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7 Favorite Tools of the (Work-at-Home) Trade

Everyone works differently, that’s a given. But at the end of the day, if you’d like to earn money for your work, you’ve gotta have results. Whether that’s a latte for your customer at the cafe or filed taxes for your client on April 15, you don’t earn if you don’t work.

My medium of choice is words, and I use things like ideas, grammar, and syntax to string together letters in a systematic order to eventually become blog posts, articles, and books. I’m a writer.

I’m also an accidental entrepreneur—I run a small business, and there are a lot of moving parts and freelancers that work for us. There’s a lot to track.

Seems like I wouldn’t have many tools—a laptop and an Internet connection, and maybe a legal pad and pen. True. I don’t have a lot of overhead. But I’ve found that the right tools increase my productivity tenfold, and I’ve come to depend on a few tried-and-true.

It’s taken me awhile to figure out what works for me, but almost five years into blogging and in working on book number three, here are a few of the little tools that help me be a better writer and entrepreneur:

1. Gmail

Sure, there are tons of email clients that operate similarly, but I just love Gmail’s filters, canned responses, and relatively clean interface. My assistant checks all my email except for those I’ve specifically tagged to see first, so I can easily make that label my default inbox. And canned responses allow my assistant to quickly reply to repetitive questions en masse—a few clicks, and she’s got an email, written by me, to send off to potential advertiser number 423.

2. Google Calendar

I run a blog network, which means I need to oversee a lot of moving parts. Each of the six channels of the network has an editor and a gaggle of writers, and there’s no way I could watch our editorial content while still giving autonomy and creative freedom to the editors without Google Calendar.

Each editor has a separate calendar, and they’re in charge of planning their channel’s editorial calendar. I can find what’s on the docket on each site with a simple click to toggle each calendar.

3. Facebook

Yep, for me this has become a legitimate tool and not just a virtual hangout. The editors and I have a private Facebook group where we discuss ideas, field questions, share prayer requests, and generally keep in touch with each other’s lives. It’s so much cleaner and easier than long email threads.

4. Skype

Each month, the editors and I chat it up in a monthly virtual meeting over Skype. We do our best to keep these around an hour—though who are we kidding?, they’re always around two. This is where we brainstorm upcoming series, bigger giveaways, discuss SEO and advertising, and laugh it up over lattes. It’s one of the highlights of my month.

I also record all my podcasts with Skype. My producer works his magic by somehow connecting my guest and me together, and through unicorns and glitter, it somehow appears in iTunes. (You might be able to tell I have zero to do with the podcast’s production.)

5. Outright

My husband, Kyle, is the business’ money guy, and Outright is his favorite financial-tracking tool. Here, he watches different income streams, tracks who he’s paid, and predicts trends for future revenue. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s got a great interface, and it’s super cheap.

6. ING Direct

We’re an online business, so it only makes sense that we keep our financial management virtual, too. There are a lot of institutions out there, but I’ve been very happy with ING Direct for four years now.

I love that we can have unlimited savings accounts under one bigger umbrella account, which makes it a breeze to have sinking funds for the business. People and companies pay us electronically into the checking account with ING, and we’ve set up automatic monthly transfers to our myriad savings accounts. So each month, we set aside money for things like conferences, travel, and equipment, and we barely have to think about it.

7. Evernote

I’m an Evernote newbie, even though this tool has been around for ages. I first tired it about three years ago, couldn’t figure out it, so I shelved it. But I recently started using it again to write my book, and it has been a lifesaver. Anytime I find a quote, article, statistic, or even image or graphic that helps in my book research, I clip it in a notebook in Evernote. I use Chrome, so I added Evernote’s Clearly extension, making it even easier to read, highlight, and clip. A game-changer.

These are just a few of my tools, of course, and I didn’t even mention stuff like my iPhone, a good night’s sleep, coffee, and a babysitter—all useful tools as well. But on any given day, you can bet I interact with most of these tools mentioned above. I’m grateful for the geniuses who thought ‘em up.

What about you—what are your favorite tools for your trade?

Read more from Tsh at Simple Mom, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

More at The Dsh With Tsh:

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