Above the CloudsBeing a freelance writer isn’t easy, but you’ve got what it takes. At least, you have what it takes on the inside. What you may not have is what it takes on the outside. It’s possible that you don’t even know what kinds of tools you’re going to need.

There are a lot of people on the web who are ready to feed you the old, “you’ve got to spend money to make money” line to justify selling you a $299 software package for invoicing and keeping a client database. They want you to think that starting out as a freelance writer means dropping a heap of start up money to buy yourself the right tools.

I don’t subscribe to that school of thought though, and neither should you. When you’re new to the world of freelancing, you should look for tools that aren’t going to break the bank. As you gain experience you’ll have the chance to pick up the more expensive tools of the trade, but to start off you’re going to need…

Paypal (Free + Transaction Fees)
PaypalPaypal is an invaluable resource for anyone working online. As a freelance writer, this includes you.

Paypal allows you to send invoices, accept a variety of payment methods, and set clients at ease by ensuring secure payments. It’s the standard for online commerce. If you haven’t already, you’re going to want to set yourself up a Paypal account for your freelancing efforts. It’s free and it will allow you to accept basic payments, set yourself up to work on retainer, and easily accept payments without accepting checks or exposing your bank account information.

Even better, the vast majority of clients can pay through Paypal even if they don’t have a Paypal account. Using Paypal allows you to accept all major credit and debit cards, in addition to accepting payment from other Paypal accounts.


Boomerang for Gmail (Free)

Boomerang for GMailBoomerang for Gmail has two critical functions that make it a tool every freelancer should have. These are send later, and a follow up reminder.

Send later allows you to write an email and schedule it to be sent at some future time. This might be a reminder that’s sent to you each month, or a contract renewal reminder sent to a client.

The follow up reminder allows you to set a reminder on each email you send out that will return itl to the top of your inbox if the recipient hasn’t responded within a certain period. You can use this to remind yourself to follow up on a pitch, remind you when an invoice you sent a client is past due, etc. It helps you keep communication between you and clients going when it may otherwise fall out of sight and out of mind.

Boomerang works with both standard Gmail accounts and Google apps accounts, and it’s one of the best Gmail add ons you can find.


WordPress (Free + Hosting)

WordpressAs a freelancer, you’re going to want a website to use as a base of operations on the web. WordPress is an open source software that you can use with many hosting plans. It allows you to easily build and customize a website and blog you can be proud of.

There are hundreds of great themes and plugins for WordPress that make it one of the easiest and most powerful website options out there. The system even gets regular security updates to ensure your website stays safe.

You could host your site at WordPress.com for free at first, but I’d encourage you to go the extra few bucks a month and get a custom domain and hosting plan. The added professionalism is more than worth it.


Open Office (Free)

Open OfficeAs a writer, you’re going to need office software. At very least a solid word processor.

Where Microsoft Office costs hundreds of dollars, Open Office costs nothing. It’s free, powerful, and allows you to do your job without forking out the big bucks to corporate overlords for their newest proprietary offering. It’s got a solid spell check function, works with a wide variety of document formats, and can match nearly all the page layout options you’d find in it’s more expensive counterpart.

Honestly I see very little reason to ever “upgrade” to Microsoft Office. It may offer a few extra features, but they’re just not worth the massive price tag when all the features you actually use are included in this free alternative.


Freedom ($10)

FreedomDo you have a hard time overcoming all the distractions on the internet? If having unlimited entertainment at your fingertips impedes your ability to work, you’re not alone. A lot of us have that problem, and Freedom is the solution.

Freedom is a program that shuts off your computer’s internet connection for a set period of time. If you’re ready to work, you can just set it for as long as you need (Up to 8 hours) and the internet on your computer will be disabled during that time. Shutting off the program doesn’t end the effect, either. Your internet stays off until the time’s up or you reboot.

Freedom users include best selling author Seth Godin, Norah Ephron of the New York Times, and other high profile writers. You can check out the longer list at their website. If you don’t have any trouble concentrating then you may be better off saving your $10. If you’re like many writers though, this tool is more than worth the money.


Have you worked with one or more of these tools? Did I miss a tool you think should have been on the list? Let me know in the comments!

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    I used to use Freshbooks for invoicing. They had a free plan. What I loved about it is that I could easily structure a professional looking invoice, bill my client and they had the option to pay through Paypal or submit a check. Either way, Freshbooks made it easy. 

    • http://WriterTank.com Jacob Duchaine

      Freshbooks? I haven’t used them yet. I’ll have to take a look.

  • http://twitter.com/MelissaMaypole Melissa Maypole

    I guess there’s a certain amount of “Freedom” in admitting you have no self-control. I’m not quite there yet! ;)

    • http://WriterTank.com Jacob Duchaine

      Heh, thanks for commenting Melissa. I wouldn’t say I have NO self control, but the urge to check my email every 10 minutes can certainly be disruptive to extended periods of focus. It’s just easier to remove the distraction altogether.

  • Pingback: Carnival of Creativity 1/15/2012 | The Writing Reader

  • Jinda

    I believe that online tools for freelancer are essential which helps them do work effectively and efficiently. It is just depends on what you needed most. As a freelancer I use different kinds of online tools such as Google Docs which allows me easy access and manage documents, presentation, spreadsheet surveys and etc. I also use Evernote that reminds me everything that I need to remember like meeting, ideas, events and scheduled tasks. I also need to manage time effectively because I’m working with different clients. With the help of a time tracking tool it allows me to manage tasks effectively which I also use to list my entire tasks and set an estimated amount of time. It also helps me limit wasted time and stay focus to work. This way I can finish tasks on time and meet deadlines.

    • http://WriterTank.com Jacob Duchaine

      You’ve got a great point their Jinda. The right tools can vary some by writer. And even for each right the most useful tools may change over time.

      I’ve actually been considering switching over to Google Docs for my word processing to replace Open Office, just to centralize all my documents.