Contests and Promotions from ResearchWritingCenter.com, Freelance Writing: Simple Tips on Complicated TopicsUseful Software for Freelance Writers by Millicent A. (Contest Finalist Submission)
Freelance writing is not a demanding career in terms of resources. All you really need is a word processor and a good Internet connection. But you also need a healthy dose of curiosity and flexibility.
As a freelance writer, you do a lot of ghost writing, so you have to alter your writing styles to fit the needs of your client. Flexibility is the name of the game, so as a freelance writer, you should not be afraid to learn new things.
There are three major types of freelance writing tracks: search engine optimization (SEO), research or academic writing, and blogging.
In terms of software, your most valuable tool is your word processing software. The easiest is Writer, which is part of the OpenOffice suite of software. It’s free to download and use, and compatible with the major operating systems, including Windows, Mac and Linux.
The Writer documents can be saved in .doc, .docx, .pdf and XML format, among others. If you’re used to Word or Pages, the Writer interface takes getting used to, but as long as you can type in the words, you’re good to go.
One drawback about Writer is you have to install the Grammar checker as it isn’t an automatic part of the basic tools of the software, and page lay-outing options aren’t easy to find, but that’s just me belly aching. If you have the funds, though, Microsoft Word is still easier to use.
In most cases, freelance writing means you are doing work for someone else on a per-project basis, so you need to be flexible in your knowledge base. That’s where you need a good Internet browser for research and I prefer to use Firefox over Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. I find the interface much more research-friendly, and I particularly like the fact that they have add-ons like SEOQuake which helps a lot when I have to do keyword searching (note by the editor: it’s also available for Chrome).
I’ve found over the years that many clients prefer freelance writers who can go outside the box in their writing. I have been asked to do videos, image manipulation, Kindle books, uploading to blog sites, and so on. For each additional task, I acquire skills I didn’t have before, and got to know some software that have become quite useful to me. It is valuable learning experience and has widened my horizons considerably.
As a freelance writer, I sometimes have to do simple videos for YouTube uploading, so I use Camtasia. It’s a super easy video editing software that has a Powerpoint plugin, so all I have to do is do the slides, and Camtasia will record it as a video. It even has video output presets so I don’t have to guess at the settings I need for YouTube, VCD or DVD format. I can also do a voice over for the presentation if I want if I have a good microphone attached.
If you are tasked to do something in Kindle format, MobiPocketCreator is my software of choice. It creates a prc file for Kindle, but the pages themselves are in HTML. If you need to edit the file, you can use an HTML editor like PageBreeze, which is simple to use for those not familiar with HTML. After you do your editing in Pagebreeze, you just upload it again to Mobi and you’re done!
In blogs and some SEOs, clients request that you add an image. For image manipulation, I favor Adobe Photoshop over simpler image editing software because I’m familiar with the tools, but it can flummox first-time users. If all you need to do is image cropping or resizing, you can use Picasa or Paint, but for anything more complicated than that, Photoshop is the best.
I have also recently had experience uploading to WordPress, and some of the plugins are quite useful for SEO. SEOPressor is my favorite, because it assists in optimizing your article in search engines like Google. Keyword density is not enough in today’s tough search engine optimization, so you have to make the most of your articles, and SEOPressor tells you how to do it.
There is a lot of software out there that can come in useful for freelance writers, especially if you write for a living. You need to be flexible and ready to learn new things as you go down the world of freelance work. Clients come and go, but the knowledge and experience that you pick up along the way will ensure that you don’t ever run out of projects.
About the author:
Millicent A. – married with three boys. I started as a freelance writer sometime in 2005 as a way to supplement my income as a manager for a small company. With three kids, a five figure salary sometimes isn’t enough. Writing has always come easy for me, but I never realized the income potential of such a skill until I tried freelance work.
This essay was written as a submission for the Research & Writing Contest, held by the ResearchWritingCenter.com. If you want to stay updated and read other contest submissions, which became the contest finalists check back here in 1 week, when we’ll be posting another contest finalist submission!