Stay Focused: 7 Best Productivity Apps for Freelance Writers

7 Best Apps for Freelance Writers -- Makealivingwriting.comAs a freelance writer, my livelihood relies solely on my ability to keep a clear head and stay on task.

But each day is the same: I sit down to work – and I’m bombarded with distractions.

The dog needs to go out. I need a snack. Oh, I have to listen to Dave Ramsey’s new podcast right this minute. The dog needs to go out again. Kim Kardashian just had a baby named what? Gee whiz, dog, will you just do your thing already? And the list goes on.

Sound familiar?

“Just one more site,” I tell myself. “One more page won’t hurt.”

But the truth is, it does hurt.

My time is valuable. Spending precious hours on unnecessary tasks is simply not good for my business.

In an effort to retrain myself to concentrate, I set out to find some of the best productivity apps for freelance writers to help me cut back on wasted time and get that high-value work done.

Here’s my list of the best productivity apps — plus tips on similar apps to try, if you don’t happen to like my favorite:

Block distractions

1. Anti-Social

Anti-Social blocks over 30 social networking sites, including Reddit, Flickr, YouTube, Hulu, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. This app will block your temptations whenever you’re trying to get down to business.

Similar apps: FocusWriter, WriteRoom

2. Focus

If you’re doing social media management for a client and you absolutely need to access social platforms, Focus allows you to select which sites and applications are allowed based on the tasks you’re doing while blocking others that could be distracting. You can also use the timer to break your work into small intervals or schedule whole blocks of productivity when you know you’ll be typing away.

Similar apps: Cold Turkey, BrowseControl

Set your timer

3. Focus Booster

Focus Booster is an online timer designed for anyone who is using the Pomodoro Technique to get things done.

Unlike other similar apps, Focus Booster is free and available for all devices, so there’s really no excuse not to give it a try. You simply set 25-minute work periods and allow yourself 5-minute rest periods — perfect if you’re the type of person who tends to plug away for hours until your eyes become blurry.

Taking breaks is okay, and you never know, you might even feel more productive when you sit back down to work.

Similar apps: Time Out, Tomighty

4. SelfControl

SelfControl is unlike any other app available right now. If you want focus, this is as hardcore as discipline goes. You set the timer for however long you need to work, and your browser will act as though it’s offline for the full time.

What sets this app apart from other timers is that it won’t allow you to exit this pre-determined session — and no amount of computer reboots or browser restarts will stop it. Rather than completely disabling the web, you can selectively choose which sites are okay or not okay to visit while you’re writing.

Similar apps: Freedom, FocusMe

Create an ambiance

5. focus@will

Different from most other productivity programs, focus@will is a neuroscience-based music app that its developers claim will boost your brain power and attention span by 400 percent. You can listen to multiple music channels scientifically created and optimized to increase productivity and concentration and customize the intensity of the music sessions based on your mood and cognitive type.

The app even includes an automated productivity tracker so you know exactly what types of energy level settings and music keep you most focused.

Similar apps: Brain Upgrade

6. Coffitivity

If you just can’t afford to take a Starbucks run, Coffitivity plays coffee shop sounds, murmurs, and conversations from the comfort of your own home.

The free version of the app includes three categories of ambient sounds: Morning Murmur, Lunchtime Lounge, and University Undertones. Or, for just $9, you can get access to Paris Paradise, Texas Teahouse, and Brazil Bistro for one full year.

Similar apps: Soundrown, Ambiance

Indulge yourself

7. StayFocusd

StayFocusd is a little different from the other productivity apps for freelance writers on this list. Instead of being an app, this extension is designed for users of Google’s Chrome browser. It works in the reverse manner to SelfControl or Anti-Social. Instead of restricting your Internet usage, it allows you to set a certain period of time to indulge yourself in time-wasting websites.

Similar apps: LeechBlock

As freelancers, we have the difficult task of managing all of our work expenditures, activities, and productivity. Try out one or two of these best productivity apps for freelance writers and see if your concentration, focus, and performance improve.

Have you used any productivity apps to help you write? Tell us about your favorite in the comments below.

Mallory Hall, also known as That Copywriter Girl, is a freelance writer, SEO copywriter, and blogger in the heart of Lancaster County, PA.

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26 comments on “Stay Focused: 7 Best Productivity Apps for Freelance Writers
  1. Oh YES, Mallory.

    Straightening up and getting to work always seems so painful, but once I get started, I realize, “Hey, I’m a badass writer. This isn’t hard. My client will love this.” And those hours of working end up being so much more fulfilling than the hours drained on distractions.I love Stayfocsd for Chrome too. Great post!

    • Mallory Hall says:

      Hi, Lindsay!

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Yes, I’ve found that getting started is half the battle, and once I get going, it really isn’t as bad as I thought it would be!

  2. Kenneth Witt says:

    These are excellent resources! I use the Forest: Stay focused app myself. I can choose how long I want to set the timer and upon completion it plants a tree in my virtual garden. It’s silly, but works as an incentive.

    • Mallory Hall says:

      Hi, Kenneth!

      Thanks for your input. Regardless of how silly an app or incentive might be, what’s important is that it works for YOU and helps you to succeed!

  3. I love focus@will! The music really helps me block out distracting conversations and focus on my writing.

    • Mallory Hall says:

      Hi, Lauren!

      Yes, that’s one of my favorites. I also really enjoy Coffitivity, although my husband does poke fun at me for using that one. I like audio distractions that I can’t sing along with, and focus@will and Coffitivity certainly fit the bill!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I found focus@will for my ADHD son, and I wish he would use it more! I like it as well.

      • Mallory Hall says:

        Great point, Carol. That’s another reason why I love these particular apps. They are also useful for kids to help them stay focused on tasks like homework, which is always a positive in my book!

  4. Holly Bowne says:

    Fun post, Mallory! Like you and Lauren, I love Focus@will. I was always jealous of people who could listen to music while they worked because I never could before I found it. Think I’ll have to give Coffitivity a try. Ha, ha!

    • Mallory Hall says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! If you love focus@will, give Coffitivity a try. It’s a little different, but pretty relaxing once you get into it. Oh, and another benefit? You don’t have to pay $5 for a cup of coffee to get the “coffee shop” atmosphere!

  5. Kimsea Sok says:

    I found really useful here, they are almost awesome apps.

    I love anti-social because I always switch to social media while I was trying to write the blog post.

    Also, other apps were impressed me. I’ll take a trail some of them..


  6. Arjun says:

    Thanks Mallory, It’s really helpful.

  7. This is a gem! Just when I need it most! 😀

    I can multitask and I love juggling work, but I’m easily distracted. I can’t resist the alluring social media haha!

    Thanks a lot for this awesome article and helpful apps list!
    I’ll try focus@will coz it works for me to have music on. 🙂 Focus Booster & Stay Focused sound awesome too!

    • Mallory Hall says:

      Hi, Lailanie!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, I’m the same way. I worked in the restaurant industry for years, so multitasking comes naturally to me. I can do 43 things at once, but when it comes time to focus, I pull away so fast, and my work suffers. It’s time to put a stop to that!

  8. MMairaj says:

    Hi Mallory,

    Amazing post indeed, you have shared with us some excellent apps for freelance writers which make it easy for writers to go through.

    Thanks for fantastic share 🙂



  9. Another voice of assent for focus@will. Love the program and I use it so much that I’ve found just launching the program gets my mind in ‘work mode.’ Will definitely have to check out some of these other apps, too. Thanks for the ideas, Mallory!

  10. Eve Davidson says:

    I have a terrible time focusing sometimes which is why I have created rituals for myself in the morning to get started on the right foot. I read articles about many different topics on how to successfully achieve whatever I may be doing so that I can try it out myself. But this is good stuff that you have provided Carol and I will definitely try it out! One thing that I have been having trouble with though is how to truly get started into freelance writing for better pay. I have a few clippings but none of them have been paid because I’ve been trying to get my feet wet. How can I aim higher?

    • Eve, in my experience, it relies on three things:

      1. Understanding your goals – Specifically stating what you want to achieve on a particular day. First thing in the morning, write down the one thing you want to get done, above all others. Dedicate 50% of your time to achieving that one thing, and make sure you complete it before moving on to something else.

      2. Building the right habits – This is something that you need to start small. The best way to do this is to block out small amounts of time, 10-20 minutes to begin with, when you focus on one thing, and that one thing only. The Pomodoro technique is *incredibly* useful for this.FocusBooster, mentioned in the article, is free and easy to use.

      3. Using the right tools – Writing down everything that you need to do is a great way to get the mental load out of your mind and onto paper or into an app. Personally, I use Trello, as I like the easy, visual way that it lets me enter and group tasks, so I can immediately see what I need to do. There are lots of other good task management apps out there.

      Carol will certainly have some good advice on finding freelance gigs, and getting into the right, productive mindset will help you to delight your clients and get repeat work.

      Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. Getting discipline is one of the toughest parts of freelancing, and it’s natural for people to procrastinate.

  11. Gail Gardner says:

    I’m sure your app suggestions will benefit many writers who suffer from too many distractions. Congrats on guest posting on Carol’s excellent site for writers.

  12. Excellent list – I use FocusBooster extensively – The Pomodoro technique is extremely useful. If I can mention a couple of other good productivity apps – RescueTime is a simple, installable program that tracks and reports on what you spend your time doing. It’s free for the basic version, which has most of the functionality a writer will need. Trello is also another *great* productivity app – Frictionless and easy to setup in just the right way to match your workflow, and highly recommended. Thanks for the list!