My Top 5 Online Tools


If there’s one thing we all want more of, it’s Nespresso capsules. (Why do I always seem to run out before I think I will?!) And also, time.

Getting a handle on my time and how I use it is my Summer 2013 Project. (That name implies I always have a summer project. Alas, no. But having a summer project is part of me getting a handle on my time.) A large element of mastering time management is just psychological: getting your head into the right place. For example, this week I had a Update On Our Publishing Dreams lunch with my fellow writing friend Elizabeth Murray. This is what our table looked like:


We were talking about writing and how much time we spend doing it, and she happened to mention that at 5pm, there’s still seven hours to go before she goes to bed, i.e. seven hours left to write. This really struck me, because at 5pm I’d be thinking: there’s one hour left before I stop, so I may as well stop now. And why am I stopping at 6pm? No reason. It just seems like the natural end of the working day to me—which would be fine, if I started my working day at the natural beginning, at nine o’clock. (I rarely do.) So Elizabeth’s casual comment has got me entirely re-thinking the make-up of my day, and hopefully this will lead to a pile of 100,000 newly written first draft words by the end of the summer.

Or not. We’ll see. I would say ‘That’s the plan, anyway’ but as I pointed out to Elizabeth, those are really becoming my trademarked famous last words. So I’m not going to say that anymore. I’m just going to do things.

But while we get our heads in the right place, there’s some practical time-saving (or money-saving) tools out there that I always recommend to my fellow self-publishers.

buffer app


I couldn’t survive without Buffer App. The idea is you pick a schedule of posting times, e.g. 8:00am, 10:30am, noon, and so on, and the days of the week you want this schedule to run. (I skip weekends, for example.) Then you add tweets to your Buffer manually by typing them in on the Buffer dashboard, or by way of a nifty little button added to your browser, or an iPhone app or the little ‘Buffer’ icon that you start to see when you’re on Twitter. Long story short: there’s loads of easy ways to add to your Buffer. When 8:00am Monday rolls around, Buffer App takes the top tweet in the queue and posts it. And so on and so on.

But the real beauty of Buffer, for me, is how easy it makes it to post links to interesting blog posts, articles, videos, etc. You just click the Buffer button and—ta-da!—a tweet linking to that post is in your Buffer queue. You can also add comments. Better yet, if you’re on an interesting blog post and you highlight a good quote from it and then click the Buffer button, it will post a tweet with that sentence followed by a link to the post.

I’ve on the Awesome Plan, which is a very reasonable price of $10 per month. For that, I get unlimited space in my Buffer queue (the basic model allows up to 10) and I get to add multiple accounts, including Facebook. It is the single best time-saver I’ve ever found for all things social media. Go get it now.

gumroad logo


Gumroad is a service that makes it easy to sell files online. It’s how I sell my e-books directly. You just sign up for a free Gumroad account, upload your file, set the price and you’re off. I’ve seen authors advertising direct sales by letting them know you want the book so they can send you a PayPal request which you then pay and then they’ll send you the file… Ugh. Life is too short, people. Just use Gumroad instead.

PDF stamp

It’s especially good for e-books because it makes the process so simple, and it’s especially good for PDFs because Gumroad will ‘stamp’ each page of the PDF with the e-mail address of the purchaser, lest any of them start thinking about sharing their purchase with friends.



PicMonkey is a free photo editing service, with some premium features (like extra fonts) should you want to pay out (a very reasonable amount) for membership. It looks great, it’s easy to use and it lets you make all sorts of snazzy graphics, be they for your blog or even for a book cover.

I don’t have the patience for photo-editing software, and I refuse to shell out $100s for something I won’t be able to use properly. This is free and simple. And cute, too.



Did you know that Quicktime lets you record on-screen? I recently spent ages trying to find a software program that would like me record what I was doing on screen for a PowerPoint presentation, and only through hours of Googling (and a refusal to pay money for something I’d only need once or twice), I discovered that Quicktime lets you make on-screen recordings which you can easily export to iTunes, YouTube, iMovie, etc. And you already have it on your Mac. Woo-hoo!



MailChimp really is a fantastic free service that lets you build a mailing list and send everyone on that mailing list newsletters or other mail shots (including one with Amazon’s branding, for your my-book-out-now announcement). This is their handiwork.

Recently they made the editing of newsletter SO much easier (yay for drag and drop!) and I love their quirky interface and monkey jokes.

Do you use any of these? Any others you’d recommend? 

19 thoughts on “My Top 5 Online Tools

  1. Red Hen says:

    Thank you for that. I`m not publishing anything yet-well, apart from my blog-but I can see that this post is really useful in a complex world. Am checking out that book in Kindle and bookmarked Mailchimp for work purposes. So, thank you!

  2. Jean Reinhardt says:

    Thanks for those Catherine, I use pic monkey, it’s easy for someone like me who struggles with understanding computer lingo….. I’m going to check out the rest.

  3. evie gaughan says:

    I just discovered PicMonkey last week and I honestly don’t know how I lived without it! You’re so right, photo-editing software melts your brain, it’s actually a fact!

  4. Rhoda Baxter says:

    Pic Monkey sounds good. So does Buffer. I shall have to check them out (especially as Tweetdeck is going all weird on me and not posting my scheduled posts!). Thanks.
    I’ve recently discovered Moo cards. It’s not an online tool, but it taps in my love of pretty stationery. I think their blog is interesting too.

    • Jessie Lambert says:

      Thanks for the list! Buffer sounds amazing. I have used HootSuite before, but I think Buffer would save even more time. I like the idea of a tweet queue.

  5. Debbie Young says:

    Thank you so much, Catherine, just had a play with Buffer and it is fab! Look out, Twitter, here I come, on a regular, round-the-clock basis, even while I’m asleep! 🙂

  6. dnkboston says:

    I love MailChimp. So easy to customize your newsletter.

    Thanks for the tip re: PicMonkey- I’m checking that out today.

  7. Ann Smarty (@myblogguest) says:

    Great tools you have recommended. I especially like your recommendation for the photo tools. Not all people have offline software they can use and so it is helpful to know what is available out there.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Hey, thanks for the apps ideas. I will check out some of them.

    Do I understand you self-publish? How does that work exactly and did you do this on-line? I’m considering it myself.

    Also, years ago I saw this saying and I often say it to my hubby. He’s not a fan. Anyway, here it is. “Doing does it.”

  9. rinellegrey says:

    Time saving tips are always useful! I use mailchimp, but I didn’t know about quicktime recording what you do on the screen. Will have to look into that!

    I’m on a time management kick at the moment too! It’s taking me so long to get through writing and editing drafts, and it’s driving me mad! With a child at home full time (homeschooling), my time is limited, but I’m finding that getting up early (much as I hate it!) is allowing me to achieve far more. So long as I don’t let myself get on facebook! Hoping to get a second, probably shorter, writing episode in in the afternoon. Will see how that goes.

  10. robertsonwrites says:

    I have not yet started publishing anything, and have been contemplating self-publishing. This information is so helpful!!

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