Steno pads. Spiral notebooks. Legal pads. The back of an envelope. A cocktail napkin. Receipts. The corner of a newspaper. If you're like most entrepreneurs, you've got ideas striking you every hour of the day and night, and you grab the nearest writing implement and snippet of paper to scrawl a few words on. But how often do those pieces of paper make it into something more permanent?

With today's variety of note-taking and idea-gathering software, there's no excuse for stealing your kids' crayons anymore. Take a look at these multimedia opportunities for storing your thoughts, ideas, photos, blog posts, and more… and best yet, they're all free!
 
Evernote
Collect, sort, tag, and annotate a variety of notes and other information. Log in online or access it via your iPhone. Store your web clips, text clips, videos, audios, and more in a single file. You can even snap a photo with your mobile phone and save it. Oh yeah, you can share it with others! Find out more at Evernote.com
 
OneNote
This is Microsoft's version of a note book that lets you capture text, images, video, and audio notes and take and edit notes with other people in other locations. View and edit your notes from virtually any computer with an Internet connection or your Windows phone. Available with Microsoft Office. Find out more at Office.Microsoft.com/en-us/onenote/
 
Springnote
This is a free, online notebook based on wiki. You can create pages, keep them in your Personal Notebook or create a Group Notebook to share with friends. Store up to 2GB online. Add photos, comments, and more. Springnote for the iPhone is also available. Find out more at Springnote.com
 
Tumblr
If you're the visual type, you might want to take a look at this note book. Billed as “the easiest way to blog,” it's a fun way to create your own virtual bulletin board with pictures, photos, quotes, audio, video, and more. You can set your privacy level and collaborators, creating a bulletin board just for yourself, or one to share with a team or the public. There's also a free iPhone app. Find out more at Tumblr.com
 
After perusing these sites, you've probably come up with a dozen or more ideas that you quickly jotted down on a scrap of paper somewhere. Don't waste them – choose a note-taking solution and get your thoughts and goals down safely and permanently. You can't act on your ideas if you don't remember where you put those notes!

 

Sending email attachments has certainly evolved from the days when anything over a few megabytes clogged up the phone line and was rejected by AOL and Earthlink. But even with the advent of high-speed internet, sending large files can still bog down your email service. Add to that the concerns over security and you may be in the market for a safe file transfer solution.

In the past, the solution was to use an FTP (file transfer protocol) site, or burn the files to a CD or DVD and transfer them manually. FTP sites could be expensive and cumbersome, and transferring manually was not very efficient. Now, you have plenty of possibilities for sharing files safely and easily.
 
When selecting a file transfer service, there are some criteria to consider first:
  • Do I want a free service, or do I mind paying? Free services may be more limited in size of files, storage, or number of users.
  • How secure a service do I need?
  • How large are the files I'm sharing?
  • Am I sharing with the same people over and over, or am I constantly sending files to new people?
  • How easy is it to download and upload the files?
  • How dependable is the service?
  • Will the site store my files? If so, how much storage space will I have, and how long will they store them?
Once you've answered the questions above, take a look at the following file sharing options:
 
Dropbox.com
Free service, with upgrades available for inviting new members, usage, or for a fee. You can install software on your computer, which allows you to access files from any Internet browser. The files are stored safely off site. It also synchs your files across computers.
 
YouSendIt.com
Send large files as quickly and easily as sending an email. No software to install. Free service offers sending of files up to 100MB. Keep in mind this is with no online storage. Monthly plans start at $9.95 for an individual, with a 2GB maximum file size.
 
FilesDirect.com
For $18 per month, transfer up to 300MB per month, and store up to 10GB of data. Your recipient doesn't need to have any special software, though you do need to download and install the software on your computer. Plans available for up to 2.5GB of transferred data per month.
 
TrueShare.com
Upload, access, and share files via a web browser, desktop application, or mobile device for $6 per month for 3GB, and $15 per month for 10GB. Team plans available.
 
SendThisFile.com
If security isn't a primary concern, check this out. With no software or attachments, and no file size limits or number of files, this system is a great solution if you're sending many files to a lot of different recipients. The free plan offers unlimited file sends and sizes, with a three-day window for downloads. Plans are available for up to 90GB of storage, with a 14-day download period for $69.95/month.
 
Google Docs
Upload to Google Docs any file up to 250 MB, for free, with 1GB of free storage of files saved as non-Google Docs. You'll have 1 GB of free storage for files you don't convert into one of the Google Docs formats (i.e. Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations). You also may have additional storage available for $0.25 per GB per year. Find out more at Docs.Google.com
 
You simply don't have to email documents back and forth any longer. Start using one of these remote access systems and easily bounce the written word around to your clients and partners in a flash.

 

The backbone of any business is communication, and it's even more true for a solo business owner who works remotely with contractors and clients around the globe. One of the most exciting things about the Internet is the way it enables us to talk with people on the other side of the world. No longer are we tethered to a certain office, or even a certain continent.

I would venture to say that the old saying about time being money may be true, but equally as true is the statement that communication is money. Good communication leads to greater productivity and efficiency, and a lot more fun! Here are some free technology tools that will keep you and your team feeling like you're working across the hall from each other, not across the globe:
 
Skype
Skype is a software program that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. But it doesn't stop there; you can chat, share screens, send files, and more. It's great for group chats or calls, but the quality can be a bit sketchy, so don't use it for mission-critical calls with clients, or for calls you want to record for future distribution, if quality is an issue. Find out more at Skype.com
 
Twitter
It may seem strange to consider Twitter as a communication hub, but it has a lot of benefits. Its 140-character limit ensures that everyone is brief and to the point, and its 24/7 availability from mobile phone, computer, or iPad means most people are within reach at all times. You can create lists or follow specific terms or hashtags (#). It's fairly reliable and free. The drawback: Your conversations are public, but it's great for quick check-ins when email may not be an option. Find out more at Twitter.com
 
Email groups
Yahoo and Google both provide free email-based groups. Set your privacy level and invite members. Members can read messages via email or online, and you can share images and documents in a private web-based hub. Email groups are terrific for ongoing communication. Find out more at Groups.Yahoo.com and at Groups.Google.com)
 
Flickr
Creating a group via Flickr may not be your first thought, as the site is known for sharing photos, but it's much more than that. You can “friend” people and create private groups, complete with message boards. If you need to share video or photos, you're in the perfect spot! Basic membership is free. Find out more at Flickr.com
 
Google Buzz
Another entry in the Google suite of applications, Google Buzz is a social networking and messaging tool that works with Gmail. You can share links, photos, videos, status messages and comments from Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, and Google Reader. “Conversations" are sent to your Gmail inbox. Some people are bothered by the world domination of Google, while others enjoy the integration. Google Buzz is great for brainstorming and sharing of visual information and content. Find out more when you sign up for a Google account.
 
FreeConferenceCall
If all you want is a basic conference call service with recording capabilities, look no further than FreeConferenceCall. No reservations are required, and you can accommodate up to 96 callers. One recording is held at a time. Find out more at FreeConferenceCall.com
 
Instant Teleseminar
If you're looking for a solution with customer support and a lot of advanced features then you'll want to check out Instant Teleseminar. With this paid program you can host basic conference calls, allow up to 2000 listeners via online webcast, host live powerpoint presentations online, have live chats, monitor incoming feedback and more! Check it out at InstantTeleseminar.com
 
Now that you've seen this assortment of ways to talk, write, chat, IM, and hooks up, you have no excuse for staying out of the loop. Get connected, and get profitable!

 

When I was thinking about entrepreneurial productivity, I polled my Twitter followers on their favorite productivity tools. The number-one answer: To-Do lists! I was surprised at the number of techy-types who owned up to using the old-fashioned pen and paper to create their lists. Once they read the following list of high-tech options, I bet they'll convert quickly!

 
What to-do list program works best will depend on a number of things, including:
  • Are your entries simple tasks or complex projects?
  • Do you want to group or code tasks together?
  • Is the list just for you, or will you be managing and assigning tasks to others?
  • How do you want to archive completed tasks?
  • Where will you access your list: On your computer, remotely, or on your iPhone?
  • Do you want to track just the task, or additional elements like time, priority, etc.?
There are dozens of to-do tools available, including the following:
 
Ta-da List
Looking for basic list capability without a lot of jazz to distract you? Then Ta-Da Lists is the answer to your prayers! Create multiple lists, share them with others, and download them to your iPhone. Free service. Find out more at TadaList.com
 
Remember The Milk
This is like a To-Do list on steroids with interfaces for Google Calendar and apps for Twitter, the iPhone, and the Android. Set up reminder messages to be sent via IM or email, share tasks with others, and set priorities. Free service. Find out more at RememberTheMilk.com
 
TeuxDeux
With its pared-down, drag-and-drop interface, you can get started with TeuxDeux's to-do list immediately. An iPhone app is underway, but for now it's entirely browser-based, which means it's accessible from any Internet-enabled computer. Free service. Find out more at TeuxDeux.com
 
Toodledo
Assign priorities, tags, and deadlines, set goals, create folders, and collaborate with others via Toodledo. A robust list function lets you store all your lists and notes together. Free service. Find out more at Toodledo.com
 
Gmail lists
If you're already a Gmail convert, add to-do lists to your mix. Convert Gmail to tasks, integrate with your calendar, and access from your mobile device. Free service. Find out more at Mail.Google.com/mail/help/tasks/
 
While all the bells and whistles may make your eyes glow, remember that the easier the program, the more likely you will be to use it – and that's the end goal!

 

Working with a JV partner on a new class? Editing a document for a client and have some questions? Co-authoring an ebook or course? You could take turns working on a Word document, relying on the “show edits” function to keep track of what's going on. But what if your partner loses the file? Or if you both want to work at the same time? Or if you want to be able to annotate your additions and changes? Then you need a collaboration tool so you can work with your partners quickly and easily. When choosing a collaboration tool, you want to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want a free or a paid solution?
  • How many people will I be working with?
  • Will we be working together for a one-time project, or on an ongoing basis?
  • Are we brainstorming, writing, or creating another sort of project?
  • What programs will we be using?
  • Will we be working simultaneously?
The answers to these questions will drive your choice of program. Here are a few popular collaboration tools that many online entrepreneurs have used with great success:
 
Google Docs
This free web-based file sharing system enables you to share files and work on them simultaneously. Great for spreadsheets, Word documents, presentations, and drawings. Google Docs is available from any Internet-enabled computer, and anyone with a Google account can be invited to contribute to your project. You can also chat if users are online at the same time. Find out more at Docs.Google.com 
 
Acrobat
Most people are familiar with Adobe Acrobat, having used it to read or share .PDF documents. But Acrobat also offers terrifically powerful collaboration abilities. Using Acrobat, you can share a set of documents in one place, collaborate with several people at once, and access your files from anywhere. You also get web conferencing and many other options. Acrobat is priced from $14.99 to $39 a month, and a scaled-down free version is also available. Find out more at Acrobat.com
 
Google Wave
The cutting edge of collaboration technology is Google Wave. Cross Gmail with Twitter and Wikipedia, and you'll have an idea of what Google Wave is. Its greatest strength is its users' ability to see edits in real time. The document formatting is a little rudimentary, but the social media aspects may make up for it, particularly if you're an early technology adopter who sees value in the “cool” factor. Cost is free, but users must have a Google account, and you must be invited to Google Wave because it's still in private beta. Find out more at Wave.Google.com
 
Writeboard
A subset of 37Signals' Basecamp, Writeboard is a free service that enables users to collaborate on sharable, web-based text documents. You can roll back to previous changes and compare edits easily. You can also make comments and track authorship, as well as subscribe to the RSS feed so you can be notified any time someone makes changes. This solution is perfect for one-time, standalone documents. Find out more at Writeboard.com
 
Since most of these options are free, you can test them out on a variety of projects to see what works best for you. Whichever you use, it'll be sure to make your joint projects easier.