Writers Tool Kit: 7 free online tools to get you started
Create a workflow that helps you write better and faster
No matter what type of writing you do, if you create a flawless workflow that takes you from typing your first word all the way through to proofreading, the entire process becomes more enjoyable. More importantly, your writing will have fewer errors and your skills will improve quickly.
There are thousands (probably millions) of tools to help you increase productivity and writing skills. But exploring each one isn’t possible.
I’ve listed the 7 tools I use every day when I write. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Facebook post, a website or an annual report, I open these tools first and use them to make my work process easier and my writing better.
I like tools that are easy and free, so most of these tools don’t even require you to set up an account (no passwords to remember, yes!). While I do upgrade when I find a tool I constantly use and feel there is value, most of the tools I use daily are free.
So you can see the tools in action, I included a video below walking you through my workflow. (coming soon)
Tool 1: Don’t get sucked into a time warp: Use a time management tool
Toggl is a time management tool I started using recently and love. Have you ever had your kids or partner ask what you did all day, and you’re stuck for an answer? Yet, you slogged away all the day doing – something.
This is the first tool I open. Toggl is the perfect name, because you start and stop the timer depending on what project you’re working on. I set up client projects, personal projects like reconciling Xero and taxes (yuck), checking emails/facebook and breaks. At the end of the week, you’ll see how many hours you spent at your desk and what you spent your days doing.
Tool 2: Stay on task: Set a timer
Setting a timer for 30 minutes helps me stay focused and not get lost in a project. I just search “timer” in Google. You can also search for tomato timer, use a physical kitchen timer or your phone. Using your phone, however, can get a bit weird when you take a phone call and your timer goes off. Note: There is a Google extension for Toggl that will do the same.
Tool 3: Get ready to write: Word and Google Docs
It may seem like overkill, but I use both programs. I typically start in Google Docs because it’s easy to pick up a job in the cloud from any device. Yes, I know I could use Microsoft OneNote, but I'm not a fan. I do, however, copy and paste my text into Word to do a grammar and spelling check. I find Google Docs and Word are not equal in the errors they find. It’s always worth double checking for errors especially if you don’t have access to an outside proofreader.
Tool 4: Enhance your vocabulary: Use a thesaurus
Thesaurus.com is my go-to thesaurus and dictionary. I find the layout to be easier to read than other online dictionaries. If you use the same words over and over (which we naturally do), add variety to your writing with synonyms.
Tool 5: Great writing needs variety: Check for overused words
After you’ve used an online thesaurus, it’s worth a minute to copy and paste your text into Text Fixer. The counter adds up how often you use each word, so you know if you need to edit for variety.
Tool 6: Flawless writing: Proofreading made easier
You’ve probably seen the Grammarly ads pop up on YouTube videos. This tool is a no-brainer for writers. The free version tells you when there are critical grammar and spelling errors. The premium version at $140 USD/year checks grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and style.
Tool 7: Listen to your own words: Text to speech tools
When you read your own writing aloud, you’re not actually reading the words on the page. You know what you want to say, and you’re reading what’s in your head and not on paper. Natural Reader is a website with a tool that reads your copy back to you. This amazing text to speech tool is free and lets you change read back speeds and accents. Microsoft Word also has an extension you can add to your toolbar, but the voice is a bit robotic.
Pretty simple. These tools make my day more efficient and writing more enjoyable.
Don’t get overwhelmed sifting through all the tools available. Keep it simple to start. When you outgrow them, you can move on. There’s no need to chase the next bright shiny toy until you find your workflow needs help.
How about you?
What writing tools do you use daily that you can’t live without?
Written by: Jody Carey
Images by: Jody Carey and Pixabay.com
Have You Helped Your Competitors Today?
As a small business owner, do you see other businesses that offer the same service or product as the opposition?
If you asked me this question a year ago – I would have said YES. It’s probably from my background in corporate marketing where taking out challengers was part of the game.
When I started my business, I was afraid to get too chummy with other marketing professionals in my area. So instead, I reached out to online strangers who lived far away from me. I figured since they wouldn’t see me as competition, they might answer a few of my burning questions.
We can’t do it alone
I was starting my freelance business in a new country on the other side of the world. I barely knew how to drive on the left side of the road – let alone had a clue what my hourly rate should be. After all, why would another small business owner tell the new kid in town what to charge and where to find clients?
Luckily, I was referred to a group of copywriters here in Australia called The Clever Copywriting Community. They not only answered my question about copywriting rates but continue to be a constant source of inspiration, information and motivation.
If we can service customers all over the world, that means our competitors are everywhere too. So in reality, everyone in the group is each other’s rival.
Support one another and everyone wins
Rather than seeing everyone as the enemy, members of The Clever Copywriting Community take a smarter approach.
Instead, they put all their effort into supporting each other and ultimately bettering the profession of copywriting. Most importantly, their encouragement means everyone smashes their goals no matter how big or small.
We need our competitors
We all know competition is healthy and drives innovation. Perhaps that’s what Kate Toon, founder of The Clever Copywriting School and CopyCon, had in mind when she invited a handful of her closest competitors to share ideas.
This group is now over 150 strong with members in the US, UK and Australia. The quality and quantity of content she produces and shares would not be possible if she chose to do it on her own.
I’m not just talking about micro businesses
I couldn’t help think what it would be like if more small businesses did the same. If dentists referred patients back and forth, or if builders picked up tools on a job that wasn't their own.
It does happen – even in the corporate world – but quietly. General Motors and Toyota have assembled vehicles for one another for over 25 years. It’s the smart and successful companies that understand the importance of working together with the opposition.¹
The truth is, no business can do it alone so why do we waste time trying?
Amazon modernised a famous saying to If you can’t beat ‘em, work with ‘em. Amazon is brilliant in my opinion and redefined what a competitor relationship looks like.
Be open, sincere and helpful
The moral of the story is not to make frenemies. But to pay it forward and be open, sincere and helpful when the opportunity strikes. What goes around, comes around.
What experiences do you have when working with your competitor helped your business grow?
Written by: Jody Carey
¹Harvard Business Review
photo courtesy of pixabay