Some of the best writing tools to get work done
In the 6 years I’ve been working as a freelance copywriter, my technique has changed a lot. In the beginning, I worked as a freelancer during my 2 days at home from my part-time job. I was also looking after a toddler so it was all about finding snippets of time between her nap to write, pitch and invoice. I had no systems, no website and no actual process – I’d think of an idea, pitch it to a publication and hope for a positive response.
These days, it’s pretty different. I have triple the number of children, no part-time job to fall back on and thanks to the wonder of school and childcare, set days I do my work in.
My process has changed a lot. I realised I prefer writing websites and blog posts so have changed the way I work. With my website and marketing, I attract more long-term clients and love to help them achieve their goals.
I’m also supported by a variety of systems. As I have limited hours (don’t we all!), I have to be pretty careful with my time. When I sit down to work, I need to be productive. Over the years, I’ve worked out which writing tools and techniques help me be the most effective and which ones don’t. Here are the copywriting tools I use every day.
1. Asana – productivity tool
I know lots of writers are pen and paper people. They love pretty stationery and the satisfaction of crossing off their to-do list with a pen. I’m not one of those writers.
I’ve always worked in the digital industry, and I like my to-do list online. That way, I can access it easily, I can add links and other bits of information and I can categorise it into pretty colours.
I’m pretty much useless without Asana. I set every task into client folders and use a calendar format, so I know at a glance what type of day it’s going to be. I have scheduled tasks like meetings and regular articles in there so I don’t lose track.
2. Rounded – accounting software
Accounting software is a relatively new tool for me, but I don’t know how I lived without it. I used to put all my earnings into a Google Sheet and would send my invoices from word documents.
Now that I’ve set up accounting software, it’s SO MUCH EASIER. My accountant has a login so I can just send it to them at tax and BAS time. It’s attached to my bank account so I don’t even have to input expenses, I can just tick a box.
Little time saving writing tip – I have a lot of clients that I invoice at the end of the month because the amount of articles I write varies. As soon as I send an article, I add that to the draft invoice. Then when the end of the month comes, I’m not wondering what work I’ve done, it’s all there. It saves me so much time.
There are heaps of accounting software products out there, like Zero and Quickbooks. I chose Rounded because it’s Australian, is designed for us self-employed people and their support is amazing.
3. ProWritingAid – writing checker
As a writer, I like to think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the English language. But we all make mistakes, wright? Just kidding, right? ProWritingAid is a grammar checker and style editor that you can integrate into Microsoft Word and Google Docs. I use it for every article I write, mainly to check typos and to make sure my readability is ok.
I’ve also tried Grammarly and OutWrite, but I think ProWritingAid is the best. I bought the lifetime subscription last Black Friday and I recommend keeping a lookout for their sales.
4. BrainFM – productivity music
I was sceptical about using the BrainFM app to begin with. Afterall, couldn’t I just listen to Spotify? But when I listen to Spotify, I hum along. Or wondering where I’ve heard that song before, and then I end up googling it. Focus gone.
With BrainFM, it uses a science-first approach to create music that helps you be more productive. In my opinion, it works. I use the 30 minutes creative flow mode (my favourite is piano) when I want to write an article quickly. It gets me straight into the creative headspace. Rather than freaking out about an empty page, I just start writing something and go back and finesse it later.
5. SEMRush – SEO
I’ve tried quite a few SEO tools (Moz, KW Finder, Ubersuggest) but I keep coming back to SEMRush. Why? It’s so comprehensive. I can do keyword research, competitor research, check how my site is going and work out what I can do to improve it.
I also really like the SEO Writing assistant add-on with Google Docs as I can check my SEO as I write and make sure I’m on track.
6. Timeneye – time tracker
Tracking my time is important to maximise productivity and make sure I’m not wasting time on stupid tasks. I also have a few clients that I bill hourly, so I need to remain accountable.
I use Timeneye for tracking time; I like how I can break it up into clients, then individual projects/articles within that client. It’s on my phone too, so when I’ve forgotten to turn off the timer, I can turn it off from the football field/school pickup/couch.
7. TapeACall – call recorder
Everyone has a distinct style when doing interviews. Some people record them and get them transcribed. Others write notes in shorthand and transcribe it themselves later. Me? I record the conversation but also type furiously throughout the interview. I find it’s the best way to get down the key quotes while also having the backup of the recording for me to check up on later.
Some people call on speakerphone and record their interviews using the computer, but I’ve always loved TapeACall to record my interviews. It’s an app on the iPhone and you simply call the TapeACall number, then add your interview subject’s phone number and merge the calls. Of course, I always check with the interviewee if I can record them for my notes. Media law 101!
The writing tools I use occasionally
I also use lots of writing tools every so often. For these, I stick with the free versions unless I need to upgrade for a particular client need.
When I’m stuck for a word, I turn to wordhippo. It’s basically a thesaurus but I’ve found it to be far more comprehensive than other sites out there.
Canva is great for social media posts and design for laypeople like myself. I used to pay for Photoshop but I didn’t get enough use from it whereas I can design and edit using canva and support an Australian company.
Slickplan is for website sitemaps. They also have content markup and design capabilities.
4. Screaming Frog
Screaming frog allows you to crawl websites. You can do a quick look at how many pages have the right tags and meta descriptions so you can help improve onsite SEO.
When I’m starting a website copywriting project, it’s sometimes helpful to do a mockup of how I want the words to look. Draftium is a prototyping wireframe tool that allows you to choose from various website templates.
Sometimes I’ll mock up an entire prototype for a client, or I’ll insert various template designs into my writing document.