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100 Essential Tips & Tools for Writers of the Future
August 16th, 2009
By Rose Jensen
Writers competing in today’s global market have had to adapt to all kinds of demands that they never used to think about, including outsourcing, personal branding, web marketing, blogging and project management. And while you may have taken some cutting edge courses in college, these writing tips and tools will prepare you for the real-world writing culture of the future. Read below for the essential tools you’ll need to survive in a technology-centric marketplace, even as a creative type.
Marketing and Branding
Learn how to market yourself and your writing just as business professionals do.
- Know how to pick an agent: Find an agent with experience marketing your genre to top publishers.
- Start a blog: Start a blog to extend your brand and reach more readers and industry people online.
- Use LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool for business professionals and writers.
- Host a book signing: Ask for a book-signing table at a local bookstore or at a writing convention.
- Post excerpts online: Post a teaser chapter or excerpt on your blog or other social media site.
- Book interviews: Book yourself on TV and radio shows by pitching your book or your research expertise to producers.
- Post your resume online: Put it on your website, blog, social media sites and niche job sites.
- Twitter: Connect with potential readers build up a relationship with industry professionals on Twitter.
- Do your own market research: Before you send out releases, do research on your target audience so that your pitches are more focused and effective.
- Suite101.com: Write articles on this site to convince others you’re an expert and build a following.
- Teach a class: Teach a class or host a presentation at your library to build your brand and bolster your reputation as an expert.
- MOO: Design your own business cards with MOO to advertise your services on the fly.
- Pinpoint your genre: What sets you apart? Your writing style, your personal voice or your mastery of a certain genre? Knowing this will help you market your writing.
- Relate your work and yourself to current events: Bring up key catch words that are relevant to the economy, social trends and tech trends to show that you’re relevant.
- BookMarketingNetwork.com: Visit this network to meet other writers, agents and more.
- Set up a blog just for your book’s promotion: In addition to your personal blog, set up a site just for updates on your book tour, signings, interviews and questions from readers.
- Never compromise on grammar, writing style, punctuation, etc.: Even when you post on forums or on blogs, never get sloppy. Your writing is your craft, and may be your only marketing tool in some cases.
- Google Trends: Use this app to keep up with the conversation about your genre or expertise.
- Don’t drift into the background: Even if you’ve hit a dry spell, keep your blog, social media accounts and resume updated and a part of the conversation.
- Always be reliable: Never miss deadlines and make it a point to market yourself to editors and publishers as someone who is always reliable.
Organization and Project Management
Let these project and organization tips and tools prepare you for the demands of a crazy, chaotic freelance career.
- Outline your goals often: Every couple of months, come up with a new plan to achieve long and short-term goals based on your current situation.
- Use a master calendar: Use a master calendar for all of your upcoming deadlines.
- Keep running to-do lists: Keep a running to-do list, plus daily task lists to stay on track.
- ubernote: This handy web tool lets you organize notes, research, emails, social media accounts and more from your Firefox browser.
- Organize your brainstorming ideas in one spot: Use a tool like Wridea to minimize mess and keep all of your ideas in one spot.
- Use a smart, customizable writing platform: yWriter5 lets writers move around chapters and scenes for easy editing.
- Get your own home office: An organized home office will minimize distractions.
- Save your edits: Don’t trash edits until you’re completely finished with a project: you might need them to back up work, make changes or prove that something is your own.
- Record everything: If your phone doesn’t have a place to keep notes, take a notepad with you everywhere so that you can record deadlines, appointments, contact information and story ideas immediately.
- Evernote: Evernote is a very handy organization tool for anyone who works on the web. Save, clip and share images, notes, web pages and more.
- Use mind mapping software: Organize your projects with a visual mind map.
- Track your time: A time-tracking tool like Paymo helps with invoicing but also helps you stay on task.
- Get dressed: If you work from home, staying in your pajamas may be tempting, but getting dressed can help you feel more focused and energized.
- Use web-based tools: Try to use web-based tools when you can so that it’s easier for you to work remotely.
- Set your own deadlines: Set personal deadlines as well as ones that your editors give you.
- Communicate with editors and clients throughout the projet: Make sure your clients don’t have any changes and check to ensure that you’re satisfying their needs periodically instead of waiting until you’re finished with the project.
- Tellico: Tellico is a collection manager that can hold your writings.
- Basecamp: This heavy-duty collaboration and project management tool will help you keep up with edits, to-do lists, deadlines and more.
- Document changes, edits and cancellations: Cover your tracks by saving any correspondence or requests to make edits, change a deadline or cancel a project.
- Create a pre-writing routine: Tap into your creativity faster by creating a pre-writing routine like listening to a certain song or picturing your happy place.
Business and Career
This set of business tips and tools can help you manage your own career as if you’d gotten your MBA instead of your MFA.
- Be practical: You can have lofty long-term goals, but if you want to achieve success, understand that small steps are necessary in the beginning.
- Create your own spreadsheets: This article shows freelancers how to create a spreadsheet for DIY invoices.
- Keep up with emails: Even if you don’t have time to cover a particular story or meet with a contact right away, send them an e-mail acknowledging their message to let them know you care.
- Highrise: This tool is great for organizing your business tools, contacts and contracts.
- Become a multi-tasker: The Internet has provided writers with all kinds of opportunities, as long as you’re not afraid to try new media. Write for blogs, news sites and community story boards.
- PingMe: This interactive tool reminds you to stay on track via e-mail or text.
- LessAccounting: This web-based invoicing tool also helps you manage your own budget.
- Learn when to pass up an assignment: Once you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ll know how much work you can take on at a given time. Learn when to say no when you get overwhelmed.
- Fluttervoice: Invoice via e-mail with this tool that lets you use your own logo and allows clients to view payment history.
- Maintain a work-life balance: As much as you can, set up a schedule that allows you to separate work from your personal life.
Writers and project managers in today’s economy may work remotely, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t connected with researchers, vendors, clients and editors from around the world. Knowing how to work with a range of team members is a vital survival skill for freelancers, so use these tips and tools to keep everything straight.
- Outsource: If you have the finances, outsource some of your work to become more effective.
- Writeboard: Writeboard is a sharable writing tool that you can use for edits and brainstorming.
- Get out and network: Network with team members, vendors and other writers by going to business lunches and other events.
- Exchange links: Promote another writer’s work and have them do the same for you by exchanging links on a blogroll.
- Set up a tight contract: Outline deadlines, payment, duties and promotion agreements.
- WhosOff: Keep track of which of your contacts are on vacation with this tool.
- WriteWith: This simple tool is for group writing projects. Upload documents, share tasks and chat online.
- GoToMeeting: Hold virtual meetings from your home office with this tool.
- eFax: With eFax, you can more easily send documents over the Internet.
- Follow up with e-mail: Make sure you leave a paper trail covering your tracks and documenting what you talk about in chats or phone conversations.
Here you’ll find tips and tools that help you tap into your creative center without sacrificing productivity.
- Alter your process: Try writing and then brainstorming to mix things up and consider ideas from a different perspective.
- Monitor your online time: Digital fiddling — playing on social media and shopping online — keep you from productive brainstorming, so limit your playtime.
- Learn when you’re most creative: Everyone has a creative cycle: learn what time of day you’re most creative, and schedule your writing time around it.
- Read blogs: Read blogs to find out what matters to the general public. Make sure to read the comments sections and community pages, too.
- Start with a question: Start a paragraph or project by asking a question and then coming up with different ways to answer it.
- Tap into the outside world: Get off your computer and experience real life for inspiration.
- Pull from personal experiences: Web writers especially can better connect with readers by sharing personal stories.
- LooseStitch: This sharable brainstorming tool lets you create outlines and organize ideas.
- The Idea Lottery: With this tool, you can make connections between ideas and random words.
- Random Picture Generator: This funny tool can help give your creativity a boost through visual association.
Learn how to compete globally by following these tips and maintaining a presence on these writer job sites.
- Elance: This freelance web marketplace has postings for writing and translation, plus lots of web gigs.
- 5 Quick Tips for Writer/Agent Negotiations: Learn how to defend yourself against a wily agent by checking out these tips.
- Have references ready: If you’re pursuing a contract job or even a one-time gig, be ready with references from past editors and clients for your new employer.
- Prove that you’re trustworthy: Don’t gossip online and always meet deadlines if you plan on cultivating a successful work-at-home career.
- Keep up with editors: Follow up with editors you’ve worked with in the past so that you stay on their radar.
- The Freelance Writing Jobs Network: Get writing job leads, learn business tips, job hunting tips and more from this network.
- Ed2010: Editors and writers can find internships and jobs, principally in New York, on this site.
- Update your portfolio: Keep your portfolio updated with pieces you write as writing samples to fill in the gaps. For instance, if you can write about sports but don’t have any published sports articles, write a piece and upload it onto your website to show editors.
- Poe War: Find job postings plus lots of freelance and writing tips on Poe War.
- Never stop networking: Network on social media sites, through friends, by following up with old clients and with local news or writing outlets to stay on everyone’s radar.
- Go back to school: Take a class to stay current on all the news trends, tools and topics in your field.
Web Tips and Tutorials
For networking purposes and web writing gigs, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of the Internet and web development. These tutorials will teach you what you need to know.
- WordPress tips for writers: Here you’ll learn how to use WordPress’ blogging tools for your portfolio.
- Understand how to pick a theme: Your website’s design communicates a lot about your writing style, genre and professionalism, so choose one wisely.
- The Bare Bones Guide to HTML: Some web writing gigs may prefer that you already know the basics of HTML coding, so use this guide as a reference.
- Web Design Training and Certification: Go one step further by becoming a double threat: a writer who knows how to design web pages, too.
- 50 Useful Twitter Tools for Writers and Researchers: This guide can help you use Twitter to its maximum marketing potential.
- 10 Tips for Good Web Writing: This guide can help you learn how to write effectively for web audiences.
- Blogging Tips for Writers: Learn how to reference your brand, writing style and goals through your blog.
- From Print to Web: Tips for the Transitioning Writer: If you’re new to web writing, consider these tips.
Writing for niche markets is a smart way to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting out and looking to earn some cash on the side. Here, you’ll find tips related to niche writing.
- Personal bios: Write personal bios for business execs, newsletters, and anyone who has a website they’d like to market.
- Become a known expert: If you’ve cornered a particular market, you can become an expert in the field and pitch yourself as a reference for media outlets.
- Ads: Write copy for ad copy for firms and independent businesses.
- Finding Your Writing Niche: This article will help you determine your niche.
Staying Cutting Edge
Whether the economy’s in good shape or tanking, you’ll need to compete with all the other writers out there working from home and trying their best to network to make it big. Here are tips for staying cutting edge throughout your career.
- Fight for face time: Though it might seem outdated, face time is what will set you apart from all the other writers fighting for attention through e-mail.
- Break the rules: If you want to become a more popular, more engaging writer, break a few rules for the sake of conversational, powerful writing.
- Keep up with the industry: If you want to know how to get ahead in your niche, make sure you know all the names, trends and buzz words that are influencing the industry.
- Keep your resume updated: Your resume should always be ready to sent out, and your writing samples should also be in order. You don’t want to blow an opportunity because you weren’t prepared.
- Share something no one else can: Go out of your way to get the scoop that no one else has in order to prove yourself as an expert resource. You don’t have to be a gossip: just dig a little deeper to find a new angle.
- Be honest: No one likes a writer who never has an opinion. Don’t just spit out press releases: give your honest, analytical opinion, and your readers will be grateful for showing them a side of something they hadn’t considered.
- Be confident: Since you represent yourself, your writing and your networking skills have to show that you’re confident. Never second guess yourself in front of editors, agents, other writers, potential clients or even your readers.