Freelance writing is one of the best work-from-home jobs around. But, with all of the writing tools and resources available out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Not knowing where to start isn’t just frustrating, it can destroy your productivity. That’s why I’ve created this list of essential resources for freelance writers.
Personally, I subscribe to the “less is more” theory. The last thing I want is for you to focus on “busy work” rather than making money. While some of the links provided are affiliate links, I’ve only included products and services that I use or that have come highly recommended by other writers and bloggers.
Use what you need. Ignore what you don’t. Make the most of your time, and you’ll reap the financial rewards. I promise.
Best of the Best
Whether you’re new to freelance writing or a seasoned pro, here’s where you should start!
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Every writer needs a billing and bookkeeping system. Many, if not most, of the freelance writers I know use FreshBooks. It is super simple to use, automates much of the busy work, and creates more time for you to focus on earning. (30-day free trial available.)
If you need a little more beef to your accounting software, Quickbooks is the way to go. Because of the way our business is set up, Greg uses Quickbooks for all of our bookkeeping… and he loves it! (You can also save $100 when you purchase through our link.)
Grammarly provides an easy way to proofread your writing. This app scans your work for typos, punctuation errors, and plagiarism. Free and premium packages available.
When building your blog or portfolio page, you’ll need to find a host for your website. SiteGround provides great hosting and customer service starting at less than $5 a month.
Want your WordPress website to look more professional? Try using the Genesis Framework and one of their “child themes.” They are easy to customize, look great, and we’ve used them on several different websites for years.
Resources for Your Blog or Online Portfolio
Ready to get started on your blog or online portfolio page? These awesome resources can help.
This is where I purchase and manage all of my domain names (and we own about two dozen, ha!). While you may be able to get a url from your hosting company, I like to keep mine separate.
This free software is what we’ve used to create all of our self-hosted websites, and I highly recommend it. (Note: You definitely want to do self-hosting with WordPress.org and NOT the free hosting with WordPress.com. It looks far more professional.) Most hosting companies also have a 1-click WordPress installation system you can use to get started quickly.
As I mentioned above, SiteGround provides excellent hosting for beginners. Prices start at less than $5 a month.
Bluehost is likely the cheapest hosting on the market, and is a decent spot for beginners to start. Find our complete guide to starting a blog with Bluehost here.
We’ve used the Gensis Framework and “child themes” on several of our websites for years. They are relatively cheap, easy to customize, and give your website a more polished look.
Billing, Bookkeeping, Taxes, and Legal
Like it or not, as a freelance writer you’re going to have some bookkeeping work to do. Here are our favorite programs to help you get started.
This is an easy to use billing and bookkeeping system is super popular among the freelancers. FreshBooks simplifies the billing and receiving process, creating more time for you to focus on your work. If most of your clients don’t have an internal billing system, this is should be your “go to” bookkeeping software. (30-day free trial available.)
Because of the way our business is set up, and because I have a lot of clients with internal billing systems, we use the desktop version of Quickbooks for our accounting needs. Whether you do your own taxes or use an accountant, this system will work well for you. Payroll and other options are available as add-ons. Get $100 off the regular price by purchasing through our link above!
I’m kinda old-fashioned when it comes to bookkeeping, but many of the freelancers I know love the online version of Quickbooks. Unlike the desktop version, Quickbooks online charges a monthly subscription fee. However, it seamlessly integrates with your bank accounts, making billing easy. Again, you can get payroll services as an add-on. Try it free for a month by using the link above.
If you plan to do your own taxes, H&R Block offers a great “DIY” software to help you out. Greg has used it to do our taxes for years, and he loves it.
TurboTax is a popular tax prep software made by the same company who owns Quickbooks. So, if you’re using Quickbooks and doing your own taxes, these two programs integrate seamlessly.
When you get to the point where you want to form an “official” business, LegalZoom has a great kit that can help you form a LLC quickly. They’ll provide you with all the forms you need to get your new business up and running.
Looking for resources to help manage your workflow? I think simpler is better. Seriously, don’t over-complicate this, or you’ll waste all your time organizing your work instead of doing it. Here are some simple organization tools to consider.
No, you don’t need a bunch of fancy apps and pretty planners to manage your workflow. I make over $200K a year, and I juggle all of my clients using a simple desktop calendar. To me, simple is better. You can pick one up at Staples or Walmart for about $5, or use the link to order one from Amazon.com.
Speaking of simple, Greg balances all of his to-dos using a pen, paper, and a simple monthly planner. Again, grab one at your local office supply store for about $5, or follow the link to find one on Amazon.com.
When it comes to the blog, we create our editorial calendar using the Google Calendar app. It’s free, we can both see it from anywhere, and it is super simple to use. Oh yeah, and did I mention that it’s free.
Although I haven’t used it myself, I’ve heard good things about Asana. This is another free program that’s great for managing workflow, especially if you’re passing things off between team members. (A premium version is also available.)
Email List Building Tools
If you’re serious about blogging, you need to build an email list. Honestly, if there is one thing I wish we had started doing sooner, it would be gathering an email list. Here are some tools to help.
We use Leadpages to customize our email optin forms, webinar registration pages, sales pages and more. They are super simple to use, and they integrate with almost any email service provider. Leadpages is a “must have” for bloggers who are serious about building their email list.
There are lots of email service providers out there, and after years of searching, we’ve finally settled on ConvertKit. This system was made with bloggers in mind. ConvertKit makes segmenting your list easy, and you can quickly create customized email sequences for each set of subscribers. We love it and highly recommend it.
If you’re just getting started and are looking for something a bit cheaper, MailChimp offers a free email service tier for up to 2,000 subscribers (and 12,000 emails/month). Unfortunately, if you want to create automated sequences, you’ll need to purchase a paid plan.
At ClubThrifty.com, we use Thrive Leads for most of our popup and inline email capture boxes. They are easy to build and integrate seamlessly with most email service providers.
Other Writing and Blogging Tools
This program proofreads your work for grammatical errors, improves your sentence structures, and attempts to detect plagiarism. Free and premium editions available.
This is Google’s suite of tools for businesses. Includes Gmail, Google Drive, video conferencing and more. You can also get a customized Gmail address (ie: firstname.lastname@example.org) with this option. We’ve used it for a few years and love it. Starts at $5 per user/month.
Many hosting companies give you a free email address that includes your site/company name. However, if your website goes down, so does your email. Personally, we use G Suite to get a customized email address, but you can get a free @gmail address here.
Google Drive provides cloud storage and file backups for documents, photos, spreadsheets, and more. You can get somewhat limited storage with a free personal account, or pay for G Suite and get considerably more.
AWS also provides cloud storage. Though not as user-friendly as Google Drive, this is a good place to back up items holding a lot of data. We use it for backing up photos and websites. Free and paid tiers available.
Dropbox is another site where you can store photos and documents in the cloud. Free and paid tiers available.
Social Media Tools
Post Planner is a scheduling tool that helps you schedule Facebook and Twitter posts, while Pinterest integration is coming soon. (We use it specifically for Facebook.) This tool saves us a ridiculous amount of time by helping us schedule and recycle our social media posts. That way, we never run out of Facebook content, and we’re constantly promoting old content from our blog!
I use ManageFlitter to help me find new Twitter accounts to follow… and to bulk unfollow those who I’m no longer interested in hearing from.
This app helps you completely automate pinning on Pinterest.
This is another app that helps automate your Pinterest scheduling.
This program helps you schedule and post content to various social media accounts. Free and paid versions are available.
If you’re just starting out, you might want to consider Upwork. Jobs are usually very low-paying but may serve to get a few items on your portfolio.
Work found here is generally high-paying, but it can be hit or miss. This is probably my favorite online platform as you’ll find several big brands and corporate blogs here.
Jobs here range from terrible to excellent. High-paying jobs can definitely be found if you have the portfolio and the skills to get them.
This is another job board with plenty of high-paying jobs, but you’ll face stiff competition.
Lots of high-paying clients look for writers on LinkedIn Profinder. You do need to apply to be accepted, so it helps to have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile.
Search for free images you can use under various creative commons licenses. In one spot, you can search for images from Google, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, Pixabay, and more. (Just be sure to give proper attribution when you use them.)
This is my go-to spot for quality stock photos. Individual image, monthly, and annual plans are available.
Canva is an online photo editing program that can help you create images for social media and Pinterest. You can even create reusable templates to save time. Best of all, it’s super simple… and can be free.
PicMonkey is another easy-to-use program we’ve used to edit photos and create images for Pinterest.
Design and Support Services
Looking for professional looking graphics, web designs, or logos? At 99designs, thousands of designers compete to win your business.
Grayson Bell isn’t just one of our best friends, he’s awesome at what he does. His team at iMark Interactive provides monthly maintenance and technical support for WordPress websites. If you just need a simple “one-off” fix, they can help you with that too.