Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.
I’m not a techie. If you give me a list of writing tools that help me use technology better, I’ll use them only if I must. I’d much rather put words on the screen than log on and use the Help.
Yet once I become proficient with a helpful piece of technology, I use it a lot. Attach that little 4-letter word to it – “free” – and I’m all over it.
If you’re a writer, then you must have a basic means to send automated email, convert files, post on social media, and insert a simple graphic. Hence this list of writing tools, which have little to do with writing itself but rather give you associated skills you need these days to be a successful freelancer, blogger, or content writer. And they’re either completely free or allow a generous free trial period.
One tip: if you’re like me and get impatient with tech snafus, then adopt just one of these writing tools at a time. You’ll avoid many unpleasant side effects that accompany total frustration.
I started my email list with Constant Contact’s free plan. It’s a great way to test drive sending automated email because you have access to all its professional templates, email tools, online resources, and analytics – and it’s all written in plain English so folks like me can understand it. Did I mention the live help? (Grin.) When you’re ready to move up to a bigger plan, Constant Contact offers discounts for both prepaying and for nonprofits, plus a money-back guarantee. You can also check out Mail Chimp, another email list manager, which is free if you have a small number of subscribers and send only a few emails each month.
MS Word to JPEG. JPEG to PDF. Excel to PNG. If you’ve ever had to convert a file quickly and have pulled all your hair out in the process – or even if you’re simply not as technically file-fluent as you’d like to be – then Zamzar can be your new best friend. It’s my go-to for file conversion. I use it every week.
It’s no secret that social media can eat up mega amounts of time, yet if you’re a freelancer or content writer you know the value of posting regularly on your social media platforms to keep in touch with your readers. Hootsuite is a scheduling tool that allows you to write and schedule social media posts on up to 3 platforms for free. That’s incredibly useful if you have different accounts – say, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – allowing you to post to all three separately or with the same content. If you find that Hootsuite works for you, then you can move up to one of its paid plans when you’re ready.
Tailwind allows you schedule your visual content for Pinterest and Instagram – and with timing that’s best for your audience. But one of Tailwind’s biggest benefits is its analytics. As writing tools go, this one allows you identify track activity and trends in content, which in turn helps you to know what to write in order to meet your readers’ needs. For me (as one who must grudgingly use tech), it’s a huge plus. Tailwind not only saves me time on the posting end, but the planning end. It helps me see what kinds of content appeal to my readers the most so I know what to produce. If you post visual content, try Tailwind for free with no set up fees and no credit card. If you don’t yet post visual content, then read on …
I’m not a designer, but PicMonkey lets me pretend that I am. This photo editing and graphic design software site makes me feel like a creative genius. It’s packed with fonts, graphics, and extras. Use it to create beautiful graphics for your web page or blog – images that are pin-worthy and can become standalone content in their own right. If you’re a lurker and don’t want to commit before ponying up, you can go to Picmonkey and use it without buying a membership. The free features are limited, but they were enough for me for nearly a year until I was ready to buy an annual membership. Another good DIY graphic resource is Canva, but I learned to use PicMonkey first.
And like I said at the top of this post, I’d rather spend my time writing than learning how to use a new piece of technology.
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