Truth be told, working as an independent consultant is sometimes like being on a desert island. Fortunately, there are plenty of online tools to make business and personal life more efficient.
Here are my top picks (in Letterman order) and most are free (unless cited):
10. You Send It – When everyone has access to an FTP site except your client (or employer) and you need to send a massive video, conference call recording (done that), presentation or the like — it’s indispensable and free for files up to 100 MB or 1 GB per month.
9. Mapquest – I’m chronically direction-challenged and even some well meaning GPSs can throw me off. So getting step-by-step directions in advance can make my day. Even with a high navigation IQ, you may still find value.
8. Jacquie Lawson ($12 CDN or US per year) – Personal niceties are good and near the top of the list is remembering a birthday. Sending an eCard is wonderful but your intentions may backfire if you hit them with a ton of ads. This site offers an array of watercolour animations set to classical and original music. Great if you’re a pet lover or even if you’re not.
7. SurveyMonkey – Dependable online survey development tool for external questionnaires to internal peer evaluations. There is a free version but to stop the ‘hard sell’ to your users, the $20 (US) monthly fee is worth it. [As an aside, I’ve just discovered Fanappz for somewhat hassle-free Facebook quizzes.]
6. morgue File – Sounds morbid but this is my site for a good range of free, downloadable stock photos you can legally copy, distribute, transmit or adapt. (You just can’t use them as standalones to profit by.) Ideal for small iconic photos for blogs and Facebook pages (e.g. events) and I’ve yet to see a corpse pop up. And you can make a donation to help sustain this site for the long-term.
5. Twellow – Good tool for identifying Tweeter users (tweeps) that cite a specific topic in their profile and you can use it to narrow to a specific geographic region [e.g. Search: Toronto, Within: Dogs (selected from available topics)]. Wefollow and Listorious are also helpful. None is perfect but you need to start somewhere.
4. Klout – Once you’ve found them, Klout measures the size and strength of a person’s sphere of influence on Twitter in terms of: True Reach (real people followers & friends not robots); Amplification (likelihood their messages will be re-tweeted or spark dialogue); and Network (if their engaged followers are influential). Would I bet money on its accuracy? Definitely not, as it has me pegged as a Montreal Canadiens fan, for one thing. (As a Toronto native, I’ll always hold a candle for the Leafs.) But it does offer some insights.
3. Bit.ly – Even before Twitter, URLs were like octopuses always getting tangled and truncated at the worst times but with the 140 cutoff, something had to give. Drop your URL in the gigantic blue field, release mouse and a short URL appears. What’s more, it can track clicks to this URL and even create a Quick Response (QR) code. (Click Info Page+)
2. Alexa The Web Information Company – Comprehensive tool for navigating the web to find relevant blogs and discover their DNA (inbound links, origin, Alexa ranking, traffic ranking within various countries, etc.). You can even set it as a widget on your toolbar to assess sites on the fly.
1. Snag-it ($49.95 US one-time purchase) – More an application than an online tool — but I keep it open 24/7, so it might as well be. It captures small sections of a screen that you can then “copy” and “paste” or save in almost any file type. (Guess how I made the collage on this post?) Invaluable for copying sections of a reference document or website that refuses to print the regular way.
That’s my list. What’s yours? And what have I missed?