Freelance writers are always looking for ways to streamline the drudgery we often don’t get paid for – things like finding new gigs, doing background research and keeping tabs on pitches.
These 10 useful online tools can help you cut back on administrative work, so you can spend more time being creative.
Grammarly is an incredibly powerful grammar checker that identifies hundreds of types of writing mistakes.
Unlike Microsoft Word, Grammarly finds correctly spelled words used in the wrong context, like “affect” vs. “effect.” It also highlights long, clunky sentences and suggests improvements.
Grammarly is available as a free extension for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. It works anywhere on the Web, so you can use it for your Gmail messages, social media posts, Web forms, and blog posts.
A premium version of Grammarly with even more tools is also available.
It’s easy for a phrase you saw elsewhere to percolate into your brain. That’s where Copyscape comes in.
Copyscape Premium lets you checks your content against what’s on the web before you submit it.
If you’re a blogger or editor, you can also use Copyscape to scan the Web for duplications of your online content, and find out how to get them removed.
While there’s a built-in counter in your word processor, WordCounter.net does so much more.
Simply paste your text into the box to see basic counts, estimated reading level, reading time, and speaking time – all for free.
It will even keep your SEO on track by summarizing keyword density.
Sonar is a submission tracking tool for Windows. You can enter details about specific works and markets, including submission dates, status, notes and editorial contacts.
Keep in mind that Sonar is very basic. There’s no reporting functionality, and it doesn’t display simultaneous submissions of the same work.
Still, it gets the job done, and unlike other submission tracking tools, it’s completely free.
Hubspot’s popular blog topic generator will come to your rescue when you’re short on post ideas.
Enter up to three keywords (preferably nouns), and HubSpot will churn out five titles.
The titles won’t always be a perfect fit, and you’ll need to revise for grammar. Think of them as a jumpstart for your brain.
No list would be complete without the Writer’s Market, which lists details and writer’s guidelines for thousands of publishing outlets.
While there are a few similar databases you can use for free, the Writer’s Market is by far the most comprehensive resource for identifying newspapers, magazines, book publishers, and online publications in your field.
Going with a subscription instead of the print version means that you’ll always have the most current information.
UpWork is the leading online job board for the gig economy.
While it’s true that hoards of clients offer rock-bottom rates, there are enough serious companies to make UpWork a decent place to find new projects.
Freelancers with expertise in technical writing, marketing and similar fields will have the easiest time scoring jobs that pay well. It’s also helpful to research what successful freelancers do and look at their profiles.
ZonePDF offers tools for splitting and combining PDFs.
You can convert JPG, PPT, Word, and Excel files to PDFs, for example, then merge them together.
It’s useful for technical writers who need to integrate various screenshots, spreadsheets, and pages extracted from existing PDFs into a report. You can also split a client’s background document and repackage a single page in a new file.
This online note-taking software is perfect for collecting and organizing your background research.
Much like your desk drawer, you can basically throw anything into Evernote, including images, PDFs, text, audio recordings and more. Just forward your emails to a personalized Evernote address to add them to your account.
All of these items are “notes,” which Evernote organizes into notebooks. You can also create new, text-based notes directly in Evernote, and upload file attachments to them. Tags and OCR search capability make it easy to find the note you need.
Try creating a notebook for your next piece, and putting everything you need in it, including:
- Screen captures of your web research
- Writer’s guidelines
- Relevant emails
- Your to-do list for that piece
- A recorded interview
It’s the easiest way to store many different types of information in a single, searchable location you can access from anywhere.
Evernote is also the quickest way to snag and save copies of your work as it appears on the Web. That way you’ll always have a copy for your portfolio, even if a link goes dead a year or two down the road.
If you have a personal blog or website, there’s a good chance you’re using WordPress.
Originally a blogging platform, WordPress has become a full-fledged web content management system in its own right.
Countless businesses now use WordPress for their blogs and websites, so more writing gigs require familiarity with it. If you don’t know how to use WordPress, you may be losing out on jobs you’re a perfect fit for otherwise.
Freelance writers are masters of multitasking, but we put a lot of time and effort into making it happen. Spending a few minutes to explore these tools will help you minimize the mundane going forward, so you can focus on your craft.
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