About Robyn Roste

The short story is I'm a professional writer living and working in Abbotsford, BC Canada.

15 Best Apps for Freelance Writers

Here’s my roundup of 15 best apps for writers. Let me know if I’ve missed anything!

The beauty of smartphones is you can work on the go and have amazing tools at your fingertips to keep you at the cutting edge of the writing game. The downside of smartphones is the sheer volume of options. How do you know which apps are time savers and which are time wasters?

Best Apps for Writers

I should say right off the bat these are my personal choices, customized for the type of freelance work I do. So know that when I say “best” this is subjective. They may not work for you—fair! But if you’re looking for some apps to try out I hope this is an awesome point to help you cut through the overwhelm, maybe save some time testing apps, and get back to your writing!

Content Planning

There is so much pre and prep work for freelance writers. If we don’t stay organized we’re doomed! These are my best apps for freelance writers who want to keep their stress levels down and their desks clutter-free.

Trello

I wrote about my love affair with Trello and how it is helping me stick to my blogging content calendar. However, I also use it for my freelance writing. I create a board for each client and include due dates, assignments, research, etc. and another board for one-off freelance gigs. It’s so much better than flipping through my notebook or digging through email threads trying to remember the focus of an article, when it’s due, or who to send it to.

Basecamp

I didn’t choose Basecamp, Basecamp chose me. This project management software is perfect for teams, so if you’re one of a team of other writers, editors, project managers, designers, developers, etc. you will LOVE this tool. Each project has it’s own space and to-do items and discussions live within the project so you don’t have to do a lot of emailing (I mean, you can if you want). I love that you can put your thoughts into the Basecamp project when you have them, then come back to it when you’re working on it and see all your brainstorms, uploads, photos, (whatever!) in once place.

Feedly

Part of my content strategy is sharing useful articles with other freelance writers and also seeing what people in my industry are talking about. Feedly is how I discover and track content from around the Internet. You set up your lists based on RSS feeds from blogs you want to follow or allow Feedly to suggest blogs based on keywords. As new posts are available, Feedly pulls them into your feed and you devour them as you have time. You can save articles for later, push them to your social sharing apps, and more.

Editing

Even if you’re working with editors you still need your writing to be as clean and correct as possible when submitting work. There are loads of tools you can use but I like to keep my editing simple. These are my best apps for freelance writers to help with editing.

Microsoft Word

For the most part I use Microsoft Word for writing, and I keep my language and grammar checking on with my customized settings but off for auto-correct. Part of my process is to go through my work, reading aloud before submitting.

Hemingway App

This is such a neat tool for helping you rework long, rambling sentences and making stronger word choices. It also helps you change passive voice to active voice (IMPORTANT!), which not only strengthens your writing but also communicates your message better.

Grammarly

Yes. You need to care about grammar. You don’t need to go out and police others’ grammar, but you do need to check your own. This app helps you find mistakes and improve your writing.

Images

When I started freelancing I didn’t need to provide my own images, but these days it’s more like 50/50. You don’t need to be a graphic designer to produce high quality images, you just need to know which tools to use. Here are my best apps for freelance writers for creating awesome images.

Canva

The moment I heard about Canva I knew it was for me. It’s a web-based photo editing tool where you can create branded images, beautiful graphics, and more using pre-made templates or designing your own. It’s easy to use—kind of like a scaled-back Photoshop—and allows you to store your brand colours, images, and templates to use over and over.

Pixabay

Can’t take your own photos? Don’t have time to shoot? No problem. This free stock photography site offers more than a million images and videos including illustrations and vector graphics. It’s worth checking out.

Social Media Planning and Scheduling

I don’t know if you’ll ever get the same answer when asking what someone’s favourite social media tools are. People’s needs and preferences range so much, plus there are always new apps to check out. I’ve tried a LOT of them and will give you my personal best apps for freelance writers who are trying to plan and schedule their social media.

Hashtagger

I wrote about this app when I explained how to find and use hashtags but it’s worth mentioning again here. It’s such a great tool! There are lots of hashtag discovery apps, but this is the one I like for finding popular hashtags around a certain word or phrase when I’m on the go. As in, I’m in the middle of posting and I need hashtags! The app is minimalist—your only option is to search for hashtags. You do this by typing in a word, pressing search, then selecting the hashtags from the list. You can copy up to 30 then paste them all at once into your post or comment on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc.

Hootsuite

There’s a lot to love about Hootsuite. I used to use it for all my social media but I’m finding it has certain limitations so I’m using a couple new tools, which I’ll outline below. However. I’m still team Hootsuite for all of my Twitter management. I schedule posts, track analytics, and keep an eye on the Twitter lists I follow. It’s easy to organize and keeps me sharp.

Recurpost

This is a new tool in my arsenal but I’m done with my testing and think it’s a keeper. This is a “productivity enhancement tool,” which is a fancy way of saying you can manage your social media for multiple platforms from its dashboard. In this way it’s a lot like Hootsuite but where it has a leg up is the content library. Here, I can add evergreen posts and create a schedule around the different libraries. What does this mean? I can not only schedule my social media but I can have it repeat on whatever schedule I desire. I have all my evergreen blogs set up in Recurpost and they now drip out to my chosen social networks on the schedule I set. It is awesome!

Later

Like Hootsuite, this is a social scheduling and planning tool. Unlike Hootsuite, it’s a visual planner. What does this mean? You can plug in your social media posts for the next week, month, whatever, and see how it looks as a collection—this is especially powerful for Instagram. You can also save images, captions, and hashtags in the tool for easy re-use. Once your post is scheduled it either publishes it for you sends a push notification (on Instagram) when it’s time. I’ve used this tool for the past month or so and so far, I like it. The visual plan helps me see how each image works together and helps me stay on brand.

File Storage

If you’re like me, then you’re working on multiple computers, devices, and networks on any given day. What this means is you need everything within easy access. Yes, you can drag your external hard drive around but you can also put everything you need in the cloud. Here are my best apps for freelance writers for working in the cloud.

Google Drive

If you use Google Docs, Forms, and Sheets, then you already know how awesome a partner Google Drive is. You can keep all your documents, images, and whatever else in one web-based place. You can share documents or folders with the click of a button and you can collaborate on documents with ease, adding comments and track changes as needed.

Dropbox

This is similar to Google Drive but more people use it (at least in my circles). Used more for file sharing than anything else, this is a great way to send huge files back and forth. I use it in my podcast editing work and find it not only easy to use but quick and efficient. I have multiple Dropbox folders for different reasons and I can customize which folders download to which computer so it stays clean and simple.

LastPass

You need secure passwords and you also need to log into different accounts a zillion times per day on different devices. And, if your day-to-day work is anything like mine, then you’re logging in and out of various client accounts all the day long. There is NO WAY you’re remembering all those passwords and you are NOT keeping them in your phone or on a notepad. You need them in a password safe. I love LastPass because I can use it on any computer or device and only need to remember ONE password. All the rest are stored in the password safe and are there when I need them.

The beauty of smartphones is you can work on the go and have amazing tools at your fingertips to keep you at the cutting edge of the writing game. The downside of smartphones is the sheer volume of options. How do you know which apps are time savers and which are time wasters?

Well, that’s my roundup of best apps for freelance writers. Hope you can find something awesome to help make your writing life more efficient.

Do you have any suggestions for best apps for freelance writers? Let me know! I’m always looking for new favourites.

What’s an ISBN?

Do I need an ISBN? Do I want an ISBN? Do I have to have an ISBN? What’s an ISBN? Does someone else take care of the ISBN? What’s my responsibility anyway?

ISBN Explained

“What’s an ISBN?” This is a great question! ISBN is an industry acronym, short for International Standard Book Number. I know, jargon. You’re not supposed to use industry jargon. But we’ll let this one pass—just know that ISBN is a number your book gets when you publish it.

Oh wait, so all books get them? So I need an ISBN?

It depends. If you’re publishing your book and selling it on your own, then you don’t have to get one. However, if you want things like distribution and placement in bookstores, then you do need to have one.

Don’t worry if you already published your book without getting an ISBN—you can still get one post-publishing. It’s fine. As long as you have the number you can add it as a sticker to your book or give the number to the distributor. Really, it’s fine.

What if I wrote a book but someone else is publishing it?

Whoever publishes the book obtains the ISBN. Think of it this way. Whoever is taking the financial risk on the book is the person, business, or organization who applies for the ISBN.

Does one ISBN cover an ebook, a paperback, and an audio book of the same book?

No. You will need three separate ISBN’s. Also, if you publish an updated edition you’ll also need a new ISBN for that. Oh, and also a hardcover and in 17 different languages? Yes, all different ISBNs.

Where do I get an ISBN?

Every country has its own way of doing it. In Canada, you apply for an ISBN through the Library and Archives Canada at no cost. In other countries there may be a fee or service charge.

Is an ISBN the same as a bar code?

No. A bar code is a graphic with vertical lines that gets scanned at a retail outlet. The ISBN is a 13-digit number. That said, you can have your ISBN translated into a bar code.

Still more questions? No problem, just let me know. But I hope this has at least unravelled part of the mystery to the question what’s an ISBN. Crazy-boring, hey?

Other resources

Brand Your Blog A Step-by-Step Guide

Brand Your Blog: A Step-By-Step Guide

Want to brand your blog? Here are the things you'll need to think about, decide upon, and commit to if you want your branding to be solid. They’re not hard, but you do need to make some choices, which will affect your future. No pressure.

Brand Your Blog A Step-By-Step Guide

I have blogged for a long time. I don’t know if any of you have followed for the entire journey (like…more than a decade) but if you have you may be aware of a few domain changes, a blog merge, a big old switch from Blogger to WordPress, and then a rebrand. This is where we are today. Post rebrand.

OK, so there are loads of reasons why I’ve made these decisions along the way. Some strategic, some necessary, some whims but the rebrand was the most important move I made. The reason? I needed to. I was a casual lifestyle blogger from start and I wanted to transition into a professional writer. My blog brand (or lack thereof) was holding me back. Was I doing anything wrong? No. But I needed to make a change.

Elements of a Brand

Branding is an interesting science mixed with art but there are consistent elements when you’re looking to brand your blog. These are all things you’ll need to think about, decide upon, and commit to if you want your branding to be solid.

  • Memorable name (not clever)
  • An easy-to-remember (and spell) URL
  • Tagline (what you do and who you serve)
  • Colour palette
  • Branded graphics (like a logo)
  • Consistent fonts and image use
  • Writing voice
  • Blog topics and keywords
  • Publishing schedule

When I knew I needed a rebrand I put it off for a while. I was overwhelmed. There were so many decisions to make and I didn’t know what the right choices were. Or even if there were right choices. I hummed and hawed over all the details and then I reached a decision: I needed help. So I got help. I hired a graphic designer who could help me bring my ideas to life. It was a huge relief to have some of the load off my shoulders and once that decision was made, the rebrand happened in a couple months.

Here’s what I passed off: colour pallet, logo design, font choices, and template design. This allowed me to focus on the foundation of my brand and while I was still part of the process, the load wasn’t so heavy.

This may not be the right decision for you but it was the right one for me.

Why do you want to brand your blog?

A brand lets people know who you are and what you do. Readers new to your site will only stay if you make it easy. If they have to think then they’ll leave. If they’re confused they’ll leave. By having a clear brand, readers will know what to expect. If they like what you do, they’ll stick around. They may even subscribe to your email list.

You might not want to brand your blog. You might not have to—it depends what your blogging goals are. Do you have goals? Why are you blogging?

If you need help setting goals, here’s a good place to start.

And here are a few goal ideas.

  • Gain more website traffic
  • Gain more email subscribers
  • Meet and network with other bloggers/influencers
  • Earn revenue
  • Increase personal expertise
  • Increase platform

If it helps, here are a few of my goals. First, I want people to think of me as a professional writer. I need my website to look and feel professional at a glance. I need my articles to demonstrate my writing skills. I need my blog to get me freelance work.

Long term goals include building my platform, getting an agent, and publishing a book with a traditional publisher.

No pressure, right?

What you need to know

Before you brand your blog there are some other things you need to know, unrelated to branding. However, if you don’t know these things then your branding efforts may be in vain.

  • Your target audience
  • What problem are you solving for your target audience?
  • Your blog’s focus (also called a niche…what do you write about?)
  • Your email opt-in (yes you need one)

I know this seems a bit out of order but I know people love jumping into the “fun” stuff first. You know, the logo and colour palette. So I covered them first. But I hope you understand making these larger, cornerstone decisions are what will allow your brand to communicate to your target audience in the way you intend.

Branding is an interesting science mixed with art but there are consistent elements when you're looking to brand your blog. These are all things you'll need to think about, decide upon, and commit to if you want your branding to be solid.

Since my blog rebrand I have grown into the design. It didn’t fit me right away. I felt like it was too flashy, too out there, too self-important. I had to get used to it. I also had to retrain myself to write about my five chosen topics. This was a huge restriction compared to my previous anything goes approach. So I went slow. And I stalled. And I battled self-doubt and insecurity.

And then I went for it. I made a plan, I set goals (and spoke them aloud), and I grew into my brand. Is it working? Well, I’m on the way. I’m sticking to the plan and I’m seeing some results. Do I have a book deal? Still working on it.

Ready to brand your blog? Let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help.



The Nocturnal Journal by Lee Crutchley [book review]

The Nocturnal Journal: A Late-Night Exploration of What’s Really on Your Mind

The Nocturnal Journal helps readers live with greater freedom and introspection, providing a safe place to reconnect with the most important, and often most neglected, aspects of self. An engaging, supportive, and emotionally aware resource for night owls and insomniacs, this journal teases out the pressing thoughts, deep questions, everyday anxieties, and half-formed creative ideas that need unpacking, bringing more peace of mind and a richer understanding of ourselves.

The Nocturnal Journal. How fun is this idea? If you’re anything like me, there are nights where your brain spins out of control and although sleep is needed, it doesn’t come. As a teenager, I learned to pour my thoughts from my head into my journal—I don’t know if it was the writing/focusing or emptying my mind that did the trick (perhaps a combination?) but it always worked.

But my journal pages were blank. Lee Crutchley’s new book (releasing September 5, 2017) guides the restless (and exhausted) mind through 192 pages of hand-drawn journal prompts like determining what the clouds look like or writing a letter to someone you’ve lost. There are silly prompts, serious prompts, and everything in between. It’s customized for the late-night-can’t-sleep brain, with drawing exercises, writing exercises, and even staring exercises.

This isn’t the kind of book you read from cover-to-cover or even fill out in order. When you’re up at night and can’t sleep, go to the spot that speaks to you and get going.

An engaging and emotionally aware resource for night owls, insomniacs, and anyone else who finds themselves awake at all hours, The Nocturnal Journal will help you explore what keeps you up at night, and why. Prompts and illustrations tease out the pressing thoughts, deep questions, everyday anxieties, and half-formed creative ideas that need unpacking and exploring, bringing more peace of mind and a richer understanding of ourselves.

Although I don’t wrestle with my nighttime thoughts as often as I once did, I have enjoyed flipping through The Nocturnal Journal and allowing the prompts to send my mind in directions I don’t often go. This is a nice way to journal when you don’t have much to say (or don’t know where to start). It also aids in focusing your mind, getting your thoughts organized, and leaving your burden on the page. So you can experience restful sleep.

On the fence about The Nocturnal Journal? Maybe this will help. If you grab your copy now, you’ll get a glow-in-the-dark cover! I mean, who even does that anymore? What a nice touch.


The Nocturnal Journal Synopsis

An insightful, supportive and creative journal for anyone who can’t turn off their restless minds when the lights go out.

An engaging and emotionally aware resource for night owls, insomniacs, and anyone else who finds themselves awake at all hours, The Nocturnal Journal: A Late-Night Exploration of What’s Really on Your Mind will help you explore what keeps you up at night, and why. Prompts and illustrations tease out the pressing thoughts, deep questions, everyday anxieties, and half-formed creative ideas that need unpacking and exploring, bringing more peace of mind and a richer understanding of ourselves.

On these creative and colourful pages, night owls and anyone else who can’t sleep will find inspiration, comfort, and just the right questions and prompts to help sort through the unfinished business of the day (or week or year), offering peace of mind and a window into what matters most.

Part journal, part balm for restless minds, this insightful book is the perfect late-night companion when the lights go out but your brain won’t slow down.

**Order early for a glow-in-the-dark cover (limited edition only)**

Get the Hell Over It by Sarah Beth Moore [book review]

Are you held back by what ifs? It might be time to get the hell over it.

Get the Hell Over It by Sarah Beth Moore [book review]

Do you have a creative dream but don’t know where to start?

Do you wonder if there’s a book in you?

Do you wish you were doing your hobby full time?

Do you want to put yourself/your work out into the interweb but are crippled by the fear of rejection?

Do you have “the fear” from going after what you want in life?

If you nodded at any of these questions then Sarah Beth Moore’s book Get the Hell Over It: How to Let Go of Fear and Realize Your Creative Dream (Weenie-Proofing the Artistic Brain) is a must read.

Our digital age makes it easier than ever to put your creative work (be it writing, art, music, etc.) out there but it comes at a price—What if no one notices? What if it’s terrible? What if you offend someone? What if you fall on your face?

Yes, all of these fears could come true. What does Sarah have to say about it? Get the hell over it. Let go of fear and realize your creative dream.

I swear, and I’m speaking as someone who had a book deal within her grasp and lost it (but that’s a story for another time). Failures are painful, but they are rarely fatal.

Ouch.

Or…maybe this is exactly what you (I) need to hear.

In this quick 12 chapter book of simultaneous straight talk and encouragement, Sarah takes you on a journey through dreaming, discovering what’s in your wheelhouse, discerning between hobbies and careers, relying on yourself, teaching yourself, branding yourself, selling yourself, and (of course) letting go of fear. She includes personal examples from her creative life, highlighting times she was afraid, times she was brave, and times she failed. Because sometimes you will fail, it’s part of the journey.

But what if I fail?

You might. You will. And then you’ll try again.

But what if I fail again?

You might. You will. And then you’ll try again.

But what if…

But what if you succeed?

What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?

Do you need some tough love? Get the Hell Over It is a vulnerable look inside a creative’s life and what it takes to succeed in today’s world. Sarah Beth Moore shares the points on her writing journey where she had to “get the hell over it” and be brave, make a hard choice, try, and what happened after.


Get the Hell Over It: How to Let Go of Fear and Realize Your Creative Dream (Weenie-Proofing the Artistic Brain) Synopsis

Finally: The Real Way to Claim the Profitable Creative Life You’ve Always Wanted!

Cravings. We all have them. But these days, it’s easier to indulge your sweet tooth than it is to reach your wildest dreams. At least, it certainly feels that way. And you know the type of dreams we’re talking about, right? Everything from living where you want and building a career you can pursue around the world, to accomplishments that stand the weight of time. These dreams go beyond hashtags and high-resolution photos, and the best part is that they’re well within your reach. In fact, they’ve always have been waiting for you. But when we’re afraid, it’s hard to pull back that huge curtain of fear and see our heart’s desires. Don’t worry; you just need help putting it all together.

Using your creative talents to build a lifestyle that’s unapologetically, delightfully, and incredibly all your own is beyond satisfying. Sure, you’ve seen examples of other people doing this. And you know deep down it can be done. Yet you’re stuck in your own personal adventure-movie quicksand, with no handy tree branch in sight.

That’s where this book, Get the Hell Over It: How to Let Go of Fear and Realize Your Creative Dream, comes in. Short and sweet with plenty of ideas, this book will give you a sturdy branch to grab onto when the quicksand starts pulling you down. New opportunities for a profitable, creative life await you…if you dare to reach out again.

In this book, you’ll learn how to dodge those big boulders of fear keeping you from the life you really want. However, it doesn’t end there. You’ll also learn:

  • The real way to use failure to your adventure (no pity party required)
  • Realistic exercises designed to trigger ongoing action (who really wants to save the fireworks for the holidays when every day can be a celebration?)
  • How to set your priorities in a way that pulls you closer to your designed outcomes (hint: this lets you get all your goals met rather than having to settle for just a few)
  • A great way to tell the difference between a dream, an outcome, and a mere fantasy – and why these differences matter
  • How to sidestep the people who don’t “get” what you’re doing (so you can make room for the supporters that are dying to cheer you on!)
  • And other bits of advice to help you reach for the stars (or maybe just a nice dinner on the town, nbd)

Maybe you’ve already read a dozen books on following your dreams. That’s okay too. If you aren’t where you want to be, could reading another book really hurt anything? You can’t just sit still, watching yet another year roll by without any of those big dreams coming into reality. Check out Get the Hell Over It: How to Let Go of Fear and Realize Your Creative Dream (Weenie-Proofing the Artistic Brain) today!