This review features the Varidesk ProPlus30, which was kindly gifted to me. I’ve been curious about standing desks for a while. I’ve heard about some
Every once in a while, I like to share the freelancing tools, apps and resources that make my freelance life easier, smoother and more professional. This is especially the case now I’m a working mum and time is limited. Here are my favourite freelancing tools of 2016 so far.
There are a couple of affiliate codes below, but I only recommend what I myself love – and in the case of the subscriptions/paid items, I do pay for them myself.
Cloudpress was an Appsumo deal I picked up earlier in the year, and went on to build my coaching website with. It’s one of the best website builders I’ve tried, allowing very quick and easy drag and drop functions to create a professional result.
I’ve been using Teachable for a while now to create and host my Freelance Lifestyle School courses, and I love how they’ve taken on all the suggestions put to them in the Facebook support group to constantly improve. The introduction of drip feed content in particular has been a real bonus. If you’re looking to start out in online courses, these are my recommended provider.
Instapage is another page builder I’ve loved using recently, especially for webinar landing pages. Again, it’s simple to use, free for your first page and works well with WordPress.
One thing I’ve been determined to do this year is get on top of my finances. Receipt Bank has certainly helped on the business front. Every time a receipt lands in my inbox (which is where most of my receipts come, whether they’re hosting and domain bills or Facebook ads), I forward it to my special Receipt Bank email. They then process it, categorise it and add it to my FreeAgent account. Much, much easier than printing them or adding them manually.
I have a real addiction to buying business and self-development books, but rarely find the time to finish them. Blinkist was another Appsumo buy. It takes popular non-fiction books and summarises them into 10-15 minute audio or text summaries. So you can pick up the main takeaways, and then decide if you want to get the full book anyway.
Clear Calm Space Community
It’s been really important for me this year to get to a better state of organisation. At the start of the year I joined Lisa’s Clear Calm Space Community program, and have made big strides in decluttering my home. Lisa tackles a new area each week, and suggests small, daily tasks to chip away at it. I still have a way to go, but it’s amazing the difference removing physical clutter can make to your mental wellbeing.
Also, it means I’m not quite as worried that my son will swallow something he found under the sofa.
Mastering Money Management
While we’re talking about organising, I’ve also been tackling my money disorganisation. During my pregnancy, I was unable to work much due to being really unwell (yup, to all those who say “you’re pregnant not ill”, you can be both!) my accounts slipped and I had to pop a tax bill on a credit card. And then I let it lapse past its 0% period. To be honest, my approach to money needed a big shake up. Joining Jen Turrell’s Mastering Money Management community was the start of pulling my head out of the sand and making some long-term, grown up changes. Jen’s advice is realistic, easy to implement and takes out the fear around money.
What freelancing tools, apps and resources have you found useful so far this year?
Running your own business as a freelancer can be a lot of hard work. You have to do your own PR, marketing, HR, finance, networking, admin and negotiating. It’s a tough old job, and you need to be organised (which, if you’re creative, doesn’t necessarily come naturally).
Thankfully there are some apps to make getting and staying organised a little easier.
It’s a great way to brain dump and organise your business, and see in a clear way what you need to do in each area. Asana is available on the iPhone, iPad, Android devices and online.
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Slack is a brilliant community tool for having conversations with your team. I have my own Slack community for the team I work with, plus I’m a member of two others who use it to communicate quickly with others. You can ask quick questions, drop in files, gather thoughts on images and even import Asana updates. As someone who hates dealing with emails, being able to quickly keep track of a conversation and respond without delving into inbox saves me a lot of time and stress. You can have different sections for different parts (‘channels’) of your business – for example I currently have one for newsletter chat, one for blog chat and one for general discussions.
Slack is available on the iPhone, iPad, Android devises and online. There’s also a MacBook desktop app.
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IFTTT (If this then that) is a tool to create triggers to get life working automatically for you. One of my favourite vloggers, Savvy Sexy Social, has done a great video summarising how it works.
Love the idea? Check out the post I recently did for Yell Business on Ten ways to use IFTTT to make your business more efficient
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Buffer has, hands down, saved me the most amount of time this year as a freelancer. An hour a week spent scheduling social media content (and taking advantage of their suggested content and feeds section), has taken a lot of the stress out of my social media use. Also, they’ve just added Pablo which works like ShareAsImage to create very quick and easy images for your social media. PLUS they’re lovely people generally – after I recently joined in on their #BufferChat Twitter chat, they sent me some free stickers in the post with a handwritten note. Class act Buffer.
Buffer is available on the iPhone, iPad, Android devices and online. There are also some browser extensions to make it even easier.
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If you’re getting into goal setting, the Productivity Wizard app is a must to use. I love the way I can create daily, weekly and monthly goals, break them down into smaller tasks which can then slot into my iPhone calendar, reflect on each day with a series of insightful questions and track your progress. You can even add in regular rituals, like meditation and exercise.
The Productivity Wizard is an app available on the iPhone and iPad.
Which organisational tools do you use as a freelancer?
What do you do when you’re struggling to get productive? Turn to an app, an online tool or some other form of tech? That’s my default method. I’m horribly addicted to my phone.
Remember last week when I mentioned how many hours I’d racked up on my phone? But this week, I’ve shaken things up a bit and returned to an old school method – pen and paper. As if I needed another excuse to stock up on supplies from Paperchase. It’s not just me either – several members of the Freelance Lifestylers Facebook group are also huge fans of pen and paper.
While I figured getting things down with pen and paper might help me clear my head a bit, I didn’t realise the impact it would have on my productivity. Or how passionate other people were about the benefits of using pen and paper.
Pssst! Pen and paper enthusiasts – have you heard about the bullet journal method? It’s a great way to keep track of your To Do lists and more (and aside from the cost of a notebook, it’s free)
Last week, I did a little test on my iPhone using an app called Moment. It tells you how many minutes you spend actively using your phone, and how many times you pick it up and swipe it open.
The results weren’t flattering. I spent almost SIX HOURS on my iPhone in one day. And 72 pick ups. A day where I was training for six hours, away from my phone. That’s almost half of my waking hours spent staring at a tiny, bright screen.
I should be deeply, deeply ashamed of that, right?
Um, no. Because if it wasn’t for my handheld treasure trove of apps, I’m not sure how the hell I’d manage to run my business.
Pop the kettle on and listen to this week’s Freelance Teabreak podcast to find out exactly which three apps I couldn’t freelance without – then tell me in the comments which ones rock your freelance socks off!
(Bonus points if you confess to what your results were using the Mention app!)
It’s reflection time people. That time of year when you look back on the year, try and remember what the hell you’ve done and work out what you want to do differently in 2015.
One of my favourite things about being freelance is the number of options available, which means no one year is the same. For me, this year was challenging in good and bad ways. It definitely felt like a trickier year, although I suspect this is down to growing pains leading up to becoming a a Limited Company in September. I’ve realised that when I approach the edge of my comfort zone, I have a tendency to self-sabotage which stops growth. This year has definitely been about moving beyond that.
The first half of the year was focused on building up my coaching and training skills, something I’ve really enjoyed. It was also the time of year in which I launched my online ecourse. I signed up for some new mentoring groups and some more 1-2-1 coaching, something I plan on doing a lot more of in 2015.
The second half was full of good news, but challenges too – from October the nausea and tiredness of pregnancy kicked in and I pretty much had to write any new plans off until the new year. Taking a break, while frustrating, isn’t necessarily a bad thing though – it’s the perfect time to reflect and work out what I was really excited about returning to. The last half of the year was also the time when I became a finalist in the 15 for 2015 freelancers, a competition run by IPSE.
I set myself an income goal this year, and fell slightly short – mainly because I lost the last three months of the year to hiding under the duvet. I still saw an increase on last year though, and I feel like I’m in a much better position going forward. Next year, my focus is on growing the business and making it as flexible as possible before the baby comes along. I love thinking about a fresh new year.
There are a few people and tools that have really helped me boost my business in 2014.
Jo Gifford and the Dexterous Divas and Dudes
I’ve known Jo through Twitter for years now, but this was the year I joined her Dexterous Divas and Dudes group (it’s free!). Facebook mastermind groups really took off in 2014, but I ended up leaving quite a few as there was either too little engagement or too much spamming from members. Dexterous Divas and Dudes is a group of online entrepreneurs asking for advice and helping others. On top of that, there are weekly promotion opportunities, mindfullness topics and workshops to learn more. I’ve made some great contacts through this group, and the workshops in particular have been very valuable.
Denise Duffield Thomas
Lucky Bitch, Denise Duffield Thomas’s program and ebooks, have made the biggest change to my money mindset this year. The biggest mindset shift was the guilt over wanting to earn more -the idea that it was ‘greedy’. I’d highly recommend her audiobook on this topic.
2014 was the year I realised that ecourses are brilliant up until a point, and then your money is better spent on 1-2-1 consulting. A 1-2-1 session with Sile Walsh left me with a notebook filled with notes and a head filled with ideas. She’s very intuitive and spotted the obvious blocks in my business straight away. Easily worth the money I invested.
The Leonie Dawson planner
This year, I invested in the Leonie Dawson planner, and I’m really enjoying filling it in and reflecting on the past year as well as making plans for 2015.
The Members club
Carrie Green is probably the closest we’ve got in the UK to Marie Forleo, and her Members Club is one of the best investments I’ve made this year. For $25 a month, I get a new bundle each month, on topics ranging from doing your own publicity to running successful Facebook adverts. Her Facebook group is also a really friendly and helpful resource. The price goes up in January, so you might want to sign up now before it does.
The High Tea Cast team
I’ve been writing for The High Tea Cast for a year or two now, and the Facebook group of other writers has been brilliant for both offloading during stressful times and sharing ridiculous/funny things. Having that support group has been vital this year.
Onto the tools! I’ve finally embraced Evernote this year, after the realisation hit that you have to approach it with an all or nothing mindset. These days, I use it to scan in any correspondence, save favourited Tweets, create weekly plans, save PDF/ebooks and write blog posts. It’s a vital tool for my business and I couldn’t work without it.
Plus, it gives me the illusion of organisation. Hurrah!
Buffer has upped their game this year with the introduction of their suggested content, and in turn its really helped me keep on top of my social media. I’ve seen a real jump in numbers on my social media accounts, and I really think a buffer has contributed to that.
Another tool I played around with last year but only fully embraced in the last few months. I HATE dealing with my email, but have a nasty habit of constantly subscribing to things. Unroll.me keeps me sane by rolling up all the non urgent emails into one summarised email.
The Email Game
Finally, Jo Gifford introduced me to The Email Game, an online tool to tear through your emails when you’ve let them slide for a few days. If emails are slowing you down, a couple of sessions with this online tool a day will help you keep on top of things.
So, over to you. What groups/people/tools have helped you boost your business in 2014?
Happy Monday everyone. We’re kicking off this week with a guest post about how tech can help you stick to those January resolutions, from Jo Gifford, digital media genius and lovely tweeter.
Have your New Year’s resolutions already faded into the ether? Is your willpower for that diet, marathon training plan, novel writing goal or general world domination starting to dwindle?
Go easy on yourself. Let tech do the legwork for you to help your productivity, information overload, focus and, in general, sanity. Reduce the noise, step away from the screen, and re-discover your goals with some free time to actually do them.
1. Automate daily habits and tasks
Taking the monotony out of daily repetitive tasks frees up both your time and inclination to do something else.
For daily digests of RSS feeds, newsletters or hot topics to keep abreast of, set up filters using IFTTT to aggregate them all somewhere that works for you, be it Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox or wherever else tickles your fancy. You can browse and comment, share or act on anything in your own time in a more organised way.
For habits and daily activities, Routines is a lovely little app with friendly, easy to set reminders to tick off and feel a sense of direction and accomplishment. Set the reminders to vary how strict the timeframe of the action is and how aggressively you wish to be reminded, and keep on track with getting things done.
2. Reduce inbox overwhelm
Inbox overwhelm is the antithesis of sanity and productivity. By setting up some smart tech systems and habits you can step away from the inbox and break the reliance on instant response requirements and general “noise”.
Scoop is an excellent add on for Gmail that literally scoops up promotional emails and smartly presents them to you in one daily digest, not unlike an inbox VA.
Sanebox is another excellent option which allows emails to be diverted from your inbox and re-presented to you when you need to see them again, dictated by you with a simple click to file the email. Lovely.
Use IFTTT to collate reading material or emails you need to respond to or read later by storing them in relevant files which dump them into corresponding Evernote notebooks or a Google Docs location.
Canned responses by Gmail in combination with Sanebox and IFTTT filters allows set responses to be sent out to emails with certain criteria, filed, ordered and re-presented to you when you need.
Awayfind lets you step away from the inbox safe in the knowledge that if the urgent information you need to react to comes in, you can set filters for a text message instant alert.
How does that inbox seem now you are in charge?
3. Get smart with social
Setting up smart social media sharing workflows is another sanity saving trick.
Buffer is an excellent resource for sharing content in one dedicated social media portion of time, with the updates flowing throughout the day to avoid an obvious dump of information on your feed.
Collating tweets or updates from users relevant to your niche that you need to follow can be easily set up in IFTTT straight to a spreadsheet. Simply read, paste and click to schedule relevant content for your audience throughout the day while you are free to pursue those lifelong dreams…or, indeed, get on with some work.
Set up workflows to collate and file tweets you favourite and instagram pics you like to store information and resources for an appropriate time so that social interaction time doesn’t lead you on a bottomless pit of web browsing.
See? Social doesn’t have to be a time vacuum.
4. Go paperless
Living without a constant pile of paperwork and general “Stuff” is a breath of fresh air. Use Evernote to photograph sketches, letters, business cards, Post It Notes, kids artwork, invitations, and any other ephemera which clutters up your desk.
Free yourself from mountains of letters and find your way around information so much easier.
5. Talk to yourself
What if you could be productive even in the outside world, away from the screen? Taking time out to enjoy fresh air or a change of scenery doesn’t mean ideas can’t be captured on the go; dictate memos, blog posts and emails into Evernote to transcribe later, or use Dragon Dictation to record your thoughts and ideas to be dealt with when you plug back in – whenever you choose that to be.
Wishing you a productive, sane and tech powered 2014.
Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, illustrator & creativity addict; she teaches creative ideas for online content creators, business owners & self employed mums via her Access All Areas programme and one to one sessions.
What do you use for your documents? Are you a loyal fan of Microsoft Word, a regular user of Apple’s office package or do you go old school with the notes app on your phone or a pad and paper?
I’m a big fan of Google Docs, especially as a freelancer. Here’s why:
- Variety – With Google Docs, I can create a Document, Presentation, Spreadsheet, Form and Drawing. I can also use a variety of other apps to enhance all of these.
- It’s free – Google Docs are completely free. No initial purchase, or extra packs to make (although there are plenty of apps you can download to use with Google Docs)
- Access online – Google Docs is a cloud based system, so I can access and update my documents wherever I am. I often update spreadsheets on the go, or send my Terms and Conditions document to a new client through the inbuilt sharing option.
- Easy to find docs – Well, it wouldn’t be a Google product if it wasn’t super-easy to find what I want. As all of my docs sit in Google Docs, rather than languishing in various folders on my computer, all I need to do is a quick search and I’ll find the doc I want.
- Collaborative – Far and away the best thing about Google Docs, is how collaborative it is. I often create content plans in a Google Doc spreadsheet, then share it to the client to approve. As it’s live, I can see exactly which cell they’re looking at, and see any edits in real time. Also, when I’m in my Gmail, I can attach a doc directly from my new message.
- Public – I can choose to make my links public, either through a link or just as a general public link. I’ve been using this for my eCourse (running again in January!), as I can give my coursemates access to a folder filled with the materials they need.
- Google Docs can be used in Google Hangouts – Recently, I’ve been testing out the Google Docs function in Google Hangouts. I can grab a doc from my drive and show my fellow Hangout attendees, which is handy when I’m referring to something in particular.
- Uploads – You an upload old documents to Google Docs, which is a nice way to clear up your desktop and back everything up.
- IFTTT syncing – Google Docs works with IFTTT, so you can set up triggers to do things like create a spreadsheet with all your expenses that come through your email.
- The sheer number of apps – I’ve mentioned the apps a fair bit, but there’s a brilliant selection of free apps you can use with Google Docs. Check out some of my favourites below.
Apps to try out
- Movenote – Combines video and presentations, by allowing you to record a video talking the viewer through your presentation, while the presentation streams alongside. You can then save it and send it to someone, making it great for online courses.
- PowToon – Great for creating animations to use on your website/blog
- PicMonkey – image editing program PicMonkey is nicely integrated into Google Docs
- Billable Contacts – If you fancy trying out a billing/invoicing tool within Google Docs, this is well worth a try.
Have you experimented with Google Docs? What’s your favourite use for it?
p.s The 30 Day Freelance Lifestyle Ecourse is back in January! Sign up before the 15th to get the special discount…
For the last few weeks, I’ve been freelancing full time for a client in London. As I live in Bracknell, this means I have an hour or so commute on the train each way to and from work. I’m seemingly incapable of just relaxing and doing nothing, so I’ve been trying to be as efficient with my time as possible.
Here are just a few of the ways I get the most out of my commute – but I’d love to hear your tips too! Leave me a comment with how you get the most out of your commute.
Apps are your friends, people. At this very moment, I’m typing up this post on the WordPress app. Before that, I caught up on my favourite blogs through BlogLovin, read through my social media feeds on Flipboard, checked my mailing list subscribers in MailChimp and checked my emails. I also save posts and articles to Pocket to read through when I’m offline/on the train. The more labour-heavy tasks wait until I’m at my desk, but this gets me started.
Train or bus commutes are a great chance to brain dump all my thoughts and organise them. I use the Wunderlist app to note down everything I have on my mind. For the tasks that require action, I add a sub-task. For those that I can do bugger all about, I leave it or tick off. The result is that I arrive at work knowing exactly where I can start, and less like my head is a beehive of ideas and worries.
Do you struggle to find time to meditate? Or fancy giving it a try? If you’re lucky enough to get a seat on your commute, now is the time to plug your earphones in. Try the Calm.com app, which gives you 2 min/5 min/10 min etc options. Don’t worry, no one will notice (unless you start throwing some ‘oooohms’ out there).
(Pod)Cast your worries aside!
I suffer from quite a bit of social anxiety when travelling. Plugging into my podcast collection really helps take my mind off it and de-stress. Old Desert Island Disc ones work well for this, but I have a LOT of podcasts on my iPhone, ready for me to listen.
Organise a catch up chat
I have to get up quite early to head into my current client contract – often leaving the house before 6:30am. If you work with any other early birds, why not utilise the time by organising a 7:30am chat with them over the Skype app or G+ app? Text-based conversations mean it’s not the end of the world if your signal drops out for a minute.
Plan your escape!
If you’re employed by someone else, but pining for the freelance life, why not use this time to fully research your options, put together a plan, and start making some contacts!
So, over to you! What do you do during your commute to and from work?