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.



Five Step Social Media Strategy for Writers

Let’s face it. Social media marketing can be overwhelming. The more experts and gurus you listen to, the more steps there seems to be to reach the social media success train. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s your five step social media strategy, aka what to focus on when you don’t have time to be social.

Five Step Social Media Strategy

Because you’re busy and looking for help NOW we’re going to dive right in. Take what you need and do it NOW. Pro tip: Don’t do this all at once, pick what you can do first and work on it first. Then come back and pick another to work on. Then another. Look at it like building blocks—do what you can, master it, then move on to the next step.

Five Step Social Media Strategy

  1. Decide on your objectives
  2. Your options are endless here, but the key is choosing a goal. What are your social media goals? Why are you posting? You need something to keep you focused on the big picture so you keep moving towards your writing/business targets.

    A few objectives ideas: build your online profile, build brand visibility, networking, reach new clients/readers, stay connected with current clients/readers, launch products/books/services.

    Remember: choose one and work on that first. Once you feel like you’ve mastered that objective move on to another, then another.

  3. Choose your social networks
  4. I know you know. You don’t have to be everywhere. However. You do need to be online. It’s where the marketplace is. So you must choose where to spend your social time/energy. There is a lot of advice out there for which networks have the biggest payoff but you will need to decide for yourself what works. A couple questions to consider when choosing your social networks: Where are you most comfortable online? Where are your clients/readers most comfortable online?

    My two cents. If you’re a writer and trying to build your platform as a writer, I recommend Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as your networks of concentration.

    Twitter

    Yes people are saying Twitter is on its way out and yes it’s not the same as it was a few years ago. However. This is where you meet other writers. You know who else you meet on Twitter? People looking for writers. How you manage Twitter is an art in itself (which I plan on writing about soon) but once you have it set up, you will understand why I won’t let Twitter go.

    Twitter is for quick interactions. It’s great for sharing helpful links, meeting new people, and getting ideas. However, it’s not a place to sell. You build relationships on Twitter, 140 characters at a time.

    Facebook

    Yes people are saying you have to pay to play to get any traction on Facebook and yes it’s not the same as it was a few years ago. However. This is where the largest concentration of people who are on social media are. Facebook. Join the conversation.

    If you think of Facebook as a place to host/advertise events, join writers groups, and share your blog posts and article clippings, it may start to make more sense. However, this is not a place to vent your personal feelings about in-the-moment happenings. Yes you see people doing that all the time, but they’re not trying to build a professional brand and they’re using their personal profile to do that. If you think about your professional goals and aligning what you post on Facebook with them, you’ll know what you need to do.

    Instagram

    Yes people are saying Instagram’s shadow ban and algorithm change are messing everything up and yes it’s not the same as it was a few years ago. However. This is where your future fans and readers are. Trust me on this. It’s time to figure Instagram out.

    Instagram is a wonderful place to connect with people as you build your brand. How? Consistency and engagement. That means YOU are consistent and YOU are engaging with others. You can share your writing, post prompts or inspiration, and behind-the-scene peeks at your writer’s life. Images have a way of connecting people with you that words alone don’t. However, this is not a place to post your entire vacation photo album—not when you’re building your professional brand. This is also a place where you do need to engage and be active. If you don’t post and interact with other posts, you don’t grow.

    Wondering how on earth to do this? Read my post on how to build an Instagram strategy. This is one of my favourite client services and I’ve seen this strategy work time and time again.

    Remember: choose one social network and work on that first. Once you feel like you’ve mastered that social network move on to another, then another.

  5. Complete your social media profiles
  6. Not only complete, but optimize. How? I’m glad you asked! Read my post with five tips for optimizing your social media profiles.

    Looking for the quick fix? Here are the main points.

    • Choose a professional/standout profile picture and cover photo
    • Make it easy for people to know who you are/what you do
    • Link to your website
    • Include keywords about your services
    • Be clear on your location/contact info

    My biggest tip for optimizing your social profiles is consistency across platforms. Each network has its own rules for how long your bio can be, what sort of profile image works, and where your website link goes, but if you can keep more or less consistent then you’re on the right track.

  7. Interact with your audience
  8. We talked about this a bit in the social media section but it needs repeating. The point of social media is to be social. I know, you don’t have time to be social. Do you have 15 minutes? Spend 15 minutes a day checking into your two or three chosen social networks and leave comments, reply to comments, and lend your expertise whenever convenient. Trust me, this will expedite your brand building like nothing else will.

    Reminder: You’re not on social media to sell. You’re here to be social. Offer value, compliments, and help. Sales will follow.

  9. Build your promotion strategy
  10. All along we’ve been talking about how you DON’T sell on social media. But you do need promotion. There is a difference.

    In most cases, clients/readers need to know, like, and trust you before they’ll hire you/buy your book. In a virtual world, how do you make this happen? You need a strategy for converting warm leads into clients and retaining existing clients.

    If you can stay in touch in a consistent, helpful, positive way, people who visit your website or connect with you on social will get to know you and will develop trust in you and your brand.

    I know it as a “keep in touch strategy.” I first heard about it when I read Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling. He suggests building an automated strategy using customer relationship management (CRM) software. While that’s something you can build to, there’s lots you can do before investing in a CRM.

    You’ll need to figure out a few things you can do to make people feel special, noticed, and important. Here are some ideas.

    Passive ways to stay in touch

    • Posting regular blog/website content
    • Posting regular social content
    • Share real-life tips and tricks from behind the scenes of your business
    • Commenting on/liking/sharing others’ posts on social media

    Active ways to stay in touch

    • Build an engaged email list and connect consistently
    • Send handwritten notes or cards
    • Live streaming—doesn’t get much more personal than that!
    • Initiate communication
    • Send an article you think your contact would appreciate (personal touch)
    • Become a connector—in helping your connections cross-promote or develop business otherwise (even if it’s without you) you will build so much good will
    • Share gratitude and compliments—recognize others, say thank you, give sincere, public displays of affection

    Remember: choose one and work on that first. Once you feel like you’ve mastered that strategy move on to another, then another.

There, of course, is more. But you don’t have to do it all today. If you’re feeling like you don’t have time to be on social media or you’re overwhelmed with where to start, then please implement this five step social media strategy. It WILL help you! And if you are just plain stuck then I can help. All you have to do is get in touch.

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Let’s face it. Social media marketing can be overwhelming. The more experts and gurus you listen to, the more steps there seems to be to reach the social media success train. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s your five step social media strategy, aka what to focus on when you don’t have time to be social.

Five Podcasts I Love

Looking for a new podcast? Here are five I'm loving right now and a bit about why.

I love podcasts. LOVE podcasts. I’ve loved them since the moment I heard about them (whenever that was) and have dreamed about having my own podcast for years now. I even built a business plan around a knitting-themed podcast but it never launched (still have all my notes though…).

Why are podcasts so great? Well I think it has something to do with the medium. Because I think radio is pretty great too. Listening to a person speak connects you in a way the written word doesn’t, and that’s saying something since writing is my passion. But podcasting? I love podcasts. I like them all: conversations, interviews, monologues, stories, poetry, scripted, silly, and everything in between. I listen to them while I’m working (if I’m doing a brainless task), while I’m driving, at the gym, while I’m walking, when I’m weeding/watering the garden, and whenever I’m by myself. I will listen with my husband while we’re on road trips, but he’s not so open to any and every podcast as I am so our playlist is a bit smaller.

I often am asked what podcasts I recommend so I thought today I’d share my top five of the moment. I’m always listening to more than five but these are five I recommend over and over.

The Fizzle Show Podcast

Podcasts I love, #1: The Fizzle Show

With this podcast, I have an on-again, wow-I’m-sick-of-them relationship but I have listened since the beginning and am still subscribing, so they must be doing something right! Each week the team at Fizzle uploads a new episode aimed at small business owners who want to earn a living doing something they care about. They focus on modern business essentials, self employment, marketing, productivity, work-life balance, and more. Everything in their podcast points back to their small business training courses, which I have subscribed to for the past two years and have found amazing. I trust this team to give me the tools I need to run my business.

Copyblogger FM Podcast

Podcasts I love, #2: Copyblogger FM

I love everything Copyblogger does and when they started podcasting I subscribed to every show. Well, there were a lot of shows and after a while I dropped most of them (or they got dropped…I’m not 100 per cent certain what’s going on TBH) and circled in on my favourite: Copyblogger FM. This is a short-form broadcast with solo shows and interviews focusing on content marketing, copy writing, email marketing, conversion, optimization, and more. They offer a few courses and products but I haven’t taken part (yet). But I do love their advice and would recommend their podcast and blog to anyone interested in improving their online communication.

Myths and Legends Podcast

Podcasts I love, #3: Myths and Legends

This is a new show in my podcast rotation. My husband and I discovered it while on a road trip earlier this year and while I thought it was something we’d listen to when together, I’ve gone ahead and listened to most of the archive plus all the new shows on my own. So I guess I like it. This is a solo podcast telling stories from myths, legends, and folklore from around the world. Some of the stories I’ve heard before, but I don’t think they ever get old. And yes, there are wizards, knights, and dragons—oh my!

Most of the podcasts in my rotation I’ve chosen because I think they can help me move the needle forward on my professional life. This one? Yeah, it’s pure entertainment. Of course there are valuable tips on how to creatively tell stories and create engagement, so I can still say I’m learning something! There seems to be an entire sub-culture around this podcast but I haven’t checked any of it out. So I guess I’m not there yet.

Online Marketing Made Easy

Podcasts I love, #4: Online Marketing Made Easy

I think I have also listened to this podcast since the beginning. This (usually) solo podcast is a smart, in-depth look at online business. It focuses on all sorts of topics like marketing strategy, email list growth, Facebook ads, and more. I trust what I hear in this show to be a few steps ahead of me and teach me what’s going on in the ever-changing world of digital marketing just before I need to know it. I can’t say enough good things—this one has always been on my playlist and I continue finding great value from it. This podcast also points back to various courses you can purchase. I haven’t tried any out but they sound pretty good.

Under the Influence Podcast

Podcasts I love, #5: Under the Influence

Before Under the Influence there was the show’s precursor, The Age of Persuasion. This show also airs on public radio in Canada and the US and I’ve loved everything about it for as long as I’ve known about it. This solo show is as scripted as it gets and while it takes a little getting used to, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Under the Influence is a behind-the-scenes look at the advertising industry and filled with fascinating case studies from the past and present, showing how marketing and human nature intersect. I think it’s so amazing the moment I learned the host was coming to speak at a local event I dropped everything to go. I booked off work, hustled my way into a ticket, walked 18 blocks in the rain, and showed up 30 minutes early to get the best seat. Yeah. Big fan.


And those are my top five podcast recommendations for you! I hope you can find something new and interesting to listen to—something that inspires you to take action on whatever you’re holding back on right now. Oh, and I’m always taking new podcast recommendations too so if there’s one I need to check out please let me know!

You have something to say…but you don’t know where to start.  You’ve got a story to tell…but you’re struggling to find someone to listen.  You’re passionate about spreading the word…but you’re overwhelmed and don’t know who to trust.  You’ve got your business up and running…but you need clients.  My mission is helping you reach your goals, no matter what your “but” is.