As a freelance writer or blogger, finding the right tools to help you find, create, and curate content is all-important.
I have played around with lots of different apps and tools all of which claim to help you organise your world, and these are my five favourites right now. I say right now, because I’m a sucker for a shiny new app so I can’t guarantee I won’t have found something new to use in a few months’ time!
Many people were upset at the demise of Google Reader, but I had already found an alternative and stopped using Google Reader a few months before it was announced the tool would be shut down. That alternative was Feedly, and I love it.
Feedly is a reader which allows you to add RSS feeds and organise them according to categories. You can opt to look at all the posts in a certain category or use a start page that shows you everything that is unread.
Feedly is easy to use and has a great look, and you can choose from a range of different views. People who liked Google Reader or who like to be able to see many articles at once can opt for the Title Only view that presents all unread articles as a simple list. You can also set it up to show you Twitter and Facebook in a sidebar.
One of the other things I love about Feedly is the Feedly Mini system. By enabling the Mini toolbar, you get a little Feedly icon that appears when you are browsing blogs and websites. Using the toolbar, you can add blogs directly to Feedly so they appear in your feed in the future.
Pocket is a read it later app which lets you save web pages or articles to read later. Feedly also has this feature but I have found it very hit and miss as to whether it saves the page I am on or another page on the same website. Pocket seems more reliable so I tend to use it more.
If you use Chrome, then Pocket has a nifty extension that puts a Pocket bookmarklet in your toolbar and allows you to save directly to Pocket with just one click.
You can also tag articles and search using tags. I tag articles depending on which social media I want to share them on, then I can call up everything I want to share on Pinterest for example in one place.
I’m not a huge fan of scheduling social media because I like a conversation, but I do it for two reasons.
Firstly, many of the people I share content with live in America or the UK. I live in New Zealand. This means that a lot of the time the people I share content with are online while I am asleep. Scheduling means that I can share stuff with them even when I’m snoring.
Secondly, my life revolves partly around a nearly five year old who has a busier social life than I do. This means that even if I wanted to I don’t have time to be spending hours online sourcing and sharing content. I curate in set sessions usually first thing in the morning and last thing at night. If I do not want to send 50,000 tweets, pins, and Facebook updates all in one go, I need to schedule them
I have tried a few scheduling apps and Buffer is my favourite so far. I don’t like things to be complicated, and Buffer isn’t.
All I have to do is choose which times I want to share content, add a message, choose which social media site I want and leave it to go. I like the fact that I can share to more than one account at once, and I like the way it is easy to switch between them.
Buffer integrates with a number of other apps I use and the Buffer Chrome extension again allows me to share content directly into Buffer.
Trello is a cute little task management app which appeals to my penchant for things that look a little out of the ordinary. Working via a series of boards to which you can add lists and cards, Trello helps me organise and plan both my freelance work and my blogging.
I have boards for each of my blogs and my paid work and to each of these I add lists to show what I am currently working on, what I have done, and what I am planning to do. To each lists you can add cards that in my case contain details of a particular blog post or a current paid project.
Cards have handy features like due dates, commenting, and checklists, which is great if you are working on a multi stage project.
I always feel I should be using Evernote for planning because everyone raves about it, but I have never got on with it. Trello is my Evernote alternative.
I use Trello for keeping track and Google Calendar for long term planning but for planning week to week, I love Weekplan.
Weekplan does exactly what it says on the tin – it presents you with a calendar for the week and you fill in what you have to do. You don’t have to worry about what is happening later in the month or even in the year; you just focus on what you need to do this week.
You can set up different areas, which are represented by different colours on your week. I have mine set up for work, family, and personal. Tasks are easy to add and when you are done, just click to strike it through.
One nifty aspect of Weekplan that I like is that if you don’t complete a task on a given day the app automatically carries it across to the next day with a little arrow showing how many days you have been carrying it over. This is great for people tend to procrastination like me as seeing in black and white how long you have been dithering on a task spurs you on to get it done.
Bonus tool: Split-screen
Split-screen is a Chrome extension that I have found really useful when I’m writing for clients and need to research. Opening Split-screen in a new tab brings up a screen with two sides. You can set these up with several different options, but I tend to have one as a web page and one as a note-taking page. This means instead of switching back and forth between Word and the internet to refer to web pages I can have the web page right there on screen while I am writing.
I have only recently started using Split-screen, but I’d already say it is saving me time when I write.
So these are my favourite tools right now. Over to you – do you love any of the tools I have mentioned? Which other tools do you think I should try?