We all need a little help from our friends.
But with our online businesses we need a little help from software
There are paid tools, free tools, paid-ones-posing-as-free-during-a-sneaky-trial-period and then there’s old faithful: spyware junk software.
What’s a business owner to do?
There’s always a new shiny tool or strategy to try every time you fire up your PC. Eventually, you just have to go on the word of a trusted friend (or witness mass adoption) for what to use.
Here is a short list of tools I think are fantastic, useful every day, and best of all: free.
Tools for your business
What is it: A program you can use to record your screen and audio activity.
What do you use it for: Thinking of releasing “how to” videos in your niche? Record and narrate through your PowerPoint slides or surf the web to give a superb visual walk-through for your audience.
My thoughts: If you don’t have the extra bling to drop on Camtasia then here is a great alternative.
(Mozilla Firefox users) and
What is it: It’s an internet browser add-on/extension for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome users.
What do you use it for: Have you ever wondered what was the hex value of a great color you saw on a website? You wanted it so bad for your own site. Or maybe you have a broken design element on your site that you need to fix?
Firebug will rescue you. By using this add-on you can reveal source code and even click on specific elements of a web page to inspect the element.
Web designers use this to help tweak elements and the coolest thing is you can make live code adjustments to view the impact real-time (though it doesn’t affect the actual site code-it just shows you results of your code changes).
My thoughts: A must have add-on for any content marketer. You don’t have time to stop and email your designer or search forums for what is often a simple fix. Activate this little add-on and be the do-it-yourself type!
What is it: It’s a free desktop audio recording program.
What do you use it for: Thinking of publishing a podcast on your site? Maybe you want to offer a great interview with an industry leader to your readers?
You could even talk about a product of yours that you’re passionate about and share your passion through the power of voice. Well, Audacity has you covered.
My thoughts: I use it to record my Smart Online Business Strategy podcast. It’s a lightweight, easy-to-use tool. For my final editing of the podcast I use and recommend Sony Vegas Pro (or a similar Adobe product).
What is it: It’s a big, ol’ screen-wide stopwatch (timer) that will count up or down depending on your needs.
What do you use it for: We’ve all sat down to get business done and shook our heads as the hours quickly slipped by (with dismal productivity levels). It’s that famous saying that work expands to fill the time you give it.
What do you do? Time yourself.
Visit their site, click on “full screen stopwatch,” and set the duration of time you want to give yourself to complete a task. Then do it! A buzzer will sound off when your time is up and that’s when you should be done.
Have to write an article today? Use the stopwatch. Want to spend 20 minutes commenting on other high-traffic sites? Set your stopwatch. Want to add friends or followers on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter? You get the idea.
My thoughts: Take back control of your schedule. In the beginning, you’ll find that your tasks will still overrun in time. That’s okay, you’re going to have to keep at it. It took practice for me to condition myself to flipping my internal creativity switch so that I can get things done on a timer.
It may be tough, and even a bit discouraging at first, but practice makes perfect!
What is it: Online storage for your work files.
What do you use it for: Do you worry about computer crashes or theft? Then use Adrive (free up to 50GB) or Amazon S3 with its insanely cheap storage/streaming fees. Store your large video, audio or image files with these services and use their reliable and fast servers to deliver your files to web visitors.
My thoughts: I have used both but I favor Amazon S3. One reason being, I stream my files from Amazon such as my podcast and I’ve recommended it extensively to clients.
There are WordPress plugins that protect the location of your file when you stream it from Amazon S3 so that’s what prompted me to switch over to it completely.
What is it: It’s a desktop synchronization folder utility to help teams collaborate and share work files.
What do you use it for: Your email provider limits the size of the files you send. It’s also not very convenient having to take the time to compose emails and attach messages.
Share your work folders with your team, coworkers, and outsource employees by sharing a Dropbox folder they can access. Any file that you save in that folder on your computer will automatically synch with the system and your team can access the files.
Easy. Easy is good.
You have the added convenience of retrieving those files from your Dropbox account wherever you may be. So you’re no longer tethered to your computer in order to access your important data!
My thoughts: Sarah and I used Dropbox to collaborate on our Community Marketing Challenge for the affiliate website building product we launched. Dropbox accounts are easy to open, free to use, and recently we found it very convenient.
What is it: A free service to spin your articles and get more out of each piece of your content that you publish.
What do you use it for: Spinning articles, of course. The idea here is you write one solid piece of content and put it through this system. You then “spin” the article by rewriting it. The good news is you don’t have to think your way through the rewrite.
Spinz.me will cycle through terms in your article and offer you synonyms for words and phrases to create a uniquely-worded article.
This comes in handy for article marketing. You may take ethical issue with this strategy, but let’s be honest, there isn’t a lot of 100% unique content written everyday. Just a lot of new “spins” on different ideas and core concepts.
You can also use their article fetching service to get ideas for your next article.
My thoughts: If you’re going to be submitting articles with backlinks to your site (for traffic, promotion, back link search engine clout) then article spinning helps shortcut the process.
I’ve tinkered around with Spinz.me as a free solution for article spinning but I did purchase The Best Spinner (affiliate link) and would recommend it if you have the money to spare.
There you have it. Seven+ tools that work well to accomplish their intended purpose. I’m a fan of getting things done inexpensively and quickly. Chances are you’re kinda like me in this way.
Which tools have you used from this list? What has been your experience with each?
If you have questions or want to add to the list then please do so in the comments!