Writing and content creation is tough, and that’s why I wanted to share ten of my favorite tools for improving my craft as a writer and online entrepreneur. This list will only scratch the surface of all the helpful tools and resources available. If I left any out feel free to leave additional tools in the comments to help fellow readers.
Pocket (Mobile App+Chrome Extension)
I use Pocket to avoid the dreaded tab overload. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have 20+ tabs open in my browser at one time, and I’m fairly diligent about what I choose to read. There are just so many great articles/blogs that I genuinely want to read, even if it’s going to be a week or two down the road. Pocket has solved this and allows me to quickly “pocket” something for later while closing out a tab or window.
A few features I really love are, of course, multi-device synchronization, favorite article archives, and even a saved article archive or delete function. I enjoy being able to save or read articles whether I’m on my phone, iPad, or laptop. And the archive functions are great for keeping a wheelhouse of useful articles to revisit every once in a while.
I’d like to preface this by admitting, I’m a Google fanboy. Their tools for creatives are simply hard to beat. Google Chrome has been my default internet browser for the past few years, and I seem to find a new extension to improve productivity or effectiveness every day. Despite my love for Chrome, I remember being resistant to using Google Drive, and I held out until I had a problem that elicited jumping on board.
For the better part of 2015, I ran an online fitness coaching business that required a ton of client management. At one point, I had over 75 clients needing program and assessment organization. Google Drive allowed me to effectively organize and work collaboratively with each client.
Google Drive is essentially like your computer’s hard drive, stored in the “cloud.” You can store documents, pictures, videos, or anything you like. Where Drive differentiates itself is the sharing functions. Instead of emailing a file back and forth between a client or coworker, shared files can be edited and updated by both parties simultaneously. You can even use Google Hangouts to have a conference call to discuss a project in real time.
When I say Google Drive, this includes my affinity for Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms, or as I like to call it, Google Office. I’m not sure we’ll ever get away from Microsoft Office completely, but I certainly hope so. Docs and Sheets are the equivalent to Microsoft Word and Excel without the bloat. Sure, if you’re an accountant, you’re going to be married to Excel. But for the rest of us that need some minimal database management tools, Sheets goes above and beyond. Google Forms is a survey tool similar to Survey Monkey but unlike others, Forms populates an easy to follow spreadsheet (via Sheets) with the responses.
Like anything new, there is a slight learning curve with Google Drive and company. There are several courses on Lynda.com and even YouTube on getting started and improving your Googleyness.
Although I have always loved to read, my educational interests through high school and most of college were as far away from English/journalism as they could be. Thanks to preparing for the GRE, I did some extensive work on improving my poor vocabulary, but my grammar and syntax are still works in progress. That’s why I Grammarly appealed to me in the first place. A Chrome extension that will act as an advanced word processor when I’m typing anywhere – social media, Google, and WordPress included.
I’m sure you know this by now, but images can make or break a blog post or article. High-quality images improve both click rates and the shareability of posts. Layout is Instagram’s app for combining multiple images, and I prefer using it over apps like PicStitch to put together collages.
Another useful tool is Wordswag, which is an app for adding great looking text to images. The current trend of motivational and inspirational images with quotes is popular for a reason – they get shared like crazy.
While we’re on the topic of images. It’s a real pain in the ass, for lack of a better term, finding high-quality images to use in your posts. At least ones that you can use legally and royalty free. Shutterstock is a great option for awesome images, but they will run you around $10/photo. The alternative is to find royalty free stock images to use, but most sites lack desirable images. Unsplash.com is by far the best I’ve come across and has tons of stunning “do whatever you want with these” images to download.
Deathtothestockphoto.com is worth mentioning as well. They are an email subscription-based service that delivers new images each month to your inbox for free.
If you noticed my earlier mention of preparing for the GRE, you’re aware that I considered going to grad school at one point. I actually made it as far as registering for classes, twice. But I never pulled the trigger and actually went through with it. When there is so much great information available for free or a MUCH lower cost, it is nearly illogical to consider a graduate degree that isn’t healthcare/professional related.
Lynda.com, for example, has courses on virtually everything you could ever need to know about business, technical tools, marketing, etc. These courses aren’t your run of the mill YouTube tutorial, they are several hour-long courses with professional production quality and top notch information. The instructors are typically industry leaders that are actually taking action on the information they’re teaching, not just teaching it.
Also, Lynda was acquired by LinkedIn so if you’re an active LinkedIn member you’re able to post completed courses to your LinkedIn account – if you’re into that sort of thing. Lynda isn’t the only option in this realm, there are also options like Creative Live that provide great courses as well.
A post about increasing productivity and improving your craft wouldn’t be complete without a tip of the hat to Evernote. It goes without saying that this is the holy grail of note taking. The instant synchronization between devices, collaborative features, and overall organizational functions are unparalleled. Having streamlined notes with pictures, videos, and web clippings are always one click away with Evernote. You would think they paid me to write that, but they didn’t. 😦
If you lack the necessary skills to operate Photoshop like me, Canva.com is the place to go. You can use your own images or use their very high-quality templates to create excellent graphics for your posts.
Creating headlines is one of, if not the toughest part of blogging/writing. Great headlines can make a lackluster post go viral – look at all the BuzzFeed posts you see shared daily. Use Headline Analyzer to grade your headline and learn more about what makes an effective headline. Their free guides are excellent as well, so be sure to pick those up while you’re there.
As I mentioned in the introduction, this list is neverending, and I would love to hear what tools I forgot or that I may not even be aware of yet. Feel free to leave them in the comments. Whether you are a budding blogger, freelance writer, content marketer, or a fellow fitness professional, I love to connect with other like-minded individuals so don’t hesitate to reach out.