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 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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Creating a rate card

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, here)

If you’re a freelance technical writer, chances are you 1) have prospective clients asking you how much you charge, and 2) do more than just write user documentation. You might also, for example, do copywriting, API documentation, editing and proofreading, content consulting, and more.

You might have committed your rates to memory, but if you offer more than a couple of services that might not be a good idea. Many potential clients (and returning ones) want something tangible (or, at least, digital), to which they can refer and compare.

That’s why you should have a rate card.

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3 books that can help you tame Evernote

Evernote logo Note: This post was originally published here.

Evernote is a useful and flexible tool for anyone, especially writers– technical or otherwise. You can use Evernote to record your research, outline your writing, hammer out drafts, collect links and citations, manage your tasks, and more.

It can be a bit challenging to get up and running with Evernote. And, if you’re like me, you sometimes overthink things and that makes the process of working with a tool like Evernote a bit more difficult. A good guide, in the form of a good book, can help.

For the longest time, there was a dearth of books in English about Evernote, even though there seemed to have been a cottage industry of books about Evernote in Japan. That’s changed. There are a number of titles in English about Evernote. Some are good, some not so.

Here’s a quick look at three of the better books (in English) about Evernote that are on the market.

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(Video) conferencing with clients and collaborators

video conference

Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, here.

These days, if you’re a freelance technical communicator then you might be working offsite with clients and maybe collaborators who are across town, in another part of the country, or even elsewhere in the world.

In that case, you’ll need to regularly keep in touch with those clients or collaborators. That could be for planning sessions, catch-up sessions, or project updates.

Sure, you can do that using email, instant messaging (IM), or over the phone. But email and IM really break down when more than a two or three people are involved. It gets hard to keep track of who said what, and about what. As for the phone, that can get expensive if your clients or collaborators are in a different city or country than you.

The way to go is with a video conference. You don’t need to have a lot of expensive gear or use a costly service to do video conferencing. If you have a computer, a webcam, and a headset you’ve got everything that you need.

Let’s take a look at some free and inexpensive video conferencing tools that can help you conference with clients and collaborators.

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