When I write copy, some tools help me tremendously. Whether it's the copy itself, or interactions with my clients, there are certain websites I use that help make it a lot easier for me.
There are quite a few pieces of software, so let me just stick with the web-based ones. How about posting yours? What are some of the tools you use in your work to improve your productivity?
Here are some of mine…
Google is coming out with some pretty impressive tools of late. Writely is certainly one of them.
Writely is an online web-based word processor. Great for writing copy and sharing/collaborating, especially with other copywriters, clients, associates, etc. The beauty is that it can also import and export in various formats, including MS Word, Rich Text, HTML, OpenOffice, image files, and even zipped files.
Research is an incredible part of our job as copywriters. Surfing the web or reading your email, you will come across a ton of passages and clippings you want to copy, reference to, gather for data research purposes, quote in your copy, get ideas from, etc.
Google Notebook is an personal online repository of all things important. It even offers a browser plugin to copy clippings on the web, save images, add sticky notes and file bookmarks, on the fly. You can easily “click and store” as you browse.
I use to have a PC-based spreadsheet to keep track of all my copywriting projects, which my junior copywriters, my accountant and my assistant had access to and could work on. But emailing back and forth was a nightmare.
Like Writely, Google Spreadsheet makes it possible to have it all in one central location, online. It even imports and exports in a variety of popular spreadsheet formats, including Excel, CSV, text, and so on.
I love Google Analytics. Not only is it free, but Google Analytics is a lot more than your typical traffic and web-tracking software (giving you typical stats like referrers, pageviews, search engine traffic, keywords, etc). It's also a really cool split-tester and conversion tracker.
When I test copy, or when I want to track how well the copy I wrote for a client performs, I simply add a snippet of code on the salesletter and another on the resulting action page (i.e., “thank you” page). And that's just an iceberg's tip of the information you can gather.
When I need to send files — like copy work, video, images, etc — that are too large, either for my email or my client's email, I used to upload it to my server and email the link. (Not only is this a two-step process, it's also taxing on my resources.)
Now, I use SendThisFile to email any size file to my clients/associates in a snap. You enter the recipient's data (and you can even send files to multiple recipients), browse to your file on your hard drive, upload, and send. That's it!
BaseCamp is a project management system and central repository I use to share information between clients, co-workers and junior copywriters.
It's complete with message boards, group emails, whiteboards, file sharing, to-do lists, milestone planning, discussion room, goal setting, and more. One of the benefits is that, when I need information from a client, rather than a phone call or email, the client can respond via BaseCamp and it keeps, sorts and tags important communications.
Answers.com is an online dictionary. But it's a lot more than that. While you can use it as a research tool, Answers.com also offers a free downloadable program that sits in your system tray and works at any time, when you need it the most.
While writing your copy or doing research, you simply ALT-click any word or phrase in any document, web page or software, and out pops up a window giving you: dictionary, encyclopedia, almanac, references, web searches, wiki entries, translations, thesaurus, you name it. All in one.
MS Word offers a readability analysis built-in. This is great when you want to know if you're using words that are too complex. (The best copy is almost always easily readable at a 6-7th grade level.) But what if you use FrontPage? Or if it's online?
That's where Textalyzer comes in. (It's also a great tool for SEO purposes.) Need to know the word count, sentence count or character count of your copy? Perhaps to quote fees, measure project sizes or analyze competitor's copy? Textalyzer does it all for you online.
Sometimes, you need a word that rhymes. Or you're looking for a famous quote. Or you're looking for a word but can't seem to find it in a dictionary. Or you want to quote a famous passage, adage or document (like the US Constitution).
Enter RhymeZone. It's a writer's all-in-one reference tool. It will even search word variations, antonyms, homophones, spellings, you name it. It's an awesome tool I use quite often.
Often, I need to transcribe copy I've recorded, a telephone conversation (such as one with a client), a teleseminar, or an audio file that's relevant to my copy. iDictate is an online service that will transcribe audio files of any type and email you a document by email within a few hours.
It's all done by human beings. (This is important since software, like Dragon Naturally Speaking, have to be trained and can only transcribe the speaker who trained it.) They even offer a 1-800 recording service, which is great for doing it on the phone.
I have more, but hopefully this will get things started.
What are yours?
Michel Fortin is a senior marketing specialist, renowned copywriter, and digital marketing expert. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless successful marketing communications and profitable campaigns that generated in excess of $300 million in sales. He's broken many industry sales records, including being instrumental behind the first ever “million-dollar day” online marketing campaign in 2004. He's worked with thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs around the world in a wide variety of industries on building their businesses, improving their marketing, and increasing their profits. He's a published author and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.