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Recommendations: tools, apps, and products


A non-exhaustive list of various software, tools, apps , and products that run my life, plus other general recs.

Working for myself & remotely for the past decade-plus has had me experimenting with a slew of apps & productivity hacks. My needs are not going to match yours exactly, but this is what I’ve found to be most helpful in my work and life.

Everything listed is actively used or has been used by me. Those with * are referral links.

Last updated: June 20, 2024

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Social Media

Later: When you’re busy or if you want to plan a number of posts out, this free desktop & mobile app allows you to schedule Instagram posts. Other perks of Later is the ability to load multiple accounts, “search & repost” function, bulk upload of images, and their free offer of link in bio.

A Color Story: A photo editing app that’s geared for color. It’s free & is packed with a lot of features.

Canva: Canva is a lifesaver if you’re ever in need of a quick design to accompany your social post. The paid brand account keeps tabs on your colors & fonts, but the free account is just as good. If you’re feeling not-so-confident in your design skills, take some of their e-courses!


ToDoist*: I paid for this app, but the free version is also good. For different clients and projects, I create to-do lists that help me keep on track. The recurring to-do feature is very helpful, even for personal items like watering my plants every Monday. *I receive two free months of Premium if you use the link to upgrade to Premium.

1Password: I paid a lot for this… but it’s also saved me a lot of headache on trying to remember all of my passwords. I’ve generated 33-character passwords, saved them & never have to remember them. I’ve also saved my passport & other identifying items into it as a backup.

Dropbox*: I save all my receipt copies into Dropbox, categorized by year & then month. I also pay for the monthly 1TB storage. *You receive 500 MB of bonus space & I receive 1 GB of space.

Airtable*: It’s the Excel you want if you create lots of databases and schedules. I have now used it for everything from project management, keeping track of a million links, my professional development tracker, and even my own writing record. *If you use the link to sign up & confirm your email, I receive $10 in credit.

Spark: My email app that consolidates the fifty million email addresses that lead to me. I love being able to see them all in one inbox, have smart folders (bills/receipts/invoices across multiple inboxes all land into one “bills” folder), multiple signatures, and the ability to schedule an email’s re-arrival to my inbox.

ClickUp*: It took a bit but my pieced-together operation of project management no longer worked for me. I found myself clicking around and changing tabs way too often to get anything done. So in comes ClickUp. It has a high learning curve, but I can now see calendars for multiple projects all in one place, as well as map out timelines. I’ve taken advantage of the automations, too. Think: “Once the newsletter issue status reaches this X stage, add in a checklist of all the things to look for.” ClickUp has mostly replaced Airtable for me. *I receive credit to use in my workspace.


Trello: I used to work with developers and report bugs as part of my job. Since I manage my own website and tweak the custom settings often, I find myself reporting bugs… to myself. How do I keep it all straight? I use Trello. Here’s an example of how to use it for web development. Here’s a guide on how to create an editorial process for your blog. Since I wrote this, I’ve transitioned most of my Trello boards to Airtable (below) but I would still recommend Trello if you need something simple!




Dubsado*: This is my CMS system. I use it for onboarding, forms, new client inquiries, contracts, and client portals. I also love that their free trial isn’t limited by time. You can have up to three clients for free (I tested one as myself)! Code: thejennchen. *If you sign up for the paid plan, you receive 20% off your first month & I receive a month free.

Dreamhost*: For my hosting and domain registrations, I use Dreamhost. They’ve been quick to respond to any issues and they have a relatively easy-to-use control panel. *You receive $50 if you sign up for the Unlimited shared hosting & I receive a $50 credit.

Ghost: I host my newsletter tanjennts on Ghost. I moved from Substack and imported all my posts in Ghost. It took a bit, but it was relatively painless. Ghost offers an easy way to publish a website and/or blog. The paid plans are based on the number of subscribers you have on your list. It has a few free themes and plenty of paid ones from the community. Bonus: it’s open-source and doesn’t change on the whim of investors.

Toggl: I use Toggl for time tracking. The free version is quite robust! You can create projects, clients, color code, start/stop from your browser or chosen app. I have it on my Mac, where it “watches” what I have open and shows me where I’ve been spending my time. 


Ulysses: I purchased Ulysses for the Mac because my previous writing program wasn’t working anymore. This uses markdown but has some great tagging and organizing features. The exports to various formats and link to WordPress & Medium have been very helpful for publishing.

Bear: I use Bear on the Mac and iOS to take notes. In an effort to streamline all the places I take notes, I’ve decided to store them all in one place. I have notes that are tagged with #clientcall and by whichever client. It’s pretty, it’s seamless, and it’s easy to search. I pay for the Pro plan.

Grammarly*: The web extension is immensely helpful for correcting your writing on the go. I’ve paid for the pro plan so I can have even more corrections. We both receive one month of Premium for free if you use the referral link.

Hemingway App: To clean up any confusing sentences, Hemingway tells you which reading level your writing is at and where you might have run-on sentences.

Rev: I upload my interview audio files to Rev and the AI transcribes it to text in minutes (not exaggerating). It’s charged by the file time. A 30-min file is around $8. Within Rev, you can auto-remove filler words, highlight quotes, take notes, and then export just the highlighted quotes to a text file. It’s never 100% accurate but I now spend far less time on collecting quotes.


Pixieset*: I use Pixieset gallery to deliver photos and the Pixieset website builder for my photo website. They make it easy to deliver online galleries where clients can favorite, leave comments, and download. They have a great Lightroom plugin that uploads photos directly from LR to Pixieset. I went with them for my photo website, because I didn’t want to deal with optimizing a website that I knew would be loaded with photos. The best part is that you can choose photos from your galleries to put on your website! *If you pay for a plan, you get $20 credit and so do I.


Hotel Tonight: Last-minute reservations in large cities for up to 7 days in advance. This has proved helpful for those last-minute trips I make! Code “JCHEN567” will get you $25 off your first booking.

AnyList: I use this to track my shopping list! It can remember past items, too, which comes in handy when I’ve already entered a specific brand.

Noonlight: Whenever you’re walking to a place where you might feel unsafe, hold the center button down. Release and enter your keycode when you arrive. If you let go at any point and do not enter the code, emergency services will be called.

You Need a Budget*: I used this for my personal finances last year and it has worked wonders on my own budgeting and financial projections. It took more than the free trial period to get a handle on their method but it worked well enough that I set up a budget for my business finances, too! *Using the link means we both receive a free month when you subscribe.

Daylio: A mood-tracking app. The free version is very robust. I paid because I also wanted to see my mood analytics. It has excellent customization so you can add different moods and activities that fit your own life. But if you get overwhelmed, they also have some easy templates to help with that. The colors are also really nice, as they help me visualize my moods as they change.

Day One: A journaling app. It could be argued that you could use either Daylio or Day One for the same things but I wanted one to be mood focused and the other more bullet journal style. You can add multimedia along with text in the app. I personally do a “5-min PM” where I write three things that happened that day and one thing I’m proud of. It’s low commitment and helps me remember what happened each day.

Parcel: If you have issues with managing your deliveries, then this app at $3/year is a no-brainer. Put them all in one view, name each shipment however you want, and then get notifications for each one (if you want).

Paprika Recipe Manager: I use this to organize recipes, meal plan, and execute recipes. When you turn your phone sideways, the ingredients are listed on the left and the recipe on the right. As you use the ingredients, you can cross them out! You can also set multiple timers right from the recipe. It’s available on multiple platforms for a one-time purchase fee per platform.

Storygraph: A while back, I imported my Goodreads history into Storygraph, because I’m trying to limit my interactions with Amazon and Goodreads hadn’t been updated in ages. Storygraph is a reading tracker! You can set reading goals, start/join a challenge, and create lists. It also has some nice data graph features, even for the free accounts.


Bullymake*: A subscription box for bully breed dogs. When I first adopted Zoey, I thought I was set on toys for at least 6 months. Except that she destroyed two of them within minutes. After a ton of searching, I found this company that understands super chewers. If your dog doesn’t like a toy or it gets chewed up, they replace it. I had to change from a monthly delivery to quarterly because the toys have lasted! The other neat thing is that you can switch up the mix of toys/treats. *If you use this link, I receive $18 in credit to use in their toy shop.

Spark Paws: If you have any bully breed or mixed bully breed dog, you know that wide chest makes it difficult to shop for! My dog doesn’t have fur; she has hair. Short hair, at that. Because of this, she’s prone to getting cold. Spark Paws offers colorful and patterned hoodies (and other wearables) for your pup AND you. They’re thick, extremely comfortable, and warm. 

Wyze Cam: I have v2 (the link is for v3). This is all for peace of mind. It’s installed in my living room. When I leave, I hit the shortcut for leaving home and it turns on and sends me sound/movement notification. I can also check the live stream in the app.