How’s lockdown for you? Well, if working in isolation is a new experience, welcome to my world! As a freelance writer, I’m used to working from home. So, the ‘new normal’ isn’t particularly new to me. I’ve got to say, though, that working alone isn’t always easy. I still struggle sometimes. The trick, I guess, is to be organised, and many online tools can help. Here are five that I find useful. 

1: Transcribe

Most writers spend lots of time conducting and transcribing interviews — the content has to come from somewhere. And, the thing, transcribing interviews is a time-consuming process because a one-hour recording can take on average three hours to get down. I kid you not.

When I started as a writer, I used to playback interviews from my iPad and type directly into a Word document. You may laugh, but I’d rewind and fast forward interviews by swiping my finger across the screen. What an amateur!

So, discovering Transcribe from Wreally was something of a revelation. Transcribe is awesome.  All you have to do is upload an audio/video file or a YouTube link and start typing into the programme. If you wish, you can use automatic transcription where the programme does the typing for you; however, I’ve found this function to be unreliable.

Transcribe comes with some useful shortcuts:

  • Esc: pause & resume
  • F1: slow down
  • F2: speed up
  • F3: rewind
  • F4: forward
  • F6: insert timestamp.

How much does it cost?

Transcribe is free.

2: Grammarly

In a previous post, I wrote about the benefits of plain English. In case you don’t know, Plain English uses short and clear sentences with everyday words — best leave oblique and flowering language to poets and politicians. It is a writing style that enables readers to understand the message the first time they read it.

Using artificial intelligence, the Grammarly writing app is like a fresh pair of eyes. It can check your work for writing sins such as grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes, passive voice, repetition and wordy sentences. It can even scan your document for plagiarism, which is pretty useful because it’s easy to unintentionally rip off other writers’ work when researching online.

How much does it cost?

For basic corrections, like errors in spelling and grammar, Grammarly is free. However, to unlock other features such as checks for consistency, readability and plagiarism, there an annual fee of US$11.66 per month. You can opt for a monthly or quarterly plan at a higher rate.

3: CoSchedule Headline Analyser

Most writers will agree that headlines are critical. Why? Well, they determine whether people bother to read your content.

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyserscores headlines based on the mix of common, uncommon, emotional and power words in your headline as well as the number of characters and words.  As a rule of thumb, a good headline should score 70 out of 100 or more. However, I suggest using this tool as a guide, not gospel.

How much does it cost?

CoSchedule is free.

4: Toggl

‘Time is money,’ as the saying goes. And, any freelancer knows how important it is to keep track of the time it takes to work on a job.

Toggl is a convenient tool for recording the time spent on projects. By breaking down your hours by projects, customers and tasks, you can figure out where you are making or losing money.

How much does it cost?

The basic option is free. However, to unlock features like in-depth reporting and project management, Toggl costs US$9 to $18 per month.

5: Hootsuite

One of the key ingredients of content marketing is consistent social media activity. Of course, day-to-day life can sometimes get in the way of posting quality content, which is why it pays to schedule posts in advance. Hootsuite is a fantastic scheduling tool. It enables you to choose your social media platforms (I use Twitter and Linkedin) and then schedule posts for future publication at specific times of the day or night.

When scheduling posts, be careful, though. The world can change, and a post that is relevant today could be seen as tone-deaf tomorrow — look at the current covid-19 crisis.

How much does it cost?

A basic Hootsuite plan is free. But, to unlock features such as key performance metrics, custom branded URL and 24/7 support, you can pay from US$29 to US$599 per month.

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