5 Useful Resources for Freelancers
I’ve been working as an independent freelance writer and editor for around three years now. It’s been a challenging ride, to say the least, filled with euphoric periods of feast and crippling stretches of famine (particularly during The Pandemic), but all of it has been a lesson in one way or another.
Some of these lessons involved time management, client communications, and the importance of maintaining boundaries between work and life. That last one is a lot more difficult as a freelancer than you’d think. However, the other day, it occurred to me as I was putting together a different blog post that a lot of the software and creative resources that I use might seem evident to me. However, there are likely others, particularly those new to content creation, who might not be aware of these resources. So, I’ve put together a short list of five resources that I find invaluable as a freelancer. Most, if not all, have a free option as well as the premium option, so the price tag of this list should be pretty low.
Let’s start with the big one, shall we? Grammarly isn’t exactly a new or emerging service (heck, it’s even got its own sound on Tik Tok), but I can attest to how invaluable it is as someone who spends most days writing for 8-10 hours or more. I use it on Microsoft Word, so I’m afraid I can’t speak to how it works on a Mac or other word processors, but in my experience, the free service is a pretty solid piece of editing software. However, as I use it so frequently across a range of content, I have invested in a premium subscription.
The premium version allows you to refine what kind of editing you want from the range of academic, business, general, technical, casual, and creative. You can also choose between a general, knowledgeable, and expert audience and informal, neutral, or formal tone of writing voice. For this blog post, for example, I chose knowledgeable, neutral, and general. For an essay, however, I’d select expert, formal, and academic.
In addition to the extension on Word, I have Grammarly on my browser (Chrome) and my phone. This helps with emails, tweets, and the many cover letters I write daily on sites such as UpWork and Guru.com.
If you’re a freelancer needing to flip between multiple forms and voices of writing each day, I recommend Grammarly to help with that. The yearly subscription isn’t too eye-wateringly expensive either at just over £100 for the year (this may differ for folks in other countries, but the exchange rate works in my favour for once in this case).
Although I’m a writer and editor by profession and word processors are my home, there’s also a surprising amount of visuals that need creating in my line of work. This can include website content, Instagram posts, Twitter banners, Facebook visuals, and any number of visual knickknacks I need in my everyday life.
Canva is a fantastic resource that allows you to easily create slick, professional-looking visuals across various styles. There are dozens of free templates for all social media posts, social media banners, brochures, posters, and so much more that you can edit to fit your brand. There is a premium version, but I find the free option perfectly sufficient and often use it. I’ve made advertising posters for a friend’s video content, Instagram and Facebook posts; in fact, I make all the cover images for my blog posts on Canva. You can upload your own media to replace the stock photos from the templates if you wish, but there are also plenty of free content options if you need them.
Speaking of free content, this next resource is one that I use in tandem with Canva.
Unsplash is a free image resource similar to Shutterstock, but one you can use for free. The range of images is impressive, and, as a nice detail, the site makes it very easy to credit the producers of the photographs (for instance, the cover photo for this blog is by iMattSmart on Unsplash. This allows you to use the work for free and provide the photographers with free exposure. I use Unsplash whenever I need stock images or images that I can’t produce myself. Highly recommend.
Trello is an organisational app that has genuinely saved my sanity many times over. I’m a freelancer who also has a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD). My dyspraxia affects my ability to organise tasks, prioritise events, and manage time (time blindness makes my life hell sometimes, let me tell you). Trello has been immensely helpful. It allows me to separate projects into different boards and then break those project boards down into smaller, bite-sized tasks. There are, of course, a variety of apps and software out there (and please do tell me about some of your favourites or recommendations) that provide a similar service, but I really vibe with the layout and flow process of Trello. Plus, it’s entirely free.
This final one is less directly tied to workflow, straying over into self-care, but I utilise it to help me stay on task for both work and rest. Forest is the most adorable little focus app with the bonus of allowing you to create real-world change.
Forest essentially locks you out of your phone, stopping social media scrolling or randomly checking your email. Although, you can set a list of allowed apps that you’re able to access during Deep Focus mode (I have access to calls, texts, calendar, calculator, Spotify, etc.). The various trees, plants, and flowers are too cute for words. You can also create different tags so you can see which tasks you’re focusing on most.
Once you’ve selected which plant you want to grow, you set how long you want to focus for (it goes from 10 minutes to a maximum of 3 hours), then start your lil’ buddy growing.
Trying to access apps that aren’t on your allow list will generate a pop-up steering you back to Forest. If you give up on your focus session, you kill the tree, a consequence I honestly find harsh enough to avoid doing so at pretty much all costs. What can I say? I’m a plant parent through and through.
If you grow successfully, the plant, tree, or flower appears in your “forest”, which you can view by day, week, month, and year. Focusing also earns you coins that you can use to buy more digital options for your forest. And the best thing? You can even use those pretend coins to buy real-life trees to be planted out there in the real world!
There’s a free and premium version (and the premium version is very affordable), and I’ve found it very helpful for keeping me off my phone when I should be writing, sleeping, or relaxing.
Do you have any apps or resources that you find helpful as freelancers, writers, or busy professionals? I’m always eager to discover new tools to streamline my work process and revolutionise how I manage my work-life balance.