If you make money writing as a freelancer (or plan to) you know that there are high technological expectations in the current, digital publishing age – and that technological learning curve is only compounded by the fact that freelancers are primarily self-employed and therefore need smart business tools to keep their livelihoods running smoothly, without spending hours of (unpaid) time maintaining records and tending to business tasks.
Simply put, it adds up to a lot of technology, tools, programs, software, and subscriptions.
And we’re always looking for new ones. Better ones. Ones that work and save us time. Here you’ll find a good mix of software and apps, services that hack your business marketing, research tricks, and business growth tips that involve specific tech.
If you’re filing your US federal taxes as self-employed, the money you spend growing and maintaining your business is (generally) tax deductible – and that includes many of the tools on this list. You’ll want to run these expenses past your tax preparer (I’m not a tax professional) but do yourself a favor – print and save those receipts.
Plus, you can’t shake something up by doing the same thing you’ve been doing. If you’ve been spinning your wheels or are in a freelance rut, it’s time to grow – and try something new. These tools, apps, and hacks will change the way you do things – then you’ll monitor the results like it’s any other marketing campaign.
Are you getting the return you aimed for?
Did your writing improve? Did you blow up your website traffic and land paid writing work?
Do you want to?
Then let’s see which of these technological tools and hacks jump out at you:
They’re like that. 🙂
#1 – Index Your Site With Google Search Console
Once your website is live, you’ll need to verify it with Google – but the fun doesn’t stop there. If all you did was enter a quick code in your WP dashboard, you’ve got a lot more to do if you want your site to get search traffic. (I learned this the hard way.)
After you set up your Google search console, you’ll need to test your site’s robots.txt file, which tells Google what it can and can’t crawl. This is how Google gets the information from your site so it can index it – and you can come up in its search results. If this file restricts Google from properly crawling your site, you’ll need to modify it within the .php files in your cPanel with your host.
Next, you’ll submit your sitemaps to Google in the Search Console to invite the search engine to index your site. If you use Yoast, check the SEO label in your WP Dashboard sidebar menu. Of course, if there are any issues, those will need to be resolved as well. Beyond that, you can request indexing for new content, if you don’t want to wait around for Google to crawl it. The dashboard suggests tips for optimizing, too.
#2 – Use Subscription Job Boards To Land Better Gigs
While there are a number of amazing, free job boards online, you may eventually choose to subscribe to paid job boards, which vet and post mostly high-paying gigs. Popular boards that charge a fee include:
» Paid To Blog Jobs » $30/month, $77/quarter, $260/year
» The Junk-Free Job Board » which is included (along with a ton of other freelance writing goodies) in Carol Tice’s Freelance Writer’s Den for $25/month
» Contena » Pricey ($500-$1,000/year) but has received good reviews for rates and listings, though you’ll currently have to wait for an opening before they’ll send you an invite.
» Write Jobs Plus » accessing jobs on this member-only board requires a donation of $5/month, $10/3 months, or $30/year, plus you’ll get daily emails with new job listings
(If you’re filing your taxes as a self-employed writer, these subscription costs are tax deductible. Print those receipts!)
#3 – List Yourself On Reputable Writer Profile Directories
Content mills will have you create a profile so that their clients can find you and then they take a chunk out of every writing assignment you land through their service or pay you some crappy, set rate.
Directories, on the other hand, allow you to post your profile on their site for a subscription fee, but they don’t take a cut and serve as trusted resources for quality writers to those doing the hiring. They help the editors and businesses tasked with hiring writers find qualified candidates in one place, without publishing a job listing or hiring a content mill.
If you’re my age, think of it as an ad in the YellowPages. Remember the other phone book that always came? There were two and nobody grabbed the knock-off when they needed to find something. The lesson: don’t list yourself in the crappy book.
Quality directories are losing ground as content mills become the one-stop-shop for hiring writers, but there are still a few places left to get your qualifications out there.
Some of the bigger names include FlexJobs, which is actually a paid job board ($15/month, $50/year) but it allows users to create a profile and complete skill tests to help their profile stand out. Then there’s All Freelance Writing, iFreelance, and of course, LinkedIn’s ProFinder Service, which will offer you projects through your inbox if they align with a super-targeted profile you create.
While I’m not sure how much it’s used to hire writers, Freelancers Union (a professional organization for writers whose founder, Sara Horowitz penned The Freelancer’s Bible, an amazing book about the business of freelance writing that I highly recommend – it’s on my shelf now 🙂 ) anyway, FU (lol) allows you to create a profile that’s public to anyone looking for a writer when you sign up for a free membership.
The graphic underneath here is a handy little amazon feature. If you click preview it will open the book in that box so you can flip through its pages. I’m in love with this tool (it’s also in the sidebar if you hadn’t noticed) because I love books, own a ton of them, and want to talk about them – and not with my kids cause they sure as hell don’t care and they’re who I’m around 90% of the time. 🙂
p.s. If you have a favorite book on writing, leave it in the comments as a suggestion for the next book of the month! You’ll be able to vote for upcoming titles (and discuss the books with other writers) in the facebook Writer’s Group. The good news? We’re starting with the popular books you probably own so no one’s left out of the conversation!
#4 – Every Writer’s All-Time Top Market Directory
While we’re on the subject of books, get yourself a deluxe copy of Writer’s Market from Writer’s Digest. I hate to put the entire market section of PaidWrite at risk, but this annual encyclopedia of writing markets (complete with advice from the industry’s top freelancers and book authors) puts together every year what would take me centuries to curate myself. (And then it’d be outdated.)
There are two versions: the deluxe version that includes the print book plus access to their online database (get this one, dear writer) and the print-only version, which is cheaper, but you won’t be able to target your search using keywords or have the luxury of using links to view submission guidelines. Instead, you’ll be wrestling with an almost 2-inch-thick directory, typing those URLs in by hand. I speak from experience; get both with the deluxe copy.
The new (depending on when you read this) Writer’s Market 2018 is available now in the deluxe edition ($34.99) or there are both the print and ebook versions ($24.99) – just follow that link and scroll to the last three books. Oh, and I almost forgot, the directory also lists writing contests, book publishers, and agents – plus professional resources (like books) are tax deductible as a business expense! And as of right now, you can also get free shipping on orders over $25, which is if great, if you order the deluxe edition – or an ebook/print plus more stuff combo.
#5 – Use These Keyword Tools To Improve Your Writing’s SEO And Increase Sharability
Clients expect the content they pay you for to be optimized for search engines – and part of SEO involves using the right keywords in the right places: like your headline, your headings, and subheadings, and in the tags, descriptions, SEO title, slug, images, meta tags, etc. (Learn more about where to insert keywords for on-page SEO.)
Keyword research can also help you identify popular and super-targeted topics before you write about them, so you can create content that’s automatically going to get attention and share well, by design.
To find these magical keywords, you’ll need research tools. There are tons of them (both free and not) but a few of the most popular include SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, Moz Keyword Explorer, KW Finder (a paid service), and Keyword Tool.
And here’s a super-useful tutorial on how to use keyword research for SEO, because this guide is quickly turning into a book.
#6 – Never Miss A Typo With These Editing & Proofreading Tools For Professional Writers
AfterTheDeadline » Free for personal use, this software catches misspellings, words that are misused, passive voice, cliche, and redundancy – then offers helpful alternatives to improve your content.
CorrectEnglish » This browser tool “will instantly check your work against over 30,000 advanced grammar rules, checks for contextual spelling errors, and recommends word substitutions that will improve readability,” wherever you’re writing around the web. There’s a free version, but it only checks up to 200 words, which makes it perfect for social media proofing. For longer content you’ll need to upgrade to either the $24/month or $59/year paid account. (Yup, tax-deductible.)
Grammarly » Probably the most popular, proofreading browser extension, “Grammarly corrects hundreds of grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes while also catching contextual errors, improving your vocabulary, and suggesting style improvements.” The program provides detailed explanations of suggested changes and weekly progress reports so you can track your improvement. And if that weren’t impressive enough, “Grammarly’s powerful online grammar-checking algorithms are developed by the world’s leading authorities on linguistic technology.” And did I mention, it’s free?
Hemingway App » That link will lead you to a sample page that highlights the functionality of this program. (Just click Desktop App from there to purchase for $19.99.) But as you’ll be able to see from the mock-up, this service not only points out writing errors with easy-to-spot colored highlighting, it also determines the grade level of the writing and the reading time.
What’s your favorite tool – or hack? Your fellow writers would love your recommendation, especially if it helps you land more work. Pop it down in the comments and tell us why it rocks.
If you’re pitching article ideas this week, don’t miss out on these 150 Guest Blogging Markets. They all pay and they’re organized by niche for easy reference.
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