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The freelancer’s essential toolbox

Updated on April 19, 2015

So you want to be a freelance writer?

For someone who’s always wanted to write and make a living from it, freelance writing is the perfect solution. Although it can be a grueling task to begin with, once you’ve perfected your setup it will become (slightly) easier. However, any writer worth their salt is going to need the essentials.

Thick skin

Part of working as a freelance writer is being used to rejection. Your client’s may not like the way you’ve written a certain article or they might accept a different bid. Since starting as freelancer is relatively easy, you’ll be facing a lot of competition. Truth be told, you will most likely only win 1 out of every 5 bids you make, and that’s okay.

You’ll need to have a high tolerance for criticism, both constructive and not so constructive. Anyone who hasn’t failed at something hasn’t taken any risks or tried anything new.

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Computer and Internet

Though this may sound fairly obvious, you’ll need a good connection to the web in order to succeed as a freelance writer. This is the easiest and most efficient way to network, connect with clients, and most importantly –make money. If you are just starting out and don’t have the dough to shell out upwards of $80 a month on a decent internet connection, think outside of the box. The beauty of working freelance is that you can work however you want to. Try the local library or your favorite coffee shop that offers free wi-fi.

Another source of income

Unless you have been well established already with a steady set of clients, you’re going to need another source of income to bridge the gap between your freelance earnings and your monthly bills. If you’re just starting out, hold on to your day job, at least for the first several months.

Get organized and make a list

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Organization

While there are many perks of being your own boss, the downside is that you don’t have an accountant, PR director, or secretary. You have to handle all of these positions on your own. This is going to require a great deal of organization to keep track of how much money you’ve earned, and where it came from. It doesn’t matter what kind of system you put in place as long as it works. Personally, I prefer to use digital copies, but I keep hard copies in case disaster ever strikes.

Successfully keeping track of your earnings is vital to success. Remember, you are now solely responsible for paying taxes on any money you earn. Don’t get caught owing more than you can handle at the end of the year. Though it varies slightly state to state, expect to owe taxes if your earnings exceed $600.

It’s also necessary to keep track of your assignments. If you bid on eight projects and won all of them, you absolutely must deliver…on time! Google calendar is a useful and free tool that can help you keep track of your schedule and project due dates.

Set up a space you'll love to work in

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Workspace

Although it is true that you have the freedom to work from wherever you choose, a room full of noisy children may not be the best choice. Pick a location that you can concentrate in and set up shop. It doesn’t have to be an entire room dedicated to your office alone. A corner in your bedroom or repurposing a barely used breakfast nook can be a great place to work from. The best part is that you don’t have to choose just one location; you can pick a whole bunch of places.

Pros know that having a standard spot will help you focus better than bouncing around from location to location. When we are used to the noises and commotions of one particular place, it is easier to block out those distractions. However, if you’re suffering from writers block, then changing it up may be the solution. Regardless of where you write from, it should encourage your best work.

Clients

This is how you’ll start making more than just pocket change. Having a list of established and happy clients will ensure that you can bring home income regularly. Sure there are sites such as elance and fiver that can help connect you to clients, but after you’ve managed to wow them with your work you can forgo the middleman. Dealing with clients directly can make you even more money since you don’t have to broker a fee to the company that sets the deal in place. Just make sure that you get an agreed upon deposit or contract upfront so you won’t get ripped off.

Strike a deal

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A Portfolio

Having a portfolio is important to prove to your clients that you have the necessary skill set to do the job. It should contain five to seven samples of your writing and all of your contact information. A portfolio is a little like a resume, you want to make sure that you keep it current. Don’t give out a portfolio that is a decade old and is riddled with antiquated nuances. Keep it fresh and keep it interesting and tailor it to the job if you have to.

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Business Cards

Maybe having business cards is a little old school, but you never know when you’ll run into a perspective client. You may not have time to exchange phone numbers and e-mails. Having a business card handy is a quick way to give them all of your important details. Important information to have is who you are, what you do, and how to contact you. Business cards are fairly cheap to purchase or you can design and print your own. Vistaprint almost always has a promotion for a free 100 business cards if you don’t mind paying for shipping.

Confidence

Starting your own business can feel risky at times, and it’s not for the feint hearted. Writing, particularly, is a career that takes a fair amount of criticism. Not only do you have to deal with occasionally harsh feedback, you have to have the confidence to continue on after hearing it. There will be times when clients are not pounding on your door. Keeping the path without getting discouraged and quitting is by far the hardest aspect of writing freelance.

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