15 tools I swear by as a content marketing consultant

If left to my own devices, I’ll sit in bed laughing at videos of Pomeranians until I get bedsores. But software tools and productivity processes get me out of bed and into my office chair. Yea boi.

I’ve compiled 15 tools I swear by as a freelance writing consultant. These tools are so helpful and awesome that Snoop Dogg is probably using them to keep track of his weed supply.

Hopefully, there’s a tool or two on this list you haven’t considered before. Maybe my processes can help YOUR processes. But maybe your shit is way better than mine already ;-)

What tools do you use to keep yourself sane? How do you keep it cool when it’s 1,000 degrees and that blog post you’re working on just caught on fire? I would love to hear about your favorite tools for organization, productivity, and communication.

ALL IMAGES IN THIS POST are from my actual dashboards. This is the real shit, yo.

1. Trello

I know I said I was gonna show you the real shit, but I have to respect my clients and not share their real shit. So this is how my Trello boards are organized– without the sensitive client information:

  • Today – Everything I have to do, not necessarily today. This list can get long and scary. I add due dates* to each card, and organize from most urgent to least urgent.
  • Sent for Review – Anything that I’ve sent to a client. If I send an eBook to a client and am waiting on their edits and feedback, the card goes into this column.
  • Contract Work – Any projects I’ve contracted out to other writers– I write what the project is and how much I’m paying them.
  • Business to Do – General Stories by Emma stuff, like a reminder to call my accountant or deposit a check.

*I sync all due dates with one of my Google calendars, so all my tasks automatically appear on the correct date in Sunrise (#4).


2. Google Drive

Oh Google! I love you. Docs, Folders, Sheets, Gmail for Business, Google Hang0uts – these are all my jam. Do I really need to sing the praises of Google Drive? Didn’t think so.

Fave features:

  • Suggesting mode for editing
  • Folders (I have a folder for each client)
  • Docs in general (I always write in docs unless the client prefers MS Word)

PRICE: 5$ per month for Gmail for Business

3. FreshBooks

When I first started Stories by Emma, I wasn’t sure what accounting solution to use. My accountant told me I could choose whatever I wanted, but they recommended FreshBooks because of it’s simplicity.

It has all the features I want, and it’s very easy to use and understand. I can send all necessary reports to my accountants, record all my expenses, send detailed invoices, and the mobile app is dope. YesBooks to FreshBooks.

PRICE: $29.95 per month for unlimited contacts (the plan I use)

4. Sunrise Calendar

I have a business calendar and a personal calendar (both in Gmail) and an iPhone and MacBook Pro (which default to iCal). I kept adding stuff to one calendar, and it didn’t sync with all the others. I lost track of appointments, and then I tried to sync all of my calendars which resulted in duplicates. It was a mess, but I was kinda living with it because I didn’t know how to solve the problem.

The solution? A third party app called Sunrise.

I actually downloaded Sunrise a year ago and never used it. But because of recent frustrations, I gave it another try, and I’ve found Sunrise to be the best calendar solution for me.

Sunrise has a desktop client for my MacBook, as well as an app for my phone, and it lets me sync my iCal and Google calendars in one place. I stopped using iCal all together, and if I’m out and need to add something via my iPhone, I add it directly into the Sunrise mobile app.

Bonus. The display is really pretty and calming.


5. GitHub

I’ve used WordPress and Squarespace before. Both platforms are great, but they’re very limited by the existing templates. I am super picky, and I want things “just so” on my website.

When it came time to build a website for Stories by Emma, my boyfriend Chris Maes suggested we do it in GitHub, where we could easily customize and control it. Plus, the hosting is free.

When I first started using GitHub, I was annoyed by it. It’s made for software developers, not for writers, and it required me to get familiar with a less-than-intuitive process. Because we had to do everything manually, the site wasn’t automatically optimized for mobile, and Chris had to build a custom blog using Jekyll.

BUT every time I want to change something on my site, Chris rushes in to help, and he’s been super patient teaching me how to use GitHub. Now that I’ve been using it for 6 or 7 months, I’m really glad we built the site this way– it allows for customization that wasn’t possible with WordPress or Squarespace.

Price: Free (plus a lot of Chris’s time)

6. Canva, (7.) Pablo by Buffer and (8.) Unsplash

I specialize in content creation, not graphic design, but any good content marketer should be able to create images. Images are important for social sharing, email marketing, and generally making articles look friendly.

Canva is my favorite tool. I love the icons because I can customize colors so they match with the Stories by Emma brand, or a client’s branding. Here’s an image I made with Canva:

Pablo by Buffer is handy for creating blog title images (example here), and Unsplash is a great (and free) resource for finding stock photos that aren’t totally hideous.

PRICE: Free, free, and free

9. Campaign Monitor

When I worked in-house as a content marketer, my team used MailChimp for email marketing. MailChimp is great, but Campaign Monitor is better (full disclosure: they’re a client, but they’ve never asked me to promote them, and I’m doing so 100% on my own accord).

I started using Campaign Monitor to collect email subscribers for readers of this blog (sign up for my email list here), and to send holiday emails to clients and friends. The interface is intuitive and less buggy than MailChimp’s. It’s easy and quick to create a beautiful email.

Campaign Monitor is an excellent option for a pro-marketing tool. Love it.

PRICE: $9 per month for Basic (Send 2500 emails to 500 people)

10. Streak

I was missing out on great clients because I’d lose track of emails in my inbox, so I was on the hunt for a customer relationship management (CRM) that could help me stay organized. Some fellow freelancers recommended Streak, a CRM for Gmail, at a meetup, and I installed it and am reaping the results.

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to leverage Streak, but it’s already helping me keep track of ongoing projects and keep me on top of prospective clients.


I use a computer for a lot of my work, but often I use real paper to jot down to-do lists and take notes when I’m on a client call. I’ve tried fancy notebooks, but nothing beats an ugly white legal pad. The only issue is that Chris occasionally steals them out of my office to do math on them.

Legal pads are great– not sure why we’re not all using them. They’re also extremely inexpensive…like scarily cheap. I

PRICE: $2.44 for pack of 3 (Target), $10.99 for pack of 12 (Amazon)

12. RightSignature

I HATE sending clients word docs and PDFs for contracts, so I use RightSignature to make things easy. It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and I don’t think I need to say anything else? Do I?

PRICE: $11 per month for unlimited signatures

13. Fashion Valley Mall

When I first moved to San Diego, I saw a movie at the theater at the Fashion Valley Mall. The mall is the most wonderful place on Earth, and I was so awestruck on that first meeting that I did not want to go inside the theater. Fashion Valley has all my favorite stores (except for T.J. Maxx), bubbling fountains, and palm trees. It’s my own slice of Vegas here in Southern California.

People might think I spend my hard earned money on rent and groceries, but I’m more likely to head down to the local mall and drop some dollars at Sephora or Nordstrom.

PRICE: ~$100+ per visit

14. My FitBit and (15.) ClassPass

I don’t move very much during the day. My job requires me to go from my bed, to my desk, to the kitchen. I use FitBit and ClassPass to keep me moving, and both are awesome tools that I recommend to freelancers everywhere. If you have a FitBit, come join one of my WorkWeek challenges (I’m trying, but I’ve still never won one).

PRICE: Fitbit Flex – $99 (my sister gave me hers so mine was free), and ClassPass San Diego – 99$ per month (plus all the workout clothes I buy at T.J. Maxx)

Some tools I’m looking into

  • ZOOM – Google Hangouts is ok, but it isn’t stellar. Kinda buggy. I recently tried ZOOM and thought it was amazing. Maybe start using it for client meetings?
  • UberConference – For phone call recordings. I often interview my client’s customers, or the clients themselves, and want a good system for referring back to calls at a later date.
  • 17hats – So I don’t have a list of 15 tools, and I only use one. But could it be that good…?
  • Proposify – For sending proposals so I look super professional. Anyone have experience with this one?
  • Grasshopper – I used to work at Grasshopper. I find the call forwarding service really useful, and now there’s text messaging. I’d like to get a local phone number from GH so I don’t have to give clients my cell number.
  • A dog – WOOF. I need a dog so I get out of the house, take a walk, and have a buddy to hang with all day.

What tools do you cool catz use?

My way probably isn’t the best way. Tell me what you recommend by emailing me at emma@storiesbyemma.co or Tweeting me at EmmaFayeS.