When just getting started or working as a freelance copywriter, funds might be tight for building or upgrading your toolkit. Knowing which copywriting resources and tools are worth the splurge and which ones offer everything you need at a freemium status will be crucial. We’ve scoured the internet and asked freelance copywriters like you what their favorite free online copywriting tools are for when you’re just starting.
Composing and Grammar Apps
Let’s start with the basics that every copywriter needs in their toolkit, composing and grammar applications. Of course, by now, we all know about Microsoft’s Office Suite, but finding a free alternative is essential for freelancers who don’t want to foot the monthly bill for a subscription-based application.
Sure your computer probably has a free word processing program built in, but does it really do everything you want and need it to do?
Google Drive & Docs
In our opinion, Google Drive’s suite of applications provides some of the best free online copywriting tools and is a copywriter’s best friend. You can keep your work emails, calendar, and all of your documents in one place. In addition, you can create a folder to organize your client materials and share them with the appropriate parties easily.
Google Docs on its own is excellent for sharing with clients and receiving feedback using its built-in suggesting feature as well as the version history, which allows you to see previous versions of your draft and what changes have been made. It also allows you to request approvals when finalizing copy for a deliverable. Once the file is approved, it is locked from being edited unless the administrator reopens editing.
Evernote is another great program for on-the-go researching, drafting, and editing with its phone and tablet applications. The best thing about Evernote is the ability to sync notes and drafts across multiple devices. Some of our favorite features include:
- Scratchpad for quick note-taking
- Tagging for note organization
- Web clipper add-on that lets you import screenshots with notes into your Evernote.
- Search feature to find notes about specific topics
We already know that you’ve heard about Grammarly, and we get that it might seem a bit gimmicky to some of you, but it is one of our favorite free online copywriting tools here at Copywriter Exchange. It is available through many means, including a browser extension, desktop app, website, and keyboard add-on for your phone. It’s also available in a premium version and is one of the top tools we recommend upgrading if you’re looking for a tool to invest in. However, if free is the only way to go, the free version checks for
- Confusing grammar issues
Time Tracking Apps
If you’re a copywriter who is charging hourly, finding a time tracking app that’s easy to use is probably high on your list of free online copywriting tools you need for a smooth freelancing experience. There are many options for how you track your hours, but many of those options are tedious or cost a pretty penny.
Toggl Track is the go-to app for easy-to-use time tracking with manual and timer-based time tracking. We love that you can organize your work by client, project, and tasks and export reports, which are helpful for itemizing invoices. It also boasts some of the best free integrations and features to make tracking a breeze, including:
- Calendar integration for Google, iCal, and Outlook that allows you to directly copy calendar events into your time tracking
- A browser extension to track time from any website
- Activity timeline feature to track time on different applications
- Asana integration to import user and project information
However, the big downside to the free version is you cannot attach a billable rate to the hours you track.
Clockify is another great option for time tracking but gets our second slot because it is a bit more challenging to use. However, Clockify offers more features on the free version than some other apps. Where Clockify shines over Toggl Track is:
- Billable rates can be included by client, project, or an overall default rate, allowing you to track your income across clients with different rates.
- Setting a project estimate for hours is helpful if your contract includes a Not To Exceed clause rather than a set number of hours or costs.
- The dashboard provides insight into how you spend your time across clients.
- The timesheet feature is helpful when clients ask for more detailed invoices.
- Free integrations including Jira, Pumble Chat, Google Calendar, or Outlook Calendar
Project Management Apps
Along with composing and time tracking apps, we believe every copywriter needs to have a project management app as one of their free online copywriting tools, especially as you grow your business and roster of clients. Good project management is a cornerstone of copywriting success, and consists of planning, organizing, and management deadlines as well as seeing that your deliverables are completed on time, within budget (especially when working hourly), and within scope.
Asana is an excellent option with many features available in the free version. Its free plan includes unlimited tasks, projects, messages, and file storage for up to 15 users. In addition, you can view tasks in various forms, including checklists, Kanban boards, Gannt style charts, calendars, or timelines. However, if you want to expand or upgrade, Asana is more expensive per user than Trello. The biggest plus sides to Asana are:
- Free basic reporting
- Flexible and customizable tasks and projects
- Free task manager
Trello is an excellent option for people who like Kaban-style boards for organization. This free plan includes multiple users, unlimited cards, and unlimited storage but limits you to 10 boards per workspace. Unfortunately, Trello does not have built-in reporting tools like Asana but is more budget-friendly than Asana should you ever decide to upgrade. The biggest plus sides to Trello are:
- 250 workspace command runs per month
- Two-factor authentication
- Add time tracking using a powerup
Since most copywriters will only be tasked with writing copy for their projects, you might not think a design application is one of the free online copywriting tools you should be looking for. However, occasionally you might need to whip up some basic document design or blog graphics.
While seasoned graphic designers might not love Canva, we love it because it’s a quick, easy-to-use application that anyone can learn to use. The best part about Canva is that it provides tons of templates, images, and graphics that are free to use under its content license agreement.
Canva also offers tons of flexibility for managing your designs, including the ability to copy them, resize them, and save them as templates. You can also create brand kits that allow you to upload fonts and hex codes for brand-specific deliverables.
You can also import PDFs using their beta function. Again, it isn’t infallible but can be a valuable tool if you need to modify or pull pieces from other PDFs you’re working with.
Free online copywriting tools that do a bit of everything
Outside of your apps for specific purposes, we find it essential to have an app that can do a little bit of everything and can be molded to do what you need as you need it.
Notion is today’s alternative to stale wiki sites and can do a bit of everything. If you’re into the idea of being able to build your own project management systems, calendars, and other elements, Notion is one of the best free online copywriting tools for you.
They have tons of great free (and paid) templates available to get you started, OR you can build your own with the help of their guides. We like Notion because it can be an all-in-one solution that’s free and easy to use, especially when you find or build the right templates and pages for your tasks.
Our favorite ways to use Notion are:
- Project and Task Status Management
- Calendar and Scheduling
- To-do lists
- Revenue tracking
- Resource Collection
If you’d like to share one of your favorite online copywriting tools that we didn’t include here, head over to our submit page to contribute a resource to share with the rest of the Copywriter Exchange community.
Christina Rowell, Ph.D., is a content strategist at Content Workshop and a former college writing instructor. She has over ten years of experience writing, editing, and creating content for healthcare, mental health, cybersecurity, and manufacturing clients.
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