• Background Image

    The Communication Hackers Blog


February 20, 2018

Our Four Favorite Productivity Tools for Busy Business Owners

Four Productivity Tools for Busy Business Owners

Thanks for joining us! This is a members-only premium article in our Favorite Things series. In this series, we share the digital marketing tools that we’ve discovered and actually use ourselves, after almost two years of testing and experimenting. We’ve done the research and test-driving, so you don’t have to. Today’s topic: productivity tools for busy business owners.

No affiliate or promotional links. We are committed to providing you with unbiased digital marketing advice. That means nothing you find in this, or any other series, will ever contain affiliate or promotional links. Rest assured that when we recommend something, it’s because we use it and like it. We never recommend products, companies, or tools because we get a kickback.

In this post, we’ll be sharing our favorite productivity tools

The thing about being a business owner is you’re always busy. Ever feel that way? Do you feel like your mind is always running in 5 different directions at the same time? Often wonder how you’ll fit everything in? For us, time literally is our most precious resource and as we juggle two side hustles and a full-time job. There are certain productivity tools that are total lifesavers. Without these tools, we couldn’t be half as productive as are and would certainly have lost our minds a long time ago.

The productivity tools

Evernote – searchable, shareable note-taking anywhere

You never know where you’ll be when great ideas pop into your head. Waiting in line at the grocery store, at the gym, waiting for your food to be brought out at a restaurant… anywhere. Without a tool to capture these ideas, you could lose them forever – maybe even the next million-dollar one! Evernote is our favorite mobile note-taking app. Huge portions of the ideas behind Communication Hackers were recorded in Evernote notes! With pretty sophisticated editing tools, you can even brainstorm, outline, and write entire blog posts directly on your phone in Evernote so you can be productive literally anywhere!! The coolest thing is that Evernote is available for virtually all of your devices: laptops, iPhones, Android phones, tablets… So you can start a note on one device, continue on another, and retrieve it on a third!

Evernote is perfect for teams too. You can share individual notes or entire notebooks and the sync function works pretty seamlessly and perfectly in our experience.

Finally, all of our notes are infinitely searchable, and quickly too. Wanna know when you wrote the phrase “killer idea?” Whether it was yesterday or last decade, the search function will serve it up in an instant.

If you’re a busy business owner, Evernote belongs in your toolbox.

Details: Evernote website. Free basic account. Minimally priced premium features including additional storage, priority uploading of images, and ability to sync more devices.

Grammarly – your very own copy editor

Few things make you look more like an amateur than poor grammar or spelling. Of course, the problem is, spell-checker only works in certain apps (like Microsoft Word) and who can afford their own copy-editor right? Well, the folks at Grammarly heard us loud and clear and gave us a powerful spelling and grammar-checking tool that works (almost) everywhere.

Want to make sure emails to clients look good so you don’t let dumb grammar mistakes erode their trust (or get misunderstood)? Grammarly has you covered with an Outlook plugin.

Need an extra eye on your blog posts so they make you look good? Grammarly works on just about any website you’re on. In fact, Grammarly is giving us helpful hints on our spelling and grammar as we type this very blog post (it just told us about the missing comma after “Of course” at the beginning of this paragraph.

Look your best across all of your digital marketing with Grammarly!

Details: Grammarly website. Free basic account including plugins for Microsoft Office products. Upgrade options for even more intelligent copy-editing (like editing for a specific style of writing).

Cloudapp – screen capture, video capture, & annotation too

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Nowhere is that more true than when you’re trying to explain something to someone.

Ever wanted to describe something on your computer screen to someone and wish you could just snap a pic and mark it up or make a quick video of it? Maybe you even tried hobbling together a solution using your iPhone that didn’t work quite so good (not to mention the 5+ steps it takes). This is a problem when you’re trying share information with friends and family. When sharing info is part of your business, that problem starts to cost you money.

Cloudapp is our go-to solution to easily take screen grabs and even capture video so we can explain things really easily. We find ourselves using Cloudapp all the time – whether we’re collaborating with each other remotely and want to explain something real quick, working with a client and need to explain what we just found on their website, or are calling to customer service for some app we have and want to show them what we need fixed.

You’ll want to add Cloudapp to your toolbox for sure. It will make your life much easier anytime you need to explain something digital to anyone.

Details: Cloudapp website. Free basic account. Upgraded accounts offer longer video capture length, more storage, and more bandwidth.

Slack – team collaboration at its best

Communication. Where would we be without it? Just about everything in business revolves around good communication.

In the digital age, communication often means email. Email might be fine for customers, old roommates, or people you’d like to keep at a distance but it downright sucks for communication between teammates. Attachments can be clunky, privacy is a nightmare, send delays can result in your teammate down the hall cursing you and yelling “where’s that file again?” and don’t even try to do anything useful with the search function.

We’ve entirely jettisoned email for team communication and use Slack instead. Slack is one of the biggest growing players in the small business and entrepreneurial scene and it’s no wonder. Think of Slack as secure, infinitely searchable, highly organized instant messaging. You can easily attach images, video, URLs, or just about anything else you can think of to your Slack conversations so you can get more work done! Oh, and the list of Slack integrations is endless. For example, we use a Drift Bot on our website to be as responsive as possible to our customers and the Slack-Drift integration allows us to answer Drift messages right in our Slack stream. It’s like magic!

If you haven’t migrated your team communications to Slack yet, you’re really missing out on some huge productivity gains and super cool integrations.

Details: Slack website. Free basic account. Upgraded accounts for unlimited archiving/searching, guest access, screen sharing, and more.

Here’s to more digital productivity!

There you have it. Our favorite digital productivity tools! These tools will have you doing much more in less time and staying sane in the process.

We’d love to hear from you! Have you tried any of these tools? What do you think? Did we miss any of your favorite productivity tools? Let us know in the comments or come drop us a line on our Facebook page.

June 13, 2017

6 Surprising Reasons a Side-Hustle will Make You a Better Employee

Diversity in the workplace is all the rage.

But what about the celebration of diversity of talents within each employee?

I believe we’re each a multi-faceted being – with a natural desire to exercise various (often seemingly unrelated) talents within our daily lives.

After more than a decade of being more or less a cubicle dweller, I’ve listened as countless numbers of my colleagues admit that they spend their evening and weekend leisure time embarking on activities completely different than their day jobs.

Why is this so common?

Perhaps we – as complex beings – are innately wired to crave a variety of experiences.

In the workplace, these outlet experience allow us to flex all our muscles, exercise many different talents, and delve into areas of interest that we might not otherwise be able to do at our day jobs.

Nothing has been quite as rewarding on my career path as my side gig (what millennials call a “side hustle”) of Communication Hackers.

Sure, I have a 9-5. And I’m eternally grateful for such a solid professional career.

But I felt like professionally (career-potential wise) I was a Ford sedan driving around stuck in second gear meanwhile having a V8 hemi under the hood.

That is… until I sucked it up and took a risk to invest my nights & weekends pursuing something more, something different, but in addition to the 9-5.

It’s not about the Benjamins.

Since starting this endeavor, I’ve learned that the benefits gained from a side hustle FAR exceed simple monetary increases and financial diversification.

Most people only talk about the increase in their checking account.

But I want you to hear about the really deep life-changing impacts that a good side hustle can bring.

So here goes.

Six benefits of having a side hustle that have nothing to do with money:

1. Networking.

From discussions at a locally-owned coffee shop, to mind-blowing phone convos with like-minded ambitious individuals, a side hustle allows us to broaden our network of relationships. And it’s often entrepreneurial-minded professionals we might not have otherwise been able to connect with at the 9-5. How does this affect your day job? Well, as they say you never know when opportunity will knock. By having a large, diverse network outside the day job, you are bound to find ways to leverage those connections in ways you never envisioned.

2. Bigger Perspective.

Ever stand up from your cubicle (or metaphorical cube) expecting to gain a greater perspective of the world, only to find a sea of more 4-walled cubicles? Having an outside business allows you to veer into other fields, look at other perspectives, and generally just see how the rest of the business world operates. By looking at other models/practices/fields, we have a better shot at remaining current on emerging trends, evolving business models, etc. It reminds me of why I enjoy volunteering my time mentoring teenagers. As I get older, I lose sight of what’s new, what’s emerging, what’s become passé. Being around teenagers (who think and live very different than me), I get to glean from their knowledge. This is similar to how networking through a side hustle can show us a bigger picture of business than hunkering down inside our 9-5 allows.

3. Entrepreneurial Mindset.

It’s hard to be a true free-thinking entrepreneur when you’re workinBenefits of a side-hustleg for someone else and processing assignments day in and day out. That “think outside the box” mentality comes when you start engaging with professional entrepreneur-types who aren’t afraid to take a risk, try something crazy, color outside the damn lines. And every entrepreneur knows that business is primarily driven by providing solutions to urgent, big problems. A problem-solving mindset…without having to go back to school to get an MBA for it. And it costs your 9-5 boss nothing. This could save you from incurring between $26K-$125K for tuition in a 2-year MBA program according to 2016 statistics from the US News & World Report. How many hours of cube life would you need to sit to pay for that??

4. Stretch Your Creative Wings.

If you work in a data processing cubicle job tirelessly typing 40+ hours per week, you might find yourself searching for a creative outlet. Choosing a fun side hustle allows you to build up your skills in your favorite creative outlet, such as starting a consulting business, house flipping, decorating cupcakes, or selling Mary Kay. Maybe your creative outlet gig is something really emotionally fulfilling such as teaming with your coder buddy to make your dream of that novel video game —you’ve been mentally crafting since you were a pimply-faced 12-year old— become a reality. If you have a creative itch that you just can’t seem to scratch at the 9-5, what I am saying rings loud and clear. Just look at funnyman Ken Jeong—a Duke-alumnus medical physician who pursued his passion for acting & comedy on the side. He’s now making bank in Hollywood after spreading his creative wings. Life is short; scratch the itch.

5. Diversify Your Skills.

Maybe your side gig isn’t necessarily a creative one. That’s cool too. Maybe it just allows you to diversify and exercise professional skills you might not be able to use at your day job. My side hustle has forced me to learn new skills in order to make progress. For example, I’ve had to become savvy with multiple social media platforms that I don’t use at my day job. To thrive in this crowded environment I spend my nights and weekends absorbing all I can about website bounce rates, WordPress programming, digital sales funneling, and the list goes on. I’m a Gen X’er. That means I spent the majority of my formative years without the internet. Business was taught to me by taking traditional, predictable, mostly risk-aversive routes. But by jumping into a side hustle both feet in and my “X” eyes wide open, I’ve quickly had to adapt to the new way of the business world. Having a strong foundation in the ways of yesteryears, but realizing that nothing operates likes it did in our parents’ time, many of us Gen X’ers have found that business is not like we were told it would be. My side hustle has taught me that this diversity of self can make or break us out there. Side hustlers adapt to making on-the-fly decisions, chasing emerging trends, and self-induced learning routines. Therefore, we carry that same initiative back to our day jobs.

6. Hustle. 

This brings me to entrepreneurial sensation GaryVee’s favorite word. Hustle. As one of the most sought after public speakers alive today, Gary helps Fortune 500 companies slay the competition by making things happen. Carefully. Immediately. Simultaneously. Innovatively. In order to successfully operate a side hustle while simultaneously kicking ass at your day job, you need to learn the art of hustle. Hustle isn’t the same as the illusory concept of multitasking. Hustle doesn’t mean doing one thing half-ass while simultaneously working on another. Hustle requires us to figure out the main thing, then weigh other choices up against that main end goal and decide which to keep and which to ditch. It keeps us focused, clear, and not so likely to wander down wascally wabbit trails. As a side hustler entrepreneur, time really is money. Time is currency. A good hustler is conscious of every precious second. Every decision I make either earns me money or steals my money. It’s easy to dillydally on superfluous tasks when you’re on someone else’s dime. But the side gig runs on limited time (and budget) and so we must move quickly and with laser precision. Trim the fat, ignore the “wouldn’t it be nice if…” thoughts, and execute on what will help your business succeed. After running my own business on the side I’ve turned into a problem solver. I can no longer look at problems or gaps in my 9-5 and pessimistically murmur “someone should do something about that.” Rather, I analyze the problems I see that might be within my sphere of influence and I start formulating solutions. I’m no longer just bitching about them. This has been the most life-changing mental shift and direct benefit of the side hustle way of life.

Both is better.

I’ll close with this final thought that changed my paradigm towards success and fulfillment.

Rich people think ‘both.’ Poor people think ‘either/or’. T. Harv Eker the author of the bestselling book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth

If you’re contemplating about diversifying your skillset with a side hustle on top your 9-5…don’t feel trapped by either/or… do both!

Help for fellow hustlers.

Running a side hustle can be a lot of work. For hacks & tips about how to juggle it all without losing your mind, be sure to follow us on social media.

To your side hustle success,

— Laura