Being a freelance writer – or any kind of freelancer or self-employed person – means that quite a large chunk of your time has to be invested into the activities that don’t directly make you money (like writing does for me).
Instead, these activities make your business flow easily, help you get your voice out there, allow you to have a successful online presence, and to get all of your projects actually done.
There are many thousands of tools out there that can help you with any element of your business, and I’ve finally come down with 16 tools that help me be extremely productive, organized, and keep every aspect of my business in order.
Want to know more? Let’s get started!
In this post, we’ll cover:
Grammarly. I’ve mentioned before how I like to do my copyediting and proofreading manually before ever turning to a spellcheck. Once I’m at the very end of my editing process, I go to Grammarly. When, like me, you’re writing long-form content – and lots of it – it’s easy to have several mistakes just slip through the cracks.
The best thing about Grammarly is that it works across all text fields in a browser, so my emails, tweets and comments are safe, too! Get the free Chrome extension here.
BuzzSumo. I go to BuzzSumo on an almost-daily basis for multiple reasons:
- Most shared articles from a client, potential client, potential blog post opportunity, or on a certain topic
- Headline ideas
- Content analysis for a website (such as number of shares based on blog post length)
- Question Analyzer – this used to be called Bloomberry, but it’s now fully integrated in the BuzzSumo platform, and allows you to look for actual questions on a certain topic that were asked across the web (like Quora, forums, niche websites, etc)
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. When I wrote about high-converting blog posts, I mentioned writing a minimum of 20 headlines for each post. I really do this, and once I have my headlines, I run them through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer tool. Because it gives a score and an explanation of each parameter, it’s a good starting point to tweak your headlines.
Keep in mind this isn’t the end all be all solution that will magically make your headlines better, nor will you always agree with the result. Use it along with your gut feeling!
Compress Photos. Quite self-explanatory – I use Compress Photos to reduce the file size for any imagery I upload to a website, whether it’s my own or a client’s website. Large images make the website load slower and ultimately harm the user experience, so it’s obvious why you’d want to avoid them!
Of course, there are many other compressing tools – I use this one because I find it the easiest and quickest to work with, and it’s super efficient.
Focus@will. It may be surprising that this comes under writing, but there’s no better place for it.
Here’s the thing: I get distracted ridiculously easily. I can jump between tabs and tasks and my phone for ages. I’m not able to efficiently multitask (I actually don’t think anyone is), and unless I’m focused on a single thing, with all other possible distractions removed, I struggle to get my work done.
I don’t have a problem admitting it – it’s the reality! This is why I always have to sort of engineer my workspace into being distraction-free. And Focus@will helps a lot – it’s a productivity app that combines neuroscience with music, and based on your habits and usual productivity, it finds background music for you to work along.
There is a timer within the app (both on a computer and a smartphone), and you can set it to whatever amount of time you want to work distraction-free. I usually work in 25-30 minute chunks and then take a couple of minutes off, and after 3-4 of these blocks, I take a longer break. This is also known as the Pomodoro technique, and Focus@will works so well with it. Hop over here if you want to try it out with your first month free!
CoSchedule. With the amount of content I write across this blog and my Medium page, I always want to ensure everything is on track and written early enough so there’s enough time for edits, fixes and design. CoSchedule is what helps me stay sane in this process and have a good high-level overview of all the processes, as well as details on daily tasks and social promotions.
And now that I’m gearing up to launch a YouTube channel, a podcast, and start implementing email marketing, CoSchedule will be a true lifesaver and help me stay super organized!
Buffer. I’ve been a loyal user of Buffer for several years now, and I use it across my own business, as well as my clients’ social media activity. It really is the best tool out there for planning and scheduling social media posts ahead, specifically for Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook (I’ll get to Instagram in a moment). To maximize the power of Buffer, I also use:
- Feedly – to read through a feed of my favorite topics and pick the ones I want to share and talk about
- Pocket – the feed of my favorite content
- IFTTT – to make Pocket feed my favorite content into a Buffer queue
Planoly. For me, Planoly is a real gamechanger when it comes to Instagram, and again across several accounts I look after. The best thing about it is its visual planning feature and the ability to look at your feed ahead and make it visually cohesive. This kind of visual planning would NOT come to me naturally, so it’s really awesome to have a tool that helps you make your grid look well thought-out.
Some other great features include a great Explore section for inspiration, comments management, and analytics, which always come in handy!
AWeber. I’ve been dabbling in email marketing since recently, and I’m in the process of building a resource library and lots of free resources that I’m planning to make available soon, and AWeber has been a perfect partner along the way. They’ve been super easy to work with and their support is next level! If you’re just starting out with email marketing like I am, I can’t recommend AWeber enough.
SE Ranking. For someone like me who doesn’t hold advanced (technical) SEO skills, a tool that breaks SEO down in simple language, easy graphs and action items is crucial.
I’ve come across SE Ranking a couple of months back and it has been a lifesaver when it comes to everything related to my search engine optimization: analytics and tracking, site audit and necessary fixes, competitor backlink tracking, rankings, keyword reports, and even social metrics. Makes my life so easy!
Layers. When I wanted to start with the transition from freelancing as a side-gig into being an independent writer full-time, one of the key things I needed was a website to be a home to my services, portfolio, contact options, and more.
And trust me when I say that I looked at hundreds of options to build my website. Themes, builders, designers. I didn’t have a four-figure budget to hire a pro web designer, I didn’t have enough time to learn how to develop it on my own (nor I really wanted to spend so much time learning to code), and I needed a solution that will make the process easy and low-cost while giving me a professional website.
So I discovered Layers. This website – the one you’re reading this on – is entirely built in Layers, each page looks exactly the way I wanted it to, and it only took a couple weeks of evening work to make it happen.
Layers is your solution if you’re looking for a website builder that gives you lots of freedom, but doesn’t require development proficiency. There are SO many elements you can use and it’s as simple as drag & drop!
Siteground. I recently had to migrate my website to another host and get an SSL certificate (the one that allows you to use a https protocol and provide a secure connection), and I was dreading the switch. Web hosts can be messy, they can take days and risk your website’s uptime during the migration, and just cause so much frustration.
And I’m so happy that I picked Siteground. Their service is immaculate, and their support is AMAZING: my husband and I were migrating our sites on a Saturday and ran into something we weren’t clear about, and they solved it in a matter of minutes.
Everything with my site on Siteground has been going so smoothly since I switched that I sometimes forget it’s even there. Highly recommended!
Namecheap. For any domains I need, and I have a couple, I go to Namecheap. It has an easy interface to search for domains and get ideas in case the one you wanted isn’t available! I’ve also used it to buy my short domain (mkay.cc) and connect it to bitly.com for links I share through Buffer, and it has worked really well.
Asana. While I’ve used Asana in my most recent office job, I now realize how lightly I was actually using it back then. Asana is now the home to EVERYTHING I do, from my client work, admin tasks, marketing plans, prospecting tasks, collaborations, literally all of it. A lot of my setup in Asana has been thanks to the AsanaHQ course from Megan Minns. Huge help!
Bonsai. If you’re doing anything that requires you to sign contracts with your clients, get advanced payments from them and get paid for your work afterwards, Bonsai is the tool. When I get a new client, it takes me less than 10 minutes to set up their profile in Bonsai, send them the contract and set up all the invoices upfront.
They pay me directly from the invoices, through Stripe, PayPal, or bank transfer details I leave on the invoice (if that’s what we agreed upon). If they haven’t paid after a given period, Bonsai will send them reminders, and I’ll also get notified about that. All of this helps me save SO much energy on tasks that are quite draining and time-consuming! You can get an entire free month of Bonsai here.
Cloze. If, like me, you’re making conscious decisions to go to networking events, conferences, meetups, or you simply want to keep track of who you’re in touch with on a regular basis, you’ll definitely like Cloze.
My favorite thing about it is the option to mark each of your contacts (from email, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) as a client, inactive client, lost prospect, connection, coworker, and more, and set a rule for each of these categories on how often you want to be reminded to reach out to people who you’ve categorized as such.
I was looking for a way to keep track of my contacts because of the amount of people I meet, and this is the only thing that worked!
Google Apps. This one’s a no-brainer: if you’re running a business, you need an email address that is associated with your domain and not gmail.com, live.com, and others. It takes a few minutes to set up, it’s super low cost, and it lets you run all the important admin stuff in your business like meetings and files from a single place. And the unlimited storage doesn’t hurt, either!
And that’s it – now it’s your turn to tell me which tools have worked best for you!
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