Freelance Writing
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Freelance Writing

My Current Freelance Writing Tech Stack

Freelance writing: what technology do you need?

A lot of entrants to the freelance writing market spend time wondering what technical bits and pieces are needed to run a freelance writing business.

There are two schools of thought about this.

The first one is: you don’t really need much. In truth, even a website is optional. You could start with a Gmail address, some enthusiasm, and (ideally) a couple of clips to prove your mettle. There’s a lot to be said for the agility of that approach.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have people like me who live by the motto “do things that scale.” Paul Graham wouldn’t be pleased to hear this, but I like to get systems in place before I really need them. To each their own.

To give you a feel for some of the systems you might want, here are the tools that have been powering my freelance writing business this year.

Website, Web Hosting, Wordpress (And Staging Environment)

If you’ve got a freelance writing website, then you’re going to need somewhere to host it.

In general, I prefer the hosting + server software model to all in one website builder packages, although the latter make getting online quickly very easy.

In terms of hosting, basic shared hosting is going to be fine for most freelance writing portfolio websites.

Those that really want to ensure proper resources allocation to support high traffic might wish to consider (managed) VPS hosting. But in most cases, this would be unnecessary.

The ‘server (side) software’ you’re probably going to use will be a content management system (CMS) — and Wordpress is the easiest commonly used CMS to get to grips with (it’s also a handy tool to know for clients).

My freelance writing site uses a Wordpress multisite install (the portfolio and main website are separate sites).

My top recommendation is to set up a staging environment for your Wordpress site.

Instead of attempting to edit your site live — while clients might be trying to navigate it — you work on a version of your website that isn’t publicly accessible.

I use Cloudflare Access for this purpose. Then, when you’ve finished QA-ing it, and it’s ready to go live, you push it to your production version. Details above.

If you’re using a shared host that includes Softaculous in cPanel, then you should have accessed to all the functionality you need to set up a staging environment for your Wordpress site.

WEBSITE

A Domain Name

You need two things to get a website online: web hosting (to store the files) and a domain registrar to rent the URL. There are many options to choose from here.

Gsuite

Most web hosting packages are going to come with a built in email server and give you the ability to use it to send and receive email through it.

While that’s a fine approach for some, more freelance writers will probably want to sign up for a service like G Suite which contains a whole suite of cloud-hosted collaboration tools.

Gsuite essentially lets you use Google services on your domain name. If you already have a Gmail address then you could just use that.

Although if you begin working with a lot of clients through Gsuite, sharing resources from a personal domain is going to look more professional.

Google Analytics + Google Search Console (GSC)

Installing Google Analytics on your site is going to allow you to gain valuable insights into how many people are visiting your freelance writing website — as well as where they are coming from and what content they are checking out.

Google Search Console will allow you to make sure that your website is being properly indexed in Google and allow you to request the removal of URLs from Google’s index (among many other features).

Implementing Google Analytics, and validating and adding your site through Google Search Console (GSC) are important first steps towards ensuring that your site can be discovered through search engines.

SALES AND MARKETING

A CRM

A customer relationship management (CRM) system is useful for more than just sales teams.

A CRM can make the process of managing routine client contact a lot easier.

If you find yourself typing up the same email multiple times per day, most CRMs also allow you to save templates.

You can use a software as a service (SaaS) CRM or host your own.

Vtiger is an example of the latter approach and can be installed through Softaculous.

I like to set up account management email addresses for new clients using Google Groups and add those to my CRM.

There are many CRM options on the market.

Hubspot (at the time of writing) has a free tier and is popular among freelancers.

An Email Automation Tool ( ≠ CRM)

I’ve written before about the various ways to find freelance writing clients, covering both outbound marketing channels.

Cold emailing does work but you might need to do quite a bit of it to get the results you’re looking for.

As a general rule, CRMs are better used to manage existing accounts than to find new ones (prospecting) — although you can use CRMs for sending out cold pitches.

Email automation tools are a separate class of product that specialize in helping users build and run automated drip email sequences.

Klenty and Woodpecker are two big names in this space. Just make sure that you’re up to date with GDPR compliance requirements.

An Email Newsletter

Inbound marketing is a great way to build a marketing pipeline that will attract leads into your sales funnel.

An email newsletter is a valuable resource to have in this respect. Many freelancers would be well advised to set up one up and share insights with their clients.

Mailchimp is a popular tool for this purpose:

An SEO / Keyword Research Tool

If you’re working on your on-site SEO, then you might at some point wish to subscribe to a tool that will help you:

  • Plan which keywords to use
  • Monitor for incoming backlinks
  • See which keywords competitors are using and where they are getting backlinks from

Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMRush are all popular choices.

OPERATIONS

A Project Management Tool

When you’re one person juggling multiple accounts things can get very disorganized very quickly.

I recommend setting up a project management tool to keep track of what you need to get done, for whom, and by what deadline.

There are both free and paid options. Asana is a popular choice.

A Time Tracker

Whether you’re tracking time for clients you bill hourly or for your own purposes, having a time tracker installed on your computer can come in useful for many freelancers.

If you want to track your own time and see what applications and sites you’re spending it on, I recommend Rescue Time:

For a multi purpose tool, consider Toggle:

A Meeting Scheduler

As a freelance writer, you’ll be pitching your services to lots of clients — which means setting up a lot of online meetings.

I use Calendly and also integrated it with my Zoom account so that clients can automatically find a time that suits them and receive a calendar invite with Zoom details inside.

Zapier

Zapier is like the digital glue that holds the various components of my online life together.

I set up ‘zaps’ between cloud services according to my business needs. The integrations are invaluable.

An Accounting / Invoicing Platform

Finally you’ll probably also want to have on hand a tool to issue client invoices and keep track of your expenses.

There are many options in this product area so choose the one that best suits your needs.

Other Nice-To-Haves

Some other pieces of software that come in handy include:

A Backup Tool

Backing up your data and writing are both vitally important. The exact tool that’s the best fit for your needs will depend, among other factors, upon what operating system you use.

Backing up your writing is also very important.

A Pomodoro Timer

A Pomodoro timer can help make sure that you don’t get in a good habit of interspersing work and leisure periods.

Archival Storage

I like to use separate cloud storage for any information that I’m retaining purely for archival / retention purposes. Backblaze B2 offers very affordably priced cloud storage.

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Daniel Rosehill

Daniel Rosehill

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things. https://www.danielrosehill.com