Starting out as a freelance writer isn’t hard; all you need is that first client, some decent writing chops, and you can begin cranking out content right away.
But, turning that first client into many, many more paying customers?
Or ensuring that freelance writing job isn’t just a quick one-off project, but a long-term, promising career choice?
Now that takes a little more effort!
Fortunately, if you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, you’re in luck…
I’ve already gone through all the hard work and trial and error so you don’t have to! Instead of struggling in your journey to freelance writing success like I had to, I’m here to guide you on the right path from the very beginning.
And the first place I want to start today? Your freelance writing toolkit.
Now, let me be clear…
You don’t need a whole lot to be a freelance writer. It doesn’t take a lot of money or tech or even office space to be successful. Most of these tools I recommend are minimal in cost, but incredibly important to your overall productivity and efficiency.
Want to make sure your freelance writing career is a long and healthy one? Then here’s what your arsenal should look like:
A Good Calendar
There’s one thing you can never, ever do as a freelance writer, and that’s miss a deadline.
So from the very beginning, use a solid, reliable calendar system that can help you monitor and track deadlines.
At the beginning this won’t seem so important when you only have one or two projects floating around, but as you expand your portfolio and take on more work, your calendar will be essential. You’ll use it to create daily to do lists, divvy out work and schedule in new projects and clients.
Though you can use a physical, written-out calendar or planner like you did in high school, my best recommendation is to set up a Google Calendar. These have no limit on space, and you can sync them across all devices – your computer, phone, tablet, etc. You can also have it send you alerts weeks, days or even minutes before a deadline is up, which can be great for keeping your work on track.
I also put together a list of time-management tools for writers. On top of getting a good calendar system down, consider trying out one or more of these, too!
A New Laptop – and a Back-up
Some of the most frustrating things you’ll come across in your freelance writing career are tech problems!
Your computer will freeze up when you’re 10 minutes away from a deadline. It will suddenly shut down just as you’re typing out that last word (and haven’t saved!) or it will one day plain old stop working.
Whatever happens, it can stop your career dead in its tracks, so it’s important to prevent this as much as possible.
When starting out, opt for a newer computer if at all possible, and load it up with proper protection software so malware and spam can’t take it down. Also, do any updates your system asks of you ASAP, as this will keep your system safe and in top condition.
If you can, have a back-up computing system as well. This can be an old laptop you used in college, or it can even be a tablet with a wireless keyboard. Just make sure you have something in case of emergency!
A PayPal and Venmo Account
You’re not freelance writing for free are you?
Well, in this world, PayPal and Venmo are will be your easiest ways to receive payment. Sure, some clients will still want to send you written checks – but those take weeks or even months to receive, and this can be frustrating for writers who are strapped for cash.
Also, if you are working with a new client, it’s smart to accept payments electronically until the client can prove himself. You could run into a situation where the client promises a check but it never comes. If the client is a scammer you would never know because he could blame it on delays or postage issues, etc. Electronic payments happen in seconds.
Encourage e-payments whenever possible, so from the very beginning, sign up for both a PayPal and Venmo account, and put your account email addresses at the top of every invoice you send out. You can even use both accounts to send invoices/request payment directly, if you’d prefer to do it that way.
A Reliable Internet Connection
Like computer problems, connection issues can put a serious damper on your productivity as well.
Though not all freelance writing assignments will require the web, many ask you to perform research, do Skype interviews, or email back and forth with clients – and none of that is possible without a reliable internet connection.
If you have experienced spotty internet in the past, consider an upgrade before diving into your freelance writing career too deep. Research different providers in your area, and find out which ones offer the best connections at the best price. Also secure a back-up internet option should your main one go down.
Is there a Starbucks or coffee shop nearby with free Wi-Fi?
Can you configure a hotspot on your phone to get you through in a pinch?
You never know when you may need a quick-fix solution!
Microsoft Word & Excel
These two programs are must-haves.
Yes, there are other word processors out there, but nearly every client you will come across will be using Word – and you don’t want compatibility problems getting in the way of your customer’s satisfaction. It might cost a few bucks up front, but you’ll be using Word every day for the entirety of your career, so it’s more than a worthwhile investment.
As for Excel, I’ve found it to be the best way to create invoices and track expenses. Each client gets their own tab, and I tally up each assignment or tasks I’ve done for them, the word count, the date, the cost and any other details, and I can export a PDF invoice right from there. I also have separate Excel docs for tracking my professional expenses – stuff I need to write off at the end of the year for tax purposes.
A Payment Ledger or Accounting Program
You also need a way to keep track of outstanding invoices, payments and other financial details.
In the past, I’ve used a written-out ledger book to keep track of every payment I received, as well as each quarterly tax payment I submit to the IRS. If you prefer something more high-tech, try programs like Quickbooks or Freshbooks and monitor your payments and invoices that way.
Just Starting Out as a Freelance Writer?
If you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, don’t fret. Simply gather up these tools, and make sure you’re armed for long-term success.
Are there any other tools you use that you can’t live without? Please share them in the comments!
Also, don’t forget to check out my comprehensive article for new writers, my Definitive Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become a Freelance Writer.