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Alex Benarzi Holly Vestad

Free (or Cheap) Tools for Freelance Editors: Part 1

Icons are arranged in a 3x3 configuration. From left to right, the top row has a set of three magazine folders, math symbols and a briefcase; the middle row has a pen, a calendar and a graph; the bottom row has a bill, a checklist on a clipboard and a monitor with a keyboard.

Becoming a freelance editor can feel both exhilarating and dizzying. As a freelance editor, you’re editing texts, but you’re also running a business. You have complete freedom to set your own schedule and rates, but you are responsible for filling that schedule, finding your clients, and building your networks. Yes, you can work from anywhere in the world, which sounds glamorous, but it might take a few years before you can take weeks off for holidays, as there’s certainly no paid vacation!  

As newcomers to the world of freelance editing, we’ve decided to share the free (or cheap) organizational, editing and reference tools that we’ve found most useful as we continue to grow our practices in this three-part series. Up first: organizational tools. 

Organizational tools


Notion is a streamlined digital workspace where individuals can access their to-do lists, flow charts, collaborative documents, project plans and more. 

Is it worth the hype? The short answer is yes. 

Notion has a multitiered offering of plans, and we’ve found that the free version offers plenty. While there is a learning curve, pages are nearly limitlessly customizable. You can download templates designed by and for freelancers, such as a gallery view to organize your boilerplate text, a to-do list, a blank page to jot stream-of-consciousness notes into, a spreadsheet and a wiki page to help organize your research.

You can also share pages with people or publish them as static web pages, making Notion a functioning portfolio. A timeline template can organize schedules, and Notion syncs with Google Calendar (a great free calendar) and various time-tracking tools. Finally, you can also upload files: with 5MB available, the free version is not a full replacement for your digital file storage, but it’s a useful feature. 


Even if you do not charge by the hour, knowing how long each step of a project takes will help you become a more effective editor and more confident in setting your rates per word. There are a few time-tracking apps out there. We recommend Clockify for its simplicity, its price (free!) and its ease of integration with other web pages.

Clockify is simple. Log into the website. Label your task. Start the timer. Pause for breaks. Stop when done. Clockify keeps track of how long you spend on each task, as well as how long you have worked each day. You can organize your tasks by projects, clients or tags. You can also add others to your account and track tasks as a team. Clockify’s analytics will give you an overview of what work you have done and how long each task took — perfect for invoicing.

Alex Benarzi: I recently shifted my editing work from a side business to a full-time career. Tracking how I spend my time is integral to this mindshift. When I thought of editing as a hobby, it was easy to dive into the minutiae of language because I found it interesting. As a freelancer, time is my most valuable resource: knowing how long I spend on a task, and how that task can be accomplished more efficiently, will help grow and sustain my business. Clockify is a useful way of automating this mindshift.

While the website is simple and accessible, Clockify also has a browser extension. Once installed, it will appear at the top of common workspace sites such as Google Docs or Notion, which means you can start and stop the time without having to load a new page. The data is then transferred back to the Clockify website.

There are two paid tiers, and the extra features can be very useful if you are managing a small business. If you are a solopreneur, the free version works just fine.

If you have written or edited articles or blog posts that are scattered across the internet, can help you showcase your work on a sleek web page with a simple design. You can upload a cover photo, profile picture and bio, and the free version allows you to upload up to 10 items (links or files) to make up your portfolio. The website converts your file into a visual tile that provides visitors with immediate access to your work.

There is also a paid version that offers unlimited clippings and further customization. If your primary requirement is an online portfolio, the paid version of is more affordable than paying for and maintaining your own website.


We could likely be forgiven for assuming that many editors, experts as they are with words, are not good with numbers — yet managing the books is one of the more important aspects of running a business. 

Free spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel, Numbers (Mac) or Google Sheets can only take you so far; a proper bookkeeping software will eventually become essential. Sage and Quickbooks are accountant favourites, but their plans start at $655 and $288 per year respectively. 

Wave, on the other hand, is a small business bookkeeping software with a free plan that offers many features. You can save client information, input your expenses, and email unlimited invoices, which clients can use to pay by credit or debit card online. You do pay a processing fee for each transaction, but it’s a comparatively low cost when you’re starting out. You’re also able to reconcile your Wave transactions with your bank statements and generate multiple types of reports, including profit and loss statements, a balance sheet, and a report that breaks down the sales taxes you’ve collected across invoices — a major help during tax season. 

Holly Vestad: I often find I don’t have enough time in the week to input my expenses, as organizing the invoicing takes enough time. This jeopardizes the information the reports can generate, but even still, I love the snapshot Wave provides of everything that’s coming into my account. The free plan has also allowed me to customize the invoices to match my website, and I think they look professional. 

More resources to come

What free or cheap tools do you find most helpful for organization? 

Let us know in the comments! And stay tuned for the next part of this series, which will focus on editing tools.

About the co-author

Alex Benarzi began his editing career in 2020, connecting with clients as he obtained his certificate in editing through SFU. Most of his freelance work has been in fiction and academic writing. Alex is also passionate about accessibility in language and in practice. As a fiction writer as well as an editor, he believes in bridging atypical and accessible writing. In tandem, writers and editors have the power to see the world differently and communicate it clearly. Alex cares deeply about community, bringing writers and editors together in an increasingly isolated industry. Learn more at


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About the author

Holly Vestad

Holly Vestad

Holly Vestad is a freelance editor specializing in memoir and non-fiction based on the unceded lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation. She has an MA in English literature and has held many writing workshops in the university setting. She is also a writing tutor at the McGill Writing Centre and the chair of Editors Canada’s career builder committee.


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