QSL Managerís Society
Quality QSL Managers
QSL MANAGER TIPS
So, you wanna be a QSL manager?
QSL MANAGER's GUIDELINES
Here are some guidelines that every respectable QSL Manager can follow in order to provide the best QSL service possible at a reasonable cost.
1. Put a list of your client "calls" that you handle on your QRZ.COM site. Include a link to your web page.
2. Consider keeping a separate web page just for your QSL Manager activity (if you have a web page).
3. Rubber Stamps: Put together some rubber stamps. Self inking ones are great!
c. Confirmation stamp. This is usually a round stamp that includes YOUR call. I suggest using red ink as it will allow normal black printing to show through. Available in assorted sizes. 1" is probably best. When using, if possible try to place imprint across edge of QSO label and card. If card soaks ink too much, then get it all on the label. Use your judgment.
4. BACK UP ALL LOGS EVERY TIME YOU CLOSE DOWN! Double backup if you can! Use memory sticks, CD-RW, floppies, etc. Take NO chances.
5. LOG DATA! Insist on "reasonable" log data for ALL QSO's! With more and more on line "log search" available, we MUST be more stringent about requiring log data in order to confirm a QSO. Too often, QSO's are being "mined" from these log searches. Use your best judgment. Time and date errors are fairly easy to spot if there is some sort of pattern. These can be corrected. It is also a fairly common practice to fix obvious busted calls within reason. Again, use your best judgment.
6. IRC's: Don't exchange your IRC's at the post office if you can resell them to other DXers. I suggest that we all sell them for $1.70 each. (I will adjust this suggested price here if necessary). If anyone sends you an expired IRC, answer them via the bureau.
7. Set up a separate "kitty" for all your QSL funds. Use it to purchase postage and other supplies. Also use for QSL bureau expenses and purchasing QSL cards. Never use this money for anything else!
8. QSL BUREAU incoming. Keep your credits up to date with your incoming QSL bureau. Contact them if you think you will be getting a large flow of QSLs for your QSL Manager activity and ASK for special rates for bulk mailing of the QSLs. MANY QSL Bureaus will help QSL Managers if you ask.
9. QSL BUREAU outgoing. Use your available outgoing QSL service. If cost is a factor, consider sorting and mailing direct to bureaus around the world. Locate other QSL Managers in your area and combine your outgoing cards. Save the "smaller bureau" cards for the outgoing service to handle, and send direct to the large bureaus (ie JAPAN, GERMANY, UK, etc). Look into M-BAG for large bulk mailing. QSL bureau mailings do not have to be frequent. Perhaps once a year is adequate.
10. Who should pay for the cards? My rule of thumb is "if" the DX station offers to pay for, or supply the cards, let them do it. I will usually offer to provide ECONOMY QSL cards (one color, light economy card stock). If they want anything else, THEY must pay/provide the cards. Try to provide/get input for the QSL printing that will help YOU, such as appropriate space for YOUR labels! Be sure that the correct info is included on the cards such as IOTA ref #, Continent, Grid Square, CQ Zone, ITU Zone. ALWAYS carefully PROOF the cards! Also, consider using "lighter weight" economy cards for the bureau if "other" more expensive cards are used for direct mail.
11. LOGS: Be absolutely sure that the DX station knows that he MUST provide you with logs. If this is an ongoing operation, then the logs MUST be sent on a regular basis in the appropriate format. This can be via email attachment if electronic logs are used (encourage this!), or paper scans sent as attachments. Or even paper copies of the logs. I would avoid "on air" log compilation from the DX station. This is too risky and could put you in a difficult position if the DX station goes QRT and you end up with an incomplete log.
12. LoTW: DXpeditions normally do not upload to LoTW until 1-2 years after the operation is over. This is to encourage the necessary donations that come in with the QSL cards to help offset the DXpedition expenses. If you are handling QSL's for a DXpedition, follow their direction. I recommend at least 1 1/2 years, then upload the "corrected" log in your possession. Not the original log. Other non-DXpedition logs can be uploaded as directed by the DX station. I strongly suggest that you do not upload any logs unless you have permission from the DXpedition or DX station involved.
I will add more to this page as I think of things.
1. This is a long term commitment. So, ask yourself if you are prepared to take on the responsibility. This includes possibly a lot of spiritual reward.... and maybe some disappointment.
2. Right from the beginning, make sure that you plan an escape from your responsibilities should you need one. Also, make sure that your family and/or members of your "local" club have instructions on what to do with your QSL manager logs and cards should you become incapacitated. Feel free to refer them to the QSL Manager's Society if you wish.
3. How do I become a QSL Manager? Well, there is no easy answer to this question. Becoming a member of the "QSL Manager's Society" "might" work. But, often times a casual QSO, or a friendly "note" with a QSL will work. Never twist any arms. Just a friendly "Hey, if you ever think you might like to have a QSL Manager...." comment is probably as far as you would want to take it.
4. Too often, first time QSL managers get disappointed because the "client" doesn't follow through. So, for this reason, do NOT make any "qsl via me" announcements or purchase any QSL cards until you have the first set of logs in hand... and you feel that a routine "procedure" is in place for getting more logs (if appropriate) in the future.
5. Get ALL the info you can from your client, including email addresses, snail mail address, telephone number, etc etc. Figure out who will pay for the cards. I usually offer to pay for very basic QSL card printing. If they want anything more than that, you could tell them that they could order the cards and send them to you. Also, set up a routine for sending you the logs.
6. Set up: It is important to set up your QSL manager materials for easy access, all in one location. This might be a briefcase, or a special desk... or even a file drawer. In any event, set up a system that works for you.
7. Basic materials (suggestions): A rubber stamp (return address), a rubber stamp (QSL verification), a small sponge for moistening stamps and envelopes, ink pad (unless rubber stamps are self inking), a glue stick, scotch tape, a small lock box for storing IRC's and your QSL manager kitty, postage stamps, small post-it notes, envelopes (plain & air), rubber bands, stapler, logging program, appropriate labels, if using paper logs then a storage file of some sort, a floppy file JUST for backup log files, a postal scale.
8. Notify your incoming QSL bureau of the station(s) you handle and ask them to send your QSLs via bulk mailings and as such, minimize your QSL bureau charges if at all possible. Many incoming QSL bureaus are quite happy to help QSL managers reduce their expenses.
9. Consider your options for sending QSLs via bureaus. Sometimes it will be more economical to mail to more common countries directly. If you need to be a member of your "national" amateur radio society in order to use either the incoming or outgoing bureaus, then by all means join if you are not already a member. The IARU maintains a list of QSL bureaus of the world on their website at: http://www.iaru.org/
10. Logging Programs and Logfile conversions: Set yourself up with a logging program that you are familiar with and use it for ALL computer log files you receive. I use WinEQF simply because it is a very easy to use program AND support is excellent. WinEQF's owner Tom N3EQF is a SPONSOR of the QSL Manager's Society, promising to assist with any unusual log import/transfer into WinEQF format. Many managers also use DX4WIN. Most of the popular logging programs are able to import ADIF format. ADIF format is a "standard" format used so you can import/export logfiles between different logging programs. So, if your "client" uses a logging program that you are not familiar with, ask him if he can "export" his log to ADIF. When converting CT by K1EA files (.bin), the version number of CT is critical for a clean conversion. WinEQF may ask you for the version # (i.e. 9.41). So, always get the CT version number!
11. Attaching log files to email: This is a very common way of delivering logfiles. However, there are a few problems you could encounter. For example, LogEQF/WinEQF creates a file with a .log extension. Some browsers interpret a .log file as a "text" file and won't allow you to save it as a "separate" file. If you have problems, you could ask that a "client" using LogEQF/WinEQF change the extension to something obscure that the browser will not "interpret", such as a .sht file. Then, once received you can change it back to .log. Just be aware of this should you run into problems. Also, you can set the browser option to not show attachments "in-line".
12. BACK UP ALL YOUR LOGFILES! YES! Double back up your logfiles! Floppies are cheap. And, with the new CD-R and CD-RW "burners" out there, you can make CD's that contain ALL your logfiles! And memory sticks are now inexpensive and easy to use too. Make a second set of logfiles and store them in a secure secondary location. Treat these logfiles like they were a large stash of cash or jewels! They represent a huge amount of time, effort and work! NEVER rely on your HARD DRIVE! BACK UP ALL LOGS! Manually transcribe smaller paper logs to a computer log format, but ALWAYS save the paper logs in a "safe" place.
13. Never be "negative". Look at this job as one for "unsung heroes". You will be tested! I promise! But, no matter how much you get mad at someone (for example, the guy who includes a Self addressed label but does not include an envelope,) always keep a smile on your face. Never complain! That should be an unwritten "rule" of any QSL manager. We always look bad whenever a QSL manager "complains" about how people send them QSLs.... Just keep a stiff upper lip... clench your teeth and move forward. You'll feel better for it in the long run. I promise! If you need to vent, use the QSL managers discussion list to chat with your "fellow QSL manager peers" http://www.qth.net/
14. Say "Thank You". When you receive a "little something extra" from someone asking for a QSL card, SAY THANK YOU! It doesn't take all that much extra effort to do this. I made very small "TNX" slips which I enclose with any QSL for which I have been given anything more than enough to return a QSL card to this station. Whenever I get a $1 bill and I only use .80 postage.... that is (in my mind) "A little something extra" and it warrants a TNX note. (TNX for enclosing a little something extra with your QSL request! It is appreciated!) Again! Be positive and cordial at all times!
15. For "married" QSL Managers: Sit down with your spouse and explain how you will be pursuing your hobby by NOT going out to bars or bowling alleys. You will be right in the house sitting up late at night "doing QSLs". Remind him/her that it is very nice of you to want to stay close to your spouse by staying right at home! :-) He/she could even help you with the QSL bureau cards! Tell him/her that you probably won't be on the air as much any more! You'll even sit in the family room with him/her and "glance" at the TV while you are peeling labels! Next, negotiate the full use of the spare bedroom! Agree to letting there be a small bed in the room for unexpected guests (but you will need it for those last minute, all night QSL bureau card blitzes!). Explain carefully that you will pay for ALL expenses from the QSL kitty that you will keep in a special lock box. You do NOT make any extra money doing this and that money is NOT available to pay the newspaper boy! Next explain that you will never have to put any of the "house" money in this kitty (this is an outright lie, but he/she won't be happy if you tell the truth right now). (If you don't have a spouse, this is not for you, but you could share this with any friends or family members who might come to visit you!)
Bob Schenck, N2OO