If you’re prepared to take this kind of business seriously, you’re going to need to make use of more freelance writing tools than just a word processing program.
There are loads of freelance writing tools out there — both free and paid.
I use a combination of both, and as you grow your business, you probably will too.
To start, you might be more comfortable with sticking to as many free tools as possible until you grow your freelance income and decide that it’s time to invest in premium tools.
Below is a list (by category) of all the best free tools I could find — most of which I’ve personally used over my writing career.
You can definitely run your entire business with the help of these tools, and you won’t have to fork over a dime!
The Best Free Writing Tools
As a professional writer, you can’t always rely on yourself alone to pick out hidden errors or get your point across in the clearest way possible.
That’s why I recommend always using these tools during your writing sessions.
Are you a little insecure about the quality of your writing?
Don’t worry, we all are!
The Hemingway app is a smart editor that automatically gives you insights into your writing.
In addition to correcting spelling and grammar, it identifies superfluous/wordy sentences, jargon that could be simplified, adverbs, weak phrases, and passive voice.
You can write directly in the Hemingway app editor (within your browser or by downloading the desktop app), or you can simply copy and paste your text into the editor after it’s all been written and you’re ready to edit.
If you do any writing in a web browser (like Google Docs or Gmail), the free Grammarly browser extension is worth installing.
It quickly identifies grammar and spelling mistakes so you don’t accidentally do something too quick — like send off an email full of errors without realizing.
You can even take advantage of more advanced features, like its AI-powered writing assistant to get a feel for how your writing sounds, or its tone detector to check the tone of a message before you send it.
I use Thesaurus multiple times a day, almost every day.
My vocabulary has never been very extensive, so I often find myself struggling to come up with the right word on my own.
Just plug any word into the search field to come up with a list of synonymous, antonyms, and even related words.
If you’re a content writer, your clients will expect that you know how to write great headlines.
CoSchedule’s headline analyzer allows you to plug any headline in to analyze it.
Once analyzed, you’ll get a breakdown of common words, uncommon words, emotional words, and power words that were used plus an overall word balance score out of 100.
The tool also looks at the length of the headline plus the first and last three words to determine how easy it is to read and any wordiness.
You can then use your analysis to tweak your headlines and improve your score.
The research tools and sources you use will depend entirely on the type of project you’re working on plus your niche, however there are a few favourite I keep in my back pocket for a wide range of projects.
This is a cool little tool that’s especially helpful for finding ideas to pitch potential clients.
Just enter a keyword into the search field and the tool will bring up a list of links of questions related to your keyword that people are asking on popular Q&A platforms like Quora and Reddit.
Google Trends is another great tool you can use to come up with content ideas based on seasonal trends plus news and current events.
You can even track trends for certain keywords and set up automated email reminders to check out what’s currently trending every so often (such as daily, weekly, or monthly).
Both clients and readers love it when content is backed up by facts and figures from reputable sources, which is where Statista comes in real handy.
Statista is a data platform with insights in 600 industries across over 50 countries.
Just enter a search term to find statistics, forecasts, and studies, then select a link to view statistics at a more in-depth level.
Whether you’re looking to interview someone or you simply need to get a few quotes from an expert on a specific topic, Help a Reporter (HARO) can help you save time and energy from trying to find the right candidate the old fashioned way.
To sign up, select “I’m a Journalist” on the front page and then enter your information and media outlet(s) you write for.
Then all you have to do is submit a free source request according to the guidelines, and then HARO will connect you with relevant sources who are interested in working with you.
The Best Free Email Tools
I can tell you right now that as a writer, you’re going to spend a lot of time reading and writing emails.
Email can be such a time suck, so I recommend automating as much as you possibly can.
Gmail Templates (formerly “Canned Responses”) allow you to write up messages and keep them as templates to use over and over again for repetitive emails.
This is ultra handy for creating efficient systems to help weed out potential clients that aren’t a good fit, to answer common questions, and to guide potential clients through the process of working together.
Instead of typing out a new email every time, just use one of your prewritten templates.
Then select Advanced from the horizontal menu at the top and make sure Templates is enabled.
To create a new template, open a new email composer (or a reply to someone — whichever you prefer), write your message, and then click the three vertical dots in the lower right corner.
Then select Templates > Save draft as template > Save as new template.
Enter a name for your template and click Save.
Now whenever you want to use that template in an email, just click the three vertical dots followed by Templates and you should see the name of your template there, which you can select to automatically insert into your email message.
It’s smart to do all of your email-related work all at the same time, but sometimes, it’s not always appropriate to send an email off immediately after you’ve written it.
Gmail has a built-in scheduler, but I still use the Boomerang for Gmail extension to quickly schedule messages to be sent off in an hour, in two hours, tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon, in two days, in one week, in two weeks, or in one month.
The Best Free Video Call Tools
As a Canadian, I don’t make phone calls to the states, and I much prefer video calls anyway where I can see the other person.
I have just one preferred tool that I use almost every time I need to make a video call (unless the client insists on using something else).
I know Zoom is all the rage these days, and I’m sure it’s an idea choice when you need to have a video call with lots of people.
I tried using it recently out of curisosity, but I gave up after downloading it and trying to get it to work.
If you need a stupidly simple and free video call tool, I can’t recommend Google Hangouts enough.
You don’t need to download anything since it’s works through your web browser.
All participants merely need is a Google account to sign in.
The host sends a link via email for participants to join, and if you use Google Calendar too, your Google Hangout calls can be automatically scheduled in your calendar so you don’t forget.
The Best Free (Self-Hosted) Website Tools
If you don’t have a self-hosted writer website and are looking for free alternatives, then I highly recommend checking out another one of my blog posts where I share seven of the best free website/portfolio platforms for writers.
If you do have a website, then I have three tools you’ll want to know about to make it look and function better.
Need a logo or a couple graphics, but no budget to hire a designer?
No problem, because you can create them yourself with Canva — a free and super intuitive graphic design tool.
Canva has built-in templates, fonts, shapes, lines, and elements you can use to make your graphics look stunning.
I always think websites look best with at least a few images, but who has the budget to pay for premium stock photos?
Unsplash is one of the most popular free image platform out there, offering an endless range of high-quality images for almost everything.
I particularly love using Unsplash images for full-width headers that include my calls to action.
It’s one thing to have a basic contact form on your website, but you can make yourself look like a real professional and weed out non-serious clients with a totally customized quote form instead.
Wufoo is a free form builder that allows you to add additional fields to your form.
For instance, you could add a multiple choice question asking potential clients to specify their budget range.
Or you could ask them to specify when is best to contact them.
Then, using the Wufoo WordPress plugin (assuming your self-hosted site is a WordPress site), you can easily embed your form into any page on your site.
The Best Free Pitch Tool
Pitching can be kind of complicated if the project scope is large and the timeline is long.
After having a discussion with the potential client, you may be expected to submit a proposal.
There are several premium, all-in-one freelancer platforms out there that help you take care of proposals, contracts, invoices, and more, but if you’re just starting out, you’re probably not ready to take that leap just yet.
Likewise, you probably have no idea how to create a proposal all by yourself.
This is why I recommend Ryan Robinson’s six-page freelancer template, which can be downloaded in MS Word or PDF format.
Ryan Robinson is a top blogger and podcaster who used this very template to increase his rates by thousands of dollars.
The Best Free Legal Tool
When a client agrees to go ahead with you on a project, you absolutely must have a contract in place before any work begins.
Free contract templates can be found all over the place online, but there’s only one that I recommend using if you absolutely must.
Okay, so let me get this out of the way first: You shouldn’t really use a free contract template.
They’re typically not created by professional lawyers and therefore might not do anything for you (or worse — they could get you into serious legal trouble).
This is why I recommend using this premium contractor/freelancer legal template from business laywer Amira Ifran, which you can buy once for an affordable price and use over and over again for every client you take on.
Amira is an actual lawyer who knows her stuff, and she’s built her whole online business out of providing professional legal templates to business owners (not just freelancers).
She claims to have had “an awesome lawyer friend” review it to make sure it would be legally binding.
Should you take her word for it?
That’s up to you.
I still recommend eventually upgrading to Amira’s premium template, even if you plan on using this free one.
The Best Free Accounting Tool
As a freelancer writer, you need a way to create and keep tracking of your invoices, payments, and expenses.
You could do it manually… or you could just streamline the entire process with specialized software.
I’m a loyal Freshbooks user, and at only $6 a month (plus a free trial), it’s more than worth it.
However, I know that even that can be a big commitment for beginners.
If you want something totally free, then you might want to check out Waze.
It’s one of the few tools on this list that I haven’t used myself, but I’ve research some reviews on it and have concluded that it’s decently good accounting software.
With a free account, you get unlimited income/expense tracking, reports, unlimited invoicing, credit card/bank payment integration, receipt scanning, and so much more.
I have to say, that’s pretty good.
So good, in fact, I might just have to test it out before my Freshbooks subscription renews!
The Best Free Productivity Tools
With freelancing, time is money.
By working as efficiently as possible, you’ll make more money in less time and have more time to live your life.
Todoist is my favourite to-do list app.
You can create to-do lists for every day up to a week in the future plus organize them by project or view them by filter.
You can also set priority markers for each list item, add reminders for items, and attach links to items.
And since all of your to-do lists are stored in your free user account, you can access the latest, most updated version anywhere — in your web browser, on the desktop app, or on the mobile app.
How often do you look at your phone when you really should be working?
The best solution is usually to leave it in another room, but that’s not always practical.
If you absolutely must keep your phone with you while you work, I recommend downloading Moment for iOS or Android.
Moment is a screen time tracking app that helps you break bad phone checking and browsing habits.
You can use it to set phone-free times and alarms if you spend too much time on it, among many other things.
Overall, it’s a really handy tool for becoming aware of just how addicted you might actually be to your phone.
I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro time management technique, which involves short, laser-focused, uninterrupted work sessions of 25 minutes— each followed by a five-minute break.
You do four rounds of this, then take a longer 40-minute break.
It helps you manage your willpower and essentially allows you to get as much done in around six hours as you would in an average eight-hour workday.
Tomato Timers is a simple website that you can leave open in your web browser to time your work sessions and breaks.
The Best Project Management Tools
Instead of having hundreds of document files and folders stored on your computer or piles of handwritten notes scattered around your work area, it’s better to use a tool that’s designed for organization and project management.
Trello is like Pinterest for projects.
You can create unlimited boards and add unlimited cards to each board.
It’s an absolute must-have for keeping track of multiple clients and projects.
In addition to being an incredibly handy tool for organizing all of the smaller details of your projects, Trello is super helpful for getting an at-a-glance look at your workload.
Last but not least, I have to give a big shoutout to Evernote for being my ultimate favourite note-taking app.
I especially love Evernote for collecting and organizing sources, competitor pieces, and ideas for content.
Notes are created in notebooks, so you can have a separate notebook for each client (or project).
You can also add tags to your notes to make them easier to find later.
Tip: I highly recommend installing Evernote’s Web Clipper browser extension!
What are your favourite freelance writing tools?
Whether they’re free or paid, I’d love to know which freelance writing tools you absolutely can’t live without.
Let me know in the comment section below!