When you make the jump from working for someone else to working for yourself, you’ll likely notice very quickly that every second counts. No more hanging out near the Keurig chatting with coworkers about their weekend. No more walking as slowly as humanly possible on your way back from the restroom. No more being tied to your desk until 5 p.m. It’s in your best interest to knock things out fast because when you’re done, the rest of the day is yours.
So, in the interest of working as efficiently as possible, here are just a few of the tools I use on a daily basis to get things done!
I use Toggl for time tracking. I originally started using it to track billable time for invoicing purposes but now I use it to track almost everything I do on the computer, work and personal.
I used to use another tool I shall not name that was basic but simple (I like simple) but it crashed one day and customer service took about a week to get back to me. By then I was already gone. Life moves too fast for poor customer service.
I found Toggl and now can’t imagine how I lived without it. First of all the interface is super simple to understand. (Until I complicate it with all these red lines.)
I can set various hourly rates and attach them to different clients OR even set them up for different projects assigned the same client.
For example, when one client switched customer service platforms, there were days when I jumped right in alongside the customer service team and answered hundreds of tickets in order to help the transition go smoothly. (Plus I’d advocated for the switch and was in charge of making it happen so I was really committed to doing everything I could to make it smooth!)
Obviously, I needed to charge a different rate for those hours so I set up a new project under the same client and now, though it’s rare, if I need to jump into customer service and help out, I’m able to effortlessly switch my hourly rate.
The reports Toggl runs are just beautiful. (I’m a fan of simple but I also like when things are pretty!)
I can easily see where my time has gone and where I need to make edits. In the report above, I did some work for a client and started my timer but didn’t assign it to them. I can easily click into that time block “without client” and then attach it to the correct client and task.
Toggl also does great detailed reports. I type the gist of what I’ve worked on in the notes section as I complete each session. With a few clicks I’m able to pull up a report for any date range I choose, export it to PDF, and send that to each client along with my invoice.
There’s also a Chrome extension you can add to quickly start and stop the timer without going into the website but I found that I would forget to input my notes more often when I went that route.
I just pull up the website, start the timer, minimize that window so it’s out of the way, and get to work.
Loom changed my life. I’m not kidding. It made working remotely so much easier! As a former middle school teacher, I’ve been using screencasts forever during computer lab days. I was the queen of efficiency (and/or laziness) back then too.
Why would I repeat something 1000 times when I could instead record the directions? The students who understood got right to work and I had more time to direct the student who raised his hand with, “I don’t get what I’m supposed to do” (for the thousandth time) to “Please watch the directions again and then ask an intelligent question about the specific part you don’t understand.” Ahhh … I miss those days sometimes.
The only issue with screencasts was the screencasting software. Most of it sucked. It was too clunky and had too many steps required when what you’re really looking to accomplish is: I want someone else to be able to see what I’m doing on my computer and follow along as easily as if they were here!
Loom is the answer for that. It is SO simple. Once the extension is in your browser, click it, choose a few options (or just stick with your last choice for even less clicks) and start recording.
You can choose to record the screen with your face live in the bottom corner, just your picture in the bottom corner, or just the camera if you’re doing a webinar or something where you want to be talking into the camera. You can also close out your picture and opt for nothing to show up. (I almost always do that since I find that the picture usually just gets in the way — and all my client peeps already know what I look like.)
Once you’re done recording and you hit stop, Loom automatically names the video for you — based on whatever you were doing at the time or whatever application you were working in.
Here’s a video I sent to my assistant for a blog post I wrote. The video is already named from the title of the Google Doc. It’s automatically dropped into the My Videos folder. It prompts me to, with one click!, include a link to the actual gdoc that I recorded on so she can go right to it.
There’s also a space below to type comments to go along with the video. The link to share the video is right up top and ready go and she can comment back directly in Loom if she wants.
While knowing WHO viewed your video is a premium feature, Loom’s free capability still allows you to see WHEN someone viewed it. Usually, I’m only sending videos to one or two people with instructions so I don’t really care to know who viewed it.
Going back to simplicity here, I love that Loom has a ton of features but is designed in such a way that you don’t feel overwhelmed by them.
I’ll be honest, I almost always just record and send. 99% of the time that’s all I need to do. I never even think of my videos again or where they are or who has viewed them. I just need to explain how to do something to someone. I don’t want to think about naming, organizing, saving them, and Loom makes that easy.
I sing its praises to anyone and everyone I come across and was so happy when one of the people I work with recently said to me, “Of the things you recommended to me, two, Grammarly and Loom, changed my life!” That made my day because I get it. Loom changed the remote game for me and I love it!
If you write, you should use Grammarly.
This spelling and grammar tool points out all those little mistakes it’s easy to miss after going over the same content over and over. It’s pretty good about telling you when you need a hyphen, or putting a comma where a comma should go and more.
As a writer I find it invaluable because I don’t want to screw around with spelling and grammar as I go. I know I’m going to run my words through Grammarly at the end so I can write fast and furious without stopping for the mistakes I know I’m making.
It’s not perfect, no tool is. But it helps a lot. There are always going to be some mistakes when you write, hell, there are probably some in every blog post I write. But for me, once I’ve written a piece and run it through Grammarly, I’m done. Good enough for Grammarly, good enough for me.
The one drawback is its lack of/poor integration with Google Docs. I say lack of because it only began recently. And I say poor because more often than not it causes Google Docs to crash for me. A shame because when I’m not living in Slack in I’m in a Gdoc. Still, with the popularity of both of those, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until the integration improves.
The workaround? I just copy/paste a finished post over into Grammarly and let it find all the mistakes. Then, I’ll copy/paste the corrected version back into the Gdoc.
I also just use the free version. At almost $30 a month if you pay monthly I find that way too pricey for my casual use. Plus, I purposely ignore a lot of writing rules and proper style in order to create a friendly and casual tone that actually sounds like me.
This simple color picker has come in handy so many times! I do work with a number of clients and one day I may be in a meeting where I’m asked to send over the hex codes of our brand colors. Only I’m in my personal gmail account, and that info is in my client company gmail account and ugh, what was that document named again because of course Brand Colors would be too easy …
Or, I could pull up our website, click on Sip, hover over our solid header, and grab the hex codes. Boom. 8 seconds.
By far, my favorite thing about Sip is its simplicity. Too many tools try to do too many things.
I tried and discarded several before finding this one. I’m not a designer, I don’t work with hex colors a ton. But when I do need one, Sip makes it easy. Click the dropper tool, hover over the item you’re trying to identify, click it, and it’s saved in the list. The end.
Skitch is a super simple tool that belongs to Evernote and while it’s got a number of capabilities, I use it for just one thing — blurring things out.
If you haven’t picked up on it by now my reviews are not super scientific nor do I care, understand, or get into the backstory of my tools. I just care about whether they work to do the task I need.
Whenever I need to blur something out, like the client names in the Toggl report images above, I open the picture in Skitch, use the blur tool, export it and go. Simple, quick, and easy.
I’m always looking to get things done more efficiently so if you have a favorite tool that you love, please let me know by dropping it in the comments below or head over to my Instagram @liveworktravelig and drop me a DM!