For your words to be read by others, you’ll need more than a simple pen and paper. But there’s so much tech out there, it can feel overwhelming to know what to choose.
Where on earth do you start?
As a writing coach, one of the ways I serve clients is by helping them find resources that provide the support they need so they can pursue—and achieve—their writing goals.
Tools and resources for writers, whether you’re just getting started or ready to level up!
Here you’ll find my top picks. I’ve included some that were a great choice for when I first got started as a writer and coach—many of which I still use today—as well as some “upgrades” I’ve made over time. Though I’m sharing as many free or low cost options as possible, I did eventually invest in certain equipment, services, and apps that made my work more effective and efficient.
My hope is with these tools and inspiration from a coach, you can get started right away so your writing life can flourish!
Important Disclaimer: Some of the products and services I recommend below contain affiliate links, which means if you click on one of these affiliate links and subsequently purchase a product or service, I’ll be paid a small commission at no extra cost to you. As I said, though, I only recommend what I believe has potential to serve your writing and creative needs, and I have marked the affiliate products. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases (you’ll find that a few affiliate links below lead to Amazon items).
Believe it or not, I write mostly in Google Docs. Because Docs is online and across devices (available as an app on both Android and iOS), I can write or edit any document on my computer, notebook, or phone. Its editing features are similar to Word or Pages, but slimmed down, and for obvious reasons Google Docs offers terrific search features when trying to find a quote or key word in my documents.
I like it for collaboration, especially. When working with clients, we can upload a project and make changes in real time during a call or leave lengthy comments for each other in the sidebar at any time day or night. I offer observations and recommendations using “suggesting” mode, which is like Word’s “track changes.”
No more passing Word documents back and forth via email attachments, confused about which version has the most recent changes. And…Docs continually saves changes. No more lost work!
How to get it: All you need is a Gmail address. If you have one, you already have a Google Drive account and you’ll have access to Google Docs. If you don’t use Gmail, you could create a Gmail account not to use for email correspondence but for the purpose of accessing Google Docs (and the suite of Google tools, including Sheets, Keep, Forms, and Presentation).
FREE Trial, $49 paid
Good for long-form projects like books, Scrivener is a popular option. I bought it years ago and see its strengths, such as providing easy ways to move content blocks (a bigger challenge in almost any other mainstream option like Word or Docs). You can easily store research and notes related to the project, so everything is in one place for easy reference.
I wish it were seamlessly accessible on all devices so I could really commit to it as my go-to writing program. Their answer to that is to offer an app (at an additional cost) and instructing users to save the document to a cloud-based space like Dropbox. It works as long as you save and exit the document from any previous place you’ve been working (for example, log out of it from your laptop before logging onto the app on your phone). I found that a little too complicated, but for my next big project I do intend to see if I can make Scrivener work because I’d love to enjoy its organizational features.
Many authors swear by it to pull all materials into one space and easily move chapters and sections around without having to copy-paste content—an excellent feature. I recommend you sign up for the free trial. I mean, what have you got to lose? You might love it, too!
How to get it: Scrivener is available through Literature & Latte (affiliate link). Their 14-day free trial is 14 days of actual use instead of calendar days, making it a generous and useful way to familiarize yourself with Scrivener even if you run into a series of busy days where you can’t get to it.
Microsoft 365 Family (recommended for 2-6 people) $99.99/year; Personal $69.99/year
I’ve used Word for decades and it used to serve me well, but it’s no longer my favorite place to compose my content. If you already have it installed, by all means jump in and use it—but be sure to click save as often as you think about it. They may have added autosave to their most recent versions, but my clients and I have too often lost hours of work thanks to Word locking up.
Another reason to consider owning or getting access to Word is because most publishing houses rely on it. It’s still the most requested format in the industry. In fact, I provide members of my book proposal course a proposal template in editable Word format because that’s often what agents and editors request.
My typical workflow is to compose in Google Docs, export the document in Word format, then open the document in Word and skim it to be sure the formatting came through correctly, like page breaks, tabs, and bullets.
How to get it: Microsoft 365 is the subscription model available today for new users, but business and universities often have discounted options available for their employees and students, so it’s worth asking around.
Tools to Capture Quick Thoughts & Ideas
To record quick thoughts on the go, you can open a Google Doc and toss information into a new or existing document, but here are three more options:
- Notes (iOS): For the first time in decades, I’m finally using an iPhone, giving me a reason to experiment with the Notes app. It’s quick. And if I turn on the option to save to iCloud, I can access it on the Notes app both on my iPad and desktop computer. So far, this seems to be a good choice for people who own all Apple products.
- Google Keep: For years I used an Android phone despite owning an iPad and MacBook Pro. To take quick notes, I used Google Keep, which offers an app for both iOS and Android…and of course you can use the online version with any browser.
- Evernote: I used to use Evernote for the same purpose—to quickly open an app and drop a thought or quote I can access later on my other devices. Evernote worked for years; in fact, I even wrote drafts of short-form projects like blog posts. However, Evernote’s free plan limits the number of devices and has become a bit glitchy, so I no longer rely on it; however, if you have it and like it, this may be a great option to continue with.
How to get them: Notes comes installed on every Apple device; if not, go to the App store and download it for free. Google Keep is available for free with your Gmail address, so if you have access to Google Docs, you’ll have Keep, as well, by simply logging into your Gmail account. Evernote offers a fairly generous free plan, though you could upgrade to the premium option if you’re already committed.
I recommend writers set up a writing pipeline and an editorial calendar. This can be efficiently managed within a program called Trello. This kanban-style project management system is the space where I manage all of my projects and workflows. I highly recommend it to set up a writing pipeline, submissions tracker, deadlines, and to-do lists. I also use it to collaborate with people on projects. Trello does offer paid plans, but I’ve used their free plan for over a decade and have everything I need. I highly recommend it.
How to get it: Trello’s free plan is extremely generous, so set up an account and experiment.
Others: Asana, OneNote, Evernote
Trello is my personal favorite, but honorable mentions include Asana, OneNote, and Evernote. Many people swear by Asana, which is a more robust project management system complete with Gantt charts created with dependencies. I found the earlier versions of Asana to be confusing and overly team-minded, which is why—as a writer working mostly alone—I ended up with Trello (although as I said, Trello can be used collaboratively with teams). I’ve used Evernote for years, and my husband swears by OneNote, so if you’re already using those apps, by all means stick with them and use them to accomplish the same goals of organizing your work.
FREE up to 1K subscribers with limited features; $29/month for “creator” plan up to 1K subscribers
An effective way to stay in touch with readers is through email, and it’s best to do that through an Email Service Provider. You’ll find a few options that are free up to a certain number of subscribers or free but with limited features. I use (and love!) a paid service called ConvertKit.
When you hear the term “list-building,” people are referring to building your list of email subscribers. A program like ConvertKit allows you to create forms that you make available in a variety of ways so visitors can discover what you have to offer via email and sign up to receive it. ConvertKit also offers landing pages, though most people recommend creating a landing page at your own website (for website tools, see below).
I’d been using another well-known option for years, growing more and more frustrated with their system. Finally I decided to try ConvertKit and after I uploaded my existing list and adjusted to their approach, I loved its simplicity. You can experiment with ConvertKit’s new templates, but I like plain text emails (or slightly formatted).
I’ve been with ConvertKit since 2013 and have never once considered anything else. I highly recommend it.
How to get it: Visit ConvertKit to check out the pricing plans—you can sign for free (affiliate link).
FREE, but you need to pay for a host
Since the early 2000s I’ve used WordPress to create and design my website. Here’s what can be confusing about websites in general and WordPress in particular: You can find options where the system you use to design and create content is also offering hosting. Some of these are free, like Wix and Weebly. Now here’s the confusing part: WordPress.com is a free version of WordPress that is the free all-in-one option, where you get the content creation and design piece with their hosting. That’s not my recommendation.
I don’t recommend their free option—or any free option, if you can afford to pay for hosting—because they use your site to show ads to your visitors, and it’s always a best practice to control and own what you can of your content (to the extent that it’s possible). However, if resources are tight, I’d rather you sign up for a free option and establish your online presence than to wait months before creating and sharing content.
As soon as you can afford the monthly fee, I recommend you create what’s called a “self-hosted” website. This means you pay for a domain name that you set up with a web host, which will require a monthly fee. That leads us, finally, to what I use: WordPress.org (notice it’s .org, not the free .com version). WordPress.org is free to use once you set it up with your host.
If this explanation sounds overwhelming, you may want to ask a tech-confident friend or family member to help; or you could pay someone to help you set it up and explain how it works to write and publish content. Once it’s installed, actually logging into the dashboard to use WordPress is not too hard. If you need someone to help you with your website, I have a recommendation for that, as well (Fistbump Media below).
How to get it: WordPress.com is available at that url, but WordPress.org, as I said, is available to install when you sign up with a website host company.
Hostgator (web hosting)
$11.99/month for “Baby Plan”; special offer first invoice starting at $2.75
Many companies offer web hosting. For decades I’ve used one called Hostgator. I’m on their “Baby Plan,” as they call it. Their site can be challenging to navigate, and I’ve had to watch video explanations and walkthroughs to set up my own website or deal with other challenges. But when I’ve run into tech issues I can’t solve on my own—or any question, actually—Hostgator’s knowledgeable, capable, and reassuring 24/7 online chat support provides the help I need.
Setting up hosting with Hostgator and then installing WordPress is doable, but it can get technical. Their own how-to videos make it seem easy with quick setup guides, but if you aren’t confident diving into new systems and technology, try to find help. If you ask around, you may find a friend or family member with skills to set things up—or the confidence to give it a try. If you don’t have support from tech-minded friends of family and you can afford to hire it out, I recommend Fistbump Media (below). Several friends and clients have used them and have been very happy.
Hostgator isn’t the most well known option for web hosting, but I highly recommend them and have only positive experiences with them.
How to get it: You can sign up for Hostgator by going to Hostgator.com. (affiliate link)
Service Prices Vary (affiliate link)
Fistbump Media is a full-service digital marketing agency and website hosting company that serves and supports writers because they, too, are writers. The founder is a friend and former colleague, Dan King.
Fistbump can fill the gap with the technology challenges you may face when setting up your online home base. Hire them to help you secure your domain, set up your website, design it, host it, and more—turn to them for as much or little support as you like or need.
How to get it: Visit FistbumpMedia.com to explore their options. If you like what you see, you can contact them to discuss details and determine which services will serve and support your writing goals. (affiliate link)
Buy Domain Name
To host your own website, you’ll need your very own domain name. If you can get your full name (like annkroeker.com), pay for as many years as you can afford. If your first and last name combination isn’t available, don’t despair. You can add a word that reflects your aspirations and intentions, like annkroekerwriter.com or annkroekercreative.com or annkroekerauthor.com. In time, as you write blog posts and compose your about page, search engines will eventually direct people to the website associated with you, the writer-creator…instead of the other person who happens to have the same name and may be a real estate agent or football player.
When you set up your self-hosted website, you’ll “point” the domain name to your host. It takes a little time for that to finish, but that process is part of setting up your website.
I don’t have a top pick for this but want you to understand that it’s needed. You can purchase your domain from many different companies, including the place where you decide to host your website. If you’re curious, I use GoDaddy because I began purchasing domains in the early days of blogging, when few options were available. I’m not linking to it because I’ve heard mixed reviews; I don’t want to send you there and have you end up with issues. At the same time, I have had all positive experiences with them.
How to get it: As I mentioned, I use GoDaddy but recommend instead you do your own search.
As we seek to be more and more accessible to serve the widest possible audience, transcription is becoming more and more important. One approach is to use Rev.com for human transcription. That’s expensive, but you pay for accuracy.
However, they purchased Temi.com to offer lower-priced AI transcription, and you know what? It’s not bad for a much lower fee ($0.25 or 25 cents per minute, as-needed—and a free trial!). You don’t have to sign up for a monthly fee and end up not using it. Instead, you upload and pay for the time you need.
How to get it: Temi.com
Transcription: Happy Scribe
My transcription fees are huge: from podcasts and one-on-one client meetings to numerous group coaching calls, it seems I’m often needing at least a rough transcription of an audio file.
This provides similar quality to Temi, and I guess they are trying to undercut them at $0.20/minute (20 cents/minute)! They offer human transcription, as well.
Blubrry (podcast hosting)
Price varies based on storage needed
You don’t want to simply record yourself and upload those files to your website—that’ll slow down your website so visitors can’t easily navigate your space. Plus, your web host usually has limits to how much you can upload and store. Therefore, you need to find another place to host your audio files.
You can find free options to host your podcast, but what happens if those programs go under? What if they profit off your programs or present ads that don’t align with your values? What if the fine print says they own your content? To avoid all of those concerns, I recommend as a best practice that you set up a self-hosted podcast, just as I suggested for your website.
Free and paid podcast trainings often recommends Libsyn as a podcast host, which has lots of happy customers, but I don’t have personal experience with them.
My host is Blubrry, which has been around since the early days of podcasting. They have been fantastic. I love how seamlessly they integrate with my WordPress site with their PowerPress plugin, which even Libsyn customers use to upload their episodes to websites. When I’ve had issues or questions, members of the Blubrry team (top leaders!) answered my questions personally and solved my technical dilemmas.
Because my show is short, my storage needs are modest and I usually pay the lowest fee, which is the $12/month subscription rate. I experimented with interviews for a while, which were about 45 minutes long. This bumped me up to the $20/month rate for a while, but I suspended those interviews for other reasons and dropped back down to $12/month.
How to get it: Visit Blubrry, check out their hosting options, and enjoy a one-month free trial with my affiliate link.
GarageBand (recording and editing software)
If you have a Mac (or even an iPad or iPhone, though I’ve never tested the iPhone app), GarageBand is available for free. I record straight into GarageBand and edit it myself afterwards. If you have a PC, many people recommend Audacity, but I have no personal experience with that and therefore can only recommend you research it and make your own decision. I’ve only used GarageBand and that’s my top pick for amateur podcasters. If you can afford it, by all means hire out the editing.
You’re wise to invest in a microphone, because a podcast needs quality sound. I’ve had three mics if you count the earpiece I used to record my first few episodes. When you’re just getting started, use what you already have—and you’re in luck! These days the mic built into your phone will record clear sound compared with the little earpiece I used in 2014. In time, however, you may find you’ll want better sound. Unless you head into a studio or you’re ready to invest in studio-grade equipment, look for a microphone that plugs straight into a computer.
Mic 1: Blue Yeti
CURRENTLY $129.99 USD (price fluctuates to, at times, over $200)
I was—and still am—a DIY podcaster, recording and editing in my home-based bedroom-turned-office. Back in 2015 when I was upgrading from my earpiece, the two most often recommended microphones for people getting started in podcasting were the Blue Yeti and the Audio-Technica ATR2100. After reading reviews and listening to sample audio clips that compared brands, I swallowed hard and invested in the classic Blue Yeti.
Overall I like the Blue Yeti and still use it. It’s a workhorse that served me well for years—it’s solid, heavy, and tall. The downside of its heft, however, is that it is not easily portable. Another drawback of that type of microphone (condenser) is that picks up a lot of extra sound, creating a challenge as I searched for a quiet environment to record in my noisy household. I recommend the Yeti, if you research those challenges and decide it’s still for you; but a few years later I decided to try the other style of microphone, a dynamic mic (see below before making a decision).
How to get it: You can purchase a Blue Yeti various places, but this is my Amazon affiliate link to the Blue “store,” where you can look around at various products. You can also go directly to the same silver Blue Yeti I purchased.
Microphone 2: Samson Q2U
CURRENTLY $69.99 (price fluctuates)
In 2019, I listened at length to comparison recordings made with various microphones, as I did when I bought the Blue Yeti. My starting point was the oft-recommended ATR2100. In my research, however, I began to hear about the Samson Q2U. Similar to the ATR2100, the Samson Q2U is a simple condenser mic with, in my opinion, a richer sound. Since then, I’ve seen sound engineers weigh in with opinions rating Samson’s sound quality lower. What do I know?
Condenser mics pick up less extraneous sound, but they also require the user to move in close in order to be picked up by the mic. This has proven to be true. I’m happy with the Samson Q2U overall, but I do have to lean in closer than I had to with the Blue Yeti, and it’s hard to keep out of the camera frame when recording videos. At the same time, peripheral sounds are muffled. In my home recording situation, this advantage outweighs disadvantages, and I gladly lean in close.
Reviews from actual users suggested inconsistencies from mic to mic, so I hesitated. It was a tough decision. But I purchased it and have been happy with the Samson. I use it to this day, but I think an ATR2100 can also be a great pick, as can many other mics. Don’t get too hung up on the choices. If you purchase something different, there’s a good chance it’ll deliver great results.
How to get it: This links to the same Samson Q2U I purchased via Amazon, which came with a little stand and foam screen. I also purchased this carrying case for when I travel. (affiliate links)
Basic plan $39/month, but you can enjoy a 14-day free trial
You’ll find several options for creating and hosting online courses, but the one I’ve used and can recommend from personal experience is Teachable. As with any online platform, it’s not perfect. I’ve followed their growth because I’ve been with them for years, seeing them evolve and adapt, and I’m still with them as my top-recommended course tool.
I use Teachable in a lot of ways. For example, I offer a simple, short course as a free lead magnet. Teachable easily connects to ConvertKit to add those new “students” to my list of subscribers. I also use Teachable to host onboarding instructions and materials for new clients, as well as challenges, paid courses, and content for group coaching programs. If I ever host a summit, I’ll use Teachable to deliver the content. I feel Teachable is a fabulous way to store video training and other materials in a private, accessible space.
I suggest you get a feel for Teachable by signing up for their 14-day free trial. Create a short, fake course to understand how it works. If you decide to officially sign up, building your first real course will be much easier; if you don’t like it, you won’t lose anything important.
To create videos, whether screen capture (with slide decks), talking head style, or a combination, you’ll need audio recording, video recording, and editing tools. For mics, see “Podcasting Tools” section above. For video recommendations, see below.
How to get it: Sign up for Teachable’s 14-day free trial and start teaching what you know. (affiliate link).
Also (or alternatively), you can sign up for their free 40-minute recorded Quickstart webinar that walks you through how to get started with courses: CLICK HERE for Quickstart webinar (affiliate link)
To start creating video, use what you have. You’ll have many things to juggle at once: content, delivery (voice, face, movement), recording, editing, prepping, uploading. That’s a lot of different skills and tools. You may try it and realize it’s not for you. Best not to invest in expensive equipment until you’re 100 percent committed.
You need something to record your voice, something to capture the video (these might be the same thing, but for better sound you may want to upgrade the mic), an editing app (or hire it out), and extras used to prep and share (including appropriate images and thumbnails). If you decide to show a slide deck, you’ll need a method for capturing what’s on the screen with the option of showing your face or limiting it only to a voice narration.
Screenflow (screen capture recording and editing software)
$129; download free trial
Screenflow, from Telestream, is the software I purchased years ago to use for screen capture. When I’m recording a slide deck (or anything on my screen), Screenflow allows me to record my voice narration and at the same time, if I choose, my face. Its editing features make it easy to add text, animation, and transitions. Screenflow is Mac only (PC users often use a similar system called Camtasia, but I’m only familiar with Screenflow). I recommend this tool.
How to get it: Sign up for Screenflow’s free trial and record some experimental videos with it. (affiliate link)
iMovie (editing software)
FREE on iOS
I’ve played with iMovie to edit videos for YouTube and some of my coaching materials. It’s fairly easy to use (I watched a few YouTube video tutorials) and free for iOS users. This can be a free and easy way to get started in video editing.
How to get it: If you don’t already have it, you can download iMovie from the App Store.
iPhone (video recording; some editing)
I’ve used an Android phone for years but in 2020 switched to an iPhone. This coincided with my foray into YouTube, and I have begun to record some of that video footage on the iPhone. So far, the quality is solid and my experience with it reminds me to share with you the advice everyone gives: use what you’ve got to get started before figuring out what to invest in next.
The iPhone—and many other mobile phones, including Androids, which I’ve used for years before purchasing an iPhone—works great to record video for Instagram and Facebook, as well.
It offers limited editing options in the phone itself and you could experiment with apps on the phone with even more features. I paired this with a phone mount holder to attach the smartphone to an existing classic tripod stand I’ve had for decades.
How to get it: If you don’t already have it, you can look into the cost to purchase one through your cell carrier. Price will vary based on where you purchase the phone and your cell phone carrier plan. Ailun phone mount holder is used to screw the camera onto a tripod stand. (affiliate link)
Free plan with limits; free 14-day trial of business plan, which is $10/month
You can experiment with screen capture software for free with Loom. This offers simple recording options for your face only, your screen only, or both (like Screenflow). They’ve improved their features to include light editing and transcription! You can download the video for other uses or upload existing videos to store in Loom (or get the transcription). I use Loom in lots of ways, including to record greetings and quick demonstrations for clients.
How to get it: Learn about Loom’s pricing plans and get started here.
FREE for iOS users
Keynote is the iOS (Mac) version of PowerPoint. If you have a Mac or iPad, you can start creating slide decks for your next training or teaching presentation. Some people use Keynote for other design applications, even to create ebooks and social media images.
How to get it: Keynote comes installed on every Apple device; if not, go to the App store and download it for free.
Google Presentation is a free, online slide deck program in the suite of Google products (along with Sheets, Docs, Keep, and Forms). I use Google Presentation as much or more than Keynote due to its availability across devices. It’s saved me many times when I’ve been travelings because I can pull it up on my phone, iPad, or desktop computer and the presentation is waiting for me, autosaved to the current version. This serves as an excellent backup for live presentations at conferences, virtual events, and recorded programs. With a quick search online, you can find slide decks people have designed available to use for free as a starting point when creating yours.
How to get it: As with the other Google products I’ve mentioned, all you need is a Gmail address. If you have one, you already have a Google Drive account and you’ll have access to Google Docs. If you don’t use Gmail, you could create a Gmail account not to use for email correspondence but for the purpose of accessing this suite of programs.
Because my MacBook Pro is outdated, its built-in webcam produces fuzzy images unsuitable to upload for coaching and training purposes, so I purchased a Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920. As soon as I plugged it in, I instantly improved the quality of all my recorded trainings. The exact brand I purchased is no longer available on Amazon, but that’s okay. I don’t recommend it because you can get so much more for your money today (which will always be the case, as technology improves).
In fact, if you have a new computer, your built-in webcam may actually be better than my Logitech webcam! Whether you choose to stick with what you’ve got or invest in one of the many excellent options available, be sure to position your webcam at a good height so you aren’t looking down at it (place it eye level or a teensy bit higher) and look directly into the camera (watch online tutorials for more tips).
How to get it: Research webcams if you need one; use what you’ve got until then.
Lighting 1: Softbox
Lots of people recommend ring lights, but I have a kit that uses an umbrella to soften the light and prefer it to the ring light effect. Even though I like what I use, I’m not going to share it because it’s no longer available for purchase. However, I mention it to encourage you to research “softbox lighting kit” options and compare those with ring light options.
How to get it: Natural light from a window is great if you have one; if you’re in unpredictable or changing settings (or you record at night like I often do), research lighting options, including “softbox lighting kits”; use what you’ve got until then.
Lighting 2: Viltrox
Currently $44.99 (price fluctuates)
At times I’m traveling and in need of supplemental lighting. A window is great, but sometimes natural light isn’t available. To solve that, I purchased a Viltrox light. The Amazon description calls it “VILTROX L116T Key Light LED Video Light Kit, 3300K-5600K.” I don’t know much about lighting, but I appreciate that this has a way to adjust brightness and “warmth,” to produce a warmer or cooler tone. I also purchased a flexible stand to position it behind the camera. I like the soft filtered light and portability.
How to get it: Here’s the link to the exact Viltrox light I purchased. (affiliate link)
We writers are no longer simply writing—we’re building an online presence and platform, which means we’re dealing with images to include with our words. Hiring a designer would be easy and result in high-quality images, and I work with my daughter, a graphic designer, from time to time. Most writers don’t have the means to work with a designer or, like me, push deadlines to the last minute and can’t be bothering a designer at midnight to create an image before a post goes lives at 8:00 a.m.
How do I create these elements? Along with any photos I may take with my phone, I use two tools and one resource: Canva, Stencil, and, as I said, my daughter, who is a graphic designer.
FREE or Pro ($12.95/month)
Canva (and Stencil, below) simplifies the design process so even someone untrained in the best combination of colors and fonts can produce a quality image to accompany blog posts and landing pages. You can add design elements, words over images, and build from existing templates.
The free plan is generous; the pro plan offers a few nice features such as using custom fonts; custom colors; additional animation, photos, and videos; and the option of removing the background on images (handy for some design projects).
How to get it: Canva offers a generous free option, but you can upgrade to their Pro option to get extra features. (affiliate link)
FREE option offers limited features; $9/month (paid annually) for full options
I find myself using Stencil more often than Canva these days because of its WordPress plugin. I purchased Stencil’s pro plan when it was promoted on AppSumo for a rock-bottom price, so I don’t pay a monthly fee. Like Canva, Stencil simplifies the design process so I can quickly create and upload images.
When I realized the plugin integrated easily with my blog, I saw how I could save time in my workflow: when I finish writing and prepping an article for my website, I access Stencil to create images sized for Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. In just a couple of clicks, the images are automatically uploaded and embedded in the post—and I never leave my WordPress dashboard.
How to get it: Check out Stencil (goes by GetStencil) here to see if it could be an option for creating quick images for your design needs. (affiliate link)
This quick-edit tool offers filters and other photo editing options useful to correct and crop photos for social media applications. I use it mostly when preparing photos for Instagram.
How to get it: You can get to VSCO online, and through its app, available both on iOS and Android.
FREE and paid pro plan
As a podcaster who is also on YouTube, I like to create teaser images for Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook with a clip of recent audio or video I’ve created. For this, I use two programs on their free version. One is Audiogram. The free version of Audiogram limits the number of images I can create per month to two and leaves a small branding element on my images, but it’s subtle and I don’t mind. I made several duds at first; it takes some experimentation to place the elements in the right place. Eventually I figured out how to make a basic design in Canva and Stencil that works with the Audiogram placement of each element such as captions.
How to get it: You can sign up for free to play with Audiogram here. I only use it online. (affiliate link)
FREE and paid plans available
This is the other free audiogram-type program I use to create teaser audio clips with visuals. It’s similar to Audiogram, but different enough that it took me a while to follow their steps correctly. I enjoy aspects of both Audiogram and Headliner and recommend you try both on the free plan.
How to get it: Headliner offers a generous free option. If you like it, you can get two weeks free with my affiliate link. Check it out here.
Social media content involves photos, photo editing, image creation, planning, and scheduling. Some of my tools, like Canva, Stencil, Audiogram, and Headliner are listed above under Image Tools, which is separate because we need image tools for our websites, as well. Below you’ll see a few additional tools I use.
I recommend sharing other people’s content more often than your own, taking that 80/20 approach as a starting point: 80 percent other people’s content, 20 percent your own. This requires me to find great articles and ideas to share, so I subscribe to feeds using a tool called Feedly. It pulls in the RSS feed and show me new content. I skim through headlines and summaries to see what might be useful to my readers and followers. I often click through to read a piece and schedule it directly into CoSchedule (see below). Feedly is an essential tool in my content curation process.
How to get it: Sign up for Feedly and start pasting in the urls of websites you like to follow on the desktop version or app (available for both Android and iOS). You’ll eventually hit a limit with the free version of Feedly, but it’s quite generous.
When I don’t have time to read an article I find on Feedly or elsewhere but I think it has potential, I save to Pocket. Drop a url into Pocket and it pulls up a simple version of that website for a pleasurable reading experience. Pull up Pocket when you have time to read. Sometimes I pull it up when I’m waiting in life or between appointments. Because you’ve already vetted the content, the articles waiting for you to read will likely be worth your time and an excellent alternative to aimlessly scrolling in hopes of landing on something meaningful or useful.
How to get it: Pocket is free to use online and through its app; set up your account and get started.
Coschedule (social content planning and scheduling tool)
Free trial with plans starting as low as $15 with referral discount
CoSchedule is a paid product I highly recommend. It integrates with WordPress blogs through its plugin, but even without a WordPress website, you can benefit from planning and scheduling your social media content through their system. They have an app that they continue to improve so you can create and schedule social media content on the fly, and you can click on its “Requeue” feature to have it reshare evergreen content at a later date. With the referral link you can check it out for free.
How to get it: CoSchedule offers a free trial and plans starting as low as $15 with referral discount. (affiliate link)
Occasionally I like to pull up TweetDeck, available free through Twitter to monitor various streams, lists, and hashtags all at the same time. I love playing around with this and replying from within the program in addition to using the Twitter app on my phone and iPad. It’s especially useful if you’re following a person, organization, hashtag, and if you use lists, like I do, to organize people you follow, you can set those up and watch them all at once.
If you have more than one Twitter profile (personal and professional, for example), TweetDeck is a handy tool to manage both. Just be careful you don’t accidentally tweet to your professional profile a thought intended for your personal feed.
How to get it: TweetDeck is free. If you’re logged into Twitter, it should automatically populate with your feed.
FREE, with limited features
Before I paid for CoSchedule (see above), I used Buffer’s free version to schedule tweets and Facebook content. Their free option was generous and I took full advantage of it, scheduling as much as possible on a schedule that worked well. I suggest you give it a try to experiment with scheduling content on an ongoing basis.
How to get it: Try Buffer for free before committing to a paid plan.
Maybe you’re wondering about this category of “life tools.” Well, years ago a friend of mine—a writer—hired a virtual assistant to take on various tasks such as social media management. Her decision prompted me to consider: should I do the same? If I hired a VA, what would I have that person do?
At the time, I thought through my own tasks and workflows and realized that other than some graphic design work, the activities I needed help with weren’t related to writing. It was life stuff that slowed me down. Instead of hiring a VA, I looked for ways to streamline and simplify the rest of life so I could devote more time and attention to my writing. The following tools and resources seem simple but made a big impact.
Plan to Eat
Free 30-day trial, then $4.95/month
I used to waste a lot of time and energy figuring out at the last minute what to fix for dinner. I’d buy more than I needed or I’d grab all the wrong things. Now, I plan. The Plan to Eat app is available via desktop and app. With it, I collect and organize recipes, and plan meals using the built-in calendar. When I schedule a recipe, Plan to Eat will add the ingredients to a shopping list. When it’s time for dinner, instead of having to figure something out at the last minute when I’m tired from a long day of activities, I open the app and follow the plan. I can use the shopping list to simplify that task, as well. I used the Plan to Eat 30-day free trial to see if it would save me time and money. It did. It definitely pays for itself each month. Using Plan to Eat, I save money, eat better, and write more than ever!
How to get it: Sign up and enjoy your 30-day free trial. After the 30 days, you’ll be charged $4.95 a month or you can pay $39 for a year, which brings down the per month fee to $3.95. (affiliate link)
Varies based on your order and delivery fees
I tested Imperfect Foods in the early days of the pandemic and ended up loving the convenience of having fresh food delivered to my doorstep. You’ll have to check to see if it delivers in your area. I hope you can use them, because you can get more than fresh veggies and fruit; they also offer meats, poultry, and fish; fresh juice; a few canned goods; random snacks. You never know exactly what they offer. Because their top value is limiting food waste, they often “rescue” food that would have been lost, like carrots and potatoes that are shaped a little weird or ingredients that went unused from restaurant suppliers.
Instead of driving to the grocery, I log onto the Imperfect Foods website to finalize my order early in the week, and a few days later, a driver drops off my box. All latest deliveries have delivered all eggs unbroken and they offer both medium and large! Their produce tends to be seasonal, so what you can get in spring may not be available in winter. I’m partial to their fresh orange juice—one sip transports me to a tropical beach. And when movie theaters shut down during the pandemic, Imperfect Foods bought the unused popcorn from farmers, repackaged it, and sold it to customers like me. It’s one of my favorite snacks.
How to get it: You’ll have to check with Imperfect Foods to ensure they deliver in your area. If they are, sign up for the kind of base box you’re interested in, then add or remove foods each week. Because each week’s selections differ and you can alter the contents, pricing varies. (affiliate link)