As a freelance blogger I rely upon a number of tools and services to help me get my work done more quickly and efficiently. To put it simply, without them I would not be able to complete my work to as high a standard and would not be able to make as much money.
The tools and services that you use can have a very real effect on your income. The simple discovery of a resource you were not previously aware of can effectively increase your earnings.
With the above in mind, I thought I would take this opportunity to run through what I consider to be the nine key tools and services that I use to improve my writing skills and help administrate and build my freelance blogging business.
One thing that a lot of startup freelance bloggers don’t understand is that their value is more in their writing ability than their knowledge on any particular subject.
There are plenty of “experts” out there, but most of them don’t have the writing talent to translate their expertise into written form. That is where professional writers like you and I come in — we can draw on the knowledge of others to create engaging blog posts.
Your writing ability is your biggest asset and you should constantly work to improve it. And one facet of your ability is your vocabulary, which is where a dictionary comes in. You should never stop learning new words, and just as importantly, you must always be absolutely sure that you are using words in the correct context.
In this day and age you shouldn’t be referring to a paper dictionary — electronic versions can be used far more efficiently. For instance, I can look up any word in the dictionary app on my Mac within a second or two.
Some writers seem to think that referring to a dictionary is a sign of weakness, in which case I must be very “weak”, as I refer to mine perhaps ten times a day on average.
Since we’ve already discussed the value of your writing ability and by extension your vocabulary, it should come as little surprise that a thesaurus is the second item on this list.
I refer to my thesaurus almost as much as my dictionary. It is a great tool for building your vocabulary and understanding the relationship between specific words. As with your dictionary you should look for an electronic version — ideally a desktop application (rather than on web-based) so that you get the quickest possible results.
Image Editing Software
The quality and feature set of the software you use to manipulate images can make a huge difference to your efficiency as a freelance writer.
For instance, when I was a PC user I would rely on Microsoft Paint almost wholly. That might seem surprising given its limited functions, but that was in fact its strength. For the most part I only needed to crop and resize images and Microsoft Paint allowed me to do that far more quickly and easily than with a comparable high-end graphics software package.
For Mac users I would recommend the similarly simple Preview software that comes bundled with OSX, and for more advanced image editing I would recommend GIMP for both PC and Mac (it’s completely free).
As a freelance blogger your ideas are your lifeblood. A lot of clients will expect you to come up with your own topic ideas with which to create blog posts and for many this is a challenging process.
That is when a cloud-based notes app such as Evernote comes into its own. You can sync your notes across the web, your PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. You can even scan handwritten notes into the software for reference. Put simply, Evernote allows you to log your thoughts, no matter where you are.
Evernote offers a wealth of additional features that can benefit your business in a number of ways, but first and foremost for freelance bloggers it is invaluable for storing and keeping track of topic ideas.
A To Do App
If you feel like you are constantly swimming in a sea of incomplete tasks, the first thing I would recommend is that you get yourself a copy of Getting Things Done. It is no exaggeration to say that this book literally changed my life when I first read it half a decade ago.
Once you have done that you will want to get your hands on a top-quality to do app. I use use Reminders for Mac — it is lightweight and easy to use. When I was a PC user I found Microsoft Outlook’s Tasks module to be peerless.
Alternatively you could go for a web-based app such as the hugely popular Remember the Milk (I can’t get along with it but I know that a lot of people do).
An RSS Reader
As a freelance blogger you should keep tabs on all of the client sites you write on as well as competitors’ sites. Whilst you could do this manually it would be far more advisable to use an RSS reader.
Your involvement with social media is likely to grow as your freelance business develops. If you grow sizable social media accounts then some clients will see them as assets on which their content can be shared. It’s certainly another string to your bow.
An easy way to manage and optimize your social media status updates is to use the Buffer app. It enables you to schedule status updates in advance. Social media doesn’t need to be the time suck that so many of us fear when you have a scheduling app like Buffer.
For the first few months of my freelance career I kept time and raised invoices manually in Excel. I look back and laugh at what a waste of time it was.
In reality it is never too early to get yourself set up with a semi-automated invoicing system. having tried a few different options I found Freshbooks to be the best option. You can set up clients, projects, tasks, automatic invoicing, and much more. It can save you a lot of time in the long run.
Bookkeeping is a bit of a nightmare. I tried outsourcing it but found that things weren’t being accounted for as I would like. As such I took my bookkeeping back in-house and turned to Quickbooks — arguably the world’s most popular bookkeeping and accounting software package.
I have found it to be both quick and easy to use — my monthly bookkeeping run takes no longer than thirty minutes. Since keeping track of your income and expenditure is both vital to judging the health of your business and also for tax purposes, it pays to use a top quality piece of software like Quickbooks.