Writers, like all craftspeople, are nothing without their tools. Sure, some people might say that all you really need to write is a pen and paper. And to a degree, that’s true. Writing on pen and paper can be liberating for your more creative pursuits.
But good luck churning out thousands of high-quality words a day, sending them to your clients, and posting them online from your little notepad. If you want to produce great content, at scale, you need the right tools.
Imagine you hired a contractor to build a $100,000 addition to your house. It’s going to be great––a new home office for you to call your own, a nursery for your kids to play in, a den for entertaining your friends. Expensive, but hey, it’ll be worth it.
Now imagine your contractor shows up alone on the first day of construction armed with only a hammer and a box of nails. You might start to panic and think you’ve made a terrible, expensive mistake. Where are their power tools? The architect's plans? The team of specialized professionals?
Hiring a writer is similar. Great writers have proven systems and processes. They bring the right tools for the job. And they have teammates that hold them accountable. If you’re about to kick off a major content strategy, and your new writer shows up with just a pen and paper, it’s time to start asking some serious questions about your hiring process.
So, what tools do writers need to be successful? And why do they need them? Here’s an overview of some of the tools I like to use to keep things on track.
Many professional writers manage multiple clients and projects simultaneously. For some, that might be three or four, whereas for larger teams of writers, it could be dozens. As a writer, you’ve got to know what’s happening with all of them.
That’s a phenomenal amount of information to hold in your head, or even to keep manually updated in a spreadsheet or notes app. Instead, use project management software.
There are countless project management tools: Trello, Asana, Monday, Basecamp, and so on. At Hire a Writer, we use ClickUp. It’s easy to set up spaces for different clients, create tasks for each piece of content, and collaborate on projects.
Here in the Bay Area, where I live, I regularly drive past a ClickUp billboard that claims ClickUp will “save you one day per week, guaranteed”. While I remain wholly skeptical of this claim, the platform has pretty much everything you need to keep everything running smoothly.
Grammarly helps you improve the grammar and clarity of your writing. It scores your writing out of 100 and gives you suggestions on things you should improve. It’s a useful tool, and unless you’re nuts about grammar, it's free to use.
You shouldn’t live or die by your Grammarly score. Some writers do––I’ve had articles submitted to me that scored 99 out of 100. Here’s the thing with that: humans don’t communicate in perfect grammar. Spending hours massaging your writing to get the perfect Grammarly score is a waste of time. Nobody cares. If anything, it’s harmful––you risk your writing coming off as robotic and unnatural, not personable and engaging.
However, Grammarly is still a useful tool. I run all my articles through Grammarly before submitting them. It helps catch those little, mostly insignificant errors: a double space after a word, using “too” when you meant “to”; that kind of thing. As someone who grew up with British English (aka proper English), not American English, it also helps me eliminate Britishisms that subconsciously creep into my writing.
This article is being written in a Google Doc. All my articles are written in a Google Doc. If a client requests an article in a Word document, I will write it in a Google Doc and then just download it and send it to them.
As a word processor goes, Google Docs has everything you need. You can format SEO headings, easily add links, and format your text however you want it. But that’s table stakes––where it really shines is in the editing process.
Multiple people can work on the same document in real-time. You can leave comments, reply to threads, and make suggestions. You can add a bunch of extensions (even Grammarly if you want) and view a document’s edit history. It just works.
If you conduct a lot of Subject Matter Expert (SME) interviews, a voice transcription tool is going to save you a chunk of time on the back end. Record your interviews (with permission of course) and upload the audio files into a voice transcription tool.
Instead of frantically trying to take notes during the interview or manually transcribing everything later, you now have an entire written record of everything that was said during the conversation. You can highlight interesting concepts, pull out direct quotes, and easily find sections of the conversation you want to focus on.
I find these tools mostly interchangeable. Some are excessively expensive, but almost all offer a free trial. I’m currently paying for Otter, and so far, it’s doing a good job handling everything I’ve thrown at it.
As writers, we have a lot of ideas. Holding them all in your head is difficult, so many of us find it helpful to write things down. Obviously, you don’t need an app to keep notes. You can use anything––the back of the receipt for your morning coffee would do in a pinch.
But I find that using a note taking app is more efficient. Personally, I use Notion. It lets me create a space for every business I work with, keep track of different projects, manage my to-do list, and more. It’s very customizable, and when I need to reference something I can pull it up in a couple of seconds.
Notion is free, but you can pay for it if you want more advanced features.
For me, these are the tools that keep the trains running on time. That’s not to say every writer should use these tools: they might not work for you the same way they do for me. I’m sure the team at Hire A Writer uses plenty of tools I haven’t talked about here.
But the point is this: having these tools gives you the structure and support you need to be successful as a professional writer. Without them, you’re just another ill-equipped contractor who is in over their head.
Tools alone don’t make things happen, writers do. The onus is still on you to bring creativity, strategic vision, and discipline to every article, white paper, marketing email, or landing page that you write.
Want to partner with some writers who live out those values every day? Contact us at Hire a Writer – we’d love to hear from you.
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