While freelance writing is a solo career with a majority of the workday being spent alone, it requires a bit more than just a keyboard and an internet connection to be successful. Like any trade, you need to have the right tools to do the right job. For writers, most of these tools can be found online or, if you’re old school, in books! I am constantly looking for new tools to improve my craft and continue to add them to my toolbox as I find them. Now I’d like to share them with you! Some of these online tools are obvious, but others might be new to you. Now, I’m not saying these are the best writing tools available, but they are the best ones that I have found so far…and you can use them all for free (with some offering premium upgrades for more functions). Please enjoy these ten online writing tools and let me know about any of the cool tools you are using to make your writing life better.
The headline is the very last thing that I write before I send an article to a client, but it is arguably the most important part of any assignment. Clients often provide a title to give me an idea of what they want me to write about, but it is rarely the title that ultimately gets used. When I first started freelancing, I didn’t put much thought into the title. I just came up with the obvious choice and moved on. Then one day a client required that my headlines score at least a 70+ on CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer…and that changed my life! Now I’m obsessed with coming up with the highest scoring headlines I can create for every article I write. It’s a game for me now. You put in one headline after another, and it shoots out an instant score and analysis based on a pretty complex set of factors. It’s quite fun, and my headlines are better than ever.
The headline for this article earned a score of 72!
This program is not for every article, but it is useful for clients who want to “dumb down” complicated material. I use this site regularly for a company that wants their tech-heavy blog posts to be understandable to international readers. This particular client requires their articles be at an 8th or 9th-grade reading level. No easy task with words like “digitization” in every paragraph, but it can be done. By pasting an article into the Hemingway reader, it analyzes it and assigns a grade level. Hard to read sentences get highlighted with different colors, so you know which ones you need to rewrite. While editing, the grade level is always moving up or down, so it’s easy to track your progress. It also helps to improve your sentence structure by highlighting adverbs, passive voice, and complex words.
This paragraph started out at a 12th-grade level, and now it is a 10th-grade level!
Simply put, I would not have become a successful freelance writer without Grammarly. It has improved my writing skills a thousandfold, and every day I learn something new about how I write. Grammarly highlights your writing mistakes quickly and offers suggestions for how to fix them, which is great because you don’t have to figure out what is wrong on your own. You can check for plagiarism (premium version only), which is essential in the freelance game because clients have no patience for duplicate material (even by accident). I also use the plagiarism checker on occasion to see if my own articles are being stolen…and they have been! While the free online version is useful for basic use, it is well worth the money to subscribe to the premium version if you are working as a paid writer. It is not cheap, but premium users can save articles online, and the program can be downloaded to work with Word, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, and your emails.
This paragraph had one sentence that was not original, even though it was created in my head and not stolen from the thrift store site that has a similar sentence!
Trello is an organizational system that helps keep anything and everything organized on the desktop with boards, cards, and lists. As an overly organized Scorpio, I loves me a good list! There is no limit to how many boards, cards, and lists you can create, and there are endless color-coding options. While I have not upgraded to the paid version yet, I do find the free version to be helpful enough that I don’t feel the need to pay for it. The paid version has all kinds of fancy bells and whistles, but I’m fine with the free version for now. The best feature is the timer setting so that you can give everything a deadline. As the deadline approaches, the cards change color to put a little extra pressure on you to finish each task. I don’t know about you, but I like a program that nags me to get shit done!
Oh look, just checked off another item on my Trello list…this article!
Without a doubt, Canva is probably my favorite online tool! While I don’t necessarily use it for clients, I always use it to promote my business stuff. Canva is a graphic design program that makes it easy to create digital artwork. I use it for just about everything I do online to market my business. I make all of my own art for my social media pages, websites, articles, blogs, emails, birthday cards, party invitations, and anything else that I want to personalize. The best part of using Canva is that you can easily create the exact size you need quickly and easily. There are templates for just about everything you can think of, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and custom sizes. The professionally designed templates need just a few tweaks to personalize them, or you can start from scratch. While the free version is robust and useful for nearly everything, there is also a paid version (which I now use) that makes resizing art, saving templates, and sharing easier. There are thousands of free photos and graphics, and the paid ones are just a dollar each. If you are crazy about graphics, then this online tool is a must-have!
Enjoying the graphic arts on my site? I made them with Canva!
For quickie art that you can throw together in under a minute, Pablo is the way to go. This is a Buffer product, and it is probably the simplest, fastest graphic art program out there. Just choose a quick photo, pop in some text, download it, and you’re done! It is perfect for quick quotes of the day or title cards for your blog posts.
When I don’t have time to create a masterpiece, I use Pablo…no offense to Picasso!
Hootsuite and/or Buffer
To be honest with you, I’m torn between two lovers…feeling like a fool! I really, really, really love Hootsuite for my social media management, but Buffer is starting to sweep me off my feet. I like the user platform of Hootsuite because it’s easier to see who I’m following, who’s following me, what I have scheduled to post, and what I have already posted. But Buffer has some great qualities too that might be winning me over. I was initially turned off by Buffer’s simple user platform because it’s just not pretty to look at…and I’m shallow! However, I subscribe to some of Buffer’s training emails, and they are always working on adding new, fun, and useful stuff. In other words, Hootsuite is my hot boyfriend who I get along with fine and stay with because he’s so damn good looking. Buffer is the nerdy guy at work with the glasses and no fashion sense, but he’s smart, funny, and has a great personality, so he’s starting to look more attractive these days. I just can’t choose, so I’m going to keep seeing them both secretly. Either way, a social media management system is essential, and either one will do the trick.
Hootsuite connects with more networks, including Instagram and YouTube…Buffer lets me down here, but he’s trying his best to keep me interested with other cool tools.
As you can tell, I love a good Gif! There is nothing that can quite express my feelings about things more than the perfect video clip that plays on an endless loop. Giphy is a good place to start to find random Gifs, but I mostly use it for its uploading capabilities. If you have ever tried to post Facebook Gifs, you know that it’s a pain in the butt! However, Giphy makes it easy to convert Gifs into Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram-friendly posts. You just upload any Gif you find on the internet, click on the share button on your favorite social site (or copy the embed code), and you’re done.
Do you say Gif as in gift or jiffy? Who cares, just upload them and enjoy!
Dictionary and Thesaurus
One of the biggest misconceptions about writers is that we are all grammar experts, know the meanings of every word in the English language, and never need to look things up. Not true! There is no shame in my game to admit that I look up grammar rules and word meanings all day long. I have probably searched about a dozen words today writing this one article. It’s not that I don’t know the meaning of (most) words, but I always want to make sure that I am using them correctly and that they actually mean what I’m specifically trying to say. I often find words that have a different meaning or emphasis than I thought before looking them up. This usually leads me over to the thesaurus to check out other synonyms that I may want to use instead. It is always a fascinating journey (as any word lover knows), and I simply could not get through my writing day without an online dictionary and thesaurus.
Speaking of grammar rules, I have yet to find a free online source that offers answers to all of my burning grammar questions. I am a dyed in the wool Chicago Manual of Style gal and still peruse my hardcover copy just for fun. However, I often look up questionable grammar words online every day, and my favorite source that always gives clear explanations is Grammar Girl. Want to know the difference between among and amongst; historic and historical; or peek, peak, and pique? Grammar Girl has you covered! You will always find something new on her social media pages, as well as the podcast.
Grammarly is good at catching most grammar mistakes, so I don’t have to look things up as much…but I still do because I am the Mother of Word Dragons!
What’s in your writing toolkit? Leave a comment and tell us about it.