Best of the Web for creative freelancers
With so many portals, platforms, services, widgets or applications on the web, freelancers, like other web users, have an increasingly tough task to distinguish the delights from the disappointments.
Listed below are some of best stops on the web that trading freelancers should make at least once, and, depending on their sector or skill-set, make more than once, for enjoyment and hopefully for their own enrichment.
With Twitter being the hottest online space of the moment, and no longer just according to brand marketers, any best of the web rundown for freelancers would be incomplete without it.
Jim Callender, a freelance digital consultant, remarked that, for better or worse, “without Twitter the world would be a much bigger place.” This is because the site lets users to keep in touch with people, free of charge, through the exchange of spontaneous, frequent bursts of what they’re up to, or often thinking, in 140 characters or less.
Status updates, links, breaking news, feeds and photos (on Twit pic) are all ubiquitous on Twitter, which is actually yet to make any revenues, in spite of massive investor interest, and support.
“I have successfully promoted my business using this network to new and existing clients, [such as making sure] they are always aware of our new projects and developments,” said Mr Callender, Xchangeteam’s Digital Freelance of the Year (2007).
“No day on Twitter is the same as the each other, with trending topics and current affairs being discussed by a global community.
Not got time to Twitter? Then LuckyCal, also free to use, is another online aid helping you keep track of your personal or business network, based on information you’ve already inputted. Using details from your inbox, home address, schedule and travel plans, LC trawls to find events that you might be interested in. This means that account holders can get their favourite bands, shows and sporting teams flagged up, alongside the times that they could meet up with friends, while staying on the move. Even when on the road, the tool suggests flights and hotels in line with a user’s footsteps.
Designers, wedding planners, artists, retailers and digital specialists are just some of the millions of creatives who have enlisted at Basecamp. Launched in 2004, the web-based project collaboration tool is designed to take the hassle out of the management of multiple or single projects. Users can easily create ‘to do’ lists, add milestones, share and upload files, and message entire teams of a project so everyone involved gets the right brief, at the right time. Newcomers to project management are encouraged to trial the pay-for service, which has also proved a hit among a host of leading brands who say they smoothly executed a range of remote projects via the site.
This community website is all about photos taken by people: professionals, first-time photographers, citizen journalists and mobile phone camera owners – basically anyone who has a camera and an internet connection. Groups of photos or your individual photos can be quickly identified and, in some cases, shared with others in the community. Having friends or family on Flickr means you can search for tagged photos of people you know, while you can also assemble albums of your favourites as you browse.
“Whether it’s a conference, party or family holiday, you can always find colourful, inspirational photographs that you can download or comment on,” said Mr Callender, the managing director of Callender Creates.
“Flickr has created quite a few web celebrities, by amateur photographers attracting millions of views and comments to their work.”
The site is also popular for creatives needing to source ‘stock images’, as the Creative Commons facility lets users access images that, in some instances, can be used for a project or publication, as long as its owner’s licensing conditions are adhered to.
Despite a few misfires in launching to the business community, the free or low-cost internet calling provider, whose software shares its name, is doing its utmost to reconnect with firms and enterprising individuals in the UK who operate online. It has launched a series of research groups so business owners can tell the company’s developers how Skype needs to perform in order to serve them and their clients better. For being easy to use for short internet calls, potentially over long distances, plus video calling, Skype is an enviable position in the VoIP space, particularly as the company is now focussing solely on its own development, having been offloaded by eBay last month.
6/Oovoo, Paltalk and Plugoo
Just three of the Web’s offerings, each of them free, for users who want to chat instantly, seamlessly and in real-time, and with more than one contact, assuming your internet connection can take the strain! Although Plugoo’s widget is still in beta, it currently allows direct chatting between IM and any blog or webpage visitor.
One creative freelancer said without ‘GDocs’ his life would be a “real mess”. The online suite for documents, including those in Excel and PowerPoint, offers authors and endless amount of creation and organisation, as links to colleagues allow them to collaborate on the same document, such as a report or project. There’s also full revision history, which is not available on desktop publishing software.
Another freelancer, an SEO specialist and commercial website administrator, said Analytics was the best tool for him to understand web traffic, and how effectively the sites he runs are attracting visitors and keeping them clicking their advertisers. Even for freelancers’ own sites, it’s an invaluable tool for understanding where traffic, and new leads, are coming from. The layout and user-friendliness of the suite makes it easier than expensive alternatives to navigate information, understand it and act upon it, he said.
Even the hardest-working freelancers should leave their offices now and then, and this is why upcoming, an events listing site, is so useful. Essentially a community for discovering and sharing events, the site puts you in touch with things to do, events to attend, and attractions to see. Users can also discover what their friends are doing or going to see. Ideal for networking at local or even international events; view who is going, and add yourself to an event to let everyone know you are attending too!
10/Edison, CO2 Saver and Carbon Control
Just three new software programs out there designed to help companies go 'green' by cutting carbon emissions. All use Windows power settings to reduce the energy consumed by computers while they are idle or on stand-by. Each provides the user with information on how much carbon they have saved, and Edison goes a step further by estimatomg how much money you have saved. The personal versions of the programs are free, though fees apply for corporate buyers.
Almost all of the websites featured here have free packages and are password protected, meaning they won't cost you the earth and are safe from prying eyes! Almost all the accounts include SSL security - the same technology used by online banks. The option to the user is whether they wish to offer information to friends, family and/or the public. In all cases, it’s always up to you.
Mr Callender added: “Almost all these tools are relatively new still, and we can only look forward to seeing how they evolve around the people that use these applications on a daily basis.”
16th September 2009