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5 Tools You Need (and 5 to Avoid) as a New Freelancer

Carol Tice

By Bree Brouwer

Are you new to freelance writing? If you’re anything like I was when I started, you’re eagerly reading up on what you need to invest in your business — but really have no idea where to start.

There’s so much information and opinions about what to buy! It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

So let’s cut through the clutter. From my observations and my own experience as a new freelancer, here’s a quick guide to the five most necessary — and five most avoidable — services for your beginning freelance career.

5 Services to pay for

  1. Domain name. In this digital age, you don’t just need a website. To look professional, you’ve got to shell out the $10-$20 per year for a domain name and paid website host. A domain name like johndoewrites.com looks far more pro than johndoewrites.blogspot.com.
  2. Writer’s Market subscription. If you want to write for any publication and not just companies, the yearly $40 fee for The Writer’s Market is a no-brainer. It stays up to date on changes in magazine editors, provides information from publishing pros, and even provides a nifty guide for what to charge as a freelancer. I messed up and did not buy this until just recently, and I now realize I wasted lots of time searching online when I had information right at my fingertips.
  3. Writing classes, training, or memberships. The key here is to evaluate what you want to write and what you need to learn, and find applicable services. When I started freelancing, I was interested in moral support, resources, and freelancer interaction, so I signed up for the Freelance Writer’s Den and have definitely felt the money was well-spent. And because I’m interested in blogging, I’m considering joining A-List Blogging Bootcamp (Carol’s link). Look around at some options and narrow it down to the classes and memberships you think will work best for your career.
  4. Basic freelance equipment. This includes everything from business cards (start with those freebies vistaprint.com offers) and envelopes, to a working computer and software. Yes, it’s time to kick Windows XP out the door. And if you’re in need of a printer, I recommend looking for one that’s used but in good condition. I snagged my printer/scanner combo for $15 from a local Craigslist seller!
  5. Personal hobbies. Remember that as much as you love writing and want to get your career started, it also takes lots of effort to create a business. Use some of your money to relax and keep sanity in check. Personally, I find saving a few dollars for drinks with friends or wood for a social bonfire to be a fair exchange for less stress.

5 Services you can skip

  1. Paid accounting software. You won’t have a lot of clients starting out, so plopping down precious cash for a product you will barely use isn’t necessary just yet. For instance, I have a handful of clients and am just using a spreadsheet to keep track of our interactions. If you really want an accounting software, I’d recommend starting with Freshbooks, which is free for the first three clients.
  2. Paid job boards. It’s counter-intuitive and often scammy. I almost considered it once, then realized I was being stupid. Just don’t do it. Put your money where your time is and query/market instead.
  3. Too MANY classes, training, or memberships. Yes, there are plenty of great organizations and teachers out there. But if you add too much to your plate, your bank account and your business’ progress will suffer.
  4. LinkedIn executive/premium. It’s useful, but you can get it free! Here’s how I did it: join the LinkedIn for Journalists group, take their monthly training, and score a year of free executive status. Merry Christmas to us!
  5. Things you simply can’t afford… yet. Wait until you won’t feel a hit in your budget to buy things like an email marketing plan, professional web design, or that sweet Keurig machine for your desk. I plan to buy web hosting soon, but found that at my start a domain name directed to a properly designed WordPress blog was more than sufficient.

I’m sure you’ll run across more services and products you’re curious about, so ask yourself these questions: Can I afford it now? Will it benefit me in the long run?

A solid rule of thumb when it comes to new-freelancer purchases is to pay for only what you need immediately, and save what you want for later.

What tools are you using in your freelance writing business? Leave a comment and share what you find worth the money.

Bree Brouwer is a freelance writer and blogger who loves investigating culture, discovering media, and working on the launch of her blog, Geek My Life. Follow her on Twitter @BreeBrouwer and check out her portfolio at BreeBrouwer.