Making it as a freelance writer ain’t easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either misinformed or lying to your face.
Thankfully there are plenty of tools, resources and courses out there to make your journey that much easier. The recommend products below have all helped me immensely in my journey and I’m sure they’ll be of use to you.
Disclaimer – All recommendations on this page are of products and services that I use myself. I will not recommend any products or services that I would not personally use.
A few of the links are affiliate links which means that, whilst there is no extra cost to you, using them to purchase will earn me a small commission.
Domain Hosting and Blog Setup
Hostgator – There are plenty of domain hosting services out there and bloggers are extremely eager to extol the virtues of their chosen provider. I haven’t tried every domain hosting company out there so can’t compare and contrast. The reason I haven’t tried any other companies is because I haven’t needed to. Hostgator’s a great option for those on a budget, offers 24 hour live chat support and one click WordPress site install. What more do you need?
StudioPress Themes – Genesis framework – We all want a good-looking, easy to manage blog right? Well, that’s exactly what you get with Studiopress’s Genesis Framework. I’ve tried a few different WordPress themes and blog frameworks, none of which have been as simple to adapt or have looked quite as good as the various child themes available for the Genesis framework. There’s plenty of choice and they’re all a reasonable price, check them out and I’m certain you’ll find something you like.
Email Subscription and Online Marketing
Mail chimp – Ever hear the popular marketing adage “the money’s in the list”? It’s a tired old (but true) cliché which highlights that all you really need to make a little money is a solid email list.
Email service providers have come a long way in recent years and can be used for far more than just selling a few products. With a good service like Mailchimp you can run successful automated client nurture campaigns, keep in touch with blog subscribers and really add that professional edge to your business. The best part is, Mailchimp makes looking like a pro far too easy with email templates and simple opt-in forms, oh yeah, and it’s free for up to 2000 subscribers or 12,000 emails per month. You’ve got nothing to lose!
OptinMonster – Mailchimp is only half the equation when it comes to email marketing. There’s no point in having a great email service if you’ve no one to send emails to. You also need to capture the email details of those who visit your site, be they potential clients or blog readers.
With Optin Monster you can create all sorts of beautiful optin forms (like the one at the top right of this page) in next to no ti,me. They’re all but guaranteed to help grow you email list numbers and breakneck speeds.
Instapage – If you’re serious about adding client or reader email addresses to your list you’ll want to set up a few dedicated landing pages. Landing pages are hard to design with regular WordPress templates, if you want a professional look you’ve got to invest in a professional service. For my landing pages I use Instapage. It’s simple enough to enable you to set up and publish landing pages in a matter of minutes. I saw my subscriber rate triple after implementing this page for the blog mailing list.
Unfollowers – Social Media Marketing is an important facet of the successful online business. I tend to focus my attention on Twitter and Google+ and have found Unfollowers an invaluable tool in building my Twitter following. It makes finding people to follow a breeze whilst easily discerning who’s followed and unfollowed you. If you want to grow your twitter following with a great free tool, this is for you.
I’m not a huge fan of social media. I don’t have the time to continually update my various social media profiles. Thankfully, Hootsuite is there to save the day. I spend an hour a week scheduling a bunch of posts for both myself and clients and leave it to it. One hour a week for a consistently maintained social media presence is a great trade off, especially as it won’t cost you a penny! You only need to upgrade to the paid service should you want extra analytics tools or more powerful insights.
One of the hardest parts of freelance writing is knowing what a client is looking for. If you can find the kind of content your client (or their audience) loves, then you’re one step ahead of the competition. The below two tools are amazing at figuring out what content your client and their audience love reading.
Buzzsumo is a service which allows you to check the top shared content on a topic or even a particular site. You type in the topic you’re researching or the site you’re targeting and boom, you get a report of the top shared content for your search term. Use those results to hone your own pitches or ideas. It is a freemium service and a free account doesn’t give you extensive reports, but even knowing the top half dozen pieces of content is better than nothing.
Open Site Explorer
OSE is a service from MOZ.com. It’s an amazing service which, whilst still being freemium like Buzzsumo, offers so much more flexibility for free accounts. You can use the service to gain huge reports on any website. It’ll tell you the number of backlinks, social shares and which pieces of content are most popular overall. A huge advantage in understanding what certain audiences are interested in.
For a full guide on how to get the most out of OSE, check out this article.
Scrivener – For a long while I was using word to compose my deliverables. That was until I discovered Scrivener. Scrivener’s designed for novelists but there are numerous services which translate well to any kind of writing. Without going into too much detail, Scrivener is the best service I’ve seen for keeping your writing organised and hassle free.
Quickbooks – You’re running a business and need to keep a close eye on your financial incomings and outgoings. Many freelancers use nothing more than a spreadsheet for their financial records. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely not ideal. If you’re earning a decent wage as a freelancer, do yourself a favour and invest in a service like Quickbooks. It makes keeping track of everything so much easier and really saves time when tax season hits.
The Freelance Beginner’s Business Kit – I advise every writer to use a comprehensive freelance writing agreement with every project. These agreements don’t just save you from getting swindles, they also help give that professional veneer conducive to higher rates.
If you’ve not yet got yourself a freelance agreement head through this link and enter your email. I’ll send you a free contract template along with a host of other goodies to ensure your writing career is as safe and profitable as possible.
Incredible Sites for Extra Help
Be a Freelance Blogger – Sophie Lizard has created a site chock full of useful information. If you’re not already checking it regularly you should take 5 minutes to go and change that now. In signing up to her mailing list you’ll also receive a comprehensive list of sites that will pay you to write (a list which puts the one on this site to shame) as well as getting invites to really informative webinars and training courses.
Make a Living Writing – Carol Tice is a name you’re probably already be familiar with. Her site is a great addition to your bookmarks and offers advice on every aspect of making it as a freelance writer. Keep an eye on the site and sign up to her list so you’ll be first in line to be notified of highly sought after spots in the freelance writers den.
The Renegade Writer – Similar in nature to Make a Living Writing you’ll find plenty of incredible info on freelance writing with plenty of tips, tricks and shortcuts to help you make it in earning the big bucks. Linda Formichelli is another very successful writer who you’d be foolish to ignore.
Copyblogger – A great site focusing on improving yourself and your writing. You’ll find plenty of free materials in the forms of e-books and blog posts on the site and I highly recommend subscribing to the podcast ‘The Lede’ to turn yourself from an amateur scribbler into a master wordsmith.
Copyhackers – Similar in nature to Copyblogger, Copyhackers focuses on writing but takes a more conversion oriented approach. This is a great site for those who are wondering how to get higher conversions, write compelling copy and display it in a way that people can’t help but click.
Problogger – One of the all time favourites for many bloggers out there. This site has been around for a very long time and still offers some of the most useful information covering all areas of blogging. To top it off, they have one of the most popular job boards around which will make this a regular stop on your blog reading days.
Boost Blog Traffic – BBT was created by Jon Morrow, one of the masterminds who helped create the Copyblogger empire. The advice is primarily aimed at bloggers looking to build their own digital empire and not general freelance columnists, copywriters etc The real value in the site is the quality of writing. Seriously, Jon Morrow is one of the best online writers you’ll find and you can learn a lot from his writing.
Good Old Fashioned Books!
Do you know enough about business and writing to turn a profit doing this? If we’re being honest, most of us don’t, but that’s an easy fix.
You’ve got access to some great free info from online sites like those listed above, but the real best information is in books.
Check your local library or Amazon for a copy of the most highly recommended business and writing books. If you’re not sure where to start, check out some of the book reviews here on Have a Word.