If you’re anything like me, you realized that becoming a freelance writer meant you had to find the best tools to organize your work and schedule.
You might have already spent hours looking for the best applications, tools, software, and websites that can help you along.
And if you’re already in the freelance writing game, the software below will prove useful as they’re updated for 2020.
This list will make your work easier by organizing your ideas, tasks, and files. You’ll also improve communication with clients, track hours efficiently and stay focused.
We’ll cover idea generation tools, editing software, graphic design software, website hosting, and a slew of other areas every freelancer needs. Let’s get started.
1. Google Keep
Google Keep is a basic, no-frills note app that offers cloud storage so you can access your ideas on all devices. It’s free, easy to use, accepts various media, and you can integrate your content into Google Docs.
Alternatives: Evernote, OneNote, SimpleNote, Bear, Zoho.
Evernote is my go-to app for jotting down ideas and doing a quick brainstorm when I’m browsing the web. It’s widely used and comes with more features than Google Keep like web-clipping and notebooks.
Evernote has free and paid options available — I’m on the free plan. It comes in browser or as a desktop program, and in app form. It’s cloud-based, easy to use, and integrates with many other software.
Alternatives: Google Keep, Bear, OneNote, SimpleNote
Grammarly is a proofreading and grammar-checking software that helps keep your writing error-free . It prevents you from sending out typos, and, if you get the pro version, cleans up your content pretty well for readability.
Whenever I want to start writing a post, article, or anything else, I click my Grammarly Chrome plug-in and get to work — like right now. I’ve used both the free and premium versions and the latter is definitely worth it, but not a must.
Grammarly is offered as a web tool, a browser extension, a desktop app, a mobile app, and a Microsoft Word add-in. The app is minimalist and elegant and is a must-have for anyone who writes on-the-go.
Alternatives: ProWritingAid, Ginger, WhiteSmoke
The Hemingway Editor, named after Ernest Hemingway, is an online web app that aims to give your writing brevity. The screenshot below gives you an idea of what it does.
With the use of color-coding, you’re alerted to unnecessary adverbs, passive voice usage, hard-to-read sentences, and suggestions for using simpler words.
Text formatting is available within the app itself. You’re also given the reading time, as well as letter, character, word, sentence, and paragraph counts.
Alternatives: Grammarly, ProWritingAid (but they each have unique features).
5. Toby Tab Manager
I’ve recently started using this browser extension and I already love it. Toby is a plugin that organizes browser tabs in an easy-to-use fashion that looks gorgeous. It’s basically a better bookmark organizer than whatever your browser offers.
When I have an idea and want to gather sources, I’ll typically open five tabs minimum for future reference. Once I do that, I click the Toby extension, save my session, and rename it appropriately.
Alternatives: OneTab, Tabli, Cluster, Workona
6. Marinara Pomodoro Assistant
The Pomodoro technique is well-known for boosting productivity. I use the Marinara Pomodoro assistant because it offers background noises, tracks my Pomodoros, and gives lots of options others don’t.
Alternatives: Timer 25, Pomodoro Timer Pro, Pomotodo, FocusMe
7. Toggl Time Tracker
Toggl is a free time-tracking software that works both online and offline and is available for desktop, iOS, and Android. It’s cloud-based, easy-to-use, and integrates with Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
With Toggl, you can track time manually or or as you work. For remote workers, Toggl is ideal as it allows you to share reports with clients. It also has features like “idle detection” (it stops tracking when you’re idle for a certain period of time) and a built-in Pomodoro timer.
Alternatives: Time Doctor, Hubstaff, Paymo, FreshBooks, Everhour
7. CoSchedule Headline Checker
If you haven’t heard before, CoSchedule has a free headline checker that is incredibly useful and easy-to-use. Once you enter your potential headline, you’ll get a score and see where your headline is lacking.
Strong headlines are crucial if you want to attract an audience, and it’s a must-have for good SEO practice. If you have a weak headline and great content, chances are you won’t get readership.
Alternatives: Advancer Marketing Institute, Sharethrough
8. XMind Mindmapping
Mindmapping is great for organizing related ideas around a single topic and for connecting several topics together. I use Xmind to accomplish this.
For example, I created my free checklist for new freelance writers PDF by brainstorming on XMind. The app is available for Mac, Windows, and mobile.
Alternatives: Mindomo, Freemind, MindNode, MindManager
9. Cold Turkey Writer
Cold Turkey Writer is a tool that blocks you out from the world and forces you to just write. The design is very minimalistic. You either have to type a certain number of words or write for a specific duration.
This tool offers a fun and productive challenge for writers. For topics that don’t require much research or are based on your personal experience, Cold Turkey Writer will force you to at least get started.
10. Google Drive
You probably already use Google Drive in some capacity but I’m still going to mention it here. Clients often work with Drive and you should, too.
Google Drive is free to use, easy to navigate and cloud-based. If you opt for the personal use version like me, you’ll get 15 GB of storage free. So far, that’s enough to suit my needs.
You’ll need Google Drive if instructions are sent in Google Docs, for client onboarding, possibly for social media scheduling.
Alternatives: Dropbox, OneDrive, pCloud, Sync
Ah, Trello… perhaps my favorite organization tool in this entire list. Trello is a web-based project management software for individuals, teams, or both. It has a free option which has worked fine for me so far.
Trello is simple once you understand how it works. It integrates with a number of applications and offers power-ups to enhance your productivity.
Trello has a very user-friendly look and feel and your boards can be personalized (as you can peek in the screenshot). I’ve gone more in-depth on how I use Trello here.
Alternatives: Asana, ProofHub, Avaza
Canva is the go-to for freelancers, influencers and anyone without professional graphic design skills — and some who do. Canva makes it easy to prepare professional-looking designs for almost any event or platform.
The website-based tool offers an array of templates to choose from. You can also start from scratch. You can go pro, but there’s a feature-packed free version. I’ve used Canva for social media for myself and clients alike.
Alternatives: Design Wizard, FotoJet, Desygner, Stencil
Slack touts itself as a team-based approach to communication that will help you do away with the need for emails. Although Slack mainly caters to companies, I’ve used it for a couple of clients and it is, indeed, better than email.
Alternatives: Hangouts Chat, Chanty, Microsoft Teams, Rocket.Chat, Discord
14 & 15. WordPress & Elementor
WordPress is a Content Management System and open-source software used by half the internet for websites. I created both my sites using WordPress through my web hoster. Right away, I used the Elementor plug-in to make site design easy.
WordPress has a free version but you’ll want to get a paid account so you don’t have a “wordpress.com” domain name. So far, I have no complaints,but there is a learning curve and some free alternatives are easier to get around.
Alternatives: Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Joomla!
Buffer is a web-based social media management tool that I’ve used in collaboration with clients. It allows you to schedule and publish social posts with ease. Character count and hashtags are integrated.
Buffer has a free and paid option — again, I’ve been using the free version. Buffer allows you to upload your own image, video, and even GIFs to post. The browser extension saves content for later use.
Alternatives: HubSpot, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Sendible, TweetDeck
Copyscape is a web-based software that your clients may already be using to check for plagiarism. Get ahead of them by using Copyscape, which is both free and easy to use.
The site detects any duplicate content on the web, so you can also use it to check if someone is copying your work. To check content before it’s published, you’ll have to get the premium version.
Alternatives: Grammarly, ProWritingAid, WhiteSmoke, Plagiarisma
18. Hubspot Topic Generator
I don’t always run out of topic ideas, but when I do, Hubspot’s idea generator comes to my rescue. With five nouns, you get five topic ideas for your blog or an article.
If you opt to give Hubspot your personal details, you’ll get 250 more blog ideas to work with. The topic generator is straightforward and free. Not all the given topics are sensible, but you can definitely get a lot out of it.
Alternatives: SEOPressor’s Title Generator, TweakYourBiz, BlogAbout
19 & 20. OneLook & RhymeZone
As writers, we constantly have to double-check word meanings, look for synonyms, and make our text sound more eloquent. OneLook is my go-to dictionary for these tasks.
If you’re looking for words that sound similar to perhaps name a website, check out RhymeZone. Both these websites look a bit old school but they get the job done in a convenient, straightforward manner.
21 & 22. Coffitivity & YouTube
I’ve been saying I need to get out of the house to work for ages. Luckily, I can listen to the morning murmur of a coffee shop thanks to Coffitivity. This popular web app is beloved by many writers.
Coffitivity only comes with three free clips, however. If you’re not willing to pay more, feel free to take advantage of the increasing number of lengthy productivity-enhancing music available for free on YouTube.
Alternatives: Brain.fm, Noisli, Noize.ml, Focus@Will
23 & 24. Scrivener and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing
Two tools I haven’t used extensively but which have received raving reviews from writers are Scrivener — for long pieces of work — and Streak — which integrates with Gmail to create a client pipeline.
One more tool, which I used years ago to increase my typing speed is a software program called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Remember, there’s only so much work you can produce if you can’t type fast enough.
And there you have it, the ultimate list of tools that all freelance writers should get their hands on to maximize their productivity from start to finish.
Without the above, I don’t think I would have made it this far in my freelance writing career. If you’ve come across other great tools that I haven’t listed here, leave a comment and let me know!