Taking your skills in a different direction

Skills (Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, here and appears in this space via a Creative Commons license)

Believe it or not, you’re more than just a technical writer. You have other skills, too. You might not even be aware of them.

Some of those skills relate to writing. Others, you’ve developed as part of your career.

One way you can diversify your career is do something with those skills. Like what? Read on to find a few suggestions.

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A look at three open source alternatives to Google Analytics

analytics(Note: This post was originally published on October 23, 2014 at Opensource.com and appears here via a Creative Commons license)

If you have a website or an online business, collecting data on where your visitors or customers come from, where they land on your site, and where they leave is vital. Why? Having that information can help you better target your products and services, and beef up the pages that are turning people away.

The way to gather that kind of information is with a web analytics tool.

Many people and businesses (of all sizes) turn to Google Analytics. But if you want to keep control of your data, then you’ll want a tool that you have control over. You don’t get that from Google Analytics, and luckily Google Analytics isn’t the only game on the web.

Let’s take a look at three open source alternatives to Google Analytics.

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Tips for quickly building your online presence

The Web (Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, here and appears in this space via a Creative Commons license)

In 2014, someone who was just embarking on a new career asked me for advice about establishing an online presence for his freelance work – a website, a blog, a social media footprint. The problem is that the person in question thought he needed to get everything out on that web at once for your presence to be effective.

That’s not an uncommon perception. But it’s the wrong one to have. Your online presence doesn’t need to spring fully-blown as if from the brow of Zeus.

As I tell my coaching clients, you don’t traverse the path to success with huge strides. You take baby steps.

Here are a few ideas about how to take those steps.

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Three resources for outsourcing your tasks

busy (Note: This post was originally published here and appears in this space via a Creative Commons license)

Time. Few of us have a lot of it. Especially busy freelance technical writers. There are always little (or not-so-little) tasks that we don’t always have the time to tackle. Or, maybe, we don’t have the skills to tackle those tasks quickly and efficiently.

Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and pay someone to do that work for you. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been doing that every so often. The (small) sums I’ve spent have been worth it. They’ve freed up a little more of my time, and have saved me money in the long run because it would have taken me far longer to do those tasks on my own. That’s time I was able to focus on paying work.

Let’s take a closer look at this.

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Four open source invoicing tools for freelancers and small businesses

invoice, delicious invoice (Note: This post was originally published on September 2, 2014 at Opensource.com and appears here via a Creative Commons license)

Small business owners and freelancers put a lot of work into their businesses. They do that not only because they’re passionate about what they do, but because they also have the goal of getting paid.

That’s no small part of the job, either.

Getting paid usually means sending a client an invoice. It’s easy enough to whip up an invoice using a word processor or a spreadsheet, but sometimes you need a bit more. A more professional look. A way of keeping track of your invoices. Reminders about when to follow up on the invoices that you’ve sent.

There’s a wide range of commercial and closed-source invoicing tools out there. But the offerings on the open source side of the fence are just as good, and maybe even more flexible than their closed source counterparts.

Let’s take a look at four open source invoicing tools that are great choices for freelancers and small businesses on a tight budget.

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Tips for rapid writing

Typing quickly (Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, here.)

There comes a time in the career of every writer (technical or otherwise) when you’re looking at the wrong end of a looming deadline and don’t have anything close to being ready to send out. Or you might be asked to write something before the end of the day or in next couple of hours.

What do you do when that happens? Some writers will panic. Others will be frozen with fear. Others will scramble to get something, anything written. Regardless of the quality.

There’s no need to do any of that. Unless what you’ve been ask to write is several thousand words long, it’s possible to quickly write something to that deadline. And that something will be of good quality.

Curious? Then read on for some tips that can help you write quickly.

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