Freelance toolkit. Tips and tools of the trade
Working as a freelance writer, editor and content strategist can be a juggling act.
I’m fortunate that through a career spanning over 25 years, I’ve learned from former colleagues, business partners and more. I’ve developed ways of working, which act as a toolkit to help me in my role. I also lean heavily on technology to support me in my work.
Here’s a round-up of some of the skills I think you need to be a successful freelance content expert - and the tools I use to support me in delivering for clients.
1. Invest time in your website
Honestly, pimping my services doesn’t come naturally and is probably my least favourite part of being a freelance content specialist, but “needs must”. It sounds obvious, but your website is the shop window that lets potential clients know who you are and what you can deliver.
Keep your website fresh and updated. I make sure I set aside time to manage mine. I’ve designed it using Wix, which I find easy to use as a website design platform. There’s a free version, although I pay for the Premium version. Recently, I’ve been learning WordPress, which is popular and intuitive and used by small and large businesses to show off their wares.
Recommended tools: Wix, WordPress
2. Build it. Then make them come.
There are around 1.14 billion websites worldwide, and in any field, you’re facing stiff competition. Good content is the foundation of any website, and I believe Content is still King.
However, people need help finding it. AnswerThePublic is a fantastic resource for discovering what people might look for around any topic.
Enter a topic, brand or product, and it will reveal what questions people are asking. I use it to craft my content and as research writing blogs for clients.
Other tools are available, including SEMrush, Uber Suggest and Keyword Searcher.
Recommended tools: SEMrush, Uber Suggest, Keyword Searcher, AnswerThePublic
3. Social media graphics
Social media is awash with people looking to engage potential customers in thought leadership and conversations and to sell products and services.
So, how do you stand out from the crowd?
Canva is an essential tool for any content marketer. A free version is available, but you can upgrade to Canva Pro for a small monthly fee. You can create social media graphics, infographics and more. I made the logo for my website in Canva.
The tool comes with images and assets, but I also use free graphics sites, including Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay.
Recommended tools: Canva, Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels
4. Make your content engaging
Flooding copy with search tools will help with organic visits but do little for audience engagement. Clickbait won’t wash with potential clients. Instead, you need engaging content that adds genuine value to a target audience and develops a brand presence.
Blogs are one tool for delivering this type of content. I’ve just begun building mine, but I have extensive experience writing blogs for clients and former employers.
It’s tempting to focus on volume at the expense of relevance. Don’t.
Good blogs take their cue from what’s trending in your specific sector, are evidence-based, and each should firmly state your position in the marketplace. They position you within a marketplace – and are a hook for showcasing your USPs as an individual or company.
Grammarly will help you to check grammar and give you a readability score, as will the tool within Microsoft Word. I also love this tool at The Writer. Similarly, the Hemingway Editor suggests simplifying copy and making it accessible to all. The Read Aloud tool in Microsoft Word, which you’ll find on the Ribbon under Review, will ‘read aloud’ what you’ve written.
It’s fantastic for checking for rogue typos and how well your copy flows.
Recommended tools: Grammarly, Read Aloud (Microsoft), Hemingway Editor
5. Preparation and planning
I’m a strong ‘J’ for those familiar with Meyers-Briggs, which means I like a structured, orderly plan. It’s essential when juggling multiple projects.
Excel is my tool of choice, and I organise my workflow using a Gantt chart by month. I’m a fan of grouping cells to navigate projects and clients easily. Arguably Excel is a bit Old Skool.
I plug in deadlines and have a separate tab for my accounting by month.
There are numerous online tools for planning and collaborating, and I’m a fan of these, too. Asana (asana.com) can support teams in planning collaboratively, for example, as does Monday (Monday.com). Trello boards are also helpful.
For communicating, Slack is an excellent tool, as is Microsoft Teams.
I also use mind mapping for planning and strategic thinking or how to structure digital content. XMind is a free tool, which I love.
Recommended tools: Asana, Monday, Trello, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Teams, XMind
6. Tech tools
I’m a confessed geek and have far too much tech in the office, but most of it is in use. I work on a MacBook, which suits me, and I have an iPad, too. My favourite tool on my iPad by a country mile is called Good Notes. It enables me to create notebooks that look like paper and to write on them using a stylus.
It’s great for note-taking in meetings especially brainstorms, as I find writing freehand boosts my creativity. I can also import PDFs. Good Notes is excellent for reading background material and client briefs, which I can highlight and annotate. It means I read on-screen rather than printing, which is also good for the environment.
Interviewing is a core part of the role. I ask interviewees for permission to record them via an online meeting platform or use Voice Record Pro. Descript is a tool that allows me to import these recordings and transcribe them at the touch of a button. It isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s not far off. I can remove filler words such as Ums, which is fantastic.
It’s a time saver.
Recommended tools: MacBook, Stylus, OneNote, Descript
What tools couldn’t you live without? Why not leave me a comment