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20 Must Have Tools for Freelance Writers

Guest post by Gregory Ciotti of Bidsketch.

“Oh brother, another big resource + list post!”

Hold on just a second there: I actually agree with you! The mega-list post is a archetype that has been done to death, but utility still remains in this classic content style.

This comes in the form of highly specific lists for beginners – or people looking for some fresh inspiration (I recently created one on interesting psychology books).

A post on “50 cool web apps” doesn’t do anybody a whole lot of good. No one gets a lot of value from a giant list that only focuses on generating page views – not value.

These monster resource round-ups also won’t provide any value if they list totally obvious things that take up space rather than expose readers to something new (“Oh, Photoshop is a must-have tool for graphic designers? Stop the press!”)

That’s why today, I’m bringing the goods for freelance writers ONLY. This is a list filled with unique, useful and often overlooked tools that have helped me greatly in my freelance writing career. From working with startups to established small businesses, all of these tools have made the process smoother and helped in increasing my returns multiple times over.

Enough gabbing, let’s get started!

1.) Writing Tools

Trying to tame the wily beast that is writer’s block is a lot easier with a distraction-free environment.

Fortunately, these tools can help make that perfect (or near perfect) writing environment a reality, no matter where you’re using your computer.

1.) ZenWriter (PC)

I used to be hesitant about recommending this product because although it was a measly $9, a lot of writers still scoff at this writing tool because they can easily create documents in Word or their WordPress dashboard.

Now that the program is free, I highly advise that you try it out and see if it makes a difference. I’ve found that for longer writing projects, this is one of the best programs to write with abandon – then edit later on something like Word.

2.) ByWord (Mac)

If you read the above description and felt like you were missing out because you were on a Mac, fear not! ByWord is quite similar to ZenWriter, and although I haven’t used it personally, it comes highly recommended from folks like Michael Hyatt.

If you’d rather write text “Matrix-style”, be sure to check out the super minimal WriteRoom (Mac) and DarkRoom (PC) as well.

3.) Readability

I describe this as a “writing tool” because it’s most useful for creating awesome content. Most importantly, it allows you to read interesting content without being distracted.

I challenge you to install it. Go to a really long article like this one, and see if it makes a difference in helping you finish. With an amazing selection of typography and minimalist styles, you’ll be able to consume great content faster than ever before, which will lead to better writing.

4.) Logline

This may seem like a strange choice, since it’s something that’s recommended for “screenwriters”, but I’ve found that the platform is perfectly suited for any sort of long writing project, just like (you guessed it!) e-books.

Logline says it best on their homepage: “Logline helps you build the high-level outline of your story as well as the finer details of your script.” Replace script with a generic term like information and you’ll see why I love this for any larger writing project.

Productivity Tools

5.) Teux Deux

While some of my co-workers swear by things like the Flow App, I’m still stuck on the minimalist design of the classic Teux Deux calendar.

Clear of everything but the basics, it allows you to create a simple to-do list for the week, and click things as “crossed off” once you’re done. Perfect for not getting bogged down in excess features.

6.) StayFocusd (Chrome)

If there’s one thing about writing web specific content, it’s that there are few mediums as addictive as the gosh darn internet! If only using a typewriter was still a feasible option for my freelance projects, I’d probably be able to churn out 20,000 words a day! 😉

Stop the distractions and procrastination with StayFocusd for Google Chrome. This extensions allows you to block all of your most distracting websites (like Facebook, Reddit, or Pinterest) after a certain amount of time, allowing you a small block of time to slack off or check for new updates, but limiting yourself from “binge” sessions.

7.) FocusBooster / Strict Pomodoro

I add these in almost every list concerning productivity. I’m a Pomodoro Technique junkie! If you’re not familiar, it consists of working for 25 minutes straight, followed by a 5-minute “cool down” period.

Both of these allow you to keep track of these time frames, so you can keep chugging along for a couple hours in a row. I know a few people aren’t too fond of the technique, but it’s worked wonders for me.

8.) RescueTime

One of the biggest wake-up calls I ever had in relation to my productivity was installing RescueTime. It’s pretty scary how much time you can be spending on “black holes” of the internet.

Time sucks like Reddit and YouTube were taking up a couple hours every week, but I was finally able to see just how much time I was wasting, and now I’ve cut down time spent on those sites immensely.

9.) Controlled Multi-Tabbed Browsing (Chrome)

Such a weird but useful tool! This extension allows you to control how many tabs you have open at once. No more 10 tabs open all at the same time while you’re trying to write!

You probably know by now that your brain is terrible at multitasking, so don’t let it trick you: when it’s time to write, activate this extension and set it to 2-3 tabs so you can research & write at the same time, but nothing else!

Freelance Writing Blogs

10.) WritersinCharge

I mean – obviously! 🙂

Be sure to check out Oni’s “Writer’s Handbook”, it’s a great read on being a successful writer.

11.) Make a Living Writing

Carol Tice gives very concise and blunt advice about what it takes to make it in the industry of freelance writing. She doesn’t hold hands but she is very informative and to the point. I always learn something after visiting her site.

She also pays guest bloggers well (she appreciates good writing it seems!) and practices what she preaches – a great blog to follow for your own journey.

12.) The Renegade Writer

Linda Formichelli currently makes her full-time living as a freelance writer and blogger, and she also has a lot of experience writing for magazines.

I always enjoy Linda’s advice and she can definitely help aspiring writers reach bigger and better jobs.

13.) FreelanceSwitch

This is more of a general freelance blog, but it’s still quite useful. It’s also one of the biggest, so you’ll regularly see posts from some talented freelancers such as Tania Dakka.

Be sure to check out similar blogs such as Work Awesome for more general tips on rocking the freelance lifestyle.

14.) I Will Teach You To Be Rich

This is more of a “side-hustle” blog and a personal finance blog mixed together, but Ramit’s advice (such as things like the briefcase technique) are very useful in helping to find the perfect clients and raise your rates.

Business & Project Management Tools

15.) Mint

I still use mint regularly to keep some basic tabs on my finances. The software is beautiful and it has just as many features as needed.

It can help you set goals on spending & income so you can track your progress on all expenditures (by linking your debit & credit cards) or you can opt to enter purchases manually.

16.) LegalZoom

Once your freelance business starts to make some progress, you MUST familiarize yourself with the necessary documentation for your business endeavors. You will likely only need to file for an LLC if you are the sole “employee” in your freelance operations.

While a website is never a good replacement for consulting a lawyer and an accountant, LegalZoom can help you knock out legal documents in a breeze.

17.) Dropbox

If you plan on using more than one computer to do your work (such as home + laptop), you would be crazy to not at least give Dropbox a try! I know that over at Help Scout, it’s a must for us to use to sync files across all computers.

Dropbox also allows you to free yourself up from any single location (the dream of many freelancers): take your work where you want and have all of your necessary files available from any synced computer.

18.) Gmail Labs

I honestly don’t understand how freelancers handle email without the many cool features in Gmail Labs. Personally, the “Send & Archive” option that is available was a godsend for me!

You can also enable a ton of other great features only available through labs which can help you turn your Gmail inbox into a “get things done” machine. Check out this post to find out more useful apps available in labs.

19.) Yesware

This app describes itself as “email for salespeople”, and although I’ve only been using it fairly recently, I’m quite impressed. With email tracking, pre-made templates and syncing to other products built in. This is a very cool resource you should try out if you want to land more clients.

Many initial contacts (and even sales) are made through email, so it’s an important thing to utilize. Yesware let’s you step up your game by making your inbox seem like a professional arm of your freelance business (which it should be!).

20.) Freshbooks

I’m not sure how freelancers survive without Freshbooks. It’s such a crazy-awesome tool to use for billing and invoices! Personally, I like using software like this to keep things professional and organized rather than relying on those, “Hey, did you pay me yet?!” emails.

Keep track of billing for different clients, send out invoices to separate email accounts in a single click. Never lose track of who owes you money with this great accounting tool, it’s one of the most necessary for freelance writers out of this entire list.

21.) Bidsketch (bonus!)

Last but not least, we just know that all freelance writers are going to love how Bidsketch tackles proposals. No longer will you have to waste time creating + designing them, and you’ll now be able to land more clients than ever by sending out sleek, professional looking proposals that outline exactly what work needs to be done.

Your Turn

Let me know in the comments which tools you use in your freelance writing business that weren’t mentioned here, I’d love to check them out!

About the Author: Gregory Ciotti is the content guy at Bidsketch, the proposal software that allows you to create beautiful project proposals for freelance clients… all without a designer! Get more from Greg on the Bidsketch blog.

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Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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