  It also allows you to write a status update and choose which circles or individuals you want to share it with on G+. Because I don’t use any scheduling utility for Google+, this extension is essential in my book. You can find it and download it for free at the Google Chrome Web Store

Hootsuite Hootlet Link Share
Hootlet Extension for Chrome

If you use Hootsuite, you’ll want to install this extension ASAP. Like the G+1 extension, it lets you to post to your Hootsuite account (and the networks you access through it) without directly going to your Hootsuite dashboard.  When you’re on a web page/blog post that’s perfect for your audience, just click on the Hootsuite Hootlet icon on your browser and the Hootsuite “Create a New Message” box will open so you can craft your tweet or status update (the link to the page you were visiting will automatically be shortened), select the networks you want to share it on, and either send right away or schedule it. You can download the Hootlet Link Share extension from the Extensions page of Hootsuite.com

LastPass
LastPass for Chrome
Passwords, passwords everywhere. LastPass has been a lifesaver! It’s a free secure online password manager and form filler that lets you bypass digging out your individual passwords for the multitude of apps, networks and tools you use on the web.  I love, love, love it because I don’t have to worry about remembering individual passwords every time I want to log in to a site.  After setting up a single password for your “LastPass Vault” and  loading the individual password info for the sites that you regularly (or not so regularly) log into (think social media networks, Google, wireless phone account, productivity tools, online banking, etc.), life gets instantaneously easier and more secure.  LastPass encrypts your data to keep it safe and then fills in your login info whenever you visit a site that you stored in your vault.  No guessing, “what was that password again?” or digging through sticky notes or index cards to find your passwords.

Evernote Web Clipper
Evernote Web Clipper Extension for Chrome
If you’re an avid Evernote user, the Web Clipper Extension is a must. It’s perfect for when you’re on a web page that you want to save for future reference because it’s got info you can use for a blog post or because you quite simply don’t have enough time to read it on the spot, It streamlines the process of saving important web pages to Evernote. No need to go through the steps of copying the link, logging into Evernote and pasting the URL into your Evernote notebook of choice. Instead, you just need to click on the Evernote Web Clipper extension. You’ll then see a window that gives you a variety of options for how you want to save the info on the page. You can save the article, a specific selection from the page, the full page, or the URL.  You can also save it as a PDF or email it to someone. You also choose the Evernote notebook you want to save it in, and you can add tags to categorize it and comments to remind yourself of why you saved it in the first place.  To download it for free, go to the Web Clipper page on Evernote’s website.

Webpage and Webcam Screenshot
Webpage and Webcam Screenshot Extension for Chrome

This free extension lets you capture just a screenshot or 100% of the content appearing on any webpage.  I use it primarily to capture all content on webpages for which I wrote the content so I can save it for sharing in my professional portfolio.  The extension saves the content in a PNG file and then I convert it to a PDF so the text is a readable size. Also sweet about this extension is that you can easily share any webpage to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Evernote, WordPress, Blogger, Google Drive or by email. You can download the Webpage and Webcam Screenshot extension from the Chrome Web Store.

Your turn! Which extensions save you time, boost productivity, and give you capabilities to help you work smarter?

 

To Do: Migrate My RSS Feeds from Google Reader to Feedly. Check!

Google Reader users, time is ticking! Google is putting to rest our beloved RSS feed aggregator on July 1. Although I’ve known about it since Google made the announcement and I had soon afterward decided to make the move to Feedly (the most viable alternative for me), I didn’t make the switch until today. If you’ve been dragging your feet, too, I’m here to tell you to follow Nike’s advice and “just do it!”

Overall, it’s a super simple transition. Just go to the Feedly website and follow its lead.

I’m a Chrome user, so I simply selected “Get Feedly for Chrome” and gave Feedly permission to access my data on the websites that I visit.

Feedly1

After that, Feedly prompted me to import my feeds from Google Reader…

Feedly2

Then I gave the app access to my info in Google so it can do its job…

Feedly3

After that, it logged me in automatically and displayed the feeds in Google Reader that will migrate. From there, I clicked on the green banner at the top of the page to “Prepare for final step of the migration.”

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Next, Feedly directed me to a page that explains how you can prepare for the upgrade which covers:

  • The different browsers you might use
  • Mobile operating systems
  • What to expect as your feeds sync via the Feedly cloud
  • Some common issues you might encounter and how to get help to resolve them

All done! Here’s what my Feedly looks like…

Feedly5

The only minor issue I ran into is that I’m not seeing the mini toolbar at the bottom of the browser even though I selected it as a preference. According to some online discussions on the topic, it appears others have had some issues with the mini toolbar as well. No deal breaker…I added Feedly to my bookmarks bar instead.

Other than that little glitch, so far so good. I’ll need to familiarize myself a bit more with the layout, but I like what I see. It’s well organized, relatively intuitive, and not all that different from Google Reader in terms of look and feel.

Here are two resources that I think will help me get acclimated. You might want to take note of these, too.

Tips for Google Reader Users migrating to Feedly

Adding News Feeds to Your Feedly

So what are YOU waiting for?

Your turn If you’ve migrated your Google Reader feeds to an aggregator, which one did you choose? Has it been an easy transition?

Time Tracking Tools for Professional Services Solopreneurs

Like many freelancing solopreneurs, I bill for my time, effort and end product in a variety of ways. Most often, I propose Time is moneya project rate that encompasses everything into an all-inclusive one-time rate (for once and done projects) or into an all-inclusive monthly fee for work that is recurring. But sometimes, I bill by the hour if the amount of work, collaboration, research, etc. that will be required is tough to assess up front. Billing by the hour can work just fine and keep you whole as a freelancer if you set a rate that’s both reasonable for your clients and favorable to you. But it also presents a significant challenge: accurately tracking and reporting your time to your clients.

Some projects bring with them “here and there” short bursts of email collaboration and other activities that aren’t as easy to keep tabs as are other tasks that lend themselves well to blocking out dedicated windows of time to work on them. For me, that results in a really sweet deal for my by-the-hour clients because I tend to under-calculate the time that I’ve spent on their projects. Not by hours and hours and hours, but 5 minutes not tracked here and 5 minutes not tracked there can add up – and it can prevent hard-earned income from entering your bank account! That’s why I’ve asked my intern extraordinaire, Jenna Dutton, to look into some online time-tracking options available for bringing precision – and ease – to tracking and reporting project time. Here’s what she found…

Toggl (available online, via desktop and as a mobile app) offers a free basic program and a full-featured version for $10 per month. It’s a time-tracking calendar program in which you type in the project or task you’re working on, and then press the “start” button to make it track the time you’re spending on that particular activity. To stop the timer, you just click the button again. And fear not if you forget to click, because you can also enter your time manually. Toggl also offers tagging capabilities, so you can categorize activities according to tags such as “Invoice in June” or “Personal,” etc. and you can export your time reports to Excel. Another cool feature: Toggl lets you create graphs to see a visual breakdown of what activities are taking most of your time. It appears to be a very simple, one-click solution for tracking time.

Office Time is a software program with a one-time purchase price tag of $47. It also comes as an iPad/iPhone app. The user-friendly program provides an easy way to track time and expenses associated with projects – and it enables users to create invoice templates and make summary graphs. Plus, you can import its screens into Excel. Besides those functions, the program also recognizes when you’ve been away from your computer and alerts you about your time away so you can log that time against another project, or you can remove it from the records altogether. Office Time seems like it would be a nice fit for professional services providers who are looking for some accounting software in addition to time-tracking capabilities.

 

Clockodo is available online, as a computer download, and as a smartphone app at the rate of $8 monthly for a single user and $5 for each additional user. In addition to tracking project task time via a start and stop time clock, the program also enables you to create reports using customizable templates. As with Toggle, if you forget to clock out of a project, you can update your time manually. Clockodo also lets you import existing data from other systems that you use to track time so no billable hours slip through the cracks. You can also automatically create timesheets through Clockodo, which can help you invoice clients more quickly and accurately.

 

As with Toggl, you can get a free version of Paymo or invest in higher level plans that have greater capacity and more bells and whistles.

  • The free version includes 1 user, unlimited clients/projects, 1 invoice per month, and 50MB storage.
  • The “basic” version, for $9.95 per month, includes 2 users, unlimited clients/projects, 30 invoices per month, and 5GB file storage.
  • The premium version is $14.85 per month and includes 3 users (each additional user is $4.95 per month), unlimited clients/projects, unlimited invoices, and 15GB file storage.

Paymo uses a timer to track the time you spend on projects or tasks. And if you make any errors in turning time on or off, you can change, add blocks of time, or delete time to correct your records as required. Paymo also offers a variety of project templates, and you can organize your project work into subsets of tasks, milestones, timesheets, files, and discussions. So, in addition to time tracking, Paymo has some project management functions built into its program.

Decisions. Decisions.

I’ve personally decided to give Toggl a whirl. I like the freemium approach that will allow me to take a no-obligation, no hassle test drive. Plus, it seems super simple. Life is complicated enough so I want to use a tool that won’t take too much of my time and attention as I track my time (otherwise, what’s the point?!). But none of the above seem cumbersome and all appear user-friendly enough, so be sure to carefully consider the features you want and need before deciding on the time tracking tool that will serve you best.

Your turn! Do you bill your clients by the hour? What system do you use to track your time? What challenges have you run up against when billing by the hour?

 

 

Image courtesy of CoolDesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net