If you want to succeed as a freelance writer, you have to make your clients happy. And one of the keys to doing this successfully?
Writing great content!
Whether it’s a blog post, an eBook, a short story, or just a short product description…well-written, professional copy is what will keep your customers coming back for more, time and time again.
And while an English major with 10 years spent in the publishing industry may be able to more easily produce such content, you don’t need this much experience to be a great writer. In fact, all you need is the right attitude – and the right tools.
So if you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, or you don’t feel that your writing skills are good enough, don’t get down on yourself about your skills – or lack thereof. Regular practice and hard work will take you far, and to fill in the gaps, I’ve rounded up some of my all-time favorite online writing resources.
Use these to polish up your copy, hone your skills, become a better writer, and deliver the absolute best product to your clients and customers.
No one expects you to have perfect grammar, but it should be pretty darn close – especially if your content is for a professional or business client.
They want their customers to be impressed with what you write – maybe even persuaded to buy their products or do business with them, and even the smallest of grammar errors can prevent that. Problems with punctuation and grammar can actually make businesses look unprofessional and unreliable, so it’s crucial you take steps to avoid them – both for your reputation and your clients’.
One of my favorite grammar resources is Grammar Girl. She offers a whole slew of helpful posts and guides that can help you avoid common grammar faux pas and create the most cohesive, error-free content possible. She’ll even answer your grammar questions via social media if you’ve got a few burning ones!
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also has a pretty thorough grammar handbook through its Center for Writing Studies. Access it all on the center’s website, and there are even tips on citations, editing, quotations and other common writing hurdles. I’ve definitely given this site a look quite a few times over the years. Try it next time you have a question or a concern!
Wikipedia can be a good starting point, but remember, it’s also unreliable. Users can submit content on the site and change pages as they wish. It’s not always 100-percent accurate (or even close to it!) so be wary when using it to source your work. In fact, I would stay away completely. The only time I use Wikipedia is to find the reputable resources located in the References section on these pages.
If you want to ensure accuracy, use an online writing resource like Infoplease. This reference site has info on everything from politics and current events to food, arts, philosophy and more. It’s also managed and vetted, too, so you don’t have to worry about errors.
Need stats to back up something you’re saying? Then head to GeoHive, which offers all kinds of stats and graphs for different countries and populations across the globe. Want more local data? FedStats has a whole library of statistics from the U.S. government. You’ll find data on the economy, employment, transportation, agriculture, energy and more.
When searching Google for reputable resources, use sites that have the .edu or .gov extension primarily. These are education and government websites. You can use Google’s advanced search tool to find .edu and .gov websites for any topic. This is what the search tool would look like if I wanted to find .edu sites with information on parenting.
Online Writing Resources
If you need some help getting over writer’s block, reaching that final word count or just polishing your copy before your deadline, there are online writing resources to help.
One of my favorites is a free app called Unstuck, which helps guide you through (and overcome) professional and personal challenges anytime you’re feeling, well, stuck. It’s basically your own little coach – all on your computer or phone! Just answer a few questions, and get tips on how to come out on top.
Another great way to overcome writer’s block, stop procrastinating or really focus on your work is to use a tool like OmmWriter or WriteRoom, which give you the perfect, distraction-less palette on which to write. There are even customizable backgrounds and relaxing scores that can help keep your eyes on the prize. Both programs are free (WriteRoom is for Macs only), so use them to your advantage.
There are also a few simple but handy tools I use often, too, like WordCounter.net, which gives you an instant look at the number of words and characters of a piece. Set your word count goal, and it will let you know how close you are to meeting that. Sure, Microsoft Word will give you your word count, but this app doesn’t require you to sift through menus to find it. It’s also helpful if you’re using another program (not Word) or you are working on the go.
Another cool tool is Cliché Finder. Cliches are well-known for a reason: They’re tired and overused. While they might come easy while you write, they can actually make you look unprofessional – and make your content less impactful. Before you turn your next piece in, copy and paste your work into this Cliché Finder’s helpful site, and weed out any useless phrases that could make your content less than stellar.
Maggie’s Writing Skillset Workshop
I created my own writing course for freelance writers who don’t want to go back to college or invest in thousands of dollars in training. My course includes my top writing and grammar tips, the exact ones the best editors taught me that allowed me to take my writing to the next level and command higher rates. It contains no fluff, but exactly what you need to succeed in this career. If you are interested, you can learn more about this course here.
Using the “Write” Tools
You don’t have to be the perfect writer to make it in the freelance world. With these online writing resources, as well as some good old-fashioned hard work, practice and dedication, getting your career off the ground is not that difficult.
Are there any other writing and grammar resources you use? Please share!