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Fünf nützliche Tools für Freelancer

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Selbstständige und Start-ups jonglieren mit vielen Bällen. Sie managen alle Teile ihrer Projekte, vom Anfang bis zum Ende, inklusive Kundenbeziehungen und die Organisation drumherum. Und nebenbei soll ihre Kernarbeit nicht darunter leiden - der kreative Teil. Alle Tools, und seien sie noch so banal, sind daher willkommen, wenn sie Aufgaben leichter lösen oder beschleunigen. Deshalb stellen wir heute wieder eine Liste mit fünf Tools für Coworker und Startups vor.

KeyRocket

Excel. That hideously complex program with an endless number of shortcut keys. Perhaps you have nailed a few. Perhaps you are an experienced user, and have 50 or so committed to memory. Even experienced users, though, are unlikely to know the thousands of shortcut keys that office programs  keep hidden – and of those, remember the ones applicable to them.

Individual workers use the same programs found in corporations worldwide, but do not have the luxury of traditional office-sponsored training programs to help them master the programs they use daily. KeyRocket is the new training program for independent workers sans-office. It is a tool designed to help users learn and remember keyboard shortcuts for repetitive tasks on Mircosoft Office programs, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, saving time and maximizing efficiency.

The program is customizable and evolves to users' work patterns. By learning the functions each individual performs most frequently, KeyRocket will only suggests shortcuts for the functions you use. It tracks performance as you work and learn, so you can go back and monitor where time was saved, when it was wasted, and pick up time-saving solutions for the future.

Gone are the days of the annoying Microsoft Office Paperclip: KeyRocket is non-intrusive. It can be customized to stop suggesting certain shortcuts, and sits quietly at the bottom of the screen. It also includes a search engine-style index of shortcuts, listed in order of relevance to each user.

Christine Crum of Veodin, a German company, recognised that freelancers tend to work on multiple projects at once and ware “lots of different hats”.

“If they don't have to waste their time clicking back and forth and inputting all their data, they can get their work done in a fraction of the time. It gives them more time to use for creative energy, planning, and perfecting the details of their projects,” she said.

“For these types of programs there are thousands of shortcuts. Even the very experienced users, the so-called 'geeks' don't know all of them. Everyone has a few that people have shown them or that they've taken the time to look up online. Everyone relies on them to get their work done efficiently... If those one or two shortcuts make your work faster, imagine how much you would be knowing the 120 that apply to you.”

KeyRocket currently supports keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Excel, Word and Power Point versions 2007 and 2010 for Windows, with updates automatically integrated into the software. KeyRocket has two versions – the free version will allow users to select the app to use with either Power Point, Word or Excel office programs. The premium version, at $5.00 USD or 5.00€ per month, will install a version which supports the entire office suite.

Trello

Trello is a new organization tool that helps plan projects, delegate tasks, and organize yourself and team members. The program is simple to understand, using 'cards' – the digital post-it note – and 'boards' to present all components of a project in a user-friendly interface.

Naturally, Trello surpasses the physical whiteboard list since all team members can access it wherever they are, and can see any changes or developments to the project immediately. The cards can hold more information than a brief task description, too: the cards can be media rich, with  attachments, embedded video, and social media streams. Members can be assigned to specific cards, and are notified when something they are assigned to is changed.

The biggest advantage of Trello, an US based service, is that it works on any device and is completely free. The interface is instinctive and self-explanatory, and understanding the tool takes seconds, unlike many other organizational tools on the market.

For freelancers who often have more than one project on the go, Trello can help keep multi-taskers on top of different stages of different projects simultaneously. Because each board can be made private, other collaborators, participants and clients, who may need to track progress, can be added as team members.

AppYourself

As the world of marketing is becoming more mobile, it is important for companies to stay abreast of mobile media. In an age where email and flyers are quickly becoming outdated means of communication, a mobile app can put businesses in direct contact with their customers by sending them news and invitations to events - as flyer app. AppYourself is a new tool which allows companies to create simple apps for mobile devices easily and online.

The free version provides the core features for creating a Web App, including the content, map, contact details and an image gallery. The modules are pre-built so no programming is required. This means that anyone can create an App in less than half an hour exactly to their specifications for their own businesses.

A mobile website is the alternative, but if you haven't already got one, AppYourself lets you create a Web App quickly and for free that can be used as a mobile website. Of course, there are advantages when upgrading to the premium packages, as the mobile apps become more information rich, more interactive and available on more platforms.

The extended packages, available for 14.99€ and 39.99€ per month (plus setup fee) include a number of added modules (like submenus, reservation and social media) plus support and maintenance. Most importantly, they include iPhone and Android Apps, which allow the new creations to be sold to Apple's App Store. The final package (49.99€ per month), will be available soon and includes the iPad App.

At first glance, and when the setup fee is included, the cost might at first seem hefty. However, when comparing the cost of AppYourself to a designer/programmer, the sum is pittance. A small point aside: the advantage of such a tool can also become its disadvantage. There are already millions of smartphone apps in circulation. What counts more than having an app, then, is having an app of quality.

Tricider

A freelancer in a coworking space has lots of heads around him or her to get good feedback for an idea. But collecting all the ideas, presenting them in one platform and allowing members to see which see which ideas have already been put forward, and then vote on the ones they like best, is a difficult task. There is no doubt that brainstorming is traditionally best done in a physical group, and is cumbersome via email or over the phone.

Tricider is an online brainstorming tool for group decision making which allows questions to be asked, ideas and arguments to be put forward, and responses to be voted on, no matter where respondents are. Questions can be directed to friends or team members – like in a traditional brainstorming session – or made public via Facebook, Twitter, or on the tricider website, opening up the question to different heads from all over the world.

The service, a Berlin based start-up, facilitates brainstorming and collective decision making, since all answers can be voted and commented on by everyone else. It also helps with individual decision making, by allowing a question to be put to a market and the response assessed. Closed questions can be asked or pictures can be uploaded. Questions like 'which design is best?' 'What can be improved?' and 'Do you like my new logo?' can all be opened up for review and debated easily on one platform with an allocated deadline.

The tool can be embedded in websites to encourage visitor feedback and interaction, and for a fee, rewards can be offered to participants to create a croudsourcing platform.

Tricider shares some of the things that coworking prides – acting as a 'public idea space' where people share their thoughts, questions, knowledge and creativity for the good of everyone. It is free  and easy as pie to use, and, for the purpose of brainstorming and decision making, more direct and open than traditional social media platforms. A premium version is also available, which allows the tool to be adapted to specific aesthetic requirements, connected with SSL encryptions and optional password protection.

Viber

In late 2010, Viber was launched as Skype competitor. Today, more than 40 million people have downloaded this iPhone or Android app, developed by the Israeli startup Viber Media. VoIP services are by no means new, but Viber is nonetheless a great tool for freelancers who work for clients abroad and are tired of broken or barely understandable Skype calls, and the obligatory 'date' that is made in advance.

Viber - downloadable in less than a minute - is tailored on smartphone usage. It works like a phone function rather than a classic messaging service, meaning that no login or password are required. Instead, the account is the existing phone number, confirmed by SMS.

Viber is convenient, automatically using your contact list in order to show and integrate contacts who are already using the service. It contains a messenger service that users are already familiar with (from Whatsapp or Skype, for example) and, like many other media apps, it is simple to use, but can instigate feelings of insecurity for those who want their data to remain private; all connections (excluding call content) among users are saved for up to 30 months.

The phone quality is one of the biggest advantages of this VoIP service. Viber to Viber calls are free of charge and compatible with either 3G or WiFi.

The business model behind Viber is still unclear. There are no ads shown. It can be a buying service by providing data instead of money like most of services on Facebook or Google. Viber claims that they plan to introduce additional payable services in future, but reassure that simple VoIP calls and messages will remain free.

Some phone companies may block Viber, as was the case with Skype in the past. However, mobile phone companies are in fact the biggest profiteers of this service. They have nothing to lose since Skype and other online call services already took over a big share of international calls, so instead, they earn more money with data usage.

For any phone call, Viber requires approximately 500KB per minute. It is highly recommended, then, to have a internet package of at least 250 MB for 500 minutes per month (using Viber with WiFi depends, of course, on the individual provider). While WiFi inhibits flexible phonecalls on the go, Viber is still an excellent alternative to Skype, and a handy tool for entrepreneurs.

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