Being a freelance writer is a great thing. You don’t have to worry about a boos, you can work any time you want and you can make any place your office. But, the profession does come with a few drawbacks. Mainly, as a freelance writer, you are on your own. Finding clients, negotiating your rate, managing multiple projects at the same time, dealing with deadlines, researching your content for new ideas, chasing clients for payment and so on. That’s all on you. And to top it all, you also have to find time for your personal life and balance the two.
Suffice to say, being a freelance writer can be hard sometimes, but luckily there are plenty of tools that can make your life much easier. Here are 33 very useful tools for a freelance writer:
Best Writing Tools a Freelance Writer can Use
I want to start this list with the bread and butter for every freelance writer and that’s what they use to write content on. There are several great writing tools out there, some you are likely already familiar with, like Microsoft Word or Google Doc, but also some that maybe you didn’t know about, but can be very useful to you.
The most popular word-processing tool, MS Word also offers different templates to choose from, depending on the type of content you want to write, tables, charts and graphs, ability to insert images and multimedia and a whole lot more. Although it’s pretty much the standard for Windows users, it’s not free and its price will vary depending on what you want to use it for and if you buy or subscribe to 365 Office.
If you have a Google account, Google Docs comes free of charge with it. With it, you can create documents, share your work with clients in real time, access it from anywhere and much more. It works not just on Chrome, but also other browsers, such as Safari, Firefox or Edge.
If you’re an Apple user, you can use Pages instead of Microsoft Word. This word processor allows you not only to create documents, but you can also collaborate with your clients in real time on any Apple device, including Mac, iPhone or iPad, as well as on a regular PC if you have iWork for iCloud.
Sometimes you just want to focus on your writing and nothing else Clean Writer Pro offers a freelance writer an ability for a distraction-free writing, but that not all you can get for just a buck (literally, the price on iTunes right now is just $0.99). With CWP, you can also convert text to HTML and post it to your blog right away.
What if you get asked to transcribe a recorded interview? I did that once and it took me ages to finish. I had to return to parts of the interview several times, because it wasn’t clear what the interviewed person said and often skip parts of the interview not related to the actual topic. Some of these parts were 2-3 minutes long, others 10+ minutes and I had no way of knowing when the interview will restart, except to stumble upon it. And, above all, I had to pause a part to write it down, then continue listening, pause and write again and so on. If only I knew about oTranscribe, a free web app for transcribing recorded interviews, things would be much easier.
Best Time Management Tools and Apps for Freelance Writers
Keeping track of time is a good way to stay on focused on the task and organized. Fortunately, there’s no lack of good time management tools and apps a freelance writer can use. Here are my favorite:
My absolutely favorite time tracking app, Toggl is really easy to use. All you need to do is enter the project, hit a start button, let it run while you create some great content and hit stop when you’re done or want to take a break. You can use a desktop version or an online version for Chrome and it will also give you a weekly report to see how much you need to bill to a client.
I’ve already talked about the Pomodoro technique on this blog before and why I think it’s a great way to improve your productivity, so I won’t go into the details again. Let’s just say that there are plenty of good Pomodoro apps around and choosing one wasn’t easy. However, I feel that the ability to customize your timer and to use it on both desktop and web can give a freelance writer a, well, boost, when working on a project and needs to stay focused.
As a freelance writer, you’ve probably worked or will work at some point on Upwork. That’s when you’ll need to download and install the Upwork Desktop App to track how many hours you’ve logged. Without this app, you will have a hard time billing your Upwork clients for hourly projects, so it offers payment protection as well.
TopTracker is a time tracker, which you can use on Windows OS from Vista to Windows 10, Mac OS (Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan and Sierra) and even on Linux OS. In addition, you can also use TopTracker across different devices and all that completely for free, regardless of the version you’re using. To make things even better, TopTracker not only allows you to track time and take screenshots or webcam shots of your work, but also some provides some other options as well such as track only written task descriptions or decide how often you want to track stuff.
What if you don’t need to report back how many hours you’ve spent working on a project to anyone, but still want to track it? That’s where RescueTime comes in. This app comes in two versions – Lite for free and Premium at $9/month or $72/year (first 4 months are free) and provides detailed reports with which a freelance writer can see how productive they’ve been that day.
Top 5 Project Management Tools for a Freelance Writer
It’s easy to manage one client, but if you’re anything like most freelancers, you probably have to juggle several projects at the same time. One client wants a draft by Friday, you are waiting for to hear from the second one about that pitch you send him, the third is asking for a revision, you need to send an invoice to the client number four and, above all, you still have to hear from clients 4 and 5.
Just try to keep all that in your head and not make a costly mistake.
Fortunately, with these 5 project management tools you don’t have to:
With Trello, you can much more easily handle multiple clients and projects at the same time. Simply assign a “board” to a client, separate boards into “lists”, which represent the different stages of the project (for example, 1st draft, revision, 2nd draft, complete and paid) and then each list is further separated into “cards” for separate tasks. You can then add attachments to each card (for example a Google Doc document), set a deadline, label, write a comment on the card and share the card with other users on Trello.
As a freelance writer, chances are, you are already well-acquainted with BaseCamp. Well, that is to be expected since it has been around for around a decade, allowing you and the rest of the team too see the entire project on one page, sync schedules and calendars and much more.
If you like “to-do” lists, you’ll definitely like Wunderlist as well. In fact, I will dare to go so far and say that this app is not just useful for freelancers, but anyone who wants to make a to-do list as well. You can assign a to-do for each client, set reminders and due dates, share lists, collaborate on projects with clients and do all of that from Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire or the Web.
Let’s be honest, every freelance writer out there likes free things and that applies to tools and apps they use. Well, if that’s the case with you as well, you’ll be glad to know that Taskboard is completely free and all you need to download it to use it. It doesn’t even require you to set an account or anything.
It’s similar to Trello in that it uses Kanban-inspired boards (To Do, Doing and Done) to allow you to keep track of different project stages, but it’s still different in several ways. For instance, you can use the “automatic” option to update a board when certain criteria are met. That way, of you complete a project before its specified deadline, Taskboard will clear it for you.
Most project management tools are pretty straightforward when it comes to managing projects and tasks you need to complete. But sometimes, you want a bit more customizing power and Podio comes in very nicely to allowing you to design each project outline and much more to your liking. This can be very useful if you have to deal with complex projects. In addition, it also offers a dedicated workspace for clients to handle future team members, as well as instant messaging across users.
5 Communication Tools to Pay Attention to
Good communication is often the key to a successful freelance writer-client relationship and you need to be able to communicate with your clients on a regular basis. There are a few tools and apps that will allow you to do this, and I’ve picked 5 that I feel are doing the best job, whether you prefer an email or something faster.
Google’s Gmail comes for free with the account and is by far the most popular email service today. It comes free with a Google account, works on Web , Android, iOS or 3rd party programs and allows you to store up to 15GB of free storage space. Personally, though, since most people receive tons of email, a lot of it not just from clients, it can get cluttered in there, so I mostly use Gmail while I negotiate with clients and then switch to a different communication tool like one of those below.
Many of your freelance clients will be located on the other end of the world from you, but you’ll often still want to communicate with them in real time. That’s something you won’t be able to do with email. Unless you want your phone bill to become astronomical, I suggest you use Skype. With it, you can message the client, video or voice call them and call phone numbers as well. If both you and the client are on Skype, then it it’s free, but there are some rates if you call a landline number or for certain premium options.
- Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts is Google’s answer to Skype an just like it, it offers instant messaging, video and voice calls and even live chat for free with up to 10 people. Since it comes integrated with Gmail, you won’t be able to use a lot of options without this service. At most, someone can send you a link and allow you to take part in a video call, but not much beside will be available to you.
Most of the communication tools I’ve listed here are primarily for a one-on-one communication between a freelance writer and a client (although some offer live chat with several people at once), but Slack allows you to communicate with an entire team in a quick and seamless way. Basically, it’s a chat room where people can get invited to different channels and send each other messages or even send documents.
Not every tool a freelance writer uses has to be online. Often, especially if you’re in the same city, a simple phone call will work much better than any online tool I mentioned here. It’s certainly still a much more personal way of communication and whether you use a landline or a mobile phone, you shouldn’t scoff at the sound of a ringtone. Just make sure the client knows when it is a good time to call you to talk about work.
5 Tools and Apps for a Social Media-Savvy Freelance Writer
Every freelance writer today needs to be present on social media. Whether you want to promote your posts, website, blog or yourself, these 5 apps will be of great help in your journey through social media network.
Why stop every hour to send out a tweet when you can schedule Hootsuite to send out posts for that day or week? With Hootsuite, you can easily share on Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn or tweet without disrupting your productivity, schedule and track how your shares, likes or retweets are doing.
Buffer is similar to Hootsuite and for a freelance writer, could also be a good choice to publish and schedule content on social media. Although Hootsuite has a few more features, supports more platforms and has bigger analytics, for scheduling and publishing content (rather than managing social media), Buffer might be the better choice.
Do you want to know who mentions you on Twitter (but without @)? TweetDeck can help you there. So, if you want to keep an eye on a specific search term, like “freelance writer”), you can use TweetDeck for this. Oh, and it also allows you to schedule posts (much like Hootsuite), but this only works with Twitter (TweetDeck is a part of Twitter) and not the other social media sites.
Are your social media profiles doing what they’re meant to do and bringing people to your blog? Do people even visit links you put in your posts? You can get an answer to these (and many other) questions by using Bitly. Also, it allows you to shorten a link
Did you know that tweets with images receive 18% more clicks than tweets without images? Why keep your tweets bare and dull when you can use Autre Planete to make sure your social media images look stunning, without the need to handcraft separate images for every social network out there.
Other Useful Tools for a Freelance Writer
Besides these 25 tools, there are hundreds more that a freelance writer will find useful. But, just like using no tools and apps is not a good idea if you want your freelance career to run smoothly, depending on too many is also not good. Still, I feel it would be plain wrong not to give a shout out to a few more tools in this post.
A freelance writer can never tell in advance when he’ll have a brilliant new idea for a landing page, blog post, or other type of content. Don’t rely on your memory for saving ideas. Instead, you can use Evernote to capture your ideas and share them across multiple platforms. This freemium app allows you to create notes, organize and archive them and can be very useful for creative freelancers.
Does your writing strike a chord with your readers or are you using a completely wrong voice for your audience? Hemingway App lets you see the readability of your content, how hard (or very hard) your sentences are for reading, are you using too much passive voice (remember, you want to use active most of the time) and if you should use simpler phrases.
This can be a very useful tool for a freelance writer, but I would add one “but”. Not all your audience wants posts with readability score of 8 and below. For example, you might be writing to highly educated readers, professors, C-level managers, etc and this case, you want to use bigger words. If that’s the case, relying on Hemingway App might not be a good idea.
Do you know what is the number one request many of my clients have when I write content for them? To make sure that it is original. Plagiarizing someone else’s content is something you should never allow yourself to do, but mistakes do happen and sometimes content from other people’s blog posts and articles finds its way into yours. To make sure this doesn’t happen (and you don’t get into trouble with Google), you can use Copyscape Premium to check your content.
I don’t know about you, but I became a freelance writer because I like to write and not because I wanted to be an accountant. Still, if you want to get paid at the end of the month, you need to bill your clients and send them invoices. The only good part in all of this is when you finally get the money, but in general, this is a process most freelancers would probably prefer to sleep through.
Thankfully, with Freshbooks, you can send invoices much faster and easier. In addition, it also allows you to track your expenses (another incredibly useful thing for a freelancer), accept credit cards online (no more waiting in a line at the bank, yay!) and even track how many hours you’ve worked on a project (though I already mentioned a few tools for that).
Did you ever lost your work because your computer crashed and you didn’t save it? I certainly did and it wasn’t pleasant. Trying to restore your document is a waste of time. It’s just gone. That’s why you have to make sure to backup your work. But here’s the thing, what cloud provider should you use for that?
Most people don’t think about this and simply use Google Drive since it comes with their Google account, OneDrive (comes with Windows) or Dropbox. Actually, if you ask most people, this would be the only three clouds they could name. However, this doesn’t mean they’re actually the best, especially for backup. Instead, I would recommend using IDrive since it not only allows you to backup your files, but also has sync and share options and can be a much safer option since it lets you choose your own encryption key.
Text-only blog posts won’t cut it. To really make a truly attractive blog for your audience, you’ll find visuals like images, infographics or videos to be absolutely necessary. But here’s the problem. You can’t put any old image on your blog. There are a lot blogs filled with stock images that don’t do service to what could be an otherwise well-written blog post, homepage or other kind of web content. In order to be truly helpful, an image should be of good quality and relevant to the context of your article. But this is often easier said than done as not all of us are graphic designers (and, like me, completely fail at art).
With Canva, you can be a total amateur when it comes to graphic design. It’s a completely free tool that allows you to drag-and-drop different kinds of elements, select backgrounds for your image drop fonts and do a lot more to create stunning visuals for your blog post, social media post, magazine cover, presentation, flyer, ebook or anything else you need a beautiful image for.
Many blogs out there don’t manage to reach and retain a large enough audience not because their content is good or because they lack a good content strategy, but because their blog or website simply looks unappealing. Poor blog design is the bane of many blog owners and something that you should work on more. But what if you don’t have any skills as a graphic designer?
Fortunately, Design Wizard can help you create stunning visual content in just a few minutes. You’ll have over 15,000 templates and 1.2+ million images at your disposal, plus custom color palettes, font uploader and many more nifty features to turbocharge your content.
- Google Analytics
How are your posts doing? Do you manage to convert your audience? Where are people coming from to your blog and how long do they stay? What are your strong metrics and where you can do a better job? These are all questions a freelance writer must find an answer for if they want their blog or their client’s blog to be successful. Without Google Analytics, which I’d argue is one of the first two or three plugins you should install on your WordPress site, this will be nearly impossible to find out.
There you have it! Over 30 tools and apps that I would wholeheartedly recommend to every freelance writer. Also, I know I missed a lot of your favorite tools, so here’s a great list of 25 writer tools recommended by 21-times New York Times bestselling author Jerry Jenkins you might also want to add to that collection. Do you have any favourites of your own to add? Let me know in the comments below.