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3 Tools A Freelance Writer Needs In Their Arsenal

Any freelance writer will tell you that anything you do for an income, the work comes with an ongoing list of pros and cons. It’s not always easy to stay on track of invoicing clients, coming up with pitches, or keeping yourself from distractions, but with a little push in the right direction and a few simple recommendations, you’ll be one step ahead of the curve. Below is a list of 3 things that most freelance writers could benefit from.

1. A Lightweight Text Editor

There are already way too many options for text editors out there, but if you’re looking for something clean, lightweight, and are offline compatible, here are a few reasonable editors without the pricetag:

Google Drive – The easy answer if you’re already familiar with it.
FocusWriter – This is ideal if you are easily distracted by the many tabs in your browser.

2. Invoicing and Time Tracking

Stop guessing at how many hours you spent working on your fifth draft of copy for a client. Oh, and by the way, you’re about to be late with the invoice that you’ll need to pay your rent with. Keeping track of time and finances feels like it should be someone elses job, but you’re freelancing. It’s a part of your job whether you like it or not. The solution? Enter Ballpark, an online invoicing software that allows you to invoice clients and get paid via Paypal. It’s free to use for 30 days, and after your trial period expires, you can send up to three invoices per month without paying a dime for the product.

3. A Way of Getting Work

So, you can write. Unfortunately, so can a lot of others! A lot of web based companies are shifting their focus to content marketing, which gives ample opportunity for writers these companies choose to outsource. The problem is getting their attention. You’re going to need a little bit of a portfolio, and a little bravery as you email these companies to tell them you’re available to write your heart out for them.

Instead of building a website to show your published work, keep the links handy in a document somewhere that you can access, or even in an email draft that you can copy and paste from. That way you don’t have to rely on the person reading your pitch to actually click on your personal website link, but rather they can read the URL and find out if you’re who they are looking to work with.

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Flow Keeps Your Projects On Track

Project management software is nothing new—for multi-faceted teams, for individual consultants, for freelancers interfacing with organizations remotely, task-managing services have been crucial from the moment they appeared. And yet, with so many options on the scene, the most valuable project management software still has but one job to do: Making sure the user never forgets a task again.

This is where Flow comes onto the scene.  As task management goes, Flow is not overly flashy; the interface is simple, the colors are easy on the eyes, and the view is minimalistic. But what’s most important is that Flow makes it nearly impossible to overlook a due date or deadline. Individual tasks can be created with as much or as little detail as needed. Type out a short list of what is to be included in a project, or go into detail by attaching documents, creating tags, and getting specific with your Flow folder system.  However detailed the task, Flow’s reminder system is there to ensure task completion. When you’re creating a new task, set a due date for it by selecting the date on your Flow calendar, or by simply typing a time-frame command, such as “tomorrow” or “one week.”  Flow’s alert system will tell you when that task’s completion time has come.

Unlike many other project management services available, Flow’s interface includes multiple tabs for multiple project views. This provides even further assurance that tasks won’t be lost or forgotten at any point in your process.

Notable ways that Flow’s tabs can keep you on top of tasks include:

The “upcoming” tab – If you’re a traditional, calendar-abiding worker, the “upcoming” tab offers a simple calendar view of your tasks.  Choose from daily, weekly, monthly, or list views.  If you’re looking for an at-a-glance view of your tasks, the “upcoming” tab is going to be your quickest bet.

The “delegated” tab – If you create a task that is to be completed by a member of your team, rather than yourself, Flow provides an option to delegate the task you created to someone in your contact list.  This task then will appear under the “delegated” tab.  This way, even if the task is to be completed by someone other than yourself, you’ll be able to keep an eye on its progress from afar.  The task will remain in the “delegated” tab until it’s checked off as being completed.

The “flagged” tab – For projects that need to be noted as especially urgent, marking them as such will keep them filed in the “flagged” tab.  Similarly, if someone on your team delegates a task to you and marks it as being important, it will also show up as “flagged,” so even if a Flow task wasn’t conceived and created by you, you’ll still be notified of its importance.

Project management software should do just that—manage your projects from their beginning to the time of completion.  A task management service that allows projects to be forgotten is useless to those who rely on it.  This makes Flow a valuable service indeed.

Flow is a software created by the brilliant minds at MetaLab.

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last update: April 20, 2014

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6 Things to Consider When Upgrading Your Analytics Software

For those conducting online business and marketing, analytics software is recognized as an invaluable tool. This is why the use of analytics software has been a mainstay in online business for years. However, both the type of software available and the analytics needs of businesses have been evolving steadily over the years and what may have been an excellent software choice five or more years ago may be out of date now.

This is why it is important for companies to look at the different options available to them and to consider upgrading their analytics software from time to time. Though the task may seem daunting, business owners that look at the following 6 things will be able to proactively and confidently determine if an analytics software upgrade is the right option for the business and what software is best suited for their unique business needs.

1. Does new analytics software have useful features that older software doesn’t offer?

No two analytics software options are identical and just because a piece of software is older, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not still useful. If the software is updated frequently, chances are that it may have features comparable to newer software on the market. Business owners should look at what the program offers and then determine if there are features that they need that the software doesn’t support.

2. How is easy is the software to use?

Adopting new analytics software will inevitably require employees and business owners to learn how to use that software. When comparing providers it is important to look at how easy the program is to use and how long it will take to train people to use the software efficiently. The more difficult a piece of software is to adopt, the more it will cost the company in time and training expenses.

3. How much will using the software cost your business?

Business owners should be sure to look at the type of payment model associated with any software they are considering. Different payment models include lump sum payments, annual upgrade or subscription fees and monthly subscription fees. Analyzing the costs associate with using the software will all business owners to do a cost-benefit analysis when they are comparing providers.

4. Will the software be able to accommodate business growth?

Due to the fast pace of the business world, it is unwise to assume that small businesses will always be small. For this reason, any analytics software used for the purposes of the business should be easily scaled or upgraded if the company sees sudden growth in employees or client base. By selecting software that can grow with the company, business owners are able to ensure that they won’t have to go through upgrading again in the event of business growth.

5. How detailed is the visualization that the software offers?

Visualization of analytics is incredibly useful because it makes it much easier to interpret the data derived from analytics software. This is not only useful for people using the software regularly, but also for conveying analytics data to employees that don’t use the software and people outside the company such as potential investors.

6. What kind of pre made models does the software provide?

Though most software offers an option for users to create their own models, doing so takes a lot of time and effort on the part of the business owner. For that reason, business owners comparing providers should look at the types of pre made models that come with the software and give preference to software that offers models that are best suited to current business needs and specifications.

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Carbonite Reaches 300 Billion Backed-Up Files

Can we imagine for a second the sheer magnitude of the number 300,000,000,000?  If we do this in terms of what’s tangible, we’d be looking at roughly 73x the population of the top 10 most populated countries on earth. If we just considered China even, that would mean every single one of China’s over 1.34 billion citizens would have 233 files backed-up on their computer. Now, if you’re more of the intangible/imagination type, then let’s put it this way; According to legend, Thor’s hammer is made of neutron-star matter, which means it weighs approximately as much as a herd of 300-billion elephants. Just saying, 300 billion is a huge number and to fathom this many files backed-up, indefinitely – especially for a company that’s only eight-years-old? It’s pretty miraculous.

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First Solar Powered Plane About to Fly Across U.S.

With concerns about limited energy sources, solar power is becoming one of the hottest trends in tech development. Still, the fact that the first solar-powered plane has started a cross-country journey in the U.S. is incredible to most. The ultra-lightweight solar-powered plane, named Solar Impulse, is powered by the sun’s rays along with on-board batteries for reserve power. During it’s cross-country flight, not a drop of fuel will be utilized, making it the first flight of its kind.

The flight, which took off from San Francisco, California for the first of five segments of the trip, will reach an altitude of round 21,000 feet. A live feed on the plane’s website will broadcast the aircraft’s altitude, speed and location along with interior and exterior camera views. Two pilots, the founders of the plane, will take turns navigating.

That first leg of the trip concluded 18 hours after takeoff in Phoenix, Arizona. Although the plane travels much slower than traditional airlines (the average speed is about 43 miles per hour or 69 km per hour), the technology is still in development and further advances will likely lead to faster planes. Also, the plane’s costs are significantly diminished thanks to the use of solar power and battery power as opposed to fuel.

High fuel prices have caused air travel to become more expensive in more recent years. However, travelers have found great alternatives in terms of deals on accommodations and transportation which have allowed them to make up for that extra cost. New technologies like solar-powered flight may one day contribute to the growing means of transportation both in and around the U.S.

A few hurdles continue to stand in the way of solar power as a practical energy source for air flight. First, the plane’s lightweight design means that it cannot stand up to strong winds. Rain and clouds are also adverse conditions that which produce only minor setbacks for regular passenger planes while delaying a solar-powered flight for hours or even days.

Naturally, the inventors of this solar-powered airplane and the proponents of solar energy continue to work hard to improve the plane’s design and usability. For the time being, however, these achievements prove that we live in an exciting time where major advances in technology and green energy are being made each and every day.

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Q2 Stats for Smartphone Sales

As the second quarter of 2013 comes to a close, techies are on the edge of their seats wondering which smartphone is ahead of them all. LG and Samsung both upped market shares in the first quarter and are seriously taking off in Asia, particularly in South Korea. According to Juniper, a UK research firm, Samsung has twice as many smartphone sales as Apple, putting the iPhone solidly on the backburner.

Those same researchers claim that in order for Apple to give Samsung serious competition, innovation is key. Innovation is what Apple’s known for, but it’s been lagging behind in recent years. While iPhones can still cause a line to form, it doesn’t have that same obsessive fan base it used to according to some critics. Here’s a closer look at 2013′s Q2 facts.

The Reality of Second Place

While Samsung is leaving Apple in the dust, it’s important to note that Apple is still the runner up. Samsung had 70.1 million sales in quarter one of 2013, and Apple was trailing behind at 37.4 million. However, considering that third place went to LG with 10.3 million followed by Huawei at 9.9 million and ZTE at 9.1 million, second place doesn’t look too shabby. It’s going to take a lot for anyone to come close to touching Samsung or Apple, pitting these two giants into more battles.

Even in such a competitive market, that doesn’t stop others from trying. Amazon is introducing its own 3D phone soon, even though other glassless 3D devices have failed miserably in the US. Thus far, 2013 has turned out to be a record-breaking year for smartphone sales. In the first quarter, sales of smartphones surpassed that of feature phones for the first time in history. There’s no telling what records might be broken at the culmination of Q2.

The Return of LG

Even though LG is in third place, this is the first time in two quarters that it made the top 5 list. According to experts, the LG’s Nexus 4 for Android was the reason for the sudden spike, and LG is committed to keeping on the top list. Both Huawei and LTE are Chinese manufacturers and they’re already planning their next move, such as with ZTE’s 2013 Firefox Linux phone. The influx of winning Chinese phones is another trend to watch in 2013.

Future Predictions

Since nothing incredible seems to be coming from Apple, Samsung is expected to keep in the lead–although Apple is also known for surprising consumers with sudden releases. The Chinese manufacturers are working diligently to rise to the top, and it’s possible they might surpass LG by the end of 2013. However, if LG can stay on top of innovative designs, the company has a fighting chance to stay in the bronze place.

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5 Gifts That Help Keep a Man’s Desk Organized

Everybody wishes they were more organized. You hear it every New Year’s Eve – people’s resolutions are to lose weight, give up a vice, travel the world, and get more organized. But then real life takes over, you put on weight, don’t quit your voice, browse YouTube videos instead of maps, and let your workdesk look like the aftermath of a hurricane. Fortunately, the man who lets chaos has options to put things back in order. Here are five gifts that help keep a man’s desk organized.

1. Desk Caddy

Pens, paperclips and other paraphernalia are useful, but they’re always so small and easily scattered or lost. Help your man consolidate all his writing and filing implements with a revolving desk caddy. It’s small, so it won’t take up much room on his desk; and it revolves, so he won’t have to constantly shift it to get access to the rear compartments.

2. Overlap Tray

Balancing comfort and organization can be tricky, but with an overlap try, it might become a lot easier. If his desk is getting just a bit too cluttered, the overlap tray will give him enough room to lean back and get work done without feeling claustrophobic. The recessed arms allowing for storage of pens, accessories and even a coffee cup will make a man feel organized – even if he really isn’t. This may be one of the more odd graduation gifts to purchase, but the luxury it offers is unparalleled.

3. File Box

Papers make the world go around, and files help us keep those papers together. What keeps the files together? That’s where a file box comes in handy. Get that stack of files off the desk and into a box, where they can be neatly arranged and pulled out only when needed, not unnecessarily take up space long after they’ve been used. A file cabinet is a similarly great idea, but a file box might be a preferred option if space is at a premium.

4. Post-It Holder

Post-Its are great, aren’t they? Scribble a note, stick the paper somewhere, and you’ve got a reminder. But what do you do when you can’t find a pad of Post-Its? Or a pen? Imagine if you always knew where you could easily, and simply, just pull off a piece of Post-It paper, and a pen was always there. That’s why a Post-It Holder makes for a great gift. Your man can download all the organization apps his smartphone can handle, but Post-Its will never go out of style, and the holder will always keep them there.

5. Stacking Organizer Trays

On a busy desk, preserving space is paramount, so anything that can stack is very welcome. Anything that provides some form of organization and stacks is a winner. With a set of stacking organizer trays, a man can have all his documents, stationery and accessories neatly arranged when needed, and easily put away when not.

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3 Ways to Stay on Top of Data Collection

Big data is aptly named – the volume, speed, and variety of data that can be mined is astronomical in today’s digital and heavily web-based environment. While analyzing data from areas such as social media, consumer habits, and patterns of behavior can yield potentially advantageous insights for business strategies and decision making, big data can just as potentially bury a company under its avalanche of information. Here are three ways to stay on top of data collection and ensure investments in data analysis produce useful results.

Start Small, Integrate Slowly

Collecting and analyzing data can become a monumental task that may end up quickly eating through resources without producing a matching ROI. If a business is just beginning its use of data analytics, it is important to make a commitment but to start small and to limit the use and exposure of mined data and their analyses. Finding a flexible business intelligence (BI) software that can be integrated into the operational framework of the company is a valuable tool for making big data work for the company and not the other way around.

Identify Specific Goals

When deciding to use data analytics, it is helpful to identify a specific area or aspect in the business that will directly benefit. BI reporting software can help track customer spending and buying habits as well as various external business trends and internal company processes. This can then shed light on a business’s strengths and weaknesses and point out where added insight from big data may be useful. Keeping a clear goal in mind with a measurable outcome is important for not getting lost in a sea of data or even worse, potentially being led astray by irrelevant or overwhelming data analyses.

Choosing an Analytics Platform

Once a clear plan and goal for data collection and analysis are in place, the next step is choosing which BI reporting software or analytical platform will be the best suited to the particular idiosyncrasies of a company. While Hadoop has heavy hitting name recognition and is open source, there is a growing selection of companies that offer data collection and analysis services.

Big Data, when utilized judiciously and when vigorously analyzed, can help companies identify patterns where business strategies may be or need to be improved upon. With the right software or service and a firm roadmap to implementation, a company can begin to harness the vast knowledge base provided by data analytics.

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