5 Free Tools for Freelance Writers

Whether you’re editing photos or typing in a foreign language, you’ll find lots of online tools to simplify and streamline your writing-related tasks in just a few clicks. Still using expensive photo software or searching for the accent mark you need? As Apple would say, “there’s an app for that.” Best of all, many of these tools are free. Here are five of my favorites.

1.    Picnik.com
Editors and clients often want photos in specific sizes, so I use this free tool to crop or resize images to accompany blog posts or articles. It’s a good basic photo editor and requires no registration, but the premium version offers even more features. At $24.95, it’s still a heck of a lot cheaper than the full version of PhotoShop.
2.    Google Voice
I could devote an entire post to all the handy Google products I use on a daily basis, but Google Voice is my undisputed favorite. I used Skype for years, but Google Voice includes some additional features like voicemail transcription and the ability to get a phone number in your local area code for free. I can make and receive calls through my MacBook and have them forward to my iPhone when I’m away. As with Skype, the sound quality can be a little spotty, but I especially like Google Voice for phone interviews so I don’t eat up a zillion cell phone minutes or get neck strain from cradling my iPhone on my shoulder as I furiously type notes.
3.    Boomerang for Gmail
Confession: I sometimes work late into the night, but I don’t want clients or sources thinking I have no life. That’s why I installed Boomerang for Gmail so I can schedule messages to arrive at saner hours. I also schedule emails when an editor says, “check in with me next week after our editorial meeting” or “can you follow up after the next issue closes?” The basic version of this tool includes ten message credits per month.
4.    TypeIt.org 
Ever needed to type the symbol for a foreign currency? Or wanted to spice up your writing with a phrase or two en Español? TypeIt puts all these special characters literally at your fingertips without you hunting around for so-called shortcuts or (my old standby) Googling until you find the character you need. I had a copywriting client whose products were named in several different languages, so I’d just click on the language and have all the accent marks or umlauts I needed.
5.    WordPot.com
Most technical writers resist the idea that they are slaves to SEO. Still, it’s useful to know what search terms in your niche are most popular. Enter a word or phrase and WordPot shows you the prevalence of related terms. This is useful for freelance writers for two reasons. First, knowing how different rank could help you create SEO-friendly headlines. Second, looking at related terms might inspire future articles or blog posts. You might pay for a more comprehensive tool if you were planning a pay-per-click campaign, but for writing purposes it works just fine.

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About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer whose work appears in Bankrate.com, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, MediaBistro.com, Parade Magazine, and SELF, among other places. She is the author of The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets and blogs at The Urban Muse.