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Today is a great time to be a freelance writer – or a freelancer at just about anything. The Internet allows anyone who has the gumption and guts to forge their own career out of nothing to go ahead and do it. In the beginning, as many of you know, it can be scary, especially if you are relying on that income to feed, clothe, and house your family. Sean Platt, author of the Ghostwriter Dad blog, knows that experience first hand. He and his wife, Cindy, even lost their house last year, but he didn’t give up. Now he’s one of the most successul Internet writers around, with a following of thousands. His secret (well, one of his secrets) is his ability to be ridiculously prolific. He’s written children’s books, how-to books, mystery novels, short stories, poetry and more. He’s even going to open his own e-publishing house this year.
Lots of us are working our way to being successful in the freelance world. For those of us who are treading the writer’s path, times have really, really changed. Freelance writing is no longer merely about doing research and making phone calls in order to get a pertinent quote for your story. No, today, writers have a whole new set of tools that they have available to them – and I would even venture to say that if freelancers ignore these tools, they will probably find themselves looking for a full-time office job because I think it’s nearly impossible to make a serious go of being a freelance writer without them. Here are my picks for four indispensable tools for modern freelance writers.
- Your Own Personal (Professional) Blog. It’s true that pretty much everyone and their brother is blogging today, but very few people are great at it. If you want to blog, you need to leverage what you know (anything from plumbing to horseback riding), and then write about it. Here’s the really important bit: remember who you’re writing for (hint: unless you’re keeping your blog as a personal journal, that means you are writing for an audience who is there to learn something). So make sure that every time you sit down, you have a lesson to impart – a good one. Don’t commit The Seven Deadly Sins of Blogging. One of the best blogs about blogging is copyblogger. I’ve found it to be pretty much always relevant and interesting (Sean Platt guest blogs frequently on copyblogger), and I never fail to take something away from it.
- LinkedIn. If you are not using LinkedIn, you really need to get out of the last century and get on board the Starship 21st Century Enterprise. Although LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily have the most user-friendly interface, once you get the hang of it, it’s really not that difficult. Here’s a really great infographic from Mashable that will give you the basics of getting started on LinkedIn. And for journalists (including freelance writers), there’s something even better: free LinkedIn training when you join the LinkedIn for Journalists group. You have to be a bonafide journalist or freelance writer, to get the training, though (that means your LinkedIn profile needs to show that you are, in fact, a writer). Here’s how to do it: once you have created your LinkedIn profile, in the search bar on the upper right hand corner of your home page, click on the drop down menu and change it from “People” to “Groups”. Then in the search bar, type in “LinkedIn for Journalists.” You will have to ask permission to join the group. After they have checked out your credentials (through your LinkedIn profile), they will send you a link to complete the LinkedIn journalists training. When you have completed the training, you get a FREE one-year premium membership upgrade. By qualifying for the premium membership, you are eligible for additional training that will show you how to use the incredible search capabilities to enhance your writing career. You’ll be amazed, I promise. I was.
- Twitter. In a nutshell, Twitter is kind of like hundreds of tiny, 140-character Haiku blogs in your feed, and they’re all on speed. Here’s what I love about Twitter: you can create a feed of Tweeters who are specifically tweeting about your area of interest or expertise. If you are writing about horseback riding, simply type “horseback riding” into your Twitter search bar, and you’re off to the races (I came up with @HorseListening, “thought-provoking, conceptual musings about horses and riding”). If you click on the Tweeters that @HorseListening is following, you will come up with 1,044 (and counting) other people who may have something interesting to say about horseback riding. You can choose whom to follow, and you’ll be secretly happy inside when you see how quickly people start following you, too (if you are tweeting interesting information, that is). Crazy Side Note: I highly recommend the documentary movie Buck. ”Your horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see.” Everything to do about horses AND being a good human being.
- HARO. One of the best places to get the source information you need for your blog or other articles or stories, and it’s FREE. HARO is short for “Help a Reporter Out,” and it was founded by media guru Peter Shankman, whom I suspect to be just a little bit of a nut job (but in a good way that makes him incredibly productive and a probable social media genius – also his tweets are often highly amusing). Basically, HARO is a repository of thousands of sources – experts in their respective fields who would LOVE to be quoted in the media. If you’re writing a story and you need an expert in any field, HARO can hook you up. However, it’s like LinkedIn somewhat. You have to prove your credibility as a journalist or blogger in order to register. Once you are registered, Voila! You have instant access to experts in just about anything – whether it’s an industry expert or someone who has experience with a certain aspect of life, HARO can help you get the information you need.
By utilizing these four indispensable tools for modern freelance writers, you can not only increase your public profile, you can also greatly increase the quality of your content – which leads to better jobs, and ultimately the type of career you’ve been dreaming about. Why wait? Get started today.
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