I’m a commercial copywriter and proofreader. I work with many documents, many versions of documents and quite a few clients, sometimes more than one at once...documents and clients. Some days it’s fast and furious; I’m expecting emails that are answers to queries I need to finish a job while I’m in the queue at the checkout, waiting to use the cashpoint, nipping out for a sandwich,or just out breathing the fresh air to clear my head before I start the next job.
But it’s the clearing of my head that has been getting harder and harder. And I only really know this now I’m coming to write it down. Writing is cathartic you see, it makes you discover things that were before only a jumble of mess in your brain.
The confusion started when I began having a few email addresses. My website, instead of making things easier, made things worse. As far as I could tell, any prospective client really only got my email address from it, which I found harder and harder to check the inbox of. To check it on my smartphone I had to enter double username and password details and then when I did see an email I could hardly make it out, never mind navigate between messages or reply to them. So I checked this inbox less and less, constantly trying to politely persuade clients towards my hotmail, apologising by saying that I knew this wasn’t very professional but I could easily check that inbox thanks very much and hence get back to them in record time, which would most certainly be in their best interests. And isn’t that key these days? Getting back to people in record time? I would say, that in this fast moving universe, being ‘quicker than quick’ is most definitely, one hundred per cent key.
I once (only the once, thank god) nearly missed a job with a valued international client by not making the arduous effort of checking my website email inbox. I was mortified; I actually feel embarrassed now just thinking of it. I’ve finally come to terms with it but it’s taken a while. I can now say these three words: shameful freelance behaviour. But that’s what my carry on has been until now: shameful, shambolic and a mess, with no allegiance to modern technology whatsoever, which is the very industry I purport to be part of.
Then, one day, Cultrix IT superheroes, long-time valued client and friend, asked me to edit a blogpost for them. The title was ‘Signs that your email might be out of date’. I felt nervous and gulped before reading on. Did they have a spy in my laptop? (Make no mistake - they are very clever people.) My heart beat faster at the realisation that I could no longer go on in this secret mess. I was being found out. I had to do something. What was it they were suggesting? I read slowly this time, trying to take in some of the detail. It sounded technical and different. My brain tried to switch off at the effort of having to process this new information, but my conscience made me read on. They talked about Google Apps.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I wrestled with my inner self. How could I carry on now with this new knowledge? I couldn’t pretend that things were still the same. Was I going to do the right thing and make the effort to tread into this new world? I felt it would turn my business operation upside down. I thought maybe I could just muddle along. It would be ok, I reasoned. No one would know. I could just get through. And besides, when would I find the time to learn an entirely new way of working?
Of course I couldn’t just ‘carry on’. When I awoke the next day I knew I had to change. Things had to change. I had to do the right thing. I couldn’t carry on with the email mess I was working so hard to maintain. I emailed Cultrix the edited blog post, with the added note that I thought that maybe this post had been written about me. (Technology paranoia can be a powerful emotion.) The blog post had not, of course, been written about me but they understood what I was saying. And, how clever are they, because if I was feeling the strain of my email mess after reading their post, I couldn’t be the only one…?
I went to see Cultrix.
My IT superheroes Cultrix, technology whizzkids and aficionados ‘Google Apps - ed’ me up to the max. They took my email as a cry for help. They are PERCEPTIVE. They knew that my IT setup left a lot to be desired, but they didn’t judge me, and they recognised that in order for me to change, I needed some hand-holding and authoritative guidance. They took the driving seat; I didn’t even know how to take the handbrake off. They set me up with a domain and installed Google Apps on my laptop and smartphone, talking me through the functions and the layout of the thing.
I was nervous at first, slightly wary of the big change to come. But what I realised was, as I watched these whizzkids tapping away at my devices with relaxed confidence, is that they deal with change all the time and they are not scared of it, so why should I be? Maybe I should just go with it. That they know what they are doing is highly evident, so I bowed down to their supreme knowledge of these things and put myself in their hands. I had a headache after it was over, because of my worry over the change, and about finding stuff afterwards and what to click on where and if I was even going to be able to use it. But Cultrix don’t want to just keep all that technology stuff to themselves, they want to impart it to others so I was left with the reassurance that I could call for anything, anytime, and by whatever Google and non-Google means I liked, to ask any small or large questions.
And I have asked questions. I can’t think of any big ones just yet, but I’ve asked lots and lots of little ones.
So, the outcome? Well. I can’t quite believe it. I feel envious of me now, instead of downright sorry for me. When I log on anywhere I like to my Google Drive and see all my email, all my contacts chat in hangout, my calendars, my photos (and there were hundreds on my phone) and all my documents that I am working on I feel like some master of a new universe. I’ll give you some practical examples:
- I was so, so bad at using my power lead that I used to lose changes through my laptop just shutting down. No more. Google Drive docs are saved to the very last keystroke. This makes me feel invincibly in control.
- It’s important for me to be able to share large documents with clients so they can comment on the work I’m doing at various stages. But large documents don’t always email very well and if the client had changed them I didn’t always know where they had changed them (and neither did they), meaning that proofreading had to take place sometimes more than once on the same work. No more. Docs on Google Drive can simply be shared and viewed in real time, with edits made as ‘suggestions’ and with previous versions easily viewable from the ‘revision history’. This is perfect for a proofreader like me who is obsessed with detail, versions and correctness in general.
- Because my working pattern is haphazard, juggling as I am clients, life, children etc. as are most of us these days, I might find myself at someone else’s house if my internet is down. I don’t even need to take my laptop to work anywhere else now because I can just log on to My Google Drive on anyone else’s machine.
- I don’t need to think about saving documents or working out file structures and clicking through the carefully worked out file ‘tree’ when I want to ‘put work away’; I just click save and it is saved. The next time I open My Drive my documents will all be laid out before me, easily viewable and infinitely reliably.
There are many of these practical examples I could endlessly go on about; and I’m discovering more of them every time I log on. But, more than these fine and very good reasons to use Google Apps as a freelance ‘whatever you are’ there is something more that I must say about my evolution, and this is really the enlightenment bit, and what I shall end on.
By using Google Apps, I am now using technology. It sounds obvious but I was never before interested in uploads and versions or any other of this techie-sounding stuff. Now, as I read updates from Cultrix about what the next Chrome version might do I am surprised to find myself taking notice. I am involved in technology now, I am very proud to say, and this is something I never thought I would be. Cultrix have helped me to get there, they have shown me the new path. This enlightenment makes me a better freelancer in so many ways. I can work more efficiently, communicate with clients better, and understand my clients better. I don’t have to avoid IT people at networking events anymore. Being part of the technological landscape and opening my mind to its practices means I am switched onto the future. I feel this state of enlightenment is permanent; I intend never to return to my shameful self, the old me is banished forever. All that remains is for me to say thanks to Cultrix for helping me get here, and for staying so very near for the journey.
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