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My Top 5 Indispensable Work Tools—2020 Edition

Here's a collection of five wonderful tools that I use every single day here at Dandy Cat Design.

Sean Anderson
Sean Anderson

Way back in the days of 2019 yore, I wrote a post about the tools and services that I depend on to complete my work. It was a pretty decent list, if I do say so myself. To this day, I still use nearly all those tools, albeit for different purposes in some cases.

I encourage you to check out that post. Click through this link to give it a read:

My Top 5 Indispensable Work Tools - 2019 Edition
Happy New Year, everyone! 🎉

In it, you’ll see more about five exceptional apps, those being:

  • Affinity Designer
  • Ulysses
  • Trello
  • Google Apps
  • Overcast

Dandy Cat Design and the work I’m doing these days have changed and developed into something very different from what it had been when I wrote that post. I’m devoting my time and effort into writing, creating instructional courses, and recording podcasts.

A lot can change within a year and some change. I mean, heck, just look at the whole of 2020. Who would have seen that coming?

I’m still using Ulysses (and I’m writing this post with it), Affinity Designer, and Trello, but I don’t want to cover tools I’ve already written about. That’s not good blogging! Nah, instead I want to focus on five stellar tools I’ve discovered and brought into my working life as it has evolved.

Strap yourselves in. You’re about to fall in love with some great, indispensable tools.

Ghost

First up is the website development and blogging platform, Ghost. At this point, could I count how many words I’ve devoted to singing the praises of this service?

...Probably not. It’s been a heck of a lot of words.

That’s for good reason: Ghost has made the process of publishing my productivity and business building blog posts a piece of cake. And the cherry on top of that cake? It’s allowed me to have a dang good-looking and speedy website while I’m at it.

I haven’t had to compromise on much with Ghost, and I value it for that. It’s a blog-first service, so I’m probably not going to be making a huge, complex website with it, but then, that’s not my goal. I just want to have something that’ll make me love publishing my words online.

Ghost is absolutely that.

A list of blog posts shown in the Ghost service dashboard.

It’s got heaps of other benefits, too, including:

  • Markdown support, which is a must-have for me at this point.
  • Paid memberships. I believe that direct support from my audience is the best way to fund my work and build meaningful connections with others.
  • No shortage of beautiful-looking themes.
  • Powerful SEO tools.
  • More external service integrations than you’ll ever know what to do with.
  • Rich team management tools and options.

Really, if you’re doing any sort of writing online, Ghost should be your first stop. It’s simple to figure out and use if you want to just get writing, but it can be as complex as you want for the coders and tinkerers out there. I highly recommend it.

Pinterest

Pinterest is nothing new and it’s certainly well known, but it’s been a powerful engagement arrow in my business quiver.

A grid of Pinterest Pins shown on the main page of Pinterest.

This is a new addition to my workflow. Before deciding to dive headfirst into the deep, expansive seas of Pinterest, all I was doing to get the word out about Dandy Cat Design was... Well, it wasn’t actually very much. I understood the importance of marketing what I provide, but it’s not a skill that comes easy to me.

Mostly, I dislike it. If I have the opportunity to pay someone else to do it for me in the future, I’ll seriously consider it.

Still, my distaste for social media networks doesn’t remove the need to get the word out about my work. I believe Pinterest is the best place for me. It’s certainly one of the better-looking services out there, which never hurts. More important than its looks is the way it functions: I don’t believe I need to engage in the usual social media success requirements to bring people to my website.

It never hurts to engage directly with anybody online, but it’s not strictly necessary. Because it functions more like a search engine, my work can speak for itself. I don’t have to spend my precious hours doing the mind-numbing work of:

  • Liking every stinking image I see on my feed.
  • Commenting on at least a hundred images a day in the hopes of someone gracing my profile.
  • Sending spammy direct messages to every single user ever to maybe, possibly, hopefully get them to buy something from me.
  • Documenting every moment of my life through Stories, or whatever a service is calling it, because the engagement stats demand it.

It’s too much to do and just too damn tiring. My strength is in productivity, writing, and design. I don’t want to spend my time going through that whole mess I just mentioned.

Instead, Pinterest lets me plug the work I want to do and be rewarded for it. If that’s more your speed, then Pinterest is for you.

ConvertKit

Going hand-in-hand with Pinterest is ConvertKit. I’m running an online business and the only sure way I’ve found to connect with your audience, see a notable return on your time and effort investment, and make a living off your work is through a thriving email list.

That’s no hyperbole there. If you’re running an online business and don’t have an email list, along with several ways for your site’s visitors to sign up for it, then you’re missing a huge opportunity. Full stop. You’ll make the work of being successful much harder on yourself.

You need to get one going, and ConvertKit is one of the best email marketing tools out there.

The home page of the ConvertKit site.

To call ConvertKit a robust service would be underselling it by a lot. Can you send emails to all your subscribers with it? Yeah, definitely. It would be a weird email marketing service if you couldn’t. There’s a lot more you can do with it than just sending emails, though. These great features include:

  • Sign up forms.
  • Landing pages.
  • Rich, detailed, and amazing automations.
  • Subscriber tagging and organization.

That’s just the tip of the email iceberg here.

ConvertKit has changed the way I interact with my audience in the best way possible. I’m able to communicate directly with the people who want to support the work I do. That’s a wonderful feeling that I want you to have.

Transistor

Podcasting has been a recent addition to what I’m offering, but it’s a valuable and enjoyable creative outlet for me. I couldn’t have as much fun doing it if it weren’t for the power and ease of use that Transistor provides.

A list of episodes shown on the Transistor account page.

I had many opportunities for working with audio and video back when I was with the video studio I helped create, but those dried up when I devoted all of my time to Dandy Cat Design. I love what I do here, but film production was my first love.

Podcasting has allowed me to visit and enjoy that multimedia production world again. I can record an episode of one of my shows, edit it to perfection, and publish it for the world to hear. It’s a specific itch I have, and podcasting is allowing me to scratch it.

I currently have two podcasts going:

  1. Dandy Cast. This is a companion podcast for the Dandy Newsletter that I send out weekly. I came to understand that having an option for people who didn’t want to read a long email dispatch would be beneficial. It’s proving to be quite popular with audio fans.
  2. More Movies Please! This is a movie appreciation podcast that I started with my dear friend, Steven Reyes. He and I met in film school, so if we were going to do a podcast, well, it had better be a loving movies sort of podcast. That’s exactly what it is! What do you know? I look forward to watching a new movie and talking about it every week.

Transistor makes the process of hosting and publishing Dandy Cast as simple as it can be. I don’t have to worry about episode limits, bandwidth restrictions, or any other hidden nonsense that you might find with other podcast hosts. Nope, none of that. Instead, I just upload and post. Those episodes show up in your podcast player of choice and you get to listen to my heavenly tones.

I love Transistor for how easy it is to use. They’re a company that cares, and that’s always good to find.

Castro

Speaking of podcasts...

Did I write about a podcast player last year? Yep. I love podcasts so much that I had to take another dip in this well.

In the 2019 edition of this post, I wrote about a wonderful podcast player called Overcast. It’s an incredible app made with care, but it’s not currently what I’m using to listen to podcasts. That would be Castro.

An image of the Reconcilable Differences podcast on the iPhone Castro app.

I made the switch to Castro a while ago because it clicks with how my brain works a lot better than Overcast does. It uses a triaging system that just makes sense:

  1. You subscribe to a podcast show.
  2. New episodes show up in your Inbox.
  3. You can choose to add the new episode to your Queue if you want to listen to it or send it to the Library if you don’t.

It’s really that easy. To top it off, they’ve got an innovative and fascinating Discover section. I love browsing through it and finding new shows that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.

A 4-up image of the various pages of the Castro app on iPhone.

The customization options here are wonderful. For instance, you can set it up so that new episodes of your favorite shows (you know, the ones you never miss an episode of) automatically appear at the top or bottom of your Queue. It’s great.

Castro is the only app I ever want to use for listening to podcasts. Simply put, it’s the best out there. It works well with how I like to listen to shows and it’s got a caring, dedicated team behind it. Give it a go. You’ll be happy you did.


Another year’s worth of indispensable work tools in the bag! This was a good one.

It’s fascinating to see how Dandy Cat Design has evolved since writing about this topic well over a year ago. Back then, I was more focused on client work and collaboration, so tools that made working with other people easier were essential. In the intervening time, I’ve been working on spreading news of my work farther than ever before.

Therefore, the tools had to change.

While they’re different, my reliance on them hasn’t waned one bit. I still consider these essential for my business. Without them, my work would be harder than I want to imagine. I value each one of them and I encourage you to try them out for yourself. I think you’ll like what you find.

Create something new, cats.

On Pinterest? Be sure to pin these images.

ProductivityDandy Cat

Sean Anderson

Lover of productivity tips, Apple devices, and vegan ice cream. Mostly, I'm busy petting cats 🐱 and dogs 🐶


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