I love me some online tools and am constantly doing trials or purchasing solitary months of different services and tools to find what worked the best for my business and content goals. I work best when I have clearly defined workflows and systems so that I can free up the logical part of my brain (the organizer) and focus completely on being creative.
I’m also not one for just reading an article and taking the writer’s word that what works for them is going to work just as well for me. So don’t just read this review and run to sign up for these. Test them for yourself! If I’ve learned anything this year it’s that everyone’s ideal workflow process is a little bit (or a lot a bit) different and it will continue to change and evolve over time.
So without further ado, here are my favourites for managing my content workflows:
Ideas and Inspiration Content Tools
I see and find inspiration everywhere – a question, a post, a graphic that strikes an idea in me for something I want to create for my audience. I look at these as jumping off points and since I definitely don’t want to lose them, I needed to come up with a system for storing, categorizing and using these inspirational tidbits.
I have a board in Trello that I use to store any incoming inspiration.
The columns I use are:
- Incoming (unsorted)
- Content Strategy
- Content Systems
- Sales Funnels
- To Do
I also have an entirely separate board for email swipe files where I forward any marketing emails and subject lines that I love and want to use as inspiration in upcoming campaigns. What I love about Trello is that you can forward an email to the board and also use their Chrome extension for adding links as cards.
It once seemed like I had bits of inspiration everywhere – it felt really chaotic and I could never find something when I needed it.
So when I created my single-point inspiration filing system, I also identified the typical collection points where I’d come across the inspiration.
Once a week I’ll go through each of these points, and move things to Trello:
- Pinterest – I save them to a secret board
- Email folder – I file emails into a folder
- Facebook – I’ll use the Facebook save function to store these
- Voice notes – I keep a running voice note for each week
My favourite procrastination device is planning – hands down.
On one hand, having a solid plan is essential for making sure you’re not working in circles and it’s easy to work a plan since it tells you exactly what to do next without needing to stop after each step to figure it out. But on the other? I’ve had a tendency in the past to keep reworking the plan to avoid doing any real work – total procrasti-planner.
But as Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” And I know now to keep things simple, give myself a (time-limited) container for planning and that such a thing as the perfect plan does not exist.
So here are the tools I use for planning my content and marketing:
Yep – I use my own planner. I actually created the Content Empire Planner because I needed it and couldn’t find anything like it.
So when I’m ready to plan content on a yearly (super high-level), quarterly (tying my content to revenue goals) and monthly (the detailed action plan) – I make sure I have open my inspiration bank, my content empire planner and oodles of post-its.
I love planning pen-to-paper but also having the flexibility to move things around, duplicate as needed and scribble things down without worrying about ruining my perfect page 🙈
That’s why I prefer to plan using the iPad and Apple Pencil. My app of choice for importing PDFs is Noteshelf 2.
After I’ve planned on paper, everything gets moved to Asana. I have template tasks for most content marketing projects (blog post bundles, promotions, social media) and will just duplicate them according to the plan I’ve just worked up.
I feel like all of my embarrassing planning secrets are coming out so I may as well tell you this too – I used to believe that if I just found the right tool, my business/life would be perfect. I had whiplash constantly moving from one project management tool to the next – my poor team had whiplash too. Finally, enough was enough and we’ve been with Asana now for 1.5 years and are so entrenched, we’re not moving. (Although when Airtable came up all tempting-like, it was super hard to resist!)
Outlining (or Free Writing)
For me, this is the secret sauce when it comes to content. Before I create, before I outline, before I research – I start with anywhere between 15-25 minutes and simply get all my ideas out onto paper.
The funny thing is that what I write at this point is usually good to go as is but it’s so much easier than sitting down with the intention to write something. Total mind hack.
Here’s a peek at the template I use:
No ifs, ands or buts – at some point in the content workflow, it’s time to sit down and create the damn thing!
Hopefully, you can discover a process that you actually enjoy because with endless options out there, I don’t believe you should suffer to create content. In fact, it could hinder you getting the results you’re wanting to see because if you hate it, you’re much less likely to stick with it long enough to start seeing results.
Also – once I have my free writing in hand, the process starts moving pretty quickly for me. Here are some of the tools I use to make it happen.
I’ve tried so many different writing tools (and for longer projects, adore Scrivener) but I prefer to keep things simple for blogs and that means = Google Docs.
Usually at this point, I’m taking my free writing and crafting paragraphs and sections, filling in where needed so it’s mostly a copy and paste job.
But to keep myself on track, I set a Pomodoro timer (25-minutes) to complete the blog post before proofreading.
My favourite Pomodoro timer is BeFocusedPro because it tracks your productivity (and categorizes it) plus syncs across all of your devices.
For design, I tend to stick with programs in the Adobe Suite (not much has changed from my original tools post 3 years ago here).
- Images – Photoshop (we have a number of templates pre-created that can just be updated or customized for each post/promo/Pinterest graphic)
- PDFs – InDesign (it’s probably my favourite program and we’ll use it for any content upgrades, freebies, course documents. Again, templates save us so much time here!)
I love finding great stock photos a little too much – many an hour has been wasted on what was probably not the best use of my time.
Here are my current go-to’s:
- Adobe Stock – There’s a lot of garbage but a lot of gems too. I have a shortlist of photographers I love that I check out every once in a while to see what’s new.
- Styled Stock Society – I’ll use these for background blog images or membership content images because with stock photography memberships, I’m always worried that everyone else is going to use them too.
- Stocksy – They have some super high-quality images that you have to dig for a little so I’ll look here if I’m looking for a program image that’ll have a longer shelf-life.
- CreativeMarket – Like with AdobeStock, I have a shortlist of photographers I love and will check to see if they anything new!
This little game-changer definitely deserves a mention. But when I’m feeling stuck on a piece of content or need to batch create multiple posts, I’ll interview myself and then upload to Temi to get a transcription to work from.
It’s pretty affordable for transcriptions at just 0.10 per minute – and even though the quality isn’t always the best, it’s still great for pieces that need to be cleaned up still.
Content Tools for Editing
I outsource most proofreading because I’ve been taught time and time again that when I try to proofread my own stuff – I miss EVERYTHING! So I like to leverage a couple of tools, outsource the majority of it and have a healthy outlook that if something gets missed, it’s hardly the end of the world.
Here’s what’s in my proofreading toolkit:
Chrome Text to Speech
One of the things I love most about Chrome (might be available in other things too) is the ability to highlight text and have it read out loud. Not only is the robot voice giggle-inducing (make it say PSSST), but I notice things that are out of place better when it’s read to me this way.
Next up, I’ll use Grammarly. I have the Chrome extension that’ll pick up errors in most windows but I also export my Google Docs into it for doing the proofreading without losing the formatting in the Doc!
After these steps are done, I’ll have my team copywriter take a pass at it!
Content Publishing Content Tools
The next step in my content workflow is publishing – this includes publishing my blog post and my email newsletter.
Here are the tools I use to make this happen:
I love the flexibility and ease of Divi. This is what I use for my website and, by extension, my blog.
For content upgrades and pop-ups on my blog, I use LeadPages. I’ve been with them for years and love how easy they make adding the code to the bottom of my website for my various freebies and content upgrades.
It’s an investment (since it’s a monthly fee) but since, as they say, the money’s in the list, I don’t mind spending money on the list!
I have been around the block when it comes to email service providers, but I love how powerful ActiveCampaign is. From website integration to complex automations and funnels – I’ve never looked back once I moved from Ontraport.
I’d definitely recommend ConvertKit though for those looking for something a little simpler without sacrificing tagging and the visual automation builder!
Content Marketing (Promotion)
I’d argue that the most important part of any content workflow is actually the promotion piece. How are you getting eyeballs on your content?
I’d much rather you spend less time creating new content and more time promoting the content you already have! But what tools do I use to promote my content and increase visibility?
I scooped this up in an AppSumo deal and I’m so grateful that I did. It works like MeetEdgar without the monthly price tag so I can set up evergreen content libraries in addition to one-off posts.
I use this for my Facebook page, LinkedIn and all of my groups.
Pinterest is such a powerhouse for me – traffic-wise – and it would be dreadful if I had to do everything manually. That’s where Pinterest saves the day. I teach my entire system of using it to grow your traffic in my program Your Content, Your Empire because while I’m all for picking and choosing the social media platforms that you enjoy, I still hope that content creators, choose to make Pinterest a part of their strategies!
Then for Instagram, I use Planoly so I can plan my grid ahead of time as well as my posts. I like that it’ll also allow you to schedule your stories in advance too!
Speaking of IG stories, I have to mention this app. I’ll usually film my video stories for the week on Sundays, and this app allows me to break them up into 15-second (story-sized) chunks. I almost didn’t think of mentioning this one, but I use it so frequently, it’d be remiss not to!
Other Content Tools (Notable Mentions)
So while I’ve already covered the majority of the tools that I use in my regular content workflow, there are a few other notable tool mentions.
I don’t know what I would do without Dubsado – well, I know I’d spend a lot more of my time creating client onboarding and processes from scratch each time (no thank you!)
This is how I run my masterclasses and I just love how easy it is to set up a new class — because I love to put together trainings but dealing with complicated tech, not so much.
I have a team now who helps me in my business and LastPass has become an essential part of the process. It’s easy to share passwords but I love that you can create folders for different positions so you don’t need to share each on individually.
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