Before you read another word, this isn’t another “XX best freelance writer tools” article where we give you a useful list of writing tools we’ve never used followed by a summary of features that don’t really help you much.
Overwhelmed with choices, trying to separate the “gotta have” from the “not right now” while getting started as a freelance writer on a budget. What do you really need right now?
A few essential tools, mostly free, could save your butt at the right moment. Now that you’re a freelance writer, just one great client’s worth a decent chunk of change if you’re looking in the right places. Not sure how much freelance writers charge? Here’s a good place to start: How much Freelance Bloggers Earn: The Surprising Truth
What Kinds of Freelance Writer Tools Do You Need?
As a new freelance writer, you need easy-to-use writer business tools to:
- Organize your research, money, invoices, and client info
- Get your secret only-you-know-about-it hourly rate closer to $100 asap
- Know if you can take on a new client right now or when to add them to your schedule
- Remind you about deadlines, sending invoices, checking in on potential clients, and getting back to people you promised
- Make sure the people hiring writers like you keep seeing your name pop up on their radar
Most of these apps and tools have a free forever plan that fits your beginner freelance writer status perfectly. And if they cost anything, it’s the most affordable and practical choice.
Organize Your Prospects, Research, Outlines, and Drafts
Only one of these 5 organization tools costs money (and it’s super cheap). All 5 will make your everyday work much easier.
Google Workspace (G Suite)
Even if you’re already a Microsoft Office master, a subscription to Google Workspace Business Starter (formerly G Suite) is worth every penny. It’s a secure, always-there place to store your docs that you can access from any computer at any time. Use it with or without internet. Take notes with the phone app too. It’s easy to learn and cheap.
Most of your future clients are already using it to send content briefs or article outlines. It works great for writing, commenting on, and editing articles.
Bonus feature: if you have a domain name like AwesomeWriter.com, you can set up your professional email address much easier in Google Workspace than your web host’s clunky user-not-at-all-friendly site.
Toby Tab Organizer
This free browser extension is worth the switch to Google Chrome if you’re not already using it. Whenever you’ve got way too many tabs open in your web browser, you can save them all with one push of a button. You’ll never have to leave tabs open overnight ever again. They automatically get organized into collections when you save them. It’s all drag and drop. So much user-friendliness.
Best feature: push a button and your open browser tabs get saved into a new collection.
Evernote Research Organization
If you need a robust note and research organizer, Evernote has a pretty good free forever plan that allows you to sync it on 2 devices. This writing tool is best for you if your note management skills could use a boost. Use tags or notebooks to keep it all organized and easy to find later.
You can add images, web clippings, documents, and even photos you took of old-fashioned bits of paper. It’ll integrate with your Google Workspace and all its apps (plus plenty of other non-Google ones).
Best feature: when you take a photo of notes or a whiteboard, it’ll recognize the text in your photo. When you do a search for it later, it can find your photo using the text in it.
Boomerang Email Follow-Up
Now that you’re in business, you need to email prospective clients about working with you, right? Ask any 6-figure freelance writer, they’ll tell you the importance of keeping track of potential clients.
The Boomerang extension makes it easier to manage with reminders, emails you can schedule for later, and even recurring emails all from your Gmail inbox. Their free-forever plan lets you send 10 messages a month. Use them to remind you about follow-up emails (unless you’re ready to get the paid plan).
Best feature: getting reminders about potential clients for follow-up in a few weeks, a month, or longer. Use the paid plan to schedule emails for later.
Clientjoy Client Tracker
Would you prefer a more user-friendly way to track prospective clients than a spreadsheet? The right method is the one you’ll use every day to find and keep track of potential clients. Clientjoy is a client management tool with a generous free-forever plan.
Track leads from discovery to ready-to-close. And you can use their invoicing system or digital signatures on contracts and proposals. You’re limited to 3 clients. If you’re ready to upgrade, Appsumo has a special offer.
Best feature: keep track of unlimited prospects without using a spreadsheet, with the free plan, plus get invoicing and proposals when they become clients.
Catch Mistakes with These Writing Tools
A well-paid freelance writer knows the difference between good and bad writing (basic grammar, passive voice, overuse of adjectives & adverbs, and fluffy no-value filler words). If you’re looking for some guidance on this point, read one of the best books on the subject. But even a writer with years of experience sometimes needs help catching silly mistakes.
Tighten Up Your Writing with IA Writer
If you need extra help getting rid of filler phrasing or clearing up weird sentence syntax, take IA Writer for a 14-day test drive. What’s great about IA Writer: no subscription fees, just a one-time payment. It shows you where you can remove or change unnecessary words.
Need a distraction-free writing space? This app has a soothing, empty space to write. You can turn on focus mode and only see the sentence or paragraph you’re writing.
Bonus feature: It’s not just for English writers. Use it with more than one language.
Catch Little Mistakes Faster with Grammarly
The free version of Grammarly will help you catch typos and silly grammar mistakes you missed. It works on Google docs, WordPress, and other platforms. You shouldn’t need the paid version as a professional writer unless you have a hard time editing your own work.
Best feature: it points out typos and any little mistakes you miss.
Log in Securely without Hassles
If you’re using this list, your user names and passwords are already getting hard to manage. Please don’t use easy-to-figure-out passwords or worse, reuse the same ones over and over on the web. You’re just asking for trouble. Both of these tools will get you in and out of your online accounts quickly when you’re in a hurry.
Get a Free LastPass Vault
If you need a free-forever, secure password vault, get LastPass. You can access all your passwords on one device. The web browser extension makes logging in quick, easy, and still secure.
Generate new passwords instead of re-using the same easy-to-hack ones you’ve got right now. A multi-device password vault costs the same as 1Password. But if you want a paid Family plan, LastPass is the better deal.
Best feature: the generous free forever plan.
Log In and Out Faster with 1Password
If you’re ready to pay for a multi-device password vault, 1Password and LastPass both have the same features, security, and pricing. You can’t go wrong with either one. Try 1Password with a 14-day trial. Once you start using a password safe, you’ll never go back to the old way of manually managing your passwords.
Best feature: easy-to-use, inexpensive, and saves time when logging into accounts on all your devices.
For Easily Distracted and Forgetful Writers
When you’re deep in your research or writing project, sometimes you forget about the rest of the world. It’s a good thing, but the world’s still spinning out there. And we need to do whatever it is we promised all those people, right?
Nothing Will Slip Your Mind with Remember the Milk
Chances are you’re already using a reminder on your phone. Well, here’s an extra beefed-up one with even more bells and whistles than the generic ones you usually find.
It’s free and you can send text messages, emails, and even Twitter messages to yourself with reminders. If you’re up for investing a measly $40 a year, you can take it to a whole new level too. But the free version will probably do just fine to start.
Best feature: you get almost everything in the free forever plan.
Simple Project Management Tools for Beginners
Your clients will have a project management tool (if not, think twice about working with them). Get one for yourself if you need a tool to keep track of big projects with huge to-do lists.
Scheduling your tasks on the calendar can help you get an idea of how much time you’ll need before you can take on a new project. Pair an easy-to-use project management tool with a great reminder app (and some old-fashioned note pads or post-its) to keep yourself on track and on time.
Easy Project Management with Trello
The easiest tool for keeping track of upcoming, current, and finished projects. If you’re a visual person, you’ll probably love it. The big challenge with this tool: deciding what’s important and what’s not. Inside each card, you’ve got room for so much information. Avoid uploading images onto the platform unless you want the paid version. Use links for images, documents, or videos.
Pro tip: be nice to yourself while testing out your preferred way to stay organized. Give yourself time to find the process that fits your brain.
Best feature: the easiest to use project management tool with a free plan ever.
Asana: Project Management for Trello-Haters
Trello’s not for everyone. And if that’s you, Asana has the second easiest project management tool. You can use a list or calendar view (or the board view like Trello). Create a big project with tons of tasks or just simple lists of unrelated tasks. You’ll have to fiddle with Asana to get the hang of it, but it’s still relatively user-friendly.
Pro tip: the best project management tool is the one you use. It doesn’t matter which one you pick as long as it helps you stay organized.
Best feature: multiple project management views with a generous free forever plan.
Easy-to-Use Free Client Meeting Tools
If you ever need to do a face-to-face meeting virtually, you’re better off already having these accounts set up. You can get free-forever accounts with both platforms. The higher your rates get, the more likely you’ll need these apps. And when you start doing interviews, you’ll absolutely want these tools.
Use Zoom to Connect with Your Clients
Everyone and their grandmother know about Zoom nowadays (which means you’re more likely to use it for interviews, client meetings, and checking out potential clients). It’s free, secure, and when used with Calendly (or another scheduling platform), easy to set up.
Pro tip: set up Zoom to work with Calendly to make it easier to plan meetings.
Let Calendly Do Your Meeting Admin
Once you start using a calendar scheduler like Calendly, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without one. You can block out times available for calls, connect it with zoom, send everyone meeting reminders, and record it with permission. It’ll calculate time zone differences too. The free forever plan is generous, so you probably won’t need a paid plan anytime soon.
Pro tip: don’t post your Calendly link anywhere public. Share it privately with someone you want to meet.
Free Tools to Get Paid
Don’t let clunky admin slow you down. Keep track of your contracts, invoices, and payments while avoiding time-wasting headaches. These 3 free tools won’t take much of your time to figure out either.
Streamline Your Invoicing with Zoho
Send your clients a professional-looking invoice that makes you look good. Setting up this tool might take a little reading and tweaking, but it’ll make your money management easier.
You can connect it to Stripe, Paypal, and a decent-sized list of other payment gateways (or use less expensive payments through your bank or Wise).
You’ll find what you need to organize your client payments like scheduling invoices, sending payment reminders, creating estimates, and getting signatures. Start using the features you need now and figure out the others as you go. It’s 100% free. No strings attached.
Best feature: it’s a completely free full-featured tool with no option to upgrade.
Get Contracts Signed Quick with PandaDoc
Normally you’ll have contracts to send to new and returning clients for signature. Not all clients will send you one, so it’s best to be prepared with your own. Maybe not for tiny one-off projects. But for larger ones and retainer clients, make sure you’ve got a contract ready for editing and an easy way to get electronic signatures like PandaDoc.
Best feature: unlimited e-signatures for your uploaded documents on their free plan.
Get Low-Fee Client Payments with Wise
Wise is one of the least expensive and easiest-to-set-up ways to get paid (especially if your client is in a different country). You can still use Paypal, Stripe, or any other payment platform that works for your situation. If your client has a preferred way of paying, use it.
Wise lets your clients in most countries send money using their local banking system (which means it’s cheap or free for you and them). You can receive money in multiple currencies and keep them in separate currency accounts (for example, British pounds, American dollars, German Euros).
You can get a debit card to pay for goods in stores or online with these different currencies (or Wise will convert them to the right one for a low price).
Best feature: an easy-to-use tool with very competitive bank transfer and currency conversion fees (and extremely transparent pricing too).
What’s Your Top Priority as a New Freelance Writer?
Right now, I’m guessing your number one priority is finding your next great client.
Then find another even better client ready to pay you even more for work on topics you want to write about. Rinse and repeat. One more time. You get the picture.
Collecting cool content writer tools and apps isn’t your job. Get what you need, learn to use them, and get back to finding great clients, researching your favorite writing niches, and writing content for clients.
Got a tool you can’t live without? We’re all ears. Tell us about it!
Cherese Cobb says
I hadn’t heard of Toby before. And I tend to do a lot of research. Inevitably, there’s always something I forget to bookmark. 😳Then I have to dig through all the links in my search history. This Chrome-based tool will help me a lot! Thank you for this super handy list, Suzanne. 🙌
Suzanne Berthuy says
Toby changed my life. Organizing my research tabs is not the PITA it used to be.
Happy to share what I’ve learned!
Hi, I’m new to this website and am committed to a freelance writing career, as I’ve attempted to do it in the past, but self-doubt got in the way. So happy to have found the site and this article. Great information!
Suzanne Berthuy says
So glad you’re enjoying the site!
You’ll find plenty of articles to help keep the self-doubt gremlins away here.
Here’s one of many amazing posts to help when you’re new to freelance writing: Getting Shit Done in the Midst of a Doubt Apocalypse
Ali Hong Kong says
Interested to know your thoughts on Notion!
Suzanne Berthuy says
Notion is a far more complex system for project and team management. I wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner (or even most experienced freelance writers) unless
-they feel like spending most of their work time figuring it out (instead of client work and marketing their services)
-pay an expert to set it up for them and teach them how to use it.
And I can’t think of many freelance writers who really need it honestly. Trello and Asana have free plans and work for 99% of us. I have clients who use Trello, Asana, and Notion by the way, so my comments are based on my personal experiences using these three systems (but not setting them up).