I’ve been freelancing for years and aside from my laptop, I need apps and tools that will not only make my work more efficient but also will allow me to get the job done and deliver. There are thousands of work management apps available online. But which of these apps are really for freelance writers?
If you have been freelancing or working online for some time now, you might be familiar with some of these apps. But if you’re just starting, consider this as an apps guide for an organized, productive, and efficient work from home life.
When I started freelancing in 2012, I used to have a desktop computer sitting beside a 3-in-1 printer on a desk. I had to invest in these pieces of hardware plus a stable Internet connection to start working at home.
As time goes by, mobility became a necessity. Thus, in 2015, I shifted from a desktop computer to a laptop. Until now, I still use a laptop 100% of the time.
Although I have an Android phone, I only use it for texting, calling, social media browsing, a few games, and my Kindle app. I never send emails or write notes using my smartphone.
And yes, add a headset with microphone for making calls. Having been in the BPO industry has made it not just a computer accessory, but a necessity.
Most of the apps I’ll mention here are freemium, meaning you have the option to upgrade them from the free plan in order to use the full range of features. As much as possible, I always use the free or personal plan because I’m all alone in my freelance writing business anyway.
MS Office / LibreOffice
During the last quarter last year, most of my apps are web-based because I was using Linux Lubuntu as my laptop’s operating system. I have LibreOffice installed as part of the installation package. It was just like having an MS Office but free and open-source software (FOSS). What’s good about LibreOffice is I can save documents in .docx, .xls, and .pptx by default so that it would be compatible with the others who use the MS Office suite.
This year, I’m back using Windows so I have MS Office installed on my new laptop.
Of course, to access the Internet, I need to use a net browser. Firefox is the default browser for Linux, but there is Google Chrome for Linux which my husband installed for me and which I use most of the time.
I prefer Chrome because I usually login on several sites using my Google account. However, there are a few sites that don’t run properly on Chrome (which used to run very well when I was still using Windows) but will run better on Firefox.
If Chrome is my default browser, Start.me is my default home page. It is basically a bookmark management site where I classify often-used websites and apps into groups, icons, and links.
Back in the day, I used to have MyYahoo and iGoogle as my start pages until Yahoo! and Google took them down respectively to protect their search engine business. Come to think of it, it makes sense for them to do away with bookmarking because it will make us type on their search bar more instead.
But I prefer having a customized start page and I’m subscribed to Start.me’s free plan. Upgrade starts at $20.00 a year for professional use and the rate increases for team and enterprise use. A Start.me page can be customized by using different background themes and widgets. Once I open my Chrome browser, I have in front of me all the often-used links plus the weather and quote of the day.
I learned of this app in 2012 when I first joined NaNoWriMo. Ever since I’ve used of Goodsearch, I rarely use Google as a search engine. Goodsearch allows me to search for information and at the same time, for every unique search I typed in, they will give a penny ($0.01 USD) to my chosen charity (which is NaNoWriMo). Goodsearch is powered by Yahoo! It also has Goodshop and used to have Goodgames (I miss this!).
Isn’t it nice to have all your email accounts in one place? That’s why I have GMX Mail. Its email collection feature is so awesome that I can read all my emails from different accounts. I can manage my contacts and calendar, too. It also has online office tools like Google Drive but I don’t use it.
Speaking of Google Drive, I use this to create, organize, and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online and on cloud. Sending a file to my clients is easy just by sharing it with a link, no need to attach it on email. But there are times when I need to upload a document from my hard drive and share them on the cloud. Uploading and downloading files on Google Drive is easy.
I’ve been using OfficeMA since 2013. This is my freelance business management tool and has a timer. This is also a freemium and I’m using the free plan because, as I’ve said earlier, I’m alone in my business.
This app allows me to handle multiple clients with different rates. Thus, when I start the timer, it can automatically compute for my work charged by the hour even though I have other clients whom I charged a fixed rate.
The paid plan (Professional) costs £1.20 GBP per person per month and lets you issue invoices. But I don’t need that feature because I have my own PayPal account.
I have used different timer/monitoring tools, too, like Time Doctor, Worksnaps, HubStaff, ActivTrak etc. because some clients do require me to install a monitoring tool. Whenever they don’t, I use my OfficeMA and send them a report once a task, assignment, or project is done.
Ever since I started working from home in 2012, I have used PayPal as my payment management tool. Setting up an account was easy back then, I didn’t have any problems with linking it to my bank account. Most of my clients pay me via PayPal in their own currencies. I can also issue invoices using the app when I need to. But most of the time, my clients don’t need invoices.
Calling long distance is costly. But thanks to the marvels of the Internet, we now have Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). One of the early apps on communication is Skype with its desktop version. Now, I’m using the web-based Skype. This version is convenient for me. Aside from making a call, I can do a video call, chat, and even share files.
I also use Messenger on my phone and seldom on my computer. There are clients who prefer Messenger over Skype. I am also familiar with other chat tools like MS Communicator, HipChat, Viber, Slack, Webex, Zoom, etc.
Trello is my project management/collaboration/organization tool. It applies the Kanban method by using boards, lists, and cards. It is also a freemium app and I’ve been using it since 2015. Upgrade starts at $9.99 USD per user per month.
I have used Basecamp, Highrise, Taiga, Slack, Asana, etc. because my clients use one or two of these. But I still prefer using Trello.
Remember those Trapper Keeper binders during the ’90s? Those big binders can hold more than one notebook. Evernote is literally my online notebook binder. It allows me to create notebooks and organize my notes. It is also a freemium app and the upgrade starts at Php 130.00 a month. I used to have the app on my cell phone but I found the size too large for my phone’s memory so I use the web version since then.
However, not all my notes are on the cloud. I still have my Bullet Journal with me for planning and taking down notes.
I started using Canva in 2015 for my graphic design needs. I am not an illustrator so I use this app to create images for my website and social media accounts. It is also a freemium and upgrade starts at $9.95 a month when billed annually.
DupliChecker is a web-based plagiarism tool that I’ve been using since 2012. After writing, I copy and paste the document (up to 1,000 words only per check) on the site and it will detect plagiarism for free.
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There are apps that I’ll also mention here because they’re worth using especially when working from home. These are the apps which I use only when needed.
HootSuite is a social media management tool which I started using in 2013. This is also a freemium app. The free version used to allow me five different social media profiles but now, it was reduced to three. Back then, I could schedule many posts across all five social media platform, but now the free version only allows 30 scheduled posts. That’s one of the reasons why I seldom use this app nowadays.
Mailchimp is an easy-to-use marketing tool which can organize my mailing list, subscribers, newsletters, and marketing campaigns. The free version allows me to have a limited number of subscribers, but once I exceed, I have to pay a monthly fee. Therefore the pay increases as my mailing list grows. However, I switched to MailChimp’s TinyLetter late last year. TinyLetter is much simpler to use and fits my needs.
Free Press Release
I used to have an account with Free Press Release for creating and distributing press releases. However, I’ve checked the URL and it’s no longer available. Instead, I found PRFree, another free press release distribution site. It has been years since I’ve written a press release so I was unaware of this change. This is also a freemium PR distribution service and upgrade starts at $19.00 USD per PR.
For writers like me, the Hemingway Editor helps make my writing readable and lean. Inspired by Hemingway’s “rule” in writing (less adverbs, the better), this app will show which sentences are too long or wordy with its color-coded highlighting.
Free Screencast is a video editor that runs on Windows. I used to have a GoPlay Editor which I used to create YouTube videos years ago. I shifted to Free Screencast because it’s free. However, be aware of the add-ons it’s trying to impose on you [Chromium and McAfee]. I haven’t done videos lately, so I haven’t experienced the other features
There you have it, the apps I use in freelance writing.
I would like to thank Katrina McKinnon for reaching out to me and inspired me to write this article. You may visit her website, Small Revolution, an online learning platform for people who want to work from home.
Let me know if you have used any of these apps and tell me what you think. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.