07 Jul 5 user-friendly tools I use daily
Collaborating online is not only possible, but also very easy, thanks to the many tools and resources available online.
There’s a wide choice: from sophisticated programs that require a lot of practice, to more user-friendly ones. Since I’ve started to work online, I’ve been discovering many excellent tools.
Most of them have a free version that offers the chance to start utilizing them straight away, and find out whether you really like and need them, and if they are actually as user-friendly as they claim to be. Obviously the pro version offers additional features. Once you start to learn the basics, you’ll decide if you really need those additional features or not. In many cases, they are worth the investment. But if your traffic isn’t high yet, you could keep using the free version.
So, what user-friendly tools do I use daily?
CANVA – free web-based platform that allows you to create and edit graphics to be printed or used on the web. Using Canva you can:
- upload your own images or choose from among theirs. Some are free, the others cost $1 each
- be sure to create the right image with the right format for each social network (Facebook, Twitter etc). Canva offers the ability to use their templates (based on each social medium’s recommended dimensions) or create your own customized images
- edit photos using filters
- have plenty of fonts, colours, icons, shapes, grids, frames at your disposal
And… there are a lot of easy tutorials too. I really find it user-friendly. The pro version, Canva for Work, is coming soon. I can’t wait!
MAILCHIMP – web-based email marketing service. If you need to send a high number of emails all at once, it’s not wise to use email services (Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, for example). Your emails might be detected as spam. And you don’t want your newsletter to go into the spam folder, do you? Email marketing services are perfect tools to perform this task. Mailchimp is one of them and quite easy to use. Through its intuitive interface you can:
- create, edit, format, schedule, automate and send email marketing campaigns
- manage your lists and segment them
- check the analytics and monitor the open rates or the click rates
- create contact forms to integrate with your website, for example
With the free version, you can send up to 12000 emails per month, to a maximum of 2000 subscribers. When your needs get bigger, you can check their pricing starting from $10 per month, depending on the traffic volume.
GRAMMARLY – online grammar checker. First of all I’d like to clarify that when it comes to proofreading articles, blog posts, websites, books, official documents, I always recommend using a professional proofreader. My grammar queen, Janice from WordPerfectVA always says, “Spell checks don’t have a brain!” And I totally agree. I’d like to have Janice checking every single post or email, but this isn’t possible (not only because we live in different countries 🙂 ) However, on a daily basis I network on social media and write emails. In such cases, tools like Grammarly come in handy. I tend to be a perfectionist: I just hate typos. Even when I simply text my husband (reminding him what to buy), it has to be perfect! It doesn’t mean it is always perfect. But if I realize I misspelled a word in my text, I just have to go back and correct it! In your professional life, Grammarly is helpful when it comes to typos. It checks everything you write on the web, on social media, in your Word docs, in your emails and suggests corrections. For typos and grammar mistakes it can help, and I find it very useful when writing a quick note. But professional proofreading is something else.
BUFFER – social media management dashboard. When I started to be active on my social media profiles, I came across this program and learned to use it. I have to admit it’s a real time saver. Your social profiles need to be managed on multiple social platforms, almost daily. You just need to do it. It’s vital for every online business, but it can be so time-consuming. Personal interaction is key. My job, for example, is relationship-based. Before starting to collaborate with someone you’ve never met, you absolutely need to create and nurture a relationship, to build trust. You must not automate everything, or you lose that personal touch, but a tool like Buffer allows you to share content every day, scheduling posts in advance, and as a result you have more time to interact personally with your followers, fans, friends. If all you do is share content on social platforms, with no comments or interaction, without adding anything personal, without conversing with anyone, well… then just let it go. You are probably just wasting time.
With one quick login, you can manage multiple profiles on multiple social media. Directly from your dashboard you can:
- share content, updates, images, videos on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+
- schedule posts ahead of time, choosing your preferred time or accepting Buffer’s suggestions
- monitor results
One little feature I absolutely love, is the Buffer add-on extension for Chrome. Whenever you find an article, an image, or a video that you’d like to share with your audience, you can choose which social network (or all of them) you want it to share with, you can comment on it, share it immediately or schedule it for later. I just love it!
TOGGL – time tracking software. Working from home requires discipline. Realizing where your time goes is essential to be able to manage your schedule. So sometimes, I turn it on just to understand how long it takes me to do something, just for myself. Sometimes I use it to track time spent working for my clients. Some of them prefer to have a flat rate, a package, but in other cases (one-time or small projects) time tracking is required. This is when a software like Toggl comes in handy:
- it allows you to have unlimited clients and unlimited projects, even with the free version
- it creates beautiful time reports
- timesheets can be exported in Excel, CSV and PDF files.
So easy to use, I love it!
Are there any tools you’d like to recommend? Please share your tips here below.