5 Tips To Get Non-Writers Writing

Ever heard the saying, content is King?

Most of us work, find clients, and communicate with our peers via the internet. The key to finding success on the internet is making it easy to be found at all. And what do search engines use to find, rank, and list us? Content. Words. Copy.

For those who write for a living, the idea of putting together fresh content full of relevant keywords and tag lines is a no-brainer. But for the rest of us, a single blog post can bring on a day of agony.

If you’ve got a stagnant blog, a boring home page, or just want to build your credibility by guest posting on respected industry blogs, here are some tips to shake off that writer’s block.

1. Find your writing time and stick with it. Some people feel their creative juices flowing at 2 am, some have to write first thing in the morning or they’ll get distracted.

2. Keep track of your ideas. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at your computer only to stare at the blinking cursor, wishing words would appear. Writing is hard, and forcing it when you’re not inspired is torture. Find a way to record ideas for post topics as they occur to you. Then when it’s time to write, you’ve got a little pool of inspiration to choose from.

3. Minimize on screen and real life distractions. How many tabs do you have open at this very second? How many message alerts, social media mentions, or Skype conversations are vying for your attention as you try to write? It may sound unorthodox, but try closing every non-essential program while you write. Fewer distractions means you’ll start writing faster, and sustain your ideas until the writing is done.

4. Create an outline. Maybe your 7th grade English teacher DID know what she was talking about. Get all your ideas out of your head and on to a piece of paper. Then, start organizing them from most to least important, or some other order that makes sense for your audience. Making an outline can show you where the holes are in your thought process, and help to eliminate unnecessary information.

5. Turn off your internal editor. Just write the words. Forget spelling, grammar, and whether you’re using the passive or active voice. Those tweaks happen after all the pressing points are on the page. Just blurt it out. Hurl it at the wall. Slowly, the crap will fall away, and you’ll see the real nuggets of information that will make your writing useful.

6. Experiment with different formats: interview, Q&A, lists. Blog posts and especially copy, doesn’t have to be exhaustive. It doesn’t have to be 400-500 words. It doesn’t have to be anything other than interesting and relevant. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be you that does all the talking. If three sentences and a bullet list get your point across efficiently, your readers will thank you for saving them the trouble.

I know we’ve got lots of talented writers at Cohere. Care to share one of your secrets for jump starting a writing project?

Image Credit: Flickr – Alyssa Miller

3 Free Tools Every Freelancer Should Know About

It’s back to school time, and all the little kiddos are filling up their backpacks and messenger bags with the tools of the trade: pencils, notebooks, graphing calculators, etc.

Which got me to thinking: what tools should freelancers have in their arsenal to make it easier to attract new clients and run their business like a business?

After a little poking around I found these completely free, online tools that can help you get better results from what you’re already doing in an organized fashion:

1. FreelanceSwitch Hourly Rate Calculator: We’ve talked a lot about raising your rates, and sticking to your guns when overly-thrifty clients challenge them. But how exactly do you decide on an hourly rate that will truly help cover your expenses now and in the future? Well the clever folks over at FreelanceSwitch created just the tool to help you do that: In just 5-20 minutes, you’ll have a guideline for the necessary hourly rate based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit.

2. BranchOut: There are dozens of referral sites, professional directories, and networking communities available online. At this point, however, most of the people you know or want to know are already using Facebook, so why start from scratch? BranchOut is an application that effortlessly unlocks massive amounts of career data about your friends and friends of friends that was just impossible to get to before.

3. SimplifyThis.com – Tired of entering appointments into Google calendar, calculating billable hours in a spreadsheet, and then issuing invoices with a third tool? SimplifyThis (what a great name, huh?) is both an appointment book for keeping track of your meetings, and any of those that might be billable, as well as a full invoicing service with payment gateway integrations.

Share your favorite free tools for staying organized (and sane) in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr –  L. Marie

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