In my twenties, I discovered a lot of my favorite places through serendipity. I had the spare time to wander if I took a wrong turn in my car or missed my subway stop and ended up in a different neighborhood. That’s how I found a lot of out-of-the-way cafes, an almost undiscovered running path in Jersey City where I spotted rooster who lived in someone’s front yard, and my favorite vintage store.
Like many working parents, I don’t have those air pockets in my schedule now. My husband and I are raising four children, ages 4 to 10, while juggling his independent business as a real estate appraiser and mine as a journalist and ghost writer. I keep inching my wakeup time a little earlier to buy myself more time, but I have not been able to move back from 4:45 am to 4:30 without being bleary all day, so I’m trying a new plan this fall. I’m turning to more time-saving tools. And I’m trying to say no more to things I don’t want to do, to free up more time for what matters.
Here are a few tools that I’m using. Most were referred to me by enthusiastic clients and users. If you’re up against a similar time crunch, I hope they’ll help you free more time.
Globafy. This is a free conference bridge that you can use for international calls. You can dial in from a local number in the U.S., while, if, say, the other participant in the call is in Italy, he or she can dial in from a local number there. It’s a good alternative to Skype unless your contact is in a hotel and has to pay the per-minute charges. On my phone, the sound quality is better than on Skype.
Join.me. This free screen-sharing service lets you tunnel into someone else’s computer or vice versa. Sometimes, it really saves time when you can both look at a document at the same time.
ScheduleOnce. This service, which starts at $5 a month, lets you send a link to clients to set up an appointment on your calendar, so you don’t have to email back and forth. They can see your available times, but not what you are doing in the unavailable time. If you set up a separate calendar, such as a family calendar in Google calendar, you can use the service to schedule time in that calendar, too, without accidentally treading into your work time. A client recommended it to me, and so far, it seems excellent. I had to migrate my Yahoo calendar to Google Calendar to use it. I’m using the premium version ($9 a month) and it seems adequate for my needs in a one-person business.
FreshBooks. This accounting software, which starts with a free version, is very easy for folks who aren’t financially-oriented to use. It’s simple to send invoices to client and keep on top of how timely the payments are. And you can easily run reports your accountant may want, such as a P&L statement.
AudioAcrobat. I’ve tried free apps to record phone calls, but I never found one that I could trust to be 100% reliable. So far, the best alternative I’ve discovered is AudioAcrobat, which will let you record phone calls from an iPhone or a conference line and in other scenario. You can also use it to create online content, like taping a podcast. There’s a free 30-day trial, then basic pricing starts at $19.95 a month. You can also use FreeConferenceCall to record calls, but that requires everyone to dial into your conference line unless you’re using another app. Sometimes, when I’m joining an existing project with a standing conference line, switching everyone to my line is not practical, so that’s where AudioAcrobat comes in.
Do you have any great tools you’re using? Let us know. Send us a Tweet at @200kFreelancer.