All posts tagged Business Tools

  • Outsourcing small jobs cheaply

    I probably have about 100 different ideas a week. They can be anything from future Applingua plans to completely new business ideas to something as simple as a blog post. Most ideas are instantly unviable, but there are often a few which get jotted down in The Hit List for future consideration. Unfortunately they often get left there simply due to time constraints.

    One such idea was a blog post I recently published to Applingua’s Blog, listing the Top 100 Paid Mac OS X apps and their localizations. I knew in order to make the blog post more valuable to me, my clients and the blog’s audience, I needed to delve a little deeper than just studying one app store. I also knew surveying 100 apps across several stores would take a lot of my time, which I needed for client projects.

    After weeks of putting it off, I decided to write a quick job on oDesk (if you are interested, the job post is at the bottom of this page). The applicants had to be able to navigate the Mac App Store proficiently, enter information into Numbers or Excel and do a little research on Google to find out where each developer was located. It’s a classic data entry job.

    Within 15 minutes I had 4 applicants. I sent three of them the job and asked them to do the research and get back to me in their own time. There was no rush.

    A few hours later, a guy called Ramon got back to me with the finished work. I was amazed not only by the speed, but also quality of his work and friendly replies. His portfolio told me he was based in the Philippines and is an iWork and iLife “expert” looking for all kinds of work including mundane data entry. Perfect. I instantly hired him again, asking him to do 4 other stores and then to amalgamate all 7 excel sheets to find a set of statistics. I provided the sums and short descriptions.

    A few days later all the hard work was done and all I had to do was quickly check over the stats and write the blog post. In total, my time ~1 hour. Had I done the store research myself, it would have been ~2 hours per store * 7 + amalgamation + statistics + coffee breaks + the data entry boredom effect. Easily 2 and a half days on one blog post. The post is an important one, but I can’t justify 2.5 days off client work for it.

    The point of this post is you can do this too. Look at your todo list, set aside a small budget and outsource all the small, time consuming jobs you can.

    Just because you don’t want to do them, doesn’t mean others won’t.

    Hi Guys! *** Max 1.5/2 hour job ***

    I’m looking for several Mac users in different countries to do some research for me on the Mac App Store. 

    I am looking to extend this blog post:

    You must be:
    – A Mac OS X 10.6.x or 10.7.x user. If you don’t know what this is, stop now 🙂
    – Know what the Mac App Store is. How to access it. How to navigate it
    – Have Excel or Numbers installed to work on spreadsheet

    What you would need to do:
    – Look at the attachment to this project. There is an excel sheet and a screenshot. The excel sheet tells you what you need to record.
    – Launch the Mac App Store
    – Go to the Top 100 Paid Applications in your Country’s Store
    – Click on each app. 
    – Make a note of the available languages (See screenshots)
    – Now, the difficult bit: go to the developer’s website and find out where the developer works (USA, UK, etc). You may need to use if it’s not obvious.

    Any questions, just ask!!


  • Newsletters made easy with Mail Designer

    Most businesses, big and small, send out regular newsletters via email nowadays. Services such as MailChimp make it unbelievably easy to legally collect and manage subscribers and, best of all for the majority of small businesses, it’s completely free.

    MailChimp do provide basic templates you can work with and, design-wise, they certainly aren’t bad. You can add your own images, edit text and choose different fonts. MailChimp offers you everything you’d expect a newsletter service to provide and a few nice surprises too.

    But if you’ve gone this route before, you’ll know just how cumbersome editing templates actually is. You have to click each layout box individually, requiring almost an entire page refresh each time you change a font or add a word. You have to laboriously go through each section (header, body, footer, etc) setting background and text colours. If I were an HTML email expert, I would be mocking them up in TextMate and importing my newsletters into MailChimp this way. Unfortunately, I’m not an HTML email expert.

    Enter Mail Designer. equinux are email experts and have been making Mail stationery for over four years now. It should be said, I used to work for equinux, but never got to see this product finish and left several months before release. It’s taken me some time to start writing a regular newsletter for Applingua and only used Mail Designer for the first time properly a few days ago.

    What is Mail Designer exactly?

    Mail Designer (MD from now on) is a WYSIWYG graphical HTML email editor. Think iWeb for emails. It lets you drag and drop elements into a page-style layout and includes some professional looking graphics to make your newsletter look a bit more authentic.

    Graphics, Layout Blocks & Textures


    Perhaps the most compelling reason to use MailDesigner is its design flexibility. I started with a blank template, although it is possible to start with a series of pre-made templates or even by importing one of equinux’s other stationery templates. Within minutes I had dragged and dropped a series of layout blocks and started writing my newsletter.

    Changing font, sizes and colours is just as familiar as in any major document editor like Pages or Word. You can change background colours and, what’s more, equinux have provided a huge array of textured backgrounds to give your newsletter a more natural feel.

    My personal favourite feature has to be the built in graphics. I used the “New” badge in this newsletter and I can see myself using the -10% star in the future. These can be added to any image area on top or behind your own custom images.

    MailChimp ready


    For many however, the most attractive feature of MD is its built-in MailChimp support. The process is so slick. With built-in MailChimp placeholders you can personalise your emails using information you’ve collected when users signed up, such as their first or last name. When you are finished designing your email, you just Share to MailChimp and it uploads seamlessly.

    As soon as the upload has finished, you are taken to the MailChimp template page to review the uploaded template.

    At this point there were a few inconsistencies between my document in MD and what I saw on MailChimp. Namely, some fonts hadn’t made the journey correctly. It wasn’t major and I’d always recommend you check over your template before sending it anyway. I did contact support however and they let me know they are on to it.

    Here’s what the newsletter looked like in MailChimp:

    But of course the proof is in the pudding. Here’s what the email looked like in Mail (how I wanted):


    In a nutshell

    It took me only a few hours to create and upload my very first Applingua newsletter to MailChimp. Designing it took very little effort and adding images was just a simple matter of drag & drop. If you’ve ever properly worked with emails before, you know how much of a nightmare they can be. I expected poorer results from the MailChimp export, but, apart from the one or two incorrect fonts, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

    I will definitely be using it for my second newsletter next month.

    Update: Promocode Available

    equinux have been kind enough to provide an exclusive promo code for my blog readers. Simply buy using this link for a massive €10 off the total price! Thanks Guys!

    Oh, by the way, subscribe to Applingua’s Newsletter