Writers, Editors, and Money

Glass jar filled with US bills

By C.K. MacLeod

If someone is paying you for writing or editing, you’re running a business. You’ll need to keep track of your income and expenses, not just for tax purposes, but so you can make smart and timely business decisions.

Recently, while reading Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, I was reminded that you can’t change money behaviours that you can’t see. A confession: I’ve never been a fan of the painstaking exercise of tracking my money moves on spreadsheets and ledgers. That, to me, is about as fun as eating cooked spinach, and I’d rather be writing, anyway. Oh, I will do it, but with an awful lot of caterwauling.

Robin and Dominguez include several record-keeping charts in their 9-step program, and if you like creating spreadsheets, you’ll find these to be useful. But, there must be an easier way to keep track of the incoming and outgoing without manually entering data into a spreadsheet. And wouldn’t you know it? There is.

Money-Tracking Apps

I use use two money-tracking apps: Wave for business income and expenses, and Mint for everything else. Both apps list financial transactions in one handy location, saving you from dreaded manual entry methods. They use algorithms to “guess” if a transaction is an income or expense, and assign, often accurately, a descriptive label, or "category" to each transaction. What's left for me to do? Check that each category has been correctly assigned, which is fine because it keeps my eyes on my expenses, and fun because it only takes a minute or two.

From there, I can generate instant reports, complete with coloured charts and graphs that help me to see my financial picture. In Wave, I can print an income and expenses report that’s useful at tax time, and in Mint, I can earmark transactions (such as bank interest deposits) that I'll need to report on at tax time.

I can also compare my income and expenses from previous months to discover patterns that need adjusting. For example, in Mint, I discovered what my three biggest spending categories were. When I signed up for a money-back credit card that issued decent money-back rewards for three spending categories, I immediately knew which categories to choose.

Both apps are free, computer and phone-friendly, and setting them up is easy. You’ll need to connect the apps to any bank accounts, PayPal accounts, and credit cards that you use.

Is it safe?

Mint is owned by Intuit, the creators of the popular online tax software TurboTax. Wave is Canadian-owned and follows Canadian privacy laws (which are pretty strict). To accept read-only information from bank accounts, these apps need to be PCI-compliant, and adhere to the gold-standard security measures required by banks.

You cannot access your money in any way with these apps. They’re mirror accounts that show you your financial status. They won’t give you, or anyone else, the ability to touch your money. As with any cloud-based software, it’s an excellent idea to create strong passwords that you can change frequently. Using a Password manager, such as LastPass, will help you do that without tearing your hair out.

Since using these apps, I have an up-to-the-minute understanding of my income and expenses, without the drudgery of collecting this information manually. And because I prefer to spend my time with words instead of numbers, that’s money in the bank.

Note: if you’re a Canadian, sign up for the Canadian version of Mint to get the benefit of Canadian privacy laws.

Image by Tax Credits

How to Turn Your Print Book into a Digital File

My grandmother's typewriter: an Underwood Noiseless Portable
My grandmother's typewriter: an Underwood Noiseless Portable

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Adapted. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing in August 2014.

OCR—not your grandmother’s typewriter!

You can turn your essays, stories and other documents—stuff you might have lying around in a drawer—into ebooks. You also may have unpublished or previously published books, now out of print, that you want to self-publish as ebooks (be certain you own the rights).

You can do this yourself, but first you need to get this material into a digital format. One way is to re-key the text manually (not really an option if you have a book-length work) or you can use optical character recognition (OCR) software, which converts a scanned document into a digital file.

There are many OCR programs available, ranging in price from free to fairly costly. I chose OCRonline to experiment with. It’s web-based, and your first 5 page conversions are free. After that, they’re 4 cents per page. Simply open an account and log in, then follow the instructions.

1. Scan your document and save it as a pdf. The photo at the top of the page? That’s my grandmother’s typewriter. She was a prolific correspondent, and I’m currently digitizing a collection of her letters. Here’s a snippet of one, dated March 13th, 1944:

Tip: Be sure to scan all pages into a single document, or you’ll be stuck (as I was) with multiple separate files that have to be compiled later.

2. Upload your scanned file.  Browse >> Upload

3. Convert your scanned file to MS Word .doc (no .docx option) >>Process


4. Retrieve your converted file at the link provided.
Here’s what my converted snippet looks like:

That’s it! As you can see, the Word file is littered with debris and some ugly bits, but you’re well on your way to having an editable, searchable file, suitable for formatting as an ebook. So go ahead—open your drawer...

Next: File cleanup.

Photo by Carla Douglas

Google Docs for Collaborative Writing

GoogleDriveLatte

by C.K. MacLeod

There are many free tools for writers, and Google Drive is one of my favourite. The Documents part of the suite (Google Docs) is excellent for

  • writing articles and other short pieces
  • real-time collaborative writing and brainstorming (no file conflicts!)
  • sharing your writing with readers
  • storing your writing projects for safe keeping

Style Options

The toolbar contains lots of style options, too. You can insert hyperlinks and pictures, change fonts and font colours and choose from several heading level styles for a professional-looking document.

Google docs toolbar

Collaboration

If you're working on a document with another writer, each of you will be assigned a different cursor colour. This allows you to observe each other's writing contributions in real time.

The Chat feature will allow you to discuss what you're writing about, and the Comments feature allows you to leave feedback in the margins while reviewing a document:

GDocs commentsYou can use the Suggesting feature to make changes to the text. You'll find it when you click on the Pencil icon. It works like Word's track changes, so every suggestion can be accepted or reject.

Pencil icon Gdocs
Click on the Pencil icon to find the Suggesting feature in Google docs

Revisions are documented and stored, so you can go back to an earlier version of your document if you need to.

Document Sharing

It's easy to share documents. You can give someone permission to view and edit a document by sending them an email notification and a link to your document:

GDocs shareYou can share you document on social media, too!

Readers can download a Google document in a variety of file formats—HTML, Word docx, ODT, PDF and more—making document sharing a snap.

Google Docs is free with a gmail account. It's always improving and it's the collaborative writing tool I use most.

Image by Yuko Honda