Top Tools To Get Started In Freelance Writing

By Colin

Any freelance writer starting out these days could be forgiven for thinking all that’s required is a laptop with Internet access, and a telephone. But there’s more to think of; hidden extras which will be needed somewhere along the line if a serious attempt is to be made.

Here’s a list of the most important things every freelance writer should consider when first starting out.

Word Processor

This is perhaps so obvious, that some might say it ranks as extreme stupidity to even mention it. However, you will definitely, without question, need a word processor of some description.

Fiction writers can get away with a dedicated word processor to work on, but if you are serious about making your way in the freelance writing business, you really need a PC or laptop that can connect to the Internet. So much business is done over the Internet these days, that not only is it the future, the future’s been here for a while.

Internet Access

You’ll need Internet access for several reasons:

  • Research: the first port of call for many freelancers when undertaking research is the Internet – but it shouldn’t be the only one. A good freelancer will use the Internet as a foundation to build on, before talking to people, visiting libraries, and cross-checking with sources.
  • Email: call it a curse, call it the greatest innovation in communication since two cups and a piece of string, email is here to stay. You’ll need it for applying for jobs, sending queries, receiving queries, sending in submissions – in fact, just about everything.
  • Staying current: being able to read newspapers, magazines, journals, industry reports, articles, forums, or just to see what your peers are doing, can all be done over the Internet.
  • Advertise: whether through blogs, websites, or portals, your services can be advertised effectively over the Internet, but only if you can access it and respond quickly.
  • Restock: being able to order supplies for your home business over the Internet can save you time, money, and a lot of hassle.

Website

Should you have one? Why do you need one? Will it do any good? To answer all of these questions think about it this way: if you don’t have one, will you be able to compete successfully with everyone else who does?

A website is relatively inexpensive to set up and maintain, and although they may seem a distraction when first setting out, having a website speaks volumes for the level of seriousness a writer has of himself. It is also a great tool for supporting your pitches, and allowing your clients, potential or otherwise, to get to know you.

Printer

Despite what I said earlier concerning email and the future of electronic communication, there will always be a place in the world for paper. Some writers use their printer for printing work to proofread, but the main use as a freelance writer is for business correspondence, and invoices.

If you have a modern PC or laptop, but have a small working environment, it might be a good investment to go for a wireless printer so you can hide it away, and then access it only when you need to.

Dedicated Area

Having a regular place to work has been known to increase productivity and allow for better creativity. It needn’t be a dedicated office with desk and chair, or kitted out with all the latest mod-cons, it could be the corner of a living room, at the end of the bed, or on the kitchen table.

Wherever you choose, it should be comfortable and conducive to producing quality work. As you move forward with your career, you will likely find that an office becomes more desirable. Finding a suitable area with more professional amenities will become more important as you grow.

Telephone and Fax

Most freelance writers have a telephone. It’s kind of assumed. Some use their home phone, some have a dedicated line installed into a home office, others use their mobile, and a few have branched out with Internet technology such as Skype.

Fax, however, is often neglected as being old fashioned and therefore not required. Not so. It’s a good idea to have a fax connection because many businesses still rely heavily on it to do business. The beauty is that you don’t need a bulky machine sitting near you to receive faxes any longer, as a simple piece of software and an Internet connection is all you need.

CD/DVD Writer

Invaluable for backing up everything concerned with the running of your home-based freelance writing business. This can include everything from PC data and applications, to article ideas and company accounts. You might even use it for listening to a CD when you need to relax.

PC Maintenance Software

Keeping your PC hardware, software, and peripherals in fighting shape is vital to prevent your PC falling foul to outside interference, and to make sure it is working as quickly and reliably as it possibly can.

By using anti-virus tools, malware and adware removal products, disk cleaners and defragmenters, and a good firewall product, you can keep your PC running smoothly and safely so you can worry less about it, and more about your next deadline.

Accounts Software

At some point along the line you’re going to need a method of tracking your expenses, income, and dreaded tax return. In the beginning, a spreadsheet might suffice, but eventually you’re going to have to think bigger and get yourself a dedicated accounts package.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or complicated, just enough to be able to record what’s going in, out, and when.

Business Material

Finally, to be taken seriously, and to help you start “thinking” like a writer, some of the following might also be useful:

  • Letterhead
  • Invoice template
  • Business card
  • Rate card
  • Contract
  • Clippings

Notice: Due to popular request we have finally released our Freelance Writing Course. Come check it out if you want to get started freelance writing online.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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8 Responses to “Top Tools To Get Started In Freelance Writing”

  • Trisha Bartle

    Telephone and fax. That’s where the problem lies. It is so much easier to just get rid of a land line and stick with a cell phone. But then what do you do when, once in a blue moon, someone wants you to send or receive a fax?

    There are services online, but they can cost quite a bit per month, which isn’t worth it if you rarely need to actually use a fax.

  • Mike Perry

    Mac-using writers should check out the highly praised Scrivener at:

    http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html

    It ‘gets it right’ as a writer’s tool, providing a marvelously efficient writing and editing environment without all the clutter of Microsoft Word and at a fraction the price.

    There are links to similar applications for Windows at the bottom of this page:

    http://www.literatureandlatte.com/links.html

    I use it and can’t recommend it more highly.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien

  • Matt Tuley

    This is a great list. I agree emphatically that having a website is important. I was recently hired by my biggest and best client yet because they found my site. There are some bad websites out there, though, and having a bad one may be worse than not having one at all. This is an item that’s worth hiring out if one lacks the design and tech skills to do a good job.

  • Dave Rissik

    I would have thought that with speech recognition software becoming cheap (or already bundled into things like MS Vista) and very user friendly, that this is a very valuable tool for those two-finger typists.

  • PreciseEdit

    Though we use Microsoft Word at this time, we are not fans of that product. As said above, too much clutter. Also, it has too many automatic features and actions that do things we don’t want done, making doing what we want difficult at times.

    Yes, a bad website may be worse than having no website. After all, the website is the first place many potential clients learn about your services. What does your website say about your professionalism, credibility, and ability?

  • Terry Finley

    Do you think someone would start
    freelancing without most of these tools?

  • Mari

    I disagree that fiction writers can get away with just a word processor. Every publisher I’ve submitted to over the last three years have required email submissions. The list of folks who take subs by regular mail is shrinking and shrinking quickly.

  • Paula Mooney

    Hey Daniel –

    Why’s Tracy Needham trending so much today? Anyway, I Googled her name and her post led me to your blog…

    Congrats!

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