I am definitely not someone who nerds-out on the newest freelance writing apps or writers’ organisational tools, but I have to say, there are a lot of super helpful (and easy to use) tools that can make a freelance writer’s life so much easier. In this post I’ve rounded up the best tools I’ve found for freelance writers – I use them all and they have saved me time, money or a mental breakdown (and at times, all three).
The best (free and paid) tools for freelance writers
Just a note to let you know that this post contains an affiliate link, which means I may earn a small once-off commission if you use Rev. That said, I’m not savvy (or stupid) enough to have littered this post with affiliate links – I only ever recommend tools or resources that I use and trust, regardless of any affiliate connection.
While the tools below have undoubtedly helped me streamline my business and make it more efficient, I think it’s really important to say that it’s not necessarily the tools that are the key here, but that you use them to develop a system that works for you.
1. Organisational tools for writers
Are you like me and have hundreds of tabs open on your computer at the same time? One of the best organisational tools I use and that is great for writers to control their multi-tabbing tendencies is Evernote.
I love Evernote because it’s free (well, the version I use is) and if you come across a great idea or article, you can simply click and save it to a folder to read later. And it syncs across all your devices.
You can create folders to organise your content and notes, but I must admit that I just use my Chrome extension to clip articles or websites that I want to come back to at a later time.
Multi-tabs be gone (or at least be diminished. I currently have seven tabs open).
Since I started coaching writers at the start of this year I quickly found myself becoming sick of the email chain that would inevitably happen when we tried to set up times to organise our coaching sessions.
What I love about Calendly is that now I just send people a link to my online calendar and they can see the days and times that I am available and can book in a coaching session automatically.
Calendly also syncs with Google Calendar, Office 365, Outlook and iCloud, and you can also manually make times available/unavailable.
I coach a lot of writers in countries other than Australia and I am hopeless at working out time differences, so I love that when writers book a coaching session with me they choose their time zone and it automatically works out what times I have available in their local time zone.
Calendly has different pricing levels starting at free up to $12 USD per user per month. I think I’m on the middle plan (I guess I really should check!)
I do all kinds of writing work for magazines, newspapers, digital publications, corporate organisations, universities and non-profits.
Mostly I charge by the word, but depending on the client, sometimes it’s a flat project fee and other times it’s by the hour.
So to keep track of the hours I’ve spent on any one project, I use the Hours Tracker app on my phone.
When I was working out how I spent my time, I found the app really useful to notice where I was spending lots of my working day and where I could be a bit more productive.
Now I use Hours Tracker to track my time and my earnings (you can put in your hourly rate for each project), and I also use it to keep note of the hours I use at my co-working space.
I know some members at my co-working space have turned on the location function so it automatically prompts them to log their hours when they arrive at ‘work’. Cool, huh?
2. Transcription tools
I’ve written about this before, but I think the single-most game-changing thing I did for my freelance writing business was getting my interviews transcribed by Rev.
I had dabbled with all kinds of transcription services (like those through Fiverr), but a friend recommended Rev and I have never looked back.
You pay $1 (USD) per audio minute, and while that may seem steep, more often than not it’s mere hours (usually a maximum of 12) before you receive your recording all beautifully formatted and transcribed by an actual human.
Jennifer Gregory talks about how getting her interviews transcribed saves her money and time, and for a long time I wasn’t onboard.
How could it possibly save you money? But it does.
As soon as I’ve completed an interview I send it to Rev and move onto my next task.
Yes, it may cost me $10, $20 or even $40, but just say I am worth (conservatively) $120 hour, spending half an hour of my time (valued at $60 to transcribe a 20 minute interview) just isn’t worth it when I can get it transcribed by someone for $20.
So yes, I can’t rave enough about Rev.
And if you haven’t used Rev yet, you can get $10 (USD) off your first order.
(If you’re after a much cheaper option – you can try Trint a speech-to-text transcription option that costs $15 (USD) per hour of upload. I haven’t tried it yet, but friends have and they say it’s particularly good for speeches or when there is very clear audio.
Or read the comments below for a super tip about an automated transcription service called Temi where you pay 10c/word.)
3. Invoicing software
I think that Wave has to be the best (FREE!) invoicing for small businesses.
I used it for years before I went full time and probably wouldn’t have switched, but as I earned more, my tax was starting to get more complicated and I needed to be using an invoicing system that my accountant also shared.
So I switched to Quickbooks. Do I love it? The short answer is no. (No affiliate link here!)
I was keen to try Rounded, an accounting system built specifically for freelancers (and Australian ones at that) and if I ever ditch my accountant, I may just switch over.
While this isn’t invoicing related, I don’t think I ever would have earned as much as I do without using my simple income target excel spreadsheet – it’s super simple, but super effective. You can download it for free too.
4. Social media management
As a freelance writer I see social media as a bit of necessary evil and try to spend as much time off it as possible.
But I recognise that it’s good to share regular, useful content so I use a social media management tool.
I initially used Buffer, but became frustrated when I couldn’t automatically reschedule tweets to recur (maybe you can, but I’m not the most technologically-advanced writer in the world), so when champion freelancer Ginger Gorman put me onto Social Jukebox, I was sold.
I simply populate my ‘jukeboxes’ (I know, it’s very retro) with useful information that I want tweeted, select the times I want it to tweet for me and away it goes.
5. Keeping track of experts and case studies
Rachel’s List – Toolkit
Before I discovered Rachel’s List’s Toolkit of goodies, I was relying on my memory to locate and relocate useful talent.
Instead, now I use Rachel’s excellent Expert Tracker spreadsheet (it’s $6.95 AUD) and all my contacts are in one place.
It’s been especially useful for me when I’m writing in specific areas such as children’s health or psychology and I want to know quickly who I can call on for an expert opinion.
6. Free images
It’s rare that I’m asked to provide images for my articles, but when I have written blog posts for clients, it has been a request that I’ve received.
I use Unsplash images every week on this blog and I love the variety and quality. I can’t believe they’re free!
Ok so that’s it for my recommendations. I know there are loads of helpful apps for freelance writers and organisational tools that writers can use out there, but these are my go-to favourites.
What writing tools do you use? Do you see any that are obviously missing from my list that I should try?