Yours truly (hello, Marius here!) has been a freelance writer for years and right now I’m going to share with you 11 tools that will help you with everything from tracking gigs and clients and getting paid, through to brainstorming, drafting and polishing your texts.
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In this article
Freelance writing business tools
NOTION – the everything app (Seriously!)
This is going to sound like I’m fangirling… And I am! Except that I’m male, so I’m probably fanboying actually. Anyways, here goes:
Notion has made such a huge difference to both my professional and personal lives. It’s helped me run my freelance business, manage publishing workflows for my websites and YouTube channels, keep home renovations on track, plan an international move, sell stuff on Ebay, write books… No, seriously! It’s. That. Good!
And it’s free!
Notion lets you build databases from scratch. But it doesn’t feel like you’re building databases. You’re building things like project planners, wikis, shopping lists by typing in a few things like /table or /timeline, and then magic happens.
There’s a learning curve with Notion. A rather steep one, in fact. But if you’ve ever worked with any sort of database, Atlassian tools like Jira and Confluence, or Microsoft Planner, then you’ll be right at home in Notion. And if you haven’t there are tonnes of YouTube tutorials to help you get started.
Did I mention Notion is really good? And free?
Yep, it’s free! Well, at least as long as you’re not after fancy features like 100 guest collaborators (you can work with 10 collaborators on the free plan), unlimited file size uploads (free plan limit is 5 megabytes per file) and syncing with lots of other tools like Jira, GitHub and Asana (you can sync with one external database for free).
If you’re after the fancy features, plans start from US$8 per user per month.
CLOCKIFY – keep track of time
I’m horrendous at time management. I’ll spend hours procrastinating before I start working, and I only start working when I have exactly enough time left before a deadline that there’s lots of pressure on me to get this thing done.
So, I’m using Clockify to keep me on track.
Clockify is a timekeeping app that will track every minute of work you do on your projects. Just pop over to Clockify.me to get started.
Using Clockify, you can set up clients, projects and task. Once you’ve done that, just hit the play button to start tracking your time and let Clockify know which task you’re working on. It’s smart enough that you can skip between the Clockify browser app and smartphone app while time tracking. It’s all the same.
All of the time you’ve worked is added to a calendar, and you can compile reports by projects and clients to see how much time you have spent on a particular job and how much time is left in your estimate.
Clockify is almost too good for a freemium service. Unless you’re managing a team of freelancers, most of you will never need to move to a paid plan (which start at US$4 per user per month, by the way).
STRIPE – get paid!
Best known as a payment processor, Stripe lets online (and offline) merchants accept payment from customers in for example online shops. Mostly anyone who has ever run an ecommerce site with the help of WordPress/WooCommerce or Shopify lately will have bumped into Stripe at some point in time.
One less known feature about Stripe – which I only realised a couple of months ago, when I had to change invoicing services again – is that Stripe also does invoices. And estimates! And, unlike most invoicing apps out there, you only pay for what you use.
This is super handy for freelance writers. Especially if you don’t issue way too many invoices per month.
Stripe allows you to send estimates to your customers right out of the system backend. It works pretty much all the same as every other invoicing software out there. The difference is, you can send as many estimates and invoices as you like. But you only ever pay a fee for any invoices that get paid. (Which, you would hope, is every single invoice that you send out.) There is no fixed monthly fee. Which is great for small businesses.
When you invoice customers, Stripe will simply take a very small cut of the money they pay you. On the starter plan, which gives you invoices, analytics and a personalised customer portal, you get charged 0.4% of the invoice amount (this may vary depending on which country you’re in).
The next step up is the plus package, which adds a further 0.1% to your fee – 0.5% in total – which enables quotes and estimates, auto-reconciliation (at least for US customers) and helps automate payment collection with smart retries and email reminders.
Considering most invoicing services start at a US$10 fixed monthly fee, Stripe is a great option for you – especially if you sell for less than US$2000 per month.
Tools to help your creative freelance writing process
WHIMSICAL – mindmapping, whiteboarding and more
This one is just that… Whimsical! A brainstorming, mindmapping, outlining, project management, drawing, flowcharting tool – all in one.
Once I’ve landed a freelance writing gig, this is the first tool I use in my writing process. The mindmapping functionality of Whimsical is fantastic for brainstorming text outlines, make research notes, and reference any sources I need to come back to later in my writing process.
Whimsical is a freemium service. On the free plan, each workspace you set up (and yes, you can set up multiple workspaces) can contain up to 500 items across all files (mindmaps, project plans, flowcharts and so on) contained within that workspace, and you get 100 AI actions per month. If you need more, you can upgrade a workspace for US$10 per month for unlimited items and 2000 monthly AI actions.
MICROSOFT WORD – words, words, words
The big kahuna of the word processing scene, Microsoft Word is a staple in writing circles worldwide. Whether you’re a blogger, copywriter, journalist or work in – let’s face it – practically any major company anywhere in the world, Microsoft Word will be your go-to word processing tool.
If blogging is a side hustle for you and you use Microsoft Word in your day job, chances are you’ll be entitled to install a copy of the whole Microsoft 365 (what used to be Office 365) suite on your home computer. Just check in with your employer first, to see if that option is available to you.
If you don’t have access to Microsoft 365 through work, or if you want your own cloud storage along with your Microsoft 365 copy, check out the personal and family plans over at Microsoft.
Recently, Microsoft included the new-ish functionality Editor in most of its Microsoft 365 apps including Word. Editor is Microsoft’s answer to Grammarly and ProWritingAid. We’ll talk more about Editor in the ‘spelling, grammar and style’ section below.
GOOGLE DOCS – google, google… words
For many writers, Google Docs is one of the go-to writing tools for creating and collaborating on documents. With lots of useful writing features and the ability to export your Google Docs to any number of file formats, this is a great option if you’re on a limited budget and you can’t get Microsoft 365 through your employer.
Google Docs is also the tool of choice for many writers when it comes to collaborating on documents.
If you have an account with Google, you already have access to Google Docs along with 15 gigabytes of free storage. If you don’t, you can set up a Google account now, for free.
SCRIVENER – more than words!
This one’s is for writing nerds. Like me! Clocking in at US$49 for a licence (with student discounts available), Scrivener might not be for everyone. But for the amount of word processing power it delivers, this is an insanely good price.
Scrivener can be described as Word meets OneNote meets EndNote meets your filing cabinet with a learning curve to match its complexity.
That learning curve can put aspiring writers off ever getting started, but if you persist you will have one writing app to rule them all. Scrivener lets you write anything from blog posts to novels to movie scripts. It’ll keep all of your research together in one easy to find place. (Seriously, you can store URLs, documents, notes, practically any sort of file in your Scrivener research sections.)
And there’s lots of tools inside of Scrivener that can be useful for writers of all flavours. (Going slightly off the blogging track here, but how does a fictional character name generator sound? Or the ability to compile that novel you’ve been working on into a ready-to-go ebook format or beautifully formatted PDF?)
I’ve been using Scrivener for a couple of years now, and it’s great. If you want to take it out for a spin, get a free Scrivener trial at Literature and Latte.
Freelance editing tools
HEMINGWAY APP – when you use too many words
Ernest Hemingway is a GOAT! One of the greatest authors of all time! Not all of his writing has aged all that well. (Keep in mind, his writing career spanned the 1920s to 1950s, when certain norms and values were a bit different.) But, his writing style is still fantastic!
By style, I’m thinking short sentences, simple word, direct and active language, minimal adverbs (avoiding most words ending in -ly) and so on.
Surely, we bloggers could do with writing a bit more like Ernest Hemingway to make life simpler for our readers.
Enter the Hemingway Editor, also known as the Hemingway App. It’s one of the simplest and best free online writing tools I’ve come across, and it’ll have you writing in the style of Hemingway in no time. The Hemingway Editor checks that you’re not overusing adverbs and passive voice, and it tells you which sentences, phrases and even words could be made simpler.
It also does a quick calculation of how readable your content is by giving it a grade level. That grade level corresponds to years of schooling. So a grade level of six means a sixth-grader should be able to read it. Did you get a grade level of 15 on your text? That’s university graduate stuff. As an insider tip, aim for a grade level of no more than seven for general blog content.
GRAMMARLY – smarter words
Grammarly is like the Hemingway Editor on AI-powered steroids. It integrates into practically every writing tool you could possibly want (except Scrivener) to keep check of your writing projects.
It’s great for practically all types of writing you would do in daily life, including emails, short-form content, business documents, documentation and much more.
The free Grammarly plan checks for spelling, grammar and punctuation. It also helps you with clarity by pulling you up when youre writing is not concise. And, it’ll assess your text for tone, telling you whether you sound formal, worried, forceful, excited an any other number of things.
Grammarly’s paid premium plan takes it up a few notches, adding suggestions for how to adjust your tone. It also scrutinises your choice of words, fluency, clarity and much more.
A free plagiarism checker will tell you whether your text contains similarities to writing found online or in academic papers. For paying customers, the plagiarism detector will also highlight which passages of text may be considered plagiarism.
The free plan will be more than enough for many writers, and if you think you need more, you can trial Grammarly Premium risk free to improve your blog right now.
There’s one type of writing where Grammarly doesn’t necessarily shine. And that’s for long-form content. As in, very long-form content like novels. For that, we recommend ProWritingAid.
PROWRITINGAID – for the smarter writer
As writing tools go, ProWritingAid is to authors what Grammarly is to copywriters. Just like Grammarly, ProWritingAid is an AI-powered grammar checker and text editor that integrates into more or less every writing tool you could possibly want. Including Scrivener (and Word, Google Docs, Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari).
ProWritingAid is my editing software of choice. The reason being said integration with Scrivener. I’m a bit of an aspiring author, you see, so by integrating with Scrivener, ProWritingAid can keep an eye on my book writing.
With ProWritingAid, you will get somewhere in the vicinity of 20 different tools to improve your writing, picking apart everything from your writing style and grammar to pacing, dialogue tags, alliteration and consistency.
A really cool feature, which I love, is that ProWritingAid will compare your writing style to that of world famous authors and copywriters like JK Rowling, Stephen King and Seth Godin and show you how you can write more (or less) like them.
The free version of ProWritingAid is word-count limited and will only work in your browser, while the paid version removes the word count limit, gives you access to integrations for Scrivener, Word and Google Docs, and you get access to the ProWritingAid writers resource library.
As a paying customer, you also get a few credits towards ProWritingAid’s plagiarism tool, which checks for similarities in your writing against online and offline content, including academic papers. But, if you’re a frequent user of that functionality you will need to pay anywhere between US$1 and US$0.20 per check, depending on how many credits you purchase at a time.
ProWritingAid is my editing software of choice. It gives you more than 20 different tools to improve your writing, picking apart everything from your writing style and grammar to pacing, dialogue tags, alliteration and consistency.
MICROSOFT EDITOR – for stingy writers
Is Microsoft Editor the Grammarly killer? I’m sure Microsoft hopes it is… To be honest, it probably isn’t. But, it’s included with Microsoft 365 products (such as Word and PowerPoint), so if you’re already a card carrying member of that club, then you might not need to join the Grammarly or ProWritingAid crowd as well.
Microsoft Editor runs a bunch of checks on your writing, such as spelling, grammar, clarity, conciseness, formality, punctuation and so on. It will adapt the checks depending on whether you’re putting together a casual, formal or professional piece of text.
There’s even a free similarity checker, which is a plagiarism detector of sorts that checks if your writing is similar to any online sources that Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, can find.
But how do I find clients?
Clients for your freelance writing business are everywhere – you just need to know where to look. One of the best places to find clients quickly is Fiverr.
Are you looking for top-quality freelancers to take on a project?
Definitely check out Fiverr! As both a Fiverr buyer and a certified Fiverr Pro copywriter, I can personally recommend this platform for anything relating to writing, marketing, research, coding, design, graphics, animation, video and much more!