Writing has its own unique set of challenges, but finding a to-do list scrawled on the back of an envelope (for example) doesn’t have to be one of them. Luckily, there’s a whole slew of amazing apps which can help with this issue, and many others. These are some of my favorites.
For signing contracts – OurDeal
As many freelance writers have learned the hard way, working without a contract can lead to a lot of complicated problems. But if you’re not working with someone who already has a prewritten contract, it can be time-consuming trying to put one together. OurDeal takes care of this problem by having a library with agreement form templates, along with selectable options (such as a non-disclo sure agreement or a non-compete clause), and it only takes seconds to put a contract together. Your client can sign the form automatically, which saves a ton of time waiting for letters in the mail. The price starts at $9.99/month for 10 deals, and goes up to $27.99/month for unlimited contracts. Check it out at http://www.ourdeal.com.
For managing assignments – TeuxDeux
TeuxDeux is a really nice free browser-based to-do app (and an iPhone app). You basically list everything you need to do for the week, and then you can see a week view every time you go to the site. The days that have past turn light gray, future days are black and the day you’re on is red. When you finish something, you can check off or delete the item. You can manually drag tasks from one day to another. Anything you don’t do gets transferred over to the next day. A word of warning: I’ll give you a quick warning here; you can’t put every single thing on your entire to-do list on TeuxDeux if you’re swamped with deadlines. That’s because the stuff you don’t finish on one day goes to the BOTTOM of the next day’s list, which can be bad if you need it at the TOP and forget to rearrange your day. There’s a “Someday Section” you can use to add items that don’t need to be done immediately–you can even make different columns to keep them all organized. (Hat tip to Casey Allen for recommending keeping separate lists for personal and business to-do lists, which has worked for me.) TeuxDeux’s web-based app is free, and the iPhone app costs $2.99. Check it out at http://teuxdeux.com/.
For billing – FreshBooks
There are a ton of invoicing programs, but Freshbooks has a lot of really amazing features which just aren’t available anywhere else. First of all, they have the best customer service team ever–which may or may not have to do with the fact that they’re Canadian. Free customer service is available from 9am to 6pm Eastern.
In addition to allowing you to quickly create invoices, FreshBooks has some great tools for tracking your time and your monthly expenses (including receipts). It allows you to accept online payments, can be set to automatically send past due invoices (so you don’t have to worry about it), and to address clients who pretend they didn’t get invoices…well, FreshBook even tracks the exact moment an invoice has been viewed. You can also create estimates, track the time you’ve spent on a project (from your laptop OR your iPhone with a free app). FreshBooks is free for up to 3 clients (and you can get a 30-day trial for free). The cost is $19.95/month for up to 25 active clients, $29.95/month for an unlimited amount of clients, and $39.95/month if you need things like team timesheets and team expense reports.
For distraction-free researching: Chrome’s Incognito Setting
Just download Chrome (if you don’t have it already), and click on “File” and then “New Incognito Window” if you’re on a Mac, or use the shortcut ⌘-Shift-N. On a PC, click on the Chrome menu on your toolbar and select “New Incognito window,” or use the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+N. Chrome’s Incognito setting allows you to view all sorts of sites without them saving as much information about you. Why is that important? Because then you can do all the research you need for your article without being tempted to check your e-mail, Twitter, Quora or facebook. Your password isn’t saved and cookies are deleted, so you can actually stick to what you’re doing. This is good for non-fiction writing, or even fiction writing which requires research to complete, so apps which don’t allow you to browse the web at all (like Freedom) won’t do the trick. Chrome is free, and you can download it here: https://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/browser/.
Update: a reader informed me that Firefox has a similar option called Private Browsing, and Internet Explorer has InPrivate Browsing.
For writing or organizing your articles: Scrivener
Scrivener is pretty awesome, because it allows you to keep all of your content all in one place. It has all these cool features to let you create files and drag them around in different categories. And you can totally search the entire file. It also lets you keep all of your research (e-mails, Word documents, PDF files, etc.) in one place. There are a ton of other great settings you can check out, including a cork board to be used as an organizational tool (since documents are attached to “index cards” which you can write synapses on), or you can use an outline if you prefer. And there’s a cool setting in the toolbar where you can blank out the rest of your desktop to write. Scrivener is $45 and well worth it. (There’s a free 30-day trial as well.) Check it out here: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/index.php.
Did I miss anything you love? Let me know what your favorite writing apps are in the comments!