Wednesday, September 28, 2011

10 things you really shouldn’t be doing yourself

You’ve probably read all those outsourcing and personal productivity articles that give advice like hiring a virtual assistance in India, thinking ‘it’s all fine and dandy, but that has nothing to do with me and my job, I wish there was something to make MY LIFE easier’. Well, chances are, there is. Truth is, there are hundreds, if not thousands, small niche apps, products and services that can make just about any job easier. Here are 10 such services that you’ve probably never heard about. Obviously, you won’t need them all, but I wouldn’t be surprised that at least one on the list will come in handy for your future project.

1. Branding – is a risk-free naming service. Here is how it works. If you need new domain/name/slogan, you place an order, deposit $50 and start getting suggestions. When you find the name you decide to use, the service will pay a portion of the money to a person who made the suggestion. If you don’t like any suggestions, you get your money back. No risk involved. PickyDomains has named over 1500 domains so far (DiskScout.Com, Xutta.Com,, GymGenius.Com, Simplytics.Com, Coderria.Com, Nogeno.Com, just to give you a few examples).

2. Legal –

If you don’t have any idea what Bates numbering system is, you are a lucky person. That’s because lawyers, paralegals and clerks have to manually ‘stamp bates’ every single day (otherwise courts won’t accept their documents). Bates Express provides a solution that will automatically apply Bates stamps to any document – e-mail, image, PDF, Word file, HTML page, etc. Bates Express has both free and paid versions.

3. Web Design

99Designs is a crowdsourcing service that specializes in creating logos, templates, icons and other types of graphics. Its main advantage is a vast membership of web designers and fairly low prices – for instance, you can buy an original logo from 99Designs for 99 US Dollars. Most other design projects have $295 minimum. 99Designs was a recipient of 2010 Webby award and has been featured in many tech publications with mostly favorable reviews.

4. Intranets –

What Drupal, WordPress or Joomla did for websites, Bitrix is doing to corporate intratnets. Bitrix is the biggest CMS maker you’ve never heard of – because it’s a Russian company (virtually every Russian media, government or corporate site runs on Bitrix – 60,000 in total). While Bitrix is struggling to get more attention abroad, its flagship product Bitrix Intranet 10 is really worth looking into. Essentially, with it, a competent programmer will be able to get corporate intranet up and running in one or two days, complete with employee pages, blogs, forums, messaging , video conferencing, e-mails, corporate wiki, etc. Pricing varies, depending on the size of the intranet.

5. Social Networks – Microworkers

It’s true that you can’t buy love, but likes are on sale at When you launch your FaceBook page, you have no friends. It’s easy to get friends and followers for personal pages, but corporate accounts are usually a different story. Nothing is as pathetic as a corporate PR manager with 30/hr pay wasting hours trying to get a few Twitter followers. At you pay 10 – 15 cents to get people to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ you, so for $50-$100 total your page in a social network will have several hundred community members right from the beginning and have that credibility that leads to a bandwagon effect.

6. Marketing –

oDesk is a lot like 99Designs with a wider range of services offered. What it’s really good for is lead generation and business prospecting. Suppose, you are a lawyer, who works with software companies, writing EULAs, non-disclosure agreements, etc. At oDesk, you can hire a competent task-specific marketer from India, Phillipines, Thailand and other countries with low hourly pay. For instance, your assignment might look like this “You’ll be given a joint e-mail account and an invitation text for a free consultation. You’ll have to go through Yellow pages/Yahoo directory and contact software developers with my offer via e-mail. The pay is 10 cents per e-mail sent.” So now, contacting 1000 prospective clients that would take you several days work is only $100 and can be done by several people you hire in a matter of hours.

7. SEO/PPC –

If you have a lot of online competition and plan to run a PPC campaign on Google, iSpionage will sure save you a ton of time. Simply enter your competition URL and you’ll find out if they are buying PPC ads or not, and, if yes, how much money they are approximately spending, which keywords they are bidding on, their position, actual texts for their AdWords ads, how much traffic they are getting from organic SEO, etc. The service lets you search up to 10 domains/keywords a day for free. Full access will set you back $59 to $129.

8. Scheduling/To-Do –

RememberTheMilk (what a perfect name) is a cool online scheduling/task management/To-Do service. The best thing about it is that it’s integrated with everything – iPhone, Android phones, PDAs, Twitter, MS Outlook, Gmail/Google Calendar, Blackberry, etc. So you can enter you schedule/tasks on your home PC and have access to those via phone anywhere. You can also use the app to manage your employees remotely this way. RememberTheMilk is mostly free, but there is a $25 charge for more advanced options (like iPod touch specific interface or synching RTM with Windows Mobile gadgets).

9. Invoicing/Business Processes –

There are quite a few online services that take care of invoicing and other business processes for you. The unique thing about is that it’s specifically designed for part-time contractors or people who do odd jobs on a very irregular basis (like few times a year) and don’t want to invest time/money in regular invoicing/billing apps. It’s very simple and fast, when it comes to creating custom estimate or invoicing templates. It’s also free, despite having most features that similar paid services offer.

10. Software Translation –

When software makers want to sell their programs in Europe, they need the app translated in at least 5 different languages, sometimes as many as 15. Most commonly, developers either ask their users to translate the app in their native language or hire individual translator for each language. Transifex is a free crowdsourcing translation service that was originally created for localizing open source projects (they’ve worked on Firefox, fedora, GNOME, Meego, django etc.) Transifex now offers its services for commercial applications as well – it’s very inexpensive (30 euros per month) and the quality/speed is generally higher than going through regular channels (like eLance).