Although I specify freelance writing in the headline, these tools also serve me well in my 9-5 job as an editor. If you’re a writer/journalist/content creator/any type of person who does research, interviews people and sources photos, these tools will benefit you. And they’re FREE. Here they are.
Help A Reporter Out (helpareporter.com) is a service that connects journalists and sources. You submit an interview request that includes what the story is about, the publication in which it will appear, the deadline you’re working with and the type of person you’d like to talk to. Then wait for the pitches to roll in and schedule interviews. This usually takes less than 24 hours. I use HARO primarily for getting interviews with physicians, because their hectic schedules make them notoriously hard to pin down.
PicMonkey is a free service that offers basic photo editing tools. You can make collages, resize photos, add filters and more. With a membership, you have access to premium functions like dodge/burn tools. PicMonkey is useful when I want to size a photo to certain pixel specifications. One day, I’ll delve into Photoshop, but for now this works.
3. Flickr Creative Commons
Flickr Creative Commons is a website I use for sourcing photos. If you search for photos with a Creative Commons license, you’ll find a wealth of hi res images you can use to illustrate your article for free, as long as you give the photographer credit. This site will even format the credit for you. All you have to do is input the link to the image. Unsplash also has nice ones (like the one on top of this entry), but Flickr is great when you need something really specific– for example, a photo of tobacco fields in St. James Parish, Louisiana, like this one I used for content I wrote for a local head shop’s blog. Sourcing photos isn’t always a writer’s job, but why not make your editor’s life easier if you can?
4. Google Docs and Google Scholar
Kind of an obvious one, but Google Docs is still the easiest way for me to keep track of drafts and collaborate with editors. A lot of them now ask me to submit drafts via Google Docs, too. Google Scholar is a great way to access scholarly literature, like research studies and articles from peer-reviewed journals (I use a lot of them for my health reporting). Some are locked behind paywalls, but you can still read the summary, which often contains all the info you need.
5. The library
Yes. The OG bricks-and-mortar structure that was The Internet before The Internet was invented. There’s a wealth of resources beyond the world wide web–some of the best resources–and the great thing is, you don’t always have to go to the library to access them. You can use your library card’s code to tap into the library’s online resources, which include ebooks and audiobooks galore, via Hoopla. I could talk more about it, but my colleague Kevin Allman did a great job explaining it for Gambit. So I’m just gonna link to his piece here.
ONE LAGNIAPPE RESOURCE THAT IS NOT FREE
The Passion Planner (not an affiliate link, btw) is helping me stay on top of my work, freelance, social, kombucha-brewing and Mardi Gras parade responsibilities while adding some nice motivational quotes and goal-setting exercises. I haven’t used a physical planner in years and it feels good to go paper with my calendar. Plus it is very pretty to look at.