TextExpander Story: How George Coghill uses TextExpander to be a better illustrator

Welcome to another installment of TextExpander Stories. This is an ongoing series where we talk to interesting folks who want to share how they use TextExpander in their particular field, how it’s impacted their work, and maybe even some unique tips on how they do what they do.

To start, please introduce yourself and what you do for a living.

I am an artist, geek, Stoic, INTP, and bicycle rider. I make my living as an independent illustrator at Coghill Cartooning. A mix of client projects and my own Kickstarter-funded artist merchandise line on Etsy which features an ongoing series of fun embroidered patches with a folklore/monster/paranormal/cryptid theme.

And how about what you do for fun?

Probably a lot of things that don’t sound like “fun” to most people—doing local errands on my bike, geeking out on food, nutrition, fitness and health. Setting up elaborate automation for my plaintext digital journaling system (which of course involves TextExpander). Spandex-free bike rides. Hiking and thinking. I am a voracious non-fiction reader, and enjoy playing guitar in places where only I can hear the results. I like to write but don’t do it enough. Did I mention riding my bike?

If you can remember, think back to your work B.T.E. – Before TextExpander. What were those dark times like?

It’s been far too long to recall. At this point, I can’t imagine using a digital device without TextExpander. It’s one of the top must-have apps on my list.

Do you remember how you discovered TextExpander?

Sorry, no. Ancient history! As an optimization and automation geek, I am always scanning for computer software in these genres and found TextExpander early on. We are talking the ye olde Mac OS 9 days I think!

How has TextExpander improved your particular line of work and workflow?

An independent artist is primarily a businessperson and entrepreneur, who also has to create the art if there is any time left. Any and all tools that can ease or reduce the business side of things, and give me more time to work on the creative stuff, is a massive and welcome improvement.

As with most people, I spend a lot of time in my email. I use TextExpander snippets to easily reply to project inquiries, respond with standard answers, and generally get back to clients quickly, all of which makes TextExpander indispensable.

That also carries over to my Etsy shop , where similar situations arise—the same reply or information needs to be sent to customers on a repeat basis. Being able to customize the reply to the client on the fly, as well as using TextExpander’s “date math” options to automatically estimate ship dates, are just the tip of the time-saving iceberg.

Again, the same goes for my Kickstarter campaigns—lots of interaction, backer replies, and constant promotion that often requires the same text content to be delivered over and over.

Of course, snippets for my name, email addresses, websites, the current date, and all that kind of everyday stuff are my most-used snippets.

I don’t use TextExpander much in the actual creative stuff I do, but it allows me to have more time for the creative stuff, which is the next best thing. It’s like having a studio assistant for all the mundane office tasks.

Can you share any of your TextExpander stats?

How about this: the Statistics panel says I’ve saved 187 hours of typing!

Finally, could you share a couple snippets that are specific to your industry?

The following snippets are all similar in nature. But, I’ve always found that seeing multiple solutions and implementations of TextExpander from others really help give me my own eureka moments for applying them in my workflow.

Project Inquiry Replies Snippet

The main snippet I use for work-related tasks could really be used by anyone whose email replies always contain the same or similar text content. I’m guessing most or all freelance artists are in this category. This is in reply to an online form submitted by potential clients.

After invoking the snippet, it prompts me to enter the client’s name, and then the subsequent pop-up menus offer some options to similar replies depending on the specifics. I access each of those in sequence using Tab, Option+Tab, and arrow keys, to keep my hands on the keyboard.

All pop-up fields are set to the default values I typically reply with. Usually, it’s just a matter of typing in the client’s name and hitting the Return key.

Etsy Shop Reply Snippet

I like to reply to each Etsy customer with a personal note, which is also a chance to promote my email newsletter, upcoming items in the shop, and current or upcoming Kickstarter campaigns.

The following snippet pulls the customer name from my clipboard and inserts it automatically, and then the mail pickup day is automatically set to be whatever the day of the week tomorrow will be (using the “Date/Time Math” snippets).

The two green areas are optional (and enabled) promo blurbs that I update as my merchandise and Kickstarter campaigns rotate. The “order” pop-up menu has a second option also thanking a repeat customer for the ongoing business.

To use this, I copy the customer’s name to the clipboard and then invoke the snippet (in this case, by typing “ettt”). If it isn’t a repeat customer, I just hit the Return key and the reply inserts on the Etsy site. It’s insanely useful!

Kickstarter Backer Management Snippet

Running a Kickstarter campaign is like running a small business. So much unseen work goes into the planning and fulfillment, but the actual promotion and backer interactions are key. This is where you build a fan base. Replying fast. and in detail, is made so much easier by using TextExpander.

For example, take the following snippet, which I use to reply to each of my launch day backers. A bit more detail: I give out an exclusive bonus item to any newsletter subscriber who backs on day one if they message me via the campaign with a secret code I put in the email newsletter.

The green text chunk is optional, as I like to reply to all launch day backers, though most are newsletter subscribers already, so this is included by default. The pop-up menu at the end allows me to reply without the “thanks for the ongoing support” part, for any new backers. Again, many launch day backers are repeat backers so I leave this as the default option.

I like to make sure my best backers know that I recognize them as repeat backers, and acknowledging the launch day “secret code” is a must-do thing. Kickstarter backers also LOVE quick replies (I guess it doesn’t happen often, from what I’ve been told). TextExpander makes this SUPER easy, and allows me to cover all sorts of variations on the same basic reply.

This saves me time and makes for cultivating a devoted crew of repeat backers—essential to your campaign’s success!

Websites/URLs

The other big time-saver is making all my websites into snippets. Freelance creatives are basically always in marketing mode, and typing out the same URLs over and over is a big waste of time.

I keep URLs in a similar format; they all start with a two-letter mnemonic and end with a double-forward-slash:

snippet: cc//
content: http://coghillcartooning.com

snippet: et//
content: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CoghillCartooning

snippet: kk//
content: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/georgecoghill/

snippet: ig//
content: https://instagram.com/coghillcartooning/

Of course, I also set up snippets for all my Kickstarter project URLs, my top-seller Etsy item URLs, and any other unwieldy chunk of text that I use often. A good example here is the standard hashtag conglomerations for Instagram posts on my artist account.

A typical Kickstarter project URL will follow the format of my main Kickstarter profile link, for easier recall:

snippet: kknaz//
content: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/georgecoghill/ancient-astronaut-mission-patches

The “kk” reminds my brain it’s a Kickstarter campaign, then the “naz” is the first few letters from the campaign name (“NAZCA” in this case).

The double-slash follows the pattern used for my main URL snippets, which contain common letter combos (“cc”, “et”, and so on) and thus need something odd/unique in there to make it functional as a snippet.

I probably do not need them at the end of “kknaz” but I like to keep my formatting consistent. It helps remind me of My System™. All URL snippets end with // so I just employ it globally.

If you’d like to share anything else, this is a great place to do it.

A general TextExpander tip is to make your shortcuts with repeated last letters (or characters) that are easy to recall. For example, my Gmail email address has a shortcut of gmm because it’s super easy to remember and repeating the last letter requires zero brainpower.

That project quote reply snippet above? qqq. My full name? ggcc. My main Etsy reply? ettt. The phrase “Thanks!”: ttt. I think you get the idea.

I used to use clever ending character combos, but I find the repeated final character method to be far superior. The double-slash for URLs, and a double @ for email addresses is also a good use if you want to use simple two-letter shortcuts for websites and email addresses (like “gg@@“ for your Gmail email address).

Then I can reuse the same 2-letter combo for similar areas:

My artist website shortcut is cc//

and my email shortcut for that domain is: cc@@

That way there is less thinking involved. Websites get the double-slash, email addresses get the double-@. The only thing that is unique is the 2-letter combo.

Lastly, do not let all this deep geeking out in TextExpander scare you off. Just use the basic snippets to get going — name, email addresses, URLs, mailing addresses, date/time, and so on. Even just those will be a huge time-saver.

Once you get used to how it all works, you can choose to dig deeper into the power that TextExpander offers. I think it’s a natural progression for my fellow creative types once they discover how much time just the basic TextExpander snippets open up, allowing for more time on the creating side of their business.

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