For a lot of years, I did all of this writing life stuff with very little financial expense to myself. But of late, I’m finally come to realize that by doing everything myself, by not paying other people to do things, I am actually hurting my business, not to mention my writing.
Let’s take a practical example. I charge $50 an hour for coaching/editing/manuscript reviews. So for every hour I spend trying to figure out how to do something on my website, posting to social media, or manually sending emails, I am not earning $50. On average, I spend an hour or more A DAY on those things, so every month, I am losing $1,500 worth of earnable income by doing those things for myself.
Contrast that to what I pay to have a great web designer help me, using a social media scheduler, and paying for a mail service provider. Total, I average about $200 a month for those things.
Thus, by paying someone or a service to help me with some of the logistics of my business, I have the potential to earn $1,300 BEYOND what I pay for help. Seriously, that’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it?
Now, you may not make much or any money (YET!) from your writing, and so paying $100 a month for services may be out of your reach. I totally get that. But there are tools that will help you with those things, and those tools are FREE. I’ll talk about some of those below.
So here are the 7 tools I use – and free versions of similar tools – to make my life as a writer more easy and routine:
- Mailchimp – FREE and PAY – I love this service, and not just because it gives me a monkey-paw high five every time I send an email. It’s very intuitive, robust, and integrates with almost everything. Also, it’s free if you send less than 1,200 a month or have less than 2,000 subscribers. I used the free plan for a long time.
- Edgar – PAY- I use Edgar to schedule my social media across several Facebook pages, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I set a schedule, load content as I see it (they have a great add-on for Chrome), and then let Edgar the octopus (I see I have a thing for animal-themed software) post for me. Easy and constant so I don’t have to be online all the time. I pay $49/month for Octopus services.
- Unsplash and Pixabay – FREE- Okay, so technically this is two tools, but both of them are for FREE, attribution-free photos. I use these ALL THE TIME for my blog posts (the image above comes from Pixabay), for ad images, for social media marketing, etc. The images are gorgeous – especially those from Unsplash – and they are, again, all free.
- Canva – FREE and PAY – Another mostly free tool, this time to create nifty images like the one above. Just upload your own photos (or pay a nominal amount to use theirs), add text, some color, and voila! you have a personalized image that is great for social media, especially Pinterest.
- LeadPages – PAY – For years, I have been adding pages to this WordPress blog to promote specific things, and those pages were adequate. But I’m not a design professional, and I’m not at a financial place in my career where I can pay a designer every time I need a page made. Hence, LeadPages. There, I can use a template to construct a clear, well-designed page to promote an event, gather email addresses (it integrates fully with Mailchimp), and advertise. I pay $39 a month for this service; they do not, however, have an animal mascot. Sigh.
- Aaron Bolton – PAY – Aaron is not a piece of software. He is a human. A very talented, kind, generous human, and he is my web designer. He is knowledgable and helpful, and his rates are really reasonable. I turn to Aaron when I need something visual done for my sites – he’s a painter by passion – and when the technical side of things (SSL certificates, what?) is beyond my scope. He charges by the hour, and again, he’s really reasonable.
- WordPress – FREE and PAY – I pay for the WordPress blog platform because I want to have more control of my sites and because I want the domains to be clean and direct people to my businesses. But they do have a free option that I used for many years when I was just getting started. I love WordPress because I can do most of the work myself – from adding LeadPages to may domain to posting blog posts like this one to adding plug-ins to help me market, promote, and secure my site. I do host my sites with Aaron (again his rates for hosting are really reasonable) because I want the security and maintenance Aaron provides, and that service costs me $30/month for each site.
- CoPromote – FREE – I use this tool when I want to promote something very specific and want more reach than I have organically or can afford to buy. In this service, you share other people’s content and earn credits that then allow you to have other people share yours. A note of caution here – a lot of the content there isn’t awesome, but it is improving. And if you spend a bit of time, you can find really good things that you feel good about sharing with your audience.
- Quickbooks Online – PAY – I’ve used Mint, which I loved for tracking but didn’t give me invoicing capability, and Wave for both tracking and invoicing but was too clunky for my record-keeping. Finally, I landed on Quickbooks. Here I can track spending for my business, send invoices, set up regular billing, and do my budgeting. I pay roughly $25 a month for two businesses, and it’s totally worth it.
- Google Analytics – FREE – I don’t use this tool nearly as much as I should – maybe Aaron and I will talk about how I can do that more – but even for the little I do use it, it’s helpful in telling me how my website traffic looks, what posts/pages are getting the most hits, and where my traffic is finding me. Absolutely essential if your website is going to be a part of your business.
I use a lot more tools, but these are the big ones. I can honestly say that using these tools has helped my business grow – in MAJOR ways – because I now have time to actually write, edit, and coach instead of worrying about so much about the marketing, finances, and communication parts of the business.
Do you use any of these tools? If so, what do you think of them? Or do you use any others that you’d recommend other writers check out?