Let me tell you today has been crazy so far. Between client work, emails, my phone ringing non-stop and everything else it takes to run a business I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. So, I decided to turn off the phone, ignore my email and catch my breath while I share with you the tools that I use everyday to keep me sane.
When you work for yourself, especially under deadlines, you must be organized and productive. I pride myself on giving my clients what they want when they need it and I can’t do that if I don’t have some systems in place that help me stay organized. In one day I may have a few blog posts to write, a presentation to put together, graphics to create, phone and video calls with clients and so much more. How do I do it? Over the years I have narrowed down the tools that I use. Most of the tools that I use are free, but I do pay for others because I need the added functionality that paid versions offer. I also try to use cloud storage as much as possible. Not only does it save room on my computer, but I can easily access anything I need from anywhere. You have to decide what works for you and fits your needs.
Where do I start? Evernote is probably the most important program that I use. Before I go any further here is some advice. Give some thought to how you will structure Evernote to get the most of it. One thing that I found is VERY important is properly “tagging” your notes. This can get pretty involved. I suggest you watch Organizing with Tags in Evernote . Tagging is one of the most powerful features that Evernote offers. Oh, and you can use Evernote with Google Drive!
Evernote’s free version is filled with features and for many that may be all you need. I pay for the Premium Evernote, with this I have access to features that I need in my business. To compare the different plans and features visit Evernote.com.
Here is a list of things that I use Evernote for:
Writing blog posts (yep, I’m writing this in Evernote)
Evernote notes are saved as an HTML document. When I write a blog post I can easily copy & paste the text into a WordPress post and still keep the original formatting. Evernote offers a very clean, intuitive writing space. Also Evernote is great for online research. I’ll tell you more about that in a bit. Read The Ultimate Guide to Creating Faster, More Effective Blog Posts With Evernote
, Michael Hyatt is a long time Evernote user and he offers some great information on writing and Evernote.
I have three types of clients at any given time. I have the people that I am currently working on a project for, these are my active clients. I have past clients, these I am not be working on project for them currently, but these clients often need my services at a later date, so it is important that I keep all their information files and past work. The third type of client is the prospective client, these are the people that don’t know how awesome I am yet, but they will. I have an Evernote notebook stack dedicated to each client type, current, past and prospective. In each notebook stack I have a notebook for each client in this I keep all my notes. I typically start a new client with a note that is titled Contact information, another note titled Communications and then Project Quote. As I work with the client I organize the communication note by date and write notes on each communication, I also create notes for each project and research that may be necessary. How you organize your clients has to fit your workflow.
My Daily Calendar and To-Do’s
I have a lot going on in my life and my calendar must be flexible and keep me on task. If I miss meetings, fail to return calls or miss deadlines I will be out of business. I have tried many different ways to make sure I stay on top of things and Evernote offers me the most flexible option. For example this year I created a Notebook and named it Calendar 2016, I then created a note for each month and on each note I list out all the days of the month. Yes, it takes some time to set up, but it is time well spent. I fill each day with tasks, appointments, links to meeting notes. income, expenses and much more. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post that explains my calendar
When is the last time that you had zero emails in your inbox? What do you do with receipts that are emailed to you? Are they still sitting in your inbox? Do you seem to collect things in your inbox that you would like to read later? Do you have correspondence that you would like to hold on to, but the inbox clutter keeps you from finding it when you need it? Here is the best solution I have found to help me keep my inbox at zero when I end each day. When you set up your Evernote account you will have an Evernote email address, if you already have an account you will find it in your account settings. Forward emails to this address and they go directly into Evernote. You can specify the notebook you want the email to go to by adding @ in the subject line followed by the name of the notebook you want it to go to. For example, Subject: Meeting notes @ClientXYZ. You can also add a tag by using #followed by the name of the tag. Now your subject line would read, Subject: 9/27/16 Meeting notes @ClientXYZ #projectA. Read Quick Tip Friday: Emailing Into Your Evernote Account
**( This feature is only available in paid versions of Evernote)
This is exactly what it says. This is the file where I store ideas, quotes, interesting articles and all sorts of tidbits. Some of my best ideas come from poking around the Brain Dump file. To make it really work for you. properly tag your notes.
Evernote is a fantastic research tool. The Evernote Web Clipper is available for Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer (IE) 7+, Firefox, Opera, and Microsoft Edge (for Windows 10 or higher). With the Evernote Web Clipper you can clip a full article, a simplified version of the article, a full page, bookmark a site or create a screenshot. You can also annotate your clippings. As of this writing, annotating is not available in the Microsoft Edge browser. Evernote clippings can also be shared through email, with a link and yes, even on social media!
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While Evernote is my go to organizational system, Google Drive handles most of my document creation, graphic files and more. There is so much that you can do in Drive that there is no way that I can cover it in this post. That being said, let me share a couple of things with you. First, I must tell you about a feature that saves me a ton of time. Google Drive docs has a voice-to-text feature that I find works very well. I’ve found that if I dictate a blog post and then go back and make edits that I get done in half the time. While it is not perfect it is much better than many other voice-to-text solutions that I have tried.
Second, in my business I often collaborate with others and this is where Google Drive excels. I can work with another writer in real time, in the same document. It saves hours of back and forth emails and waiting for responses. Also the editing and commenting system works very well. I can share a document with a client and they can comment or make edits quickly and easily.
Inside Google Drive you can create Docs, Sheets, Forms, Drawings, Slides and more. Once I started to use Google Drive, I found no use for Microsoft Office. Oh, and it’s free!
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I have tried a ton of calendar apps. Some are prettier than Google Calendar, but I have yet to find one that offers as many features that suit my needs as a freelance copywriter. One of the biggest advantages is how well Google Calendar works with other apps. It is easy to share with others, update, customize and you can also set up video conferencing inside the calendar. I have several Google Calendars. There is my main calendar where I block out time for tasks, track appointments and add reminders, my editorial calendars for myself and clients where I track blog posts as well as social media posts and a family calendar. I also have calendars that have been shared with me, such as the one for a photography club that I belong to.
I have Google calendar set up to notify me of events and appointments across my devices. That way I don’t lose track of time and miss anything important.
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Have you tried the Edge Browser for Windows 10? I love it. I still use Chrome for most of my heavy lifting, basically because I there are several browser extensions that I use that, as of this writing, they are not available on Edge. I also need the connectivity that Chrome has with all my other Google programs. That being said there is a couple of important reasons for me to use Edge for certain things.
First, I do a lot of what I would call “one-off research”, that’s research that is required for a certain article or blog post that I will not need later. With Edge I can research online and annotate pages, leaving them open in my browser so that I can go back and find what I highlighted or make notes on when I am ready to begin writing. You can also save these notes to OneNote, your Favorites or a Reading List. You can also share using Microsoft Apps such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Email and more. This is a very fast and effective way for me to handle quick projects that require a minimum of research.
Second, I do a lot of client work that requires me to sign into their online accounts, such as social media sites. I open Edge and sign into their accounts, which allows me to remain signed into mine on Chrome while I am working. Edge is fast and it runs just fine, even when I am running Chrome at the same time.
Before I share with you some of the specifics of the features that Gmail offers, let me say something about looking like a professional. Believe it or not, something as simple as your email address can make a prospective client wonder if you take yourself seriously. If your email says @Yahoo, @hotmail. @earthlink or it is from your cable company, knock it off. Yes, there may be some pain involved in changing email addresses, but trust me it’s worth it.
Keep in mind when you create your Gmail address that same information will be attached to your other Google products. make sure that it is professional.
Now that is out of the way, let’s talk about Gmail. One of the big advantages for me is how well Gmail integrates with other Google products. I can also easily add links, Drive files and other files inline in the email or as an attachment. I also use labels to organize my inbox. I have a goal everyday to have my inbox down to zero before I turn off my computer. As I mentioned before I forward important emails to Evernote, but inside Gmail I add labels to emails that I want to organize within Gmail. I also love that you can create a custom signature in gmail
, this is not available in some other free email services. You may want to try out Inbox
. It is a streamlined version of Gmail and also has some cool features.
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This is a simple tool that allows you to check your text for keyword density. This will help you with the develop the SEO in your writing.
Do you sometimes have trouble finding images for blog posts and social media? I use Pixabay to collect images. All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required.
It’s easy and there are a ton of images ALL FREE.
I know that some of these tools have a learning curve, but its worth it take the time and learn how to use each one. Once you get the hang of them, you will find it much easier to take care of your client work and your business. I would love to hear about any tools that you can’t live without. I am always looking for ways to improve my organizational system and increase my productivity.