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.

How to Find Hashtags: Tips and Tricks to Gain Followers

How to find hashtags, how to use hashtags, what are hashtags, and everything in between.

This is a guide for how to find hashtags and how to use hashtags to grow your audience. Yes, you can make up your own. Yes you can do it to be funny or ironic. However, if you’re using hashtags to be discovered by people you don’t already know or who don’t already follow you, this approach doesn’t really serve you.

How to find hashtags

Up until 2007 I only knew of # as “pound sign.” Then one day, when I was living in England, I was given a gate code.

“It’s 4-8-6-3-hash.”

Wait, what?

Maybe it was a button called hash. I don’t know, maybe it’s a British thing.

The five minutes at the gate staring for the hash button was one of the longest, most awkward feeling I’ve had in some time. I can’t remember how I got out through the gate in the end, maybe someone came over and showed me which button was hash. Sigh. Canadians, amiright!?

Fast forward and everyone knows what # means. We just don’t know how to find hashtags

OK maybe my wording isn’t quite right. We see hashtags everywhere but we don’t know which ones to use or how to use them right. I know this because I’ve been to a bazillion social media events and that question comes up every time.

And I’ve heard all sorts of answers to the question. All sorts. No wonder everyone’s so confused. When there’s a cloud at the pulpit there’s a fog in the pew kind of thing. Blind leading the blind. Oh, and what about hashtag strategy?

Gah.

Perhaps you’re getting the sense we have a lot to cover here. You would be correct. This is going to be at least a four-part series. Here’s how I see it going.

  • How to find hashtags
  • How to use hashtags on Instagram
  • How to use hashtags on Twitter
  • How to create a hashtag strategy

But we could go deeper.

First, what are hashtags?

A hashtag is a word or phrase used on a social media platform preceded by a hash or pound sign (#)

That’s it. And I know if you see them around and don’t use them much you are thinking “why would I have to find hashtags? Anything’s a hashtag. #hashtag is a hashtag.

Yes. But if you’re trying to grow your audience on social media using the right hashtags in the right way can be a key strategy to growth. SO. How do you find those hashtags?


Hashtags are essential because when used properly, you gain targeted and engaged followers

Jump start your social media marketing with these 125 writing hashtags

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How to find hashtags

OK, so yes you can make up your own hashtags, but if you’re looking for engagement or want others to discover you, then you should use hashtags other people in your target audience are using. And don’t get me wrong, you can use your own branded hashtags but that is a whole other subject. Right now let’s focus on helping people find you slash your great content by using the right hashtags.

Here are two resources to check out.

Hashtagger

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.

Easy!

Hastagify.me

When I’m more organized this is a fun site to use. You can type in words to the search bar and it displays the top hashtags using fancy charts. How fun!

When you hover over the results it also displays popularity and correlation to your original search term. This is a great way to research hashtags ahead of time.

Fun!

How to find hashtags, how to use hashtags, what <em>are</em> hashtags, and everything in between.</h1> <p>This is a guide for how to find hashtags and how to use hashtags to grow your audience. Yes, you can make up your own. Yes you can do it to be funny or ironic. However, if you’re using hashtags to be discovered by people you don’t already know or who don’t already follow you, this approach doesn’t really serve you. Follow the link and jump start your social media marketing by grabbing 125 writing hashtags.


Jump start your social media marketing with these 125 writing hashtags

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One last comment about hashtags and yes, I’m repeating myself because I’ve heard this push back SO MANY TIMES. Yes, you can make up your own. Yes you can do it to be funny or ironic. However, if you’re using hashtags to be discovered by people you don’t already know or who don’t already follow you, this approach doesn’t really serve you. So yes, go ahead and #makeupyourown but don’t be surprised if nothing happens.

Next time, I’ll outline using hashtags for Instagram because there are a lot of rules to follow and it can be confusing! By special request I’ll also cover the Instagram shadowban, which some swear by and others swear is a hoax. Ooooh drama!

Water Bottle Trends

Water Bottle Trends

Water bottle trends

Earlier this spring, my husband came home with a new water bottle for me. I thought it a bit strange, considering we have literally a cupboard filled with reusable plastic and metal water bottles. But he was swept up in water bottle trends!

“This one is insulated, it keeps your water cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours.”

Whoa. Listening…

“And it’s vacuum-sealed.”

Did any of our other bottles do that? Well, I have no idea. Do I need something cold or hot hours and hours? Now I do!

He picked up the Manna Vogue Insulated Bottles at Canadian Tire. I liked the colour (he chose a shiny teal for me) and the size (it could fit in my purse AND I didn’t have to worry about it leaking/sweating) so was happy to try it out.

And, I like it!

There isn’t too much I can say—it keeps my cold water cold, it is trustworthy (hasn’t leaked even a drop), and it’s simple. The only negative I can think of is it doesn’t hold as much water as I’d like so I have to refill it several times per day. Upside is it forces me to get up from my desk and walk around. So I guess it’s not really a negative.

Once I adapted to my new water bottle I started noticing them everywhere. Everyone has one (and yet I had never heard of nor noticed them before this) and everyone’s selling some version of it. S’well, KINGSO, MIRA, etc.

They’re everywhere.

And that’s not just an anecdote. Forbes says so too. But even more interesting is Sarah Kauss (S’well Bottle founder and bottle designer) said she set out to bring chic, reusable water bottles to the masses and could keep up with a busy schedule and satisfy personal style.

And then I think, hmm, yes. I like the look of this bottle and I think it does fit into my busy life. It also fits into my car’s cup holder and keeps my water cold when I leave it out in the garden all day. Etc.

So. Water bottle trends. Did you know it was a thing? Now you do!

Water Bottle Features

  • Non-toxic, non-leaching, BPA free
  • Made of 18/8 double-walled stainless steel
  • Vacuum sealed, keeps drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours
  • Hand-wash only

Oh, I heard there’s also a Target variety called S’ip. So that’s fun.

What’s a Social Media Manager and Why Should I Care?

But I’m a writer! Who cares about what a social media manager is!

What's a Social Media Manager?

I heard of the social media manager title years ago, but never considered I would or could be one. I figured it was for someone else, someone who went to school for new media or social media management (things that didn’t exist when I did my bachelor of journalism). But then my LinkedIn job suggestions started getting…obvious. Here’s a splash of what I see whenever I check in to see what’s new and who’s hiring.

  • Social Media Coordinator
  • Copywriter
  • Office Administrator
  • An Open Letter to _______’s Future Marketer
  • Client Success Coach
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Social Media Manager
  • PR Consultant
  • Marketing and Events Coordinator
  • Brand Publishing Specialist

Keep in mind these are the jobs posted in the past seven days in my area, which LinkedIn thought I’d be a good match for. If you’re a writer but have collected different skills, experience, connections, etc. you may have a different snapshot. But do you see what I’m talking about?

Two reactions come to mind I must choose between.

  1. Wow, this social network doesn’t know me at all
  2. When did I become a social media manager?

So I begin wondering, what’s a social media manager and is it different from what I’m doing now?

Well I’ll cut to the chase, all 10 of these postings are about the same. The type of work, the skills involved, the experience required, everything. No matter if it’s administrator level, coordinator level, or management level. Now that’s confusing!

This tells me a few things. First, I need to understand all the ways people think of the skills I have—calling myself a writer without attaching any of the other keywords strips out nine of these jobs. Wow. Yet all require the exact same skills. OK…

What now?


Wondering what a social media manager is? Want to be one? Here’s what’s in the social media manager’s toolkit.

  • Fluent in social—all social (paying attention to social trends, dos and don’ts, what’s hot and what’s not)
  • Strong writing skills (with a specialization in content marketing/copy writing)
  • A people-first approach to everything (a service mindset, which not only has you listening to your customers and industry chatter but being engaged in your community)
  • Graphically inclined (not a pro, but you need the basics of design and video production)
  • Comfortable with social selling (and understanding how this is done)
  • Competent at SEO and analytics (yes you will have to run campaigns and reports)
  • Confident public speaker (yes you will have to use Instastories and Facebook Live—you may even have to speak on a panelin person)
  • An understanding of human behaviour (you don’t have to have a psych degree but you do need to understand what works and what doesn’t, what people want and what they don’t)
  • Reasonable budgeting skills (show me the money! Er…show your clients how you’re spending their money!)
  • Adaptable (this industry is like a river—moving fast and constant, you have to keep up with the changes and adapt as necessary)
  • Curious and savvy (in order to succeed as a social media manager, you need to know what works—but if you’re ahead of the curve you’ll be able to move your clients’ business strategies forward faster and won’t be distracted by fleeting trends or vanity metrics)
  • Strong grasp of marketing (specifically strategy and digital, email, and funnel marketing)

If this seems like three jobs in one, you’re right. And if it seems like a lot of different skill sets wrapped up into one, you’re right again. But this seems to be where the industry is at these days and if you want to compete, you need at least a cursory knowledge of these tools.

Keep in mind the typical day-to-day tasks a social media manager executes each day are a little less overwhelming: writing and scheduling posts, running ads, replying to fans, and creating graphics.

See? Not so bad. However, the only way this works is with a strong foundation—a strong social marketing strategy. This is where the real value of a social media manager comes in. If you have good instincts and can build a great strategy for your client, you are going to see great results. So stay at it and invest in yourself!

Wondering what skills you need to be a social media manager? Anyone can schedule social posts and respond to fans. The real value of a social media manager comes in if you have good instincts and can build a great strategy for your client.

Are you looking to level-up your business on social? Need a social media manager? Let’s chat! Respond in the form below or message me on social. Let me know what problems you’re looking to solve and I’ll be happy to send you a quote.

Are you like me? Just discovering you’re really a social media manager (and that’s why you’re so tired)? I’d love to commiserate with you!

Going Viral: Creating Contagious Content

Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Is there a secret? What do viral-video makers know that you don’t? Learn the what and how of going viral and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

Going Viral: The What and How of Creating Contagious Content

It was my niece’s first birthday and her mother threw a party, inviting the whole family to join in on the celebration. Everyone was excited to share in the festivities but the morning before the party, people began cancelling saying they weren’t feeling well.

But this was my niece’s first birthday! A big O-N-E!

With much pressure on, the family came together to save the party. Those who were feeling sort of better were encouraged to show up anyway and give my niece the party she deserved.

So they came.

And it was a lovely time. Good food, good conversations, good feelings all around.

Later that evening…

I haven’t vomited from being ill since I was a child. But vomit I did, from midnight till 8 a.m. the next morning. Who was the culprit? No real idea, since there were a few people at the party who weren’t feeling 100 per cent and we spent the day switching children, changing seats, and grabbing snacks from the same bowls.

And I learned I wasn’t the only one—most of the other non-sick party-goers spent the next day beside the toilet.

It all happened so fast. One moment we were minding our own business, living life like normal, and the next we were swept up into a wave of vomit-filled illness by no fault of our own except for attending the party and enjoying ourselves.

What happened? Our party went viral.


What does “going viral” mean?

Sans vomiting, going viral in Internet terms is seen as a good thing. It’s what happens when a piece of content (article, photo, video, etc.) is shared, copied, and otherwise spread across social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

How many shares does it take before something is considered viral?

I’m sorry to say, there isn’t an exact number. Viral status is achieved when the proportion of people seeing the content and then sharing it increases over what’s usual.

I know, could it be more vague?

Think of viral sharing like a secret. If you share a secret with someone, and that person shares it with someone else and then another, and another, then pretty soon everyone knows your secret. But if the person keeps your secret, that’s where the sharing ends. It’s safe, and no one knows about it.

The simple math of virality

Viral content is relative. When you share a piece of content on social media, how many shares is normal? If you see your shares go up from normal on a couple posts, you can consider those viral. However, if your shares go up and stay up—then it’s the new normal. Not viral anymore.

The more complicated math of true viral content

Of course, a few extra shares here and there doesn’t make a big impact. We want to know about the life-changing kind of viral content like Chewbacca Mom’s laughing video or Mandy Harey’s deaf singing audition for America’s Got Talent. How do you get those?

The next level of viral content

When you level up on going viral this is where stuff happens. On day one a piece of content is shared and you receive your regular likes, shares, and website visits, plus a few extras. This (according to ShareProgress) is called “first generation.” From there, a few of these first generation people share your content on their social channels and some of their friends check it out. They’re called “second generation.” By the second generation there should be more likes, shares, and website visits. Now it’s on the second generation of visitors to share your content. If a few more than the first round do this, then the third generation of visitors should be seeing your content. If this continues then you’ll see exponential likes, shares, and website visits. This is where things get crazy.

In the simple viral example, you’ll have a bump of activity and then things will go back to normal. In the next level of going viral, the momentum grows and keeps growing and, if you’re prepared for it, sends your life in a new direction.


How do I make something go viral?

Yeah, sorry. I don’t know how. Actually, I don’t think anyone does. No matter how many terms I Google, all I come up with is “there’s no formula, there’s no secret.”

But here are a few things you can do to help your content be ready for going viral.

People are more likely to share something if…

  • they have a strong reaction to it
  • they have a positive emotional response to it
  • they feel inspired by it
  • they are surprised by it
  • they find it practical and useful
  • they think it will help someone

Where to go from here

Before you write an article don’t think about what will or won’t make it go viral, instead think about what will help and inspire your audience. Think about what they’d like to read/watch/hear and then create it. Be genuine, be real, and be positive.

Here’s how Derek Halpern says it.

Positive uplifting content always gets shared. Remember, there’s a lot of unhappy people in the world, and while there are different reasons for being unhappy, content that is uplifting and inspirational helps people get out of their rut…even if it’s only for a few seconds.

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to help someone out of their rut today.

Going Viral: The What and How of Creating Contagious Content. Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Is there a secret? What do viral-video makers know that you don't? Learn the what and how of viral content and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

If you need help coming up with content ideas or don’t know who you’re audience is, that’s where I come in. Drop me a line and let’s start a conversation. I’m here to help!