Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tech Talk - Tools I use to make my life easier

In a previous blog post I showed you how I use Microsoft OneNote 2010 to keep track of my client database, projects, thoughts and more.

I thought I would share more tools I find useful in running and maintaining my spiritual business.

Some of these tools are free (we love free right?!) and some cost money. However, I only pay for tools that are extremely useful and make my life easier.

The Adobe CS6 Design and Web Premium software suite is what I use to create graphics and build my websites. It is a bit pricey for those who don't do web or graphic design professional, however if you want an awesome software package then this is the way to go.

Nvu is a free HTML authoring software you can use to build your websites. It's easy to use and it's the software I recommend to my clients who want to up-date and maintain their own websites. For clients who I build websites for I make a video tutorial of how to use this software on their individual site.
Mal's E-commerce is the shopping cart system I use. I started out using it and then went on to "bigger" and "better" shopping cart systems. I came back to Mal's E-commerce because it is simple. I like simple. They have a free service and also an affordable premium services.

I use Skype for voice, chat and webcam communication with clients and students. Skype is free to download and use however there are premium services that you may find useful such as phone numbers, group video chat, voicemail and more!

If you teach classes or do readings for clients where there is information you want to share with them using a screen sharing tool is helpful. Skype has third-party (I haven't checked this in a while so it may have changed) tools that I have found frustrating. So I went on the hunt for a screen sharing tool that I could use whether I was on Skype or on a regular phone. These are ones I came up with that work for me. What is screen sharing? Screen sharing allows one or more people to view your computer screen. This comes in handy if you have a presentation you would like to show someone while speaking with them in chat or over the phone/Skype. Join.me has a free trial and is easy to use. All the other person needs is a link and they can view your screen. FreeScreenSharing.com is free and also has premium features. Yugma is similar to Skype and allows web conferencing, screen sharing and more. They have a free version but the person you are connecting with must download their software too.

Setster is the site I use for my appointment setting. I've researched and tried others and find Setster fits my needs best. Their platform is pretty simple making the appointment setting process for your clients easy. It syncs with my Google Calendar so that right there is a plus with me. (Read why I love Google Calendar in the FREE download "Re-think the Work-week". Get yours here!) I can collect payment for appointments through PayPal and then the appointment is confirmed. The process for clients to book an appointment is easy as well. When I tried other apppointment booking sites I had clients emailing and calling because they couldn't figure out how to book the appointment. Obviously this defeated the purpose of having an automated appointment setting system so I am sticking with Setster.

Audacity is a great free software you can use to record audio. If you offer meditations, classes, or just want to record something to put on your website Audacity is a good tool to keep handy.

Jing is a free tool to take screenshots or record (up to 5 minutes) of onscreen video. Use it to record free snippets of classes or other offerings.

Have videos you need to store online? Finding a video storage host can be tricky. There are tons out there with lots of different features. Personally I just need the videos to be stored, easily accessible (download or buffering time at a minimum), viewing to be controlled, and affordable. Screencast is one service that I like. It's owned by the same company that makes Jing. Sprout Video is another that is simple and affordable.

Screencast-o-Matic is a free online screen recorder. You can record presentations for classes, tutorials, videos to be uploaded to Youtube, etc. They have a free service as well as a really affordable premium service.

Spruz is a social networking site much like Ning but more affordable. I use Spruz for my online school Mystical Journeys. The platform is simple. They have a free version that has great features and their starter package is very affordable too.

QuickBooks Pro 2012 is the software I use for my bookkeeping. Having a bookkeeping/account software is essential for keeping organized while running your own business. I can run reports to see my income versus my expenses. I can keep track of client and customer orders. I balance my checkbooks using Quickbooks too. And boy does it help at tax time! Reports are easy to generate to give you the specific information you need for tax forms.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium, Version 11is absolutely my new favorite software. If you have arthritis or trouble typing, even if your typing skills aren't that great, Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium, Version 11 will be very helpful. I have carpal tunnel, arthritis and nerve damage in my right arm/hand so typing can be difficult for me at times. This software saved me from a lot pain and frustration. It types what you say so you can sit back and tell it what to do and it will do it! Wonderful! 

Whew! Okay, I could go on but I think those are some of the basic tools that help me day to day. Do you have any great tools you would like share? Leave a comment below!

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