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How and Why to Use a Swipe File

by Theresa Ceniccola

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If imitation is a form a flattery, then there are plenty of people I’ve flattered since I started blogging more than five years ago. Like most people, I created my first website and launched a blog with no real training or experience. I was already a professional writer, so I figured I’d learn the rest on the job. And part of the learning process for me is studying what works well for others. That’s where my swipe files comes in handy.

A swipe file is a tool I learned about in my early career in public relations and marketing communications. I collected articles, headlines, direct mail postcards, advertisements, proposals, and other materials for inspiration. It was kinda like Pinterest for writers. Only, when I first started using a swipe file, it was a paper accordion style folder with actual printed samples torn from newspapers and magazines.

I’d save anything I found interesting or compelling—even if it had nothing to do with my industry or current projects. Then, when it came time to work on a new piece, I’d flip through my swipe files for ideas. I’d find formulas for great headlines, templates for sales letters, and even some clever photo captions that would trigger an idea.

I eventually went digital with my swipe file, and now I use it to kick start my creativity on all sorts of new projects. Even if you’re not a writer, chances are you do a fair amount of writing for your business or ministry. So, why not make your job a little bit easier and start a swipe file of your own? Collect anything you find interesting or effective so you can refer to it later. Start with a simple file folder on your desktop, or try using Evernote to store your swipe file items. Evernote lets you bookmark webpages, add images or screenshots, and tag your notes for easy sorting and retrieval. You can even share your swipe file with someone on Evernote.

Not sure what to collect? Here are a few ideas to get you started!

Seven Things to Add to Your Swipe File

1. Sales pages. Have you ever made a spontaneous online purchase? You may have stumbled across a compelling sales page and found yourself hitting the “buy now” button without even thinking about it. When that happens, take a screenshot of the sales page and file it for future reference. There is probably some language in there that will come in handy!

2. Facebook ads. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably clicked on an ad in your newsfeed at some point. There are definitely tricks and tips to Facebook advertising, so capture screen shots of your favorite ads and study them to see what works well for others. When it comes time to do your own Facebook advertising, you’ll have a head start.

3. Bios. I always get a kick out of short, clever bios I read online. Not the ones that are stuffed full of credentials and accomplishments. But the ones that reveal addictions to Sharpie markers or a lifelong struggle to successfully grow a tomato plant. I’ve been swiping memorable bios for years and vowing to make my own humdrum narrative a little more intriguing. One. Of. These. Days.

4. Freebies (Compelling Free Offers). If you’ve got a website, then you probably have a freebie or compelling free offer that you use to help build a list of prospects. It could be an ebook, whitepaper, printables, video training series, audio recording, or a simple checklist (something like my free ebook called the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur). If you don’t already have a freebie, start collecting samples of interesting freebies you’ve signed up for yourself. And even if you have a freebie, you’ll probably change it every couple of years, so keep your eye out for inspiration!

5. Blog posts. Have you ever read a blog post and thought, “I should totally write something similar on my blog!” Maybe you read a post about the Top Ten Reasons to Go Vegan (Even if Your Family Loves Burgers) and decided you should write a post about the Top Ten Reasons to Homeschool Your Children (Even if You Think You’re Not Qualified). Swipe that blog post and tag it in your file so you’re ready with an idea when it’s time to write!

6. Book covers. The most important text in any book appears on the book jacket—on the front and back covers. Even in the era of digital books and e-readers, the jacket copy is essential for converting casual browsers into paying customers. So, even if you never plan to write your own book, take note of the extraordinary book covers you read and use them for inspiration on other projects.

7. Solicitation letters/emails. Asking for money takes a special kind of skill. There is a great deal to learn from exceptional development (advancement) professionals. They know how to tell a story. And they know how to make you part with your money and feel good about it. That’s why I save those seven-page letters from non-profit organizations and capital campaigns. And it’s why I take note of the occasional solicitation email that makes it past my spam filter.

What else? Have I left off anything you would add to a swipe file?

 

TGC photoTheresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a Mentor to Moms Who are Running a Business that Supports Faith and Family. She empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace through the Christian Mompreneur Mastermind program and her professional Marketing services, which include copywriting, marketing, and strategy consulting and private coaching.

Five Free Tools I Love So Much I Would Pay for Them (but I’m Glad I Don’t Have To!)

 

1237558_10204329439027521_3195523639635670557_nI have yet to discover the secret to success, but I do know that being organized helps. When you’re a full-time mom running a full-time (or part-time) business, you have to be productive during your limited window of opportunity to work. That’s easier said than done when you have a thousand ideas running through your head, a million things on your to-do list, and a love-hate relationship with technology.

I’m not exactly an early adopter when it comes to tools and technology. It takes me a while to try something new, and even then, I spend too much time testing and playing with tools I end up abandoning. However, there are several tools that have stood the test of time for me, and I’d like to share them with you.

Here are five of my favorite tools that I use every single day. I love them so much that I would pay for them. But I don‘t have too, because they’re free (yeah!). Your business is probably very different from mine, but I suspect you’ll fall in love with at least one of these tools!

 

Dropbox: This is the best tool I’ve found for sharing files with clients, team members, and colleagues. When I send files back and forth via email, I can never find the most recent version, and I can’t seem to keep them organized. Dropbox allows you to create shared folders so you can collaborate virtually with anyone you choose. The “drop and drag” functionality makes it easy to use, and the folders help you organize files that you share with others—just as you would on your own computer.

Evernote: This tool is my go-to resource for capturing all my tasks, lists, random thoughts, and fabulous ideas (and the crazy ones, too). Evernote allows you to create lists and notes and put them in folders to organize all the brilliance that comes out of your mind so you don’t lose it. Unlike sticky notes and “to-do” lists, Evernote is a searchable database of all your thoughts—and it syncs between your computer and phone. So, you can easily find a note months or years after you create it simply by searching a keyword. Once you get started with Evernote, you’ll quickly discover you can do so much more than capture notes—you’ll learn to forward emails, attach screenshots, scan documents, share notes, import your Kindle highlights, and bookmark websites…but start with the basics and see how it works for you.

Buffer: If you want a simple free tool to schedule your social media updates, check out Bufferapp.com. Not only does this tool help me save time, but it also allows me to share content across my favorite social media channels at the time of my choosing. Let’s say you are browsing the web and you find the perfect story or video to share with your audience…but you don’t want to share it now, because it’s 3 a.m. and you’re probably the only one awake at the moment. So, you add the story to your queue and Buffer will send it out at a more reasonable time. You can also load a bunch of posts in one sitting and ask Buffer to send it out over the next few weeks.

Canva: When I discovered Canva, I couldn’t believe it was free. Canva is the solution to your problem if you’ve ever spent an entire day trying to design a simple graphic on your own. It’s the easiest, quickest, cheapest way to create a professional looking image you can use on your website and social media. You can also create invitations, flyers, business cards, and more. You will even find premade templates for customizing your header banners on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. What I love most about Canva is the free tutorials—even though it’s a super easy tool, I love having someone show me exactly how to use it. And did I mention it’s free?

Feedly: Overwhelmed trying to keep up with your favorite blogs? At one point, I was following about 50 different blogs—everything from business and marketing to fitness and nutrition to parenting and faith. I was having all of these blog posts delivered via email, cluttering up my inbox every single day. Eventually, I discovered RSS feed readers like Feedly, so I can read all of my blogs in one place and organize them according to categories and topics I create.  Now I reserve my email inbox for newsletters and other subscriptions, but I keep the daily blog reading separate.

 

So, there you have it…my secrets to small success. What’s your favorite tool to help you get organized and save you time in the office?

(Note: Some of the links in the above post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small affiliate commission to help offset the costs of running this site. However, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Please know the views and opinions expressed on this blog are solely mine and the content you find here is designed to benefit my readers.)
 

TGC photoTheresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a Mentor to Moms Who are Running a Business that Supports Faith and Family. She empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace through the Christian Mompreneur Mastermind program and her professional Marketing services, which include copywriting, marketing, and strategy consulting and private coaching.

 

Are You Drowning in Information?

 

JoyceEvernoteDo you ever wonder how to keep up with the barrage of information thrown at you daily? Where do you save the great idea you found on Facebook? What about the great blog post you read about keeping your clients happy? Where did you put those meeting notes from last week? Where is the phone number for the conference call, and don’t forget the pesky nine digit PIN? Where do you store all this information in a way you can find it when you need it?

We live in a digital world now. I love it! Some people still love their paper calendars, folders, highlighters, and sticky notes. I use all of them on a rare occasion!

Three years ago, I purchased my first iPad and, not long after, an iPhone. Since then, I keep all my important documents, information, and calendar on them. I love the syncing feature between the two devices! If you have an Android device, you are able to use this app as well, but it may look a little different on the Android device.

 

My Favorite App

Evernote is Ever-Awesome used with the Dolphin Browser on your devices.

Evernote is a cloud (internet) program to save information and will sync on all your devices. There is a paid version and a free version. The paid version is $45 for the year, or you can pay $5 monthly. It is worth every penny and more to help organize mass amounts of information.

Watch these videos to learn some tricks you can do in Evernote.

Evernote for Computer

Evernote for iOS devices

I use Evernote how I formerly used a file cabinet. There is a notebook (a.k.a. “folder”) and tags to organize all of my information.

Evernote revolutionized the way I keep up with information. I had notebooks, folders, and a gazillion folders in my web browser to keep up with all the information in my life. I am a writer and speaker. I do research on the computer and find information everywhere!

Then, I realized I could organize my personal information on Evernote as well! I can keep up with all my receipts for business and personal purchases. I have a notebook for all of my personal bills; I email or scan in the bill each month and mark it paid. No need to clean out folders in my file cabinet every six months. If I ever need to reference a document, I just type in the powerful search box and all the notes with that word or company name will come up. I can tag similar items or put them all in the same notebook.

Evernote lets you customize the set-up that works best for you. This is what makes Evernote so awesome!

 

Things You Can Do In Evernote:

a)    You can forward emails into Evernote to save and organize. I use Evernote to keep up with important emails. Every Evernote account has an email address associated with it. You can find it under → Tools → Account Info (watch the video to learn more). Then, simply save this email address in your contacts. You can forward any email you want to save directly to Evernote by sending it to your Evernote email address.

I forward all the email receipts when I make a purchase to Evernote. For personal receipts, I tag them “Receipts 2014.” If it is a business expense, I tag it “2014 Taxes,” “Office Expense,” and “The Daily GPS Receipts 2014.” You can use as many tags as you want for each note.

I can take a picture of or scan in receipts I do not get by email. Next year, when it is time to put my information together for my taxes, I have all my documentation in a central place already organized by category.

You can email anything into Evernote!

 

b)    You can “Clip” web pages (the full page or a section) into Evernote.

Go to www.Evernote.com. Search for “Web Clipper” to download for your browser.

Instead of having a gazillion folders in my browser, I now put all those websites into Evernote. I can search for them by name in the search box, even if all I remember is something on the page. The powerful search box in Evernote will pull up every note you have with whatever word you searched for.

The best part is all the links on the web page are live in Evernote, meaning if you click on a link on the saved page, it will take you back out to the Internet to view the link. Shazam!

This was profound for me! Now when I do research, I save all the websites, and I can search for the information in Evernote when I need it! I can keep all kinds of different information for the same project together: emails, web research, and Master Task List for each project.

When I find a great quote on Twitter, I can email it to Evernote. When I find a great blog post on Facebook, I can “Clip” it to Evernote.

If I am on my phone or on my iPad, I use an app called Dolphin (a FREE app; see the video below about the Dolphin app). I can copy links from Facebook, Twitter, or the Safari browser and put it in the Dolphin Browser. Dolphin will then give me the option to save it to Evernote.

(NOTE: You sign into your Evernote account in the Dolphin app to be able to save notes to your Evernote account. You only do this once in the set-up, not every time you want to save a note.)

 

c)    You can drag and drop INTO AND FROM Evernote. Pictures and files can be dropped into a note in Evernote. You can click on a picture and drop it into a Facebook post or into a folder onto your computer.

 

d)    Evernote allows you to save all forms of documents: PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Pages, Numbers, or Keynote. If you open the document from Evernote, make changes, then hit “save”—NOT ”save as,” and close the document. The changes you made will be stored in Evernote.

 

These are just a few of the things you do can in Evernote. You can find many videos on YouTube to help you as well. Happy Organizing! No more notebooks necessary! No more folders on your browsers or even in your email. You can organize it all in one place! Evernote is EverAwesome!

Learn more about the Dolphin Browser to “Clip” Websites to Evernote on your iPad or iPhone.

 

JoyceGJoyce Glass is a writer, speaker, and lover of God's word even more than chocolate! Her desire is to encourage you to walk closer to God. Dig deeper in your faith. Pray in earnest daily for God to teach you His ways, and serve Him right where you live and work now. She is the author of  iNeed God - daily downloads for your heart.  A 90 day journey closer to God! You can connect with Joyce online. Connect with Joyce on her blogFacebookGoogle+, or Twitter.