Welcome to the latest edition of The Entrepreneur’s Tech Stack. I’m your host, Simon Owens. For those who don’t know me, I write a media industry newsletter you should definitely check out.
Today’s featured entrepreneur is Jeremy Caplan. Jeremy is a veteran journalist who’s written for a number of publications including both Newsweek and Time. In 2008, he joined CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, and today he leads its Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 100 independent journalists from 37 countries have joined the 100-day program to build new niche journalism ventures.
In 2020, Jeremy launched Wonder Tools, a weekly free newsletter where he writes about the most useful sites and apps, picking one category or a notable new tool each week. It’s grown to over 23,000 subscribers and generated a million visits in the last year.
Jeremy walked us through the products that are absolutely essential to his business:
As a teacher and speaker I create dozens of slide decks every year. Beautiful.ai makes the process of crafting slides easier, faster, and more fun. It’s unique among slide creation tools in how it automatically reformats slides based on your edits.
For example, I recently had two numbers on a slide and decided to add a third. With PowerPoint or Google Slides that would entail moving everything around. But when I added a number to a slide in Beautiful.ai, it slid the existing numbers over, adjusting the size and positioning of the elements so everything fit neatly.
I love its templates for chart, matrix, and framework slides, which you can customize. That means you never have to start with a blank PowerPoint screen.
Slide tools are flourishing, and I use a bunch. I like Pitch.com for collaborative slide decks, and I use iA Presenter when I want teleprompter-style speaker notes. Keynote is my go-to when traveling offline, and I sometimes present with Google Slides for interactive elements like polls made with Slido or viewer annotations with Pear Deck.
Editing audio and video used to be a complex, frustrating affair if you weren’t a multimedia professional. I used to rely on Final Cut Pro. Now I use Descript for my newsletter’s video and audio pieces. I can just edit the transcript rather than working with waveforms. Descript also helps remove background noise and echo from my recordings and highlights filler words and sound gaps that can be trimmed. When done I can post directly to YouTube and cut short highlight clips.
I use this notes app to create visual handouts I share with readers and students. It works seamlessly across platforms, so I can draft something on my Macbook and edit it on my phone or iPad. It’s the most elegant tool for notes and documents. You can use the free version, which works well, or get the pro one free as an educator or student, or included as part of a Setapp subscription, which gets you 240+ Mac apps for $10 a month.
Screenshots and gifs make up many of the visuals I use in my newsletter. Zight — formerly Cloudapp — makes it easy to capture, save and share these images. It also works for screen recordings. I like Zight’s annotation feature, which lets me point to part of a screenshot, blur something out, or add text. After capturing a screenshot or gif with a keyboard shortcut, you can download it or share a link to it, because it’s stored on Zight’s server. There’s also a helpful comment feature so when people see the screenshare online they can add a reaction. I also often use TextSniper, which lets me copy and paste text out of screenshot images and Eagle, which allows me to organize screenshots and other image files saved on my laptop.
Keyboard shortcuts in this email program help me respond to 50 to 100 email messages a day efficiently. I can set automatic follow-up dates so I don’t forget to touch base with someone if I don’t hear back after a few weeks. I can post-date emails so they arrive during work hours. And I can paste in commonly-used snippets, like answers to frequently-asked questions or my Calendly info, to make meeting scheduling efficiently.
For invoices, payment requests, and keeping track of subscription payments, Stripe works well. It’s reliable and easy to use. Substack uses it for payments, so Stripe serves as my newsletter revenue dashboard.
This new AI app takes notes for me automatically during meetings. It also serves as a personal CRM. When I look up someone, I can see our recent email exchange and relevant meeting notes. The AI tags notes automatically so I can find things easily, enabling it to serve as a second-brain without you having to manually organize everything. It’s in early development, but I’m already finding it valuable. Other promising new AI meeting summarization tools I recommend include Supernormal.com and 4149.ai, which lets you pose questions of your AI meeting summaries.
This is my go-to tool for polls. When I’m teaching, leading meetings, or presenting, Slido lets me quickly post poll questions including open text, ranking, multiple-choice, and word-cloud questions. The variety of poll options and the slick presentation view make it better than built-in polling within Zoom. Word cloud polls are great for a quick pulse-check, so I often ask people how they feel about something in a word, and then everyone can see the feeling of the room in the resulting word cloud image moments later.
One unique feature I love: I can create an impromptu poll by typing poll.new in any browser I’m logged into and writing out a question. Then I share the QR code or link with participants. Slido also includes a Q&A tab so participants can post questions that others can vote up. I also like Poll Everywhere, which lets people respond to polls via SMS. Note: Lots of services now have similar .new short cuts, like doc.new, sheet.new, and form.new for Google Docs, Sheets and Forms.
Brands reach out to sponsor Wonder Tools through this platform. It was easy to create a listing for my newsletter and set a fixed price for sponsored messages. The platform handles transactions, so I don’t have to bill or invoice separately. Other platforms for finding newsletter sponsors include PostApex and Paved, but both focus almost exclusively on CPC (cost-per-click) campaigns, and I prefer Swapstack’s flexibility.
Photoshop is overkill if you’re a writer eager to make visuals quickly for newsletter posts. I use Canva regularly to design YouTube thumbnails, event posters, and social media visuals. It’s free for educators, so I use it for free. Even if you’re not an educator, the free version is all you need.
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