The Digital Tools Writers Should Use Every Day (And How I Use Them to Succeed)

Paul Maxwell, Ph.D.

Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., writes about theology, mental health, marketing, and fitness. Paul has been writing on PaulMaxwell.co for over a decade.

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I’m going to give you a highly important history illustration for business success in writing. So bear with me for 200 words. Just 200.

Okay, go:

One autumn day in 1867, Christopher Latham Sholes was reading an obscure article in Scientific American describing some new British-invented contraption. It inspired him to create a machine based on its components. After a few iterations, he signed a contract with Remington gun company in New York to manufacture his machine. It finally came to market in 1874 and revolutionized the writing space.

The typewriter.

In an instant, writing speed was literally multiplied by a factor of 20x. Not only did writers no longer have to write each letter stroke—they also could impress the letters in rapid succession by simultaneously employing all 10 fingers, rather than being constrained to one point of contact between pen and paper.

Imagine being the first writer with a typewriter. You would be able to write 20x faster than all of your peers. After 1867, any writer who wanted to succeed who didn’t use a typewriter was doomed for obscurity (of course, there are exceptions). But any business that had anything to do with words couldn’t afford not to use one. Nevertheless, many writers resisted. And almost all of those writers have faded into the canvas of history, leaving not even a mark.

Boom! History lesson over.

We live in our own 1867 today. The typewriter of the 21st century is digital mastery.

The successful author, who grows to master wordsmithing and brandcraft, will require digital tools, because his success hangs on his mastery of the online space. The internet dissolved all of our writing cliches into irrelevance.

No more handwriting next to Walden lake while sipping coffee. No more typewriting away in an oak-paneled office. The modern successful writer is a digital entrepreneur. All of a writer’s assets which make the writing brand itself a marketable commodity come from authority building across multiple platforms, such as social media, Google SEO rankings, iTunes, YouTube, and wherever else.

Since the successful writer will be a digital entrepreneur, it’s important to have the right digital tools. Here are the tools that I (and most successful writers) personally use every day to further advance my own writing career.

G Suite Basic

G Suite Basic gives you the power of normal Google apps (Gmail, Docs, Schedule, etc), but with advanced features that add a professional edge to your brand.

For example, a G Suite Basic user can choose a vanity email with their own name (yourname@business.com), get advanced security encryption features for email, and a much higher cloud storage threshold.

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“A vanity email makes you look like a legitimate and serious businessperson that’s worth working with.”

The vanity email is really important for several reasons. Foremost among them is the fact that Gmail (oddly) doesn’t like receiving mass emails from other “gmail” emails. So, for example, Gmail will be far more likely to toss an email you send to your list in the “spam” can if you’re using your @gmail.com address. Get a vanity address so that your digital communication gets to where it needs to go. And, on top of that, it makes you look like a legitimate and serious businessperson that’s worth working with.

Envato Elements

Envato Elements is my secret Ace-in-the-sleeve for every branding project I oversee. It’s hard to express how much it offers you. I’ll try.

Imagine a website where you could download nearly unlimited digital assets that were also licensed for commercial use. SVG illustrations. Book covers. Backgrounds. Video intro templates. Music. Stock photo and video. Sound effects. Website templates. eCommerce wireframes.

Everything you could ever need or want (and more) to brand yourself is right there. The biggest mistake most brands make is that they think they have to build everything from Scratch. With Envato Elements, you don’t have to. You can simply piece together the right digital assets that look totally custom for your brand, downloaded right from the website.

If you are a personal brand, work in marketing, or run your own website—heck, just as a writer—you need to have access to Envato. It’s like having the full resources of a marketing team, but even better. The results are instant. The assets are yours to use (but not to resell).

“If I had to pick one digital tool that I couldn’t do without to absolutely crush my brandcraft, it would be Envato Elements, with no close second”

If I had to pick one digital tool that I couldn’t do without to absolutely crush my brandcraft, it would be Envato Elements, with no close second. As a writer, you need to focus on writing, not playing with fonts (and Envato has hundreds of those, too). So let the contributors on Envato do the non-writing creative work for you so that you can focus on the writing and using Envato’s branding elements to build the look of your brand and the size of your audience.

Envato Tuts+ (a Product of Envato)

I’m often asked: “What’s the best tutorial website?” The obvious answer is YouTube. But YouTube’s search engine doesn’t always give you the exact how-to you’re looking for. And many times, what ranks top-10 in a YouTube search isn’t the very best content.

I’ve found every single one of the tutorials in Envato Tuts+ to give my cutting-edge skill-building resources. Every time I use Envato Tuts+ , I walk away knowing a really cool design trick that I will use hundreds of times in the future.

For digital trade skills, don’t bother with Udemy or Lynda’s pricey classes. Envato Tuts+ are better, they’re written by more professional experts, and they are optimized for solo entrepreneurs building their personal brands.

Mailchimp (Free)

When building your original email list, Mailchimp is the best option for acquiring emails and communicating with your audience. If you have less than 2,000 people, it’s completely free.

It only gives you one “subscribe” form, so you can’t build multiple forms and tag different people with different interests in order to better understand your audience. But that’s okay—Mailchimp is a hammer, and building your initial audience is a nail. It gets the job done. I would hold off on spending a bunch of money on a more expensive email service until you’ve built a solid relationship with those 2,000 people. Then, pull the trigger on something much better.

Email lists can be downloaded and uploaded to new services in the form of an excel sheet, so switching email carriers is extremely easy.

Convertkit

Convertkit is the most powerful list-building tool for solo entrepreneurs. You lose the design features of Mailchimp (which look very 2008 anyway) when you use Convertkit.

BUT you can create an unlimited number of sign-up forms and tag people who use different forms so that you understand how they found you and what they’re interested in.

You can create iterative email sequences (someone signs up and receives one email a day for the next 7 days, written as a sequence).

You can automate Convertkit to perform any number of actions (add tags, send emails, etc.) based on how someone responds to your emails (opens but doesn’t click; ignores; opens and clicks; opens and clicks on something different; opens twice). You can create a personalized email experience that enables you to better understand your audience based on how and when they interact with your emails.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud is critical for writers. If Envato Elements is Tony Stark’s Jarvis AI butler, Adobe Creative Cloud is the Iron Man suit. With Creative Cloud, you get:

Adobe Illustrator

The most powerful design software on the planet. I can tell the difference between writers who know how to use Illustrator and those who don’t when I look at their websites. What’s the difference?

One brand looks completely custom and smooth, and the other looks like they bought a “stock” website and pressed “Publish.” Illustrator is the difference maker between brands that make you think “Woah, that looks fantastic,” and brands that look like just another try-hard writer.

Adobe Indesign

Indesign is the key tool for self-publishers. Ever read a book with really awesome interior design? That happens in Indesign. Its interface is nearly identical, so once you learn Illustrator, you know how to use 90% of Indesign. You can also sell your Indesign skills to publishers to format their book interiors and build contacts in the publishing industry.

Premiere Pro

If you have a YouTube element to your brand, Premiere Pro is essential. Not Final Cut Pro X. Premiere Pro. It is the most mechanically straightforward video editing software on the planet. It’s literally as simple as drag-and-drop, and it contains heavy native graphic features that enable you to do a ton of high-quality production in a small amount of time.

Adobe After Effects

After Effects The home of CG. If you’ve ever seen an “illustration video” where the drawings move (not talking about hand-drawn cartoons), or a movie like Infinity War, this all happens in After Effects. Everything from a bouncing dot on the screen to the Thanos Snap happen in After Effects.

After Effects is one of the rarest and most valuable competencies in the personal brand space, and people who find out about your skills in After Effects will be chasing you with thousands of dollars in freelance money to make them an intro video for their YouTube channel.

These four and more than a dozen other unique and powerful pieces of software are included in Adobe Creative Cloud. If you have a .edu email, make sure you take advantage of their 50% off rate for students and teachers.

Squarespace

Squarespace offers powerful design and eCommerce options that make it the clear choice for personal brands, over other website platform alternatives such as WordPress, Drupal, etc.

Squarespace is an all-in-one package that doesn’t require (or allow) the installation of any plugins, is the easiest platform to customize, and has the most straightforward eCommerce features you’ll need.

People who try to sell you on WordPress never tell you that if you wanted to create a Squarespace site on WordPress from scratch—with all its eCommerce features—it will cost you over $5,000. Squarespace charges under $500 per year for its highest, most premium tier. The comparison unquestionably insists that writers use Squarespace. I’m not a shill. They’re not a sponsor. I stand by it.

Evernote Premium (tagging research, notes, tracking blog ideas)

I use Evernote Premium as the root architecture for all of my ideas. Google simply doesn’t have a smooth enough integration of desktop, cloud, and mobile to facilitate the agile cataloguing and retrieval of ideas, quotes, and drafts—more than that, Evernote is feature-rich optimize for writers in particular, far beyond the capabilities of any Google app.

Crowdfire Plus (Social Media Management)

I use CrowdFire Plus because they are more than a social media management tool. Yes, you should use a management tool to schedule your posts so that you don’t have to manually log into every single account every time you write something. That is a terribly inefficient way of posting, and you should be using something—if not Crowdfire, then Hootsuite or Buffer.

But here’s why you should use CrowdFire Plus:

It will learn your brand as you use it, and it will eventually start researching articles relevant to your brand that you can share, suggest posts, tell you ideal times to post (when your audience is active), and it will automatically search out other authorities in your industry and suggest connecting with them (even those you haven’t heard of, which can be extremely valuable).

It’s the ultimate networking tool. I would use CrowdFire Plus even if it wasn’t a social media scheduler and aggregator.

Conclusion

These are the tools I use every day. I learned about these tools from super (7-figure) successful writers that I sought out and asked: “What tools were critical for your success?”

These are the tools they mentioned. Get as many as you can (Envato is the one secret everybody comes back to), and start executing immediately. You’ll notice that within 3 months of launching your brand, you’ll completely recoup whatever meager investment you’ve made in these tools. In summary, they are:

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