The Tools Any Freelance Writer Needs to Start a Successful Writing Career

Take note of my aim here: How To Start a Successful Writing Career. This means, this article will help newbies and career shifters who have not dipped their toes into freelance writing.

Times have indeed changed. There are more writers now who want a piece of the content pie. And if you’re one of them, it’s a great way to live and express yourself through the art of writing. But patience played a great part when I started writing. It was easy at first, what was next was the hardest part. You don’t really need a lot of tools to start. Most of these tools are at minimal costs or you already have them. A quiet small bedroom or office space will be beneficial. Let’s start you off with the necessary tools and writing tips you need in your toolkit:

  1. A trusty calendar

Freelance writers’ Rule No. 1 – Never miss a deadline. Once more writing gigs come in, and you start expanding your portfolio, you will need a calendar.

Set up a Google Calendar. You can access them through any device you have or public computers as long as you log into your Google account. You can create a list of to-do for the day, put deadlines per client or per project. You can create alerts for forthcoming projects.

  1. A new laptop

New career, why not new laptop? For a newbie writer, you don’t want problems with technical hardware from an old clunky laptop. Why not invest on a new one and a good back up. Load it with the best virus protection software and update your system regularly.

  1. A paying service like Paypal or Venmo

Get a Paypal account. You will receive your payments faster. You can withdraw from you Paypal account straight to your bank account. Whenever possible, always encourage the use of e-payments. Your checks could be delayed or lost. If you don’t like Paypal, get Venmo. Or both.

  1. A tried and tested Internet provider

You need the internet for emails, research, conference calls or text-chats. If your Internet Service Provider is not too reliable, you might consider scouting for another one. And always have a back-up internet connection.

You could always go to the nearest Starbucks and have the free Wi-Fi connection.

  1. Word processing and spreadsheet programs

Microsoft Word and Excel come to mind. If you’re a Mac user all your life, you might still want to use MS Word for Mac. Almost all your clients and prospects will be using Word. You don’t want compatibility issues cropping up. Formatting can change the whole document. But since you’ll be using Word as a word processor long term anyway, why not invest in it.

Excel has its own merits as a very good spreadsheet where you can lay out all your expenses and invoices. Classify your clients per tab or per sheet. You can do a lot more like tallying word count, cost per word, date of submission, etc. Once you get the hang of Excel, you’ll find it really helpful.

Open Office is a great substitute for MS Word because it’s free. And it also has its own version of Excel.

The other nice word processor I recommend is Evernote. It actually does more than word processing.

  1. An accounting program

You may need an accounting program for your invoices, payouts and other financing needs.

Programs like Freshbooks can keep track of each of your payments, compute for tax payments and monitor your invoices. It tells you who owes you money and vice-versa.

  1. Virtual drives

I personally use Dropbox and Google Drive. You definitely need these drives. There’s no point in having all your files and tools in your local computer or laptop at home. With these, you can access everything from wherever you are.

  1. Website creation tool

If you’re planning to do your own blogging, then you might as well know how to use WordPress. It’s so newbie-friendly with all its free themes. Set up your portfolio with it and start blogging away. 

  1. Video –conference tool

Video-conferencing is one important aspect of connecting to clients. You will need apps like Skype (it’s free!). It has video and chat where clients can call you to discuss project details. 

  1. Anti-plagiarism tool

Anti-plagiarism tools are also necessary. Use Copyscape and purchase credits, they’re cheap ($10 for 200 checks).

  1. Image sources

If you need images in your articles, Flickr is a great place to get some. So with IStock and FreeDigitalPhotos. Go on and experiment on these three.

  1. Grammar editing tools

And finally, you could use a little more writing tips and grammar help like Grammarly which has a free version. Another editor helper is Hemmingway. 

That’s all for now

There are so many tools out there to get your writing career going. But you need to start somewhere. As soon as you’re already comfortable as a freelancer, and the money starts flowing in regularly, you could take on more serious tools to make your writing life much more comfortable.

Once you’ve gotten off to a great start as a freelance writer, come back and message me. Tell me which tools you’ve added and which ones made a big difference. Good luck!

5 Key Practices That Turn a Freelance Writer’s Business into an Inexhaustible Gold Mine

Most people who are thinking about turning their passion for words into the foundation of a lucrative career tend to believe that becoming a successful freelance writer is all about having a sharp pen backed by years of experience in this field, great connections, a killer portfolio and the right degree.

In reality, newcomers can get closer to achieving this goal by simply learning how to look for jobs matching their skills and expertise, how to get them, and how to work on their relationship with new and existing clients. Once they reach this level, they get hooked on writing, and think about ways in which they could tap into their lifelong hobby and turn it into a rewarding business opportunity.

5 Practices That You Should Embrace to Achieve Entrepreneurial Success as a Writer

If you have the same goal in mind, here are 5 key practices that you should focus on to take your writing business to the next level, and avoid the most common pitfalls of freelancing, such as getting stiffed, dealing with the horrifying deadline panic, or living from paycheck to paycheck.

  1. Become a Cash Flow Yoga Practitioner. Unfortunately, very few freelancers know how to manage their resources wisely, and even fewer think about saving for a rainy day. After all, why put some money aside for an unforeseen situation that may never arise, when you can spend all your money in one place and feel like you have finally reached heaven for a few hours, right? Wrong! As a matter of fact, lack of financial planning can get you in trouble in no time, especially when you are your own CFO.

The ant and the grasshopper fable shows us just how important it is to work hard and plan ahead to be able to survive in times of hardship. Follow the example set by the hardworking ant to become a skilled, cautious cash flow yoga practitioner: put away a significant percentage of your monthly earnings to maintain your comfortable lifestyle during periods when you won’t be able to get enough work.

Ideally, you should create a business savings account to deposit your economies and make sure you’ll be able to count on enough funds to cover your costs during times with little to no work. In addition, you could also opt for projects with shorter deadlines to get more cash rapidly, while expanding the timeline for paying vendors and bills-if possible. This strategy called cash flow yoga could help you manage your resources more efficiently and avoid running out of money right after getting paid.

  1. Keep Up the Good Work. Many newcomers who are testing the waters of freelancing and don’t know much about a writer’s business may find it difficult to focus on project execution and marketing at the same time. In other words, while working on writing projects they’ve already got, they no longer focus on strategies meant to recurring revenue.

This way, when they complete and submit their work, they realize that they can’t count on any new gigs and clients, simply because they have put their marketing efforts on hold to direct all their time and energy towards their clients’ assignments.

Fortunately, this crisis situation can be prevented and addressed by working with a salesperson, or staying active on multiple online platforms especially designed for freelance writers looking for work. By scheduling time for networking and pitching your work to new prospective clients, you could escape the vicious feast and famine cycle, and boost your productivity and profit margins at the same time.

  1. Stay Organized. Many freelance writers are unable to make their deadlines less stressful simply because they do not know how to schedule their assignments and prioritize their work. For this reason, several aspects of their business suffer, including the overall project execution, marketing tactics, and relationship with clients. Avoid this mistake by exploring different methods to stay organized. Become more self-disciplined by using calendars and creating to-do lists, or rely on state-of-the-art project management online software to stay on track with your freelancing goals.
  2. Work on Your Accounting Skills. Most freelance writers are deeply intimidated by the most basic accounting tasks, simply because they never actually paid too much attention to these simple processes. The fact that you’re so good with words doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re terrible with numbers. This being said, here are a few key steps that you should take when it comes to doing accounting and protecting the future of your business:
  • Create separate business and personal accounts to keep track of your monthly expenses and revenues; this will help you avoid mixing pleasure with business, and evaluate the profitability of your new venture in a more objective manner
  • Track your bills regularly to make certain that you are being paid correctly and on time by your clients. Keep in mind that you could avoid penalties and manage your cash flow with more ease by simply paying your estimated taxes quarterly.
  • Even though you could always use a wide range of free and paid accounting tools to keep your books in order, don’t hesitate to rely on the advice and professional services of an accountant who could help you manage your resources in a more effective manner, and also unlock the benefits of retirement plans especially designed for entrepreneurs.
  1. Explore New Methods to Simplify Your Work. We all know that a successful writer’s business involves several key tasks, including scheduling, accounting and marketing, which could eat up most of your time and energy. So the question is this: how could you handle all these important assignments without lowering the quality and quantity of your work? Here are a few suggestions that you may find helpful:
  • Consider outsourcing. By subcontracting the execution of some of your projects, or outsourcing marketing, you could save a significant amount of time. Handling over certain responsibilities to a third party may actually lead to considerable increases in terms of productivity.
  • Rely on technology meant to improve your workflow. Use a myriad of online tools to schedule tasks, store your work in the cloud, work remotely with partners and clients, and find inspiration for your ongoing content creation endeavors. These days, there are several tools that you could use to simplify any work-related task that may cross your mind-from research to client relationship management and everything in between; therefore, do not hesitate to use these vital aids to improve your productivity and boost your earnings.
  • Lastly, count on the services provided by lawyers and accountants to avoid rooky mistakes that could threaten the future of your freelance writing business.

Proper Planning and Consistency Are the Key to Running a Successful Writer’s Business

Creating and running a profitable freelance writing business is not as difficult as it may seem, especially when you know how to set your priorities straight, manage your resources, and make the most of accessible technology and new business opportunities to fuel your growth. What other foolproof freelance practices and writer’s business growth tips would you recommend to your fellow writers? Let us know in a comment below.