Anyone who knows me knows that I love trying new web tools, mobile and web apps and new sites – that’s just the way I’m wired. And some of my clients have used this to their advantage, because I’m often able to:
- recommend a tool (or two or three) that can handle the particular task they want
- troubleshoot problems with their WordPress websites (unless it involves something really complex, in which case I have a couple of go-to people like Annie Sisk and Jennifer Mattern – who are really smart about those things)
- suggest fun apps and tools they can use to connect with their customers.
One of the reasons I can do that is because I try everything myself. I’ve had a few “oh crap” moments where the results haven’t been what I expected, but equally I’ve had those moments where I find a tool that everyone can benefit from.
So you can imagine that when this month’s Word Carnival asked us to pick our favorite tools under $10, I was in heaven. (That was right before I thought: how the heck do I pick just one?). And I’ve got to warn you, that even though I’m known for my integrity, I just might have to cheat on this one.
My Best Tool Under $10 – Buffer
Being no slouch, I grabbed Buffer as my first choice. Buffer is a social media sharing app that costs $10 a month for the premium version (known in Buffer-speak as the Awesome Plan). I’m using the free version, which is still pretty awesome.
How do you use it? Once you’ve created an account on the Buffer site, add your social profiles, set a schedule and install the bookmarklet in your browser, then click to choose the sites you want to update and click to share.
To my mind, Buffer does three things well:
- It lets you share to multiple social sites from a single interface and decide when those updates appear. You can set a schedule for queuing you updates and can also share at other times via the bookmarklet.
- It integrates smoothly with a bunch of websites (like Twitter) and other apps (like CoSchedule and Pocket) so you can schedule updates from almost anywhere.
- It provides analytics on your social sharing efforts (these are limited in the free version but still useful).
There are lots of other social sharing tools people rave about – like Hootsuite – and they have their place. But having tried several of them, Buffer is the one I have used consistently since the day I first started using it several years ago. Over the period, I’ve seen it evolve to include new sites, better analytics and more integrations.
I use Buffer daily (several times daily) and help my clients with it too. When I write content for them and it goes live, I add it to my Buffer so that my online networks see it. This usually brings in some extra comments and shares.
Five More Tools I Can’t Live Without
OK, so I said I was going to cheat – and I am. There are a few more tools I want to mention that help me do a better job for my clients. Don’t worry; I’ll try to keep it brief.
1. Pocket – originally ReadItLater, this free tool works via a browser bookmarklet (and web and mobile app) and allows you to save and tag things you want to read. I use it to save research and articles that might be useful to clients, such as information on WordPress updates and security flaws.
2. Google Calendar/Google Tasks – I use these free tools to make sure I don’t miss deadlines. Give me a deadline and it goes on my task list with separate tasks for starting and delivering articles. I also add appointments for Skype meetings and phone calls.
3. Windows Live Writer – Although I’m using Scrivener – see below – I haven’t stopped using this free tool for final formatting of posts. It’s how I make sure the HTML is clean and the links open right, with not too much extra work. That makes content easier to use when I deliver it to clients. Sadly, this tool hasn’t been updated in a while, but there’s hope.
5. Dragon Naturally Speaking – carpal tunnel is the bane of writers; Dragon helps solve it by letting me dictate the first drafts of my articles. And – client bonus – I can actually get more work done than when I type, so that’s a win-win. This is the most expensive item on my list, starting at around $80, but it’s totally worth it.
So there you have it – my roundup of some of the most useful tools I use in my writing business.
Want to find more useful business tools? You’re in luck, because that’s the theme of this month’s Word Carnival. Check out what these smart business bloggers are using in the other posts in this roundup.