by Jaclyn Law
Freelancers are a resourceful bunch, and I love finding out about cool tips, tricks and tools from other writers. I’d like to share some recent discoveries, plus a few that aren’t so new but are worth a reminder.
Organize a meeting: The next time you’re planning a meeting, save time and reduce email clutter with Doodle, a simple (and free!) tool that lets everyone indicate their availability. Features like calendar integration, email alerts and encryption are available for a fee.
Centralize your social media: Instead of listing all the co-ordinates for my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media accounts on my business cards, I’ve been using about.me as a hub (see my page). It’s free to create a personalized page; for a fee, you can change the URL to a custom domain, such as your business website address.
Speaking of business cards: Even in this digital age, I think business cards are a must-have. I’ve never been disappointed with the ones I order from Vistaprint.ca. (I pay a little extra for heavier cardstock.) Choose from hundreds of templates or upload a design.
Manage projects in the cloud: A web-savvy client introduced me to Basecamp, an easy-to-use project-management tool. It helps you track assignments, schedule meetings, keep stakeholders informed and more. Try it for free for 60 days. Android and iOS apps are available too. Another one to try is Trello – I haven’t used it, but Matthew MacKinnon, editor of walrus.ca, extolled its virtues at a recent PWAC Toronto Chapter seminar on collaboration.
Read more magazines: The magazine industry can break your heart sometimes, but I’m still a magazine junkie. Next Issue from Rogers lets me read and research more than 100 publications, for a reasonable monthly fee, on my iPad Mini. Try Next Issue free for 30 days. (Full disclosure: Rogers Media is one of my clients.) Or, if you have a Toronto Public Library card, enjoy e-books, audiobooks, magazines, movies and music online for free – details here. Not in Toronto? Ask your local library what it offers online.
Avoid the ATM: I’m not suggesting that you switch banks for this, but I’m enamoured with a new feature from CIBC: eDeposits. Most of my clients still pay with cheques, and I had a weekly ritual of going to (and often lining up for) the bank machine. Now, using the CIBC mobile app, I stay at home and snap pictures of the cheques instead. Presto! The money is in my account.
Save on travel insurance: Going on holiday this summer? Before you book your trip, check the fine print for your credit cards to see what insurance you have. If you need more coverage (as many freelancers do, including me), you have lots of options. While planning a trip to the U.S., I found one that works for me and my husband (who’s also self-employed): BMO MasterCard Travel and Medical Protection. For about the same amount I used to spend on insurance for a single short trip, the Total Coverage option provides emergency medical, trip interruption/cancellation, baggage loss/delay and collision damage waiver coverage for a whole year, no matter how many trips we take. You’ll need a BMO credit card, but there’s no annual fee for the BMO Air Miles MasterCard.
P.S. If you’re visiting Toronto this summer, join PWAC Toronto Chapter for Cheers with Peers! We’re meeting on June 25, July 23, Aug. 20 and Sept. 10 (all Wednesdays) at Pogue Mahone, starting at 7 p.m.
Jaclyn Law is the president of PWAC Toronto Chapter.