6 Time-Saving Tools Worth Spending Your Time On

Solopreneurs need all the time they can get. Unfortunately, each day has a limited number of hours. There’s no way to add more, so saving time is ever a priority.

But to save time in the long run, you sometimes need to spend time. And sometimes that prevents solo-biz owners from taking the initiative to do things differently than they are now. It’s tough to carve out time in an already packed schedule, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to work more efficiently and ultimately get more from every hour.

6 things I spent time on to learn that save me time nearly every day

Tools rule for conserving time, but there’s a learning curve that accompanies them. You need to invest some time upfront to learn them before they’ll improve your productivity. Here’s a list of the time-saving tools and software I’m immensely glad I took the time to learn.

EvernoteEvernote website

I’ve used Evernote (PC download and web/mobile) for the past three years to store important notes about client projects, preliminary project quotes, blog topic ideas, and “cut and paste” re-usable business nuggets (such as html code for blog formatting and templates/scripts for LinkedIn responses and proposal inquiries). With Evernote, I find it far easier to find what I’m looking for than to dig through my MS Office folders. Of course, it takes some time to figure out how best to organize it to suit your needs and to get acquainted with its features and capabilities.

Trello

Trello is a free and simple to use cloud-based project management tool. I’ve used it for about a year and Trello webpage screenshotappreciate how easy it has been for not-so-tech-savvy people to grasp the basics of how it works. Its visual interface allows people to easily view the piece parts of projects. Its “board” and “card” structure makes it simple to add projects, assign tasks and make task-specific notes. Plus, its drag and drop nature allows project participants to move tasks to phases of a project (like from “to do” to “done”). There’s a Trello mobile app, too, that adds to its value even though it doesn’t have as much functionality. As with Evernote, you’ll find you’ll need to spend some time experimenting with Trello to set up your boards in a way that make the most sense for your particular projects.

LastPassLastPass website screenshot

This free secure online password manager and form filler lets you bypass searching  for the individual passwords you’ve created for the many apps, networks and tools you use on the web. LastPass encrypts your data to keep it safe, and you decide if you want it to automatically log you in or auto-fill your login info whenever you visit a site you’ve stored there. As you may have guessed, you’ll need to take time to set up your LastPass account. But after you’ve installed the LastPass extension to your browser, the app will give you the option to automatically add new sites to LastPass so you won’t have to manually log into them in the future.

QuickBooks

Invoicing, logging payments, recording deposits…there’s no escaping that  financial administrative stuff whenQuickBooks webpage screenshot you’re a solopreneur. For the first 3 years of my freelance writing business, I used Excel spreadsheets to track my finances. It was becoming unmanageable, so I bought QuickBooks software (there’s also QuickBooks Online if you prefer a cloud-based app). I won’t lead you astray and tell you QuickBooks is intuitive (though you’d think that it should be since it’s made by “Intuit”). It’s not. Now in my second year of using it, I’m still learning the ropes to some degree, but it’s been well worth the time and occasional expense of bringing in a QuickBooks expert to train me and review my transactions to make sure I haven’t completely fubared something.

HootsuiteHootsuite screenshot

Hootsuite has made it possible for me to tweet consistently and keep better tabs on the Twitter activity of clients, solid content providers, and influencers so I can interact more effectively. Plus its “Hootlet” browser extension lets you compose a tweet (or status update if you opt to use Hootsuite for other social networks, too) directly from the article or web page you’re viewing. You’ll find it takes some time to connect your Hootsuite account to your social networks and set up the dashboard with streams (such as your Home feed, Retweets, Mentions, specific Twitter lists etc.). But after you’ve got it set up, you can expect it to either save you hours each week or enable you to engage more in the same amount of time you devoted to social media efforts before.

Quote RollerQuote Roller webpage screenshot

After recently reading Laura Spencer’s blog post about Quote Roller, I knew I had to try it for myself. Wow! Quote Roller is an uber-helpful online tool designed to aid freelancers and solopreneurs craft professional proposals, directly send them to clients, and gain acceptance by securing sign off via electronic signatures. Best of all, you can save chunks of proposal content  to reuse in future proposals. That saves time – big time. I’ve only been using Quote Roller for about 9 days, and I’m already thrilled with the efficiency it’s brought me. I’ve submitted 3 proposals through the tool so far and all three have been accepted by my prospects with no technical issues or other snafus. Yes, I’m still getting acclimated to it, but I’m predicting Quote Roller will save me hours upon hours upon hours every year.

Take time to save time

When you’re doing it all in your business, shaving time off of administrative tasks isn’t an option; it’s a necessity for survival. Don’t be afraid to put in a few extra hours to learn the features and functions of tools that can make you more productive and efficient.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur Post™

How to Use Hootsuite and Buffer Symbiotically to Improve Your Efficiency on Twitter

The time it takes to actively engage on social media reigns as one of the top challenges facing entrepreneurs. Besides my own Facebook Page, Twitter account, LinkedIn presence and Google+ profile, I also manage several others…and, YES, I feel the “time management” pain! Using online tools for scheduling and posting directly from a web page has become an absolute necessity – especially where Twitter is concerned.

Without Hootsuite and Buffer App, I’d be in a padded cell by now. But even with their independent bells & whistles, I was struggling to find efficiency when using them together. And no, I wasn’t willing to give up either one completely!

What’s great about Hootsuite –Hootsuite’s dashboard for monitoring Twitter activity rocks! You can set it up to display: the tweets made by people you follow; when people reply to, retweet or mention you; and direct messages that you receive. Plus, it makes it simple to tweet, retweet (as a mention) and direct message directly from the dashboard – and to schedule all of the above. I also love that Hootsuite is clever enough to automatically fill in the blanks when you start typing a Twitter handle so you don’t need to seek out the exact name via Twitter.com. Sweeeeet!

Hootesuite screenshot

Hootsuite Dashboard (demonstrating how it suggests Twitter handles as you type them)

What’s great about Buffer App – After adding the Buffer extension to your browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Safari), whenever you want to share a blog post or web page on Twitter (works for Facebook and LinkedIn, too), you need only click the Buffer icon on your browser. Next, a window pops open that automatically creates a shortened URL for the link and some introductory text (which you can modify).

Buffer App

Buffer App for generating posts directly from blogs and web pages

From there, you can opt to share the post immediately or schedule it in your “Buffer”. Your Buffer is the daily schedule you set for your posts. Each time you use the Buffer icon to share a page/schedule a post, the post goes into the next time slot in your Buffer’s line up. Easy!

What wasn’t great about using them both at the same time – Because I was using BufferApp for scheduling posts directly from blogs and web pages, while using the Hootsuite dashboard to schedule retweets of others’ posts, I had two posting schedules to manage and coordinate instead of one. It got tricky, messy, and time-consuming to keep my Buffer and Hootsuite scheduled tweets from overlapping or being spaced too closely together. I found myself constantly resetting my Buffer’s posting schedule and editing the times on individual scheduled posts in Hootsuite to avoid that from happening. Not very efficient!

The fix – This might not be viewed as completely copacetic, but it works for me and I don’t believe it’s creating any issues for either Hootsuite or Buffer App. Symbiosis happened when I began to merge the best of both worlds. In other words, I began to schedule tweets exclusively through Hootsuite, while still using the slick ability to generate posts directly from the web via Buffer App’s browser extension. How you ask? I was scheduling retweets through Hootsuite all along, but then I also started pulling Buffer tweets into that schedule, too. Rather than selecting “Add to Buffer” in the Buffer window when I’m preparing to share a page,  I now cut the text and shortened URL from Buffer, paste it into Hootsuite and schedule it there. Maintaining just one posting schedule has saved significant time and effort.

Cutting text from Buffer window

Step 1: Cut content from Buffer window

Paste post content and URL into Hootsuite for scheduling

Step 2: Paste Buffer window content into Hootsuite for scheduling

Alleviating link tracking worries – If you’re concerned about monitoring the click activity on the links in your posts, don’t be. URLs generated through Hootsuite can be tracked through Hootsuite’s analytics. As for the links generated through Buffer that are cut and pasted into Hootsuite, you can access results through your bit.ly account if you’ve chosen bit.ly as your link shortening convention.

Making tools work for you – Although there are marvelous cost-effective and free social media tools out there, it will sometimes take a little creativity (or MacGyver tricks!) to meld their strengths together and develop processes around them to make them work for you. Experiment, experiment, experiment with the resources at your disposal until you find a combination that will save you valuable time and effort!

Your turn! What tricks and tips can you share for using multiple social media management tools more efficiently?