Essential Keystrokes is…

where I share my favorite tips, tools, reviews and commentary on web design, marketing, blogging, new media and related topics. For more about this site and the voice behind it, check out my About page.


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Essential Keystrokes Turns 2 With Prizes For You

By Char

happy-birthday.jpgOh, how times flies! Just a mere two years ago I decided to start on my blogging journey as a form of research and have I learned a lot (and keep learning)!

During this site’s first year, I spent much of my time building essential relationships through commenting, guest posting, and hosting my Essential Tools series. The second year has been more about educating through tutorials and my lucky number 13 posts, being social, and learning how to run my sites like their own businesses.

Performancing Metrics Blog StatisticsMy list of essential tools for online success have changed dramatically too. When I first started I thought Awstats would give me all the info I needed to know about how my sites were doing – but now I rely on pMetrics to give me up to the moment information about who is on my site, how they got there and how they navigiate the site.

HighriseThen I kept all of my contacts, project notes and such in a combination of spreadsheets, notebooks and scrap pieces of paper! Now, I am uber-organized and have all the information I need about a project at my fingertips whether I am in the office or on the road thanks to 37 Signals Highrise.

freshbooksAs a freelancer, invoicing is my least favorite thing to do each month – I wish I could just work for Karma. For 11 years I have done things the same way – using Excel and Word – to invoice clients each month. It was time consuming, tedious, and I just dreaded it. Dawud introduced me to the very slick, easy to use Freshbooks and moments after I used my trial account I was HOOKED. It was easy, clients can view their invoice online, pay online or via check, I always know how much is still outstanding, can see when clients view their bill, and can even track different tasks for a single client quickly.

A birthday isn’t a birthday without gifts – and since I have everything I need (except a few spare hours in each day), YOU get the presents! I am giving away (thanks to my awesome sponsors), the tools I have come to rely on:

How do you enter?  I am so grateful to have “met” so many wonderful people through blogging and appreciate every comment left, I am going to make this one easy! All you have to do to enter to win one of these 13 fabulous prizes (did you figure out 13 is my favorite number) is leave a comment (use your first name please) on this post telling me what your favorite online tool(s) is, how things have changed since you first started blogging or let me know what kind of content you want me to feature in upcoming posts.

You must leave your comment no later than midnight on July 13, 2008 (my birthday – not my blog’s) and winners will be announced later that week.

Bonus prize!!!! Spread the word about my blogging birthday bash on your own site, via Twitter, Plurk or other social means and you are eligible to win a blog analysis/critique from Chris Garrett (this one is priceless!). Make sure you leave me a comment letting me know the URL of your post or when you made the social announcement so I can get you entered.

Categories : Contests



Congrats, Char! You’ve done a great job with this blog in your journey and you are certainly an inspiration for many. :)



Wow, has it been 2 years already? I just surpassed my ONE year Blog, and yes, I am grateful for the e-freinds I have made along the way.

Onwards and Upwards!


Great little giveaway, and congrats on turning 2. I can’t wait to see how the next year plays out on this site. (Also, posted about this on twitter for the fun of it).


2 years!? That rocks, Char!

And so do you.

I love Google Docs and Spreadsheets for managing all my plans and notes (like a million pages of them).

I rely on Skype for phone communication.

Jing is awesome for screencasting.

Sitemeter and Google Analytics do great for web traffic tracking.

I’d love anything you could write on how to design a new blog/website – the step-by-step process, tools to use, mistakes to avoid, etc.

Happy Happy Blog Birthday Char!


Congrats on the milestone. Sign me up for the giveaway!

Appreciate the time and the community you’ve developed here.


Congrats Char! How wonderful. (7-13 is my hubbies b-day too!) I’m so tweeting this so I can win that Chris G review of my blog. Thanks for answering every question I’ve ever asked quite kindly!


This is how bad I want to win the Chris G review: AND I just tweeted it.


I started blogging in 2005 while my son was active duty military in Iraq. Now, I’m learning how to use blogging as a tool in my freelance writer’s kit. Yours is a great place to find new resources. Thanks.


I occasionally use google docs, but the biggest tool I use would be gmail. It’s so easy to check from anywhere AND I can check all of my accounts in one place. It’s great.

I’ll let you know when I’ve posted this over at my site. Well, WP will when it pings you. :)


Happy blogiversary, Char. Mig is right, you are quite an inspiration! Good luck with the contest and have a wonderful next year in your blogging endeavors :)


Hi Char – Nice lineup of prizes!

Your blog always has very useful information.
My favorite online tools:
Delicious – I can always find everything I bookmark.
Gmail & Hotmail – I like them both. I use one for personal and one for business. – nice and simple

But I still like software tools for those times that internet is down or I can’t get a connection.

I also plurked this contest:

Good luck!


Congrats on two great years, Charlene!

Boy, I’ve come a long way with this blogging thing. My first ‘blog’ was on Livejournal, way back in the day. Then I moved to Blogger. Finally I realized the great options WordPress offers. I moved all my work over and haven’t looked back once!


Congrats and while I am not as concerned with the contest as I am with Web2.0 and time saving tools here are three I use:

1. Jott at You call a toll free number and what you say becomes an e-mail. You can Jott yourself, jott other people in your network, or Jott…

2. Sandy at Sandy is my automated online assisant. She is a calendar that reminds me of todos and appointments. she e-mails the people i am supposed to connect with and reminds them as well. Now as I said, I can jott or tweet sandy and she will update my calendar automatically. I can also have sandy update others….prett sweet

3. Salesconx at This site is about buying and selling leads. It is great for small businesses and sales people alike. You can read about their strategy on my blog and if you go to the link above they will give you an extra $25 for signing up.Of the three this is the only one I am affiliated with.

Well that is my list and I hope it helps.

Karl Goldfield
startup sales mentor


Congrats on 2 years. Thanks for the link to pMetrics. I just signed up and am excited to check it out.


Congrats for this achievement. Its actually my first time here but certainly not the last!


Congrats Char — Thanks for your tips and help. My favorite online tool was in my past life as a pet-care business owner. I loved because I could track all my sitters and all my clients’ request as well as billing.

Now, I’m learning this whole world of on-line-ness. Can my favorite tool be Amazon? Keeping up with books is a favorite and necessary activity.


Just found your site today but I will be back!
I use google alerts to know what is going on in my field.
I am a member of several networking yahoo groups.
And the best keep secret on the web is a free SEO
class given through yahoo groups.
Looking forward to checking out more of your recommendations.


Hi Char!

2 years already? That’s great going, and I hope you’ve been keeping well of late. It’s not easy choosing just one favourite online tool, but I think GMail is up top for me, despite the issues I’ve had with it in the past.

As for that chance of Chris G’s prize (which would be superb), I’ve mentioned you on Twitter:

Good luck to everyone who enters!


I am just getting going with the blogging thing and wish I had more time to dedicate to it. Your site looks like it will be helpful to me as I constantly try to improve.


Char, it stuns me that you’ve achieved so much with your blog in just two years! I’d have said you were around for so much longer because I’ve relied so much on content here and because you’ve got such a loyal fan base.

My favorite tech tools are some of yours, too, as well as some additions: Backpack, Highrise, Gmail, Freshbooks, Evernote (a new one that’s growing on me quickly), Yep, Aweber.

I’ve tweeted your prize party: .

Thanks, Char, for a fun celebration and including your readers in it.


Since I started blogging in the personal finance realm things have become very very crowded and continue to grow each day. It really makes it harder to distinguish yourself and capture market share.

My favorite online tool is delicious. I multiplied the amount of value I get from the web ten fold or more.

Here is my plurk.


For my blog my favorite tool is sitemeter. It lets me catch when a blip in traffic occurs the fastest. Thanks for the contest!


Great blog!
I like to use Urchin to measure the stats for my work website. It has recently released a new version which tracks much deeper into the metrics.

Of course, being a Mom is also one of my favorites.

Don’t forget the updated calendar functionality in the Prius right from the phone sync up!


Char, congratulations with the 2 year blogging anniversary and Happy Birthday in advance.

It was great reading the comments above about the tools that people use online.

As for me, my favourite tools must be WordPress, Google (where I can search and find pretty much everything I need) and Firefox with it’s very handy add-on Firebug.

At some point I should start using some of the 37Signals products. Your reviews of them were very helpful. Hope to see more product/tools reviews from you that help you staying on top of all things freelancing.


Google Reader is my favorite tool. Makes it so easy to keep up with those great posts.

Count me in to this great contest. Thanks.


My favorite tools are gmail and Live PRs Internal page rank checker.

I really like and would like more of the product reviews.


Greetings! I just stumbled across your blog and love it! So glad to have come in just in time for the contest. ;-)

I have to say, Google’s Calendar program is da bomb. I love having the ability to share a calendar with my husband, who can access it from anywhere so long as he has Internet access. We each have a million different projects, so knowing what’s on his plate without having to track him down is a godsend in terms of planning events and trips.

Oh, and definitely Google Reader. It’s how I start my day, right up there with Mozilla Thunderbird, my email program.

My post on my blog re: this contest:

Thanks so much!



Congratulations and I must say that this is my first time here BUT this is exactly what I have been stewing over in my lil head. And here you are!
My favorite tool is a basic must have for me. No other browser can offer me what Firefox can; lotsa customizable tool bars, notifications and such. Indeed, I would perish an internet death without Mozilla.


I just stumbled across your website and decided to enter your contest. I have been blogging for just a little over a month. I’m really hooked. I’m totally interested to see what FreshBooks has to offer. I have the same problem, using Excel for inventory and recordingkeeping and Word/Excel for invoicing. If there is something that makes it easy I’m all for it. Can you tell that is the prize I want to win? :) Thanks for the contest and congratulations on the 2-year mark.

I added a blog entry for your contest on my site. Check it out


Congrats on your 2 year anniversary!
My favorite online tool is Google by makes finding things and answers so easy.


My favourite tool are sitemeter (my blog is pretty new so it’s fun to see the traffic increase!), Google Web Master tools, and Technorati.


I love when you feature resources like backgrounds and patterns. You seem to dig up such good ones – that’s what I hope you will do more of.

The most dramatic change I personally have experienced since I started blogging is the need for constant vigilance against hackers. Such a drain on one’s creative and entrepreneurial energies.

To your continued success and thank you for a great blog!


Congratulations on your 2 year anniversary.

I use Quicken for invoicing, and I like it — especially now that I have gotten through the learning curve already. I use PlanPlus Online (Franklin Covey Product) for my schedule and am really impressed with the features. I like the very new product Feedly to manage RSS feeds. And, for passwords, Password Safe is the best, and free.

Thank you, Karen


Hi Charlene

This is my first visit to your great blog and congrats for hitting the 2 years mark in blogging.

I’ve just started a blog and are still finding my way around the different web tools and resources like PageRank, Technorati, MyBlogLog, social networking, RSS feeds, backlinks, and many many more!

I don’t know if this first comment qualifies me for your contest but if it did, I hope to win one of the prizes #9-#13 which are blogging related books. I’m sure those books will help me in my blogging adventure.

Last but not least, I want to wish you a Happy Birthday on July 13!



Happy Birthday! You’ve done well in 2 years!


2 years? WOW! Hardly seems possible! Congratulations Char!

My favorite online tool is the completely unoriginal but incredibly invaluable Google Docs. It’s allowed me to collaborate with folks around the world on a variety of projects.


Congrats! My fave online tool is a FF plugin called Read it Later, as it helps me save some time without missing out on anything.


Greetings and Happy Anniversary ! Great Job ! For me: g-mail and Backpack. Many thanks to you!


Happy Anniversary! :) Here’s to many more for you.

Tools I find I use the most are FriendFeed to keep up with all my friends online, and two Firefox add-ons – Sage reader for my RSS feeds and Scrapbook to save page snippets and such for reading offline and later reference.


This comment won’t qualify me for anything as this is too late for the celebration but I just want to say congratulations for turning 2 (your blog).

I love your blog. It’s loaded with so many blogging essentials. I heart the number 13 as well and have not missed any Thursday Thirteen meme since the past year. :-)

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