Merry Christmas! My 12 Favorite Freelance Tools and Resources

My gift to you. Go ahead. Open it.

Just yesterday, Deb Ng wrote a fantastic post on the 10 Ways to Give Back to Your Favorite Bloggers for the Holidays. I loved it because I’ve always felt that generosity toward your fellow freelancers was key in achieving career success… and in experiencing the warm fuzzies. In fact, I’d advise all of you to show generosity to your fellow freelancers year-round, with feedback, advice, contacts, support, resources, and more.

In that spirit, I’d like to leave you guys a Christmas gift before shutting down my laptop for the holidays and gorging myself on Candy Cane Kisses and eggnog.

I eschewed fancy wrapping paper, as my cats tend to eat any curling ribbon I  leave languishing beneath the Christmas tree. (And then they puke it up later. Fun!) But even though my gift’s not super-fancy, I hope you’ll find it helpful.

Go ahead. From me to you, my 12 favorite freelance tools and resources. May they bring you career success, and/or make your day-to-day freelance life a bit more bearable.

1. Books. Some go to journalism school. Others hire writing coaches. And still others juggle six internships and invest in continuing education courses. All viable options, but I learned the most about freelance writing from reading a shit-ton of business books. (Well, that and just diving right in… the best way to learn, in my opinion.) My favorite career-related books? Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears’s The Boss of You; Michelle Goodman’s The Anti 9 to 5 Guide; and Michelle Goodman’s My So-Called Freelance Life.

2. WordPress. Okay. WordPress is nothing new, but it deserves some serious recognition for its role in helping me build up my freelance business. Using it for Freelancedom has widened my freelance network exponentially, and my husband also used it to build me a super-pretty professional site. But I don’t always need my husband to update my sites. WordPress is so intuitive, and has such a great community of users willing to help out, that I can figure out a lot on my own. This Plugin Directory alone is worth its weight in gold. And when I want to pretty up my posts? I use stock photography sites like stock.xchng, Flickr, iStockphoto, and Thinkstock.

3. Twitter. I am amazed by everyone out there who can successfully juggle 10 different social media accounts. Not me! While I have accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Brazen Careerist, and other sites, Twitter is top dog on my list. My favorite Twitter app? Hootsuite, both because I can use it to manage multiple accounts, and because it offers that nifty, URL-shortening Hootlet bookmarklet. ANYways, I’m a little bit addicted to Twitter. It allows me to promote my own work, share and find great content, and connect with other word nerds. For a peek at my favorite word nerds on Twitter, check out this list I created.

4. Gmail. I know this is another no-duh entry, but I love labeling my e-mails into organized submission, and I also have multiple Gmail accounts: my personal account, my YourTango account, my Frisky account, and my career coaching account. Want to create

The first site I visit every day, obvs.

a separate business e-mail? Gmail makes it easy.

5. GQueues. This is not a Google application, but it does sync up with Google Calendar. I use GQueues to create to-do lists for the different areas of my life: marketing tactics for my career coaching biz… blog post ideas for Freelancedom and LoveMom… I even use the e-mail alert feature to remind myself to pay my bills on time. You can read more on one of my favorite apps of all time right here.

6. Skype. I only started using Skype about a year ago (I know; I am so behind the times), because the folks at YourTango use it to keep in contact with each other. Now I also use it to harass my husband while he’s at work, conduct video chats with coaching clients and other business contacts, and hold conference calls. And according to the e-book I co-wrote with Ian Kerner, you can also use it for webcam sex. Just sayin’!

7. MailChimp. When I tweeted out a call for suggestions on the best e-newsletter clients, the majority of people told me to try MailChimp. Sold! I now use it to send out my monthly Word Nerd Newsletter, and the process couldn’t be smoother. I love how customizable it is, how easy it is to create e-mail templates and web forms, how helpful the MailChimp team is… if you’re considering starting up your own e-mail newsletter as a means of building your business, I highly recommend it.

8. Freshbooks. Because you all like to get paid… At YourTango, I happen to be in charge of organizing freelancer invoices. And every single one of those freelancers sends their invoice along in an unformatted Word document or Excel spreadsheet. Which is fine, but if you’re juggling a ton of clients — and a ton of projects — it might be nice to have access to a program that lets you store client and project information, track your time, generate invoices, run expense reports, and more. I like Freshbooks.

9. Dropbox. My husband made me install Dropbox after a virus began running rampant on my laptop. He wanted my files backed up in case he needed to reformat my hard drive. Now, not only are my most important files secure, but I can also access said files on any computer I download the program to.

10. Letter templates. I give good e-mail. It’s one of my primary skills. In fact, a post I wrote on cover letters back in 2008 remains my most highly trafficked post ever. (Math on the other hand… forget it.) My gift to you? Letter templates for those looking to resign

Soon, you shall be mine.

from their jobs in order to become full-time freelancers, and for those looking to request a remote work arrangement. Download the goods here.

11. Coffee. I know. I’m such a cliché.  But this magic can’t happen without my morning brew! Which is why I’m giving myself a gift in 2011: membership in the Citizen Bean coffee-of-the-month club. Citizen Bean sends out sustainable and complex roasts from small roasters around the country every month. I swear this isn’t a paid advertorial. It’s just that I’ve been reading about them all over the damn place lately, and I’m ridiculously excited to splurge on this in the new year. Maybe the splurge would be worth it for you, too?

12. You. You guys have helped me so much over the past three years. I want this to be a reminder that it’s always okay to lean on others. And if you need to lean on me a little bit harder… well… that’s what my coaching biz is all about. It was your comments and e-mails that inspired me to go ahead and earn my career coaching certification, and eventually launch a business designed to help freelance writers and other publishing professionals. Thanks guys!

Related: The Road To Freelance Success Is Paved with Good Karma, Bring In New Projects Without Lifting a Finger, How I Write


  1. Hey Steph,
    A great list! Thanks for sharing. I am just getting started and still juggling my full-time job with freelancing, so these tools are definitely helpful. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season. 🙂

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