One of everyone’s favorite ways to procrastinate it to futz with tooling. Well never fear, I’m here to help! Here’s a look at the current stack of tools I use to create, publish, and share content.
Evernote is where most of my work happens. I use Evernote to keep research, notes, outlines, and drafts. I’d love to tell you that I have a great system of tags, notebooks, and systems to keep every well-organized, but honestly, its chaos. In fact, the idea of organizing notes is odd to me because these systems want to you organize before the fact, not after. Sometimes you need to get work out, then figure out where it goes. I prefer to throw everything in, and then use Evernote’s search function to find what I need.
Grammarly is my primary editing tool. The premium version of Grammarly does a great job of catching errors and helping with word choice. However, don’t buy all the hype about how ‘engaging’ and ‘crystal clear’ Grammarly makes your writing. It won’t turn you into a New York Times Bestseller, but it can help you keep a fairly high floor when it comes to the quality of your work. Online trolls love to use minor grammar mistakes as a way of undercutting your expertise. _“Why should I listen to them about programming, they can’t even spell Reconciliation!” _
Hemingway is a secondary editing tool for me. I don’t often put entire documents in there, as Grammarly can catch most of the errors. But I like using it on sections of content that feel awkward or complex to me. Grammarly is more of a copy editing tool (editing at the world level), and Hemingway is a line-editing tool (editing at the sentence level).
Unsplash is the primary place I go to get stock images. It’s one of the most common tools these days, which comes with the caveat that you’ll have to do a lot of digging to find images that aren’t overused and cliché. The main feature I like is that they have a direct integration with ConvertKit (more on that in a moment), and with WordPress using this plugin. However, the images are still of high quality and worthy of use.
Canva lets you pretend to be a graphic designer. With a wide range of templates and formats, you can easily create graphics for social media, headings, and covers. If you want to pre-sell a book, you can create a high-quality cover image in minutes. In a perfect world, I’d use more tools like Canva and less like Unsplash. But I don’t have the luxury of spending forever on content. Both are useful tools when you want to add some visual punch to your blog.
I use Trello as my content calendar. Like Evernote, I’d like to pretend that I have a great system for publishing content and sticking to a schedule. In reality, I have a few columns to keep a list of grist, ideas, and occasionally outlines. I also have columns for the process of syndicating content after I write it. The main feature I like about Trello is flexibility. You can link a card to a note in Evernote, or a Google Doc. They can be a simple as a few words or include long descriptions and to-do lists. I also occasionally use it as a brainstorming tool: I can throw multiple notes into cards, and then rearrange them into different columns, looking for patterns.
I’ve used a self-hosted WordPress instance for a long time and I have no immediate plans of moving to something else. I recently investigated static site systems such as Gatsby, but it felt like I had a solution looking for a problem. WordPress allows me to publish from anywhere and integrate with just about anything. You can use caching to achieve many of the performance gains of static sites. If it’s good enough for the New Yorker and Tech Crunch, it’s good enough for me.
Content syndication is one way you can increase the reach of your content. Content syndication is the practice of responsibly republishing your content. Google punishing duplicate content, assuming its plagiarism, but you can prevent this by using a canonical URL. I syndicate most of my content for developers on Dev.to, as well as occasionally posting an original piece there. Sometimes I also share on Medium, though I find myself using that tool more sparingly.
I’m not the biggest social media fan, but I can’t deny that it has its place when promoting content. Putting together Tweets and posts on LinkedIn can help keep your network in the loop of what you’re working on. Since I write about content relevant to other professionals, I tend to stick to these two.
WordPress is the primary point of contact for my content, but ConvertKit is where the magic happens. I use ConvertKit as the primary means of communicating with people who follow me. Publishing content doesn’t allow for many conversations, and social media doesn’t enable much good conversation. Over email, you have a chance to talk in a more long-form fashion and engage in private one-on-one conversations. I have a newsletter but I hate calling it that. I write to people once a week. Some of them write me back. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. ConvertKit also allows you to set up sequences and automation. I use it to run the Zero-to-10 writing course for developers.