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Tip Sheets

Freelance: Coolest tools to find a story, research it, write it and share it

This tip sheet features freelance reporting tools for productivity, writing, editing, and research. These tools were the focus of a panel discussion that took place March 30 at Health Journalism 2014, AHCJ's conference.  Panelists included: 

  • Jill Adams, independent journalist, Delmar, N.Y.
    jilluadams@gmail.com, @juadams

  • Amy Gahran, independent journalist and editor, Boulder, Colo. 
    amy@gahran.com, @agahran

  • Moderator: Kit Seeborg, digital media producer, Boulder, Colo.

  • Panel organized by Catherine Dold, freelance writer and editor, Boulder, Colo. catherinedold@gmail.com; @catherinedold; @TheRecoveryBook

Productivity

Diigo: Bookmarking tool. Organize/share links for any project/purpose. A good “backup brain” so you don’t lose stuff you might use. Free, with handy tools (mobile apps, bookmarklet, web apps).

Toodledo: Web-based, mobile-friendly task organizer. More than just a to-do list. Can help track what needs to happen on any project, short or long-term. Free basic service, premium starts at $15/year and is so worth it. Supports team collaboration/delegation. Mobile apps: iPhone and Android.

Freshbooks: Easy time tracking and invoicing. Excellent for billing multiple clients. Free for one client only, 30-day trial. $20/month for up to 25 clients. Mobile apps.

CamScanner. Great for receipts, documents, etc. “Reads” photographed text. Supports tagging, web backup, sharing. Free.

Dropbox. Online file-sharing, with yourself (across devices) or with others, or to give public access. Great collaboration tool. Optional automatic online backup of phone photos.

Evernote. The Swiss Army knife of notetaking/ organizing tools. Basic service is free. Premium ($5/month, $45/year) offers shared folders and offline notebooks. Apps and other tools. Integrates with many other apps/services.

Backblaze: Cheap ($5/month) and easy online backup for any computer. Runs in the background, backing up your whole hard drive. If your computer blows up or your house burns down, you won’t lose any of your data.

Feedly: Free way to “subscribe” to new content from almost any website or blog. Easy to organize, customize, use. Great for following a beat and keeping up with news. Mobile apps.

Writing, editing, production, and research

Scrivener: Tool for writing, and editing. It is complex, but has great features for book packaging and e-book production/export. Auto backup to Dropbox.

HTML editors. Many options for any platform. This is the easiest way to code links the way you want and completely prevents formatting issues (which is a big problem when you copy and paste from a word processor to a content management system for online publishing). Don’t be afraid to look at basic HTML, it’s your friend! Recommended: Taco Edit (Mac, $25)

Word’s Navigation Pane: When used with section headers, great for moving around sections of text in large documents, as well as keeping an eye on the big picture of how the document is organized. (Pages for Mac does not have a similar feature, but Scrivener is great at this.)

Surveymonkey, SurveyGizmo and FluidSurveys: Web-based survey tools, useful for crowdsourcing and conducting structured interviews. Not necessarily mobile-friendly, and data export for large text fields can be problematic with all of them, but still useful.

Marketing/publicity, publishing, networking

Slideshare: Social sharing for slide presentations. Great for marketing. Get more mileage out of your presentations.

Wordpress.com: Hosted version of Wordpress, a popular website-building tool. Great for publishing many kinds of content (not just blogs). You can use your own domain name, and the basic service is free. Good for a business site or blog, or project-specific sites and blogs.

E-Junkie: E-commerce/content delivery platform. It can also work for e-books. It charges a flat fee, not a percentage of sales, and the seller gets the customer info, which is good for building repeat business. (It works well for readers who have e-book apps such as Overdrive.)

Salesforce: Customer relationship management platform. Good for building repeat business for interactive e-books. You can build custom apps on top of this platform to interact with other databases.

Indiegogo: Crowdfunding can be effectively pre-sales. This platform, you keep the money (-9%) even if you don’t reach your goal (then they take 5%). Lower barrier of entry than Kickstarter. Only do Kickstarter if you’re pretty sure you can achieve your goal and spend the time and energy to support that, because a crowdfunding campaign is definitely its own animal. If you don’t meet a Kickstarter goal, you don’t get the money.

Mailchimp: E-mail list management tool. Cheaper and better user interface than Constant Contact.

Google Analytics: Indispensible for tracking how people interact with online content. If you do a blog for a client, push hard to get access to their analytics.

Storify

Storyful

LinkedIn Publishing

Brickflow

Picmonkey

Pagemodo

Dontbreakthechain

Google hangouts

Textmarks

E-mail lists (listservs) for research