February 25

5 Tools Every Writer Needs In Their Toolbox

writers penpad

5 tools every writer needs

Like any other job, writing can be made a heck of a lot easier if you have the right tools, especially if you are writing online. Whether you are writing content for websites or penning your future bestseller, these tools will help get the job done faster, and get it done right. Here’s my list of 5 tools every writer needs to use.

Evernote (Free version)

I love Evernote, and I don’t even know how to use it properly. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I probably only use about a quarter of the app’s full potential, but man, does it make life a lot easier! I love the fact that I can take my iPad out with me to work on articles, blog posts, or whatever while I’m sitting in the waiting room for one of my daughter’s weekly medical appointments or Girl Scout meetings. I just open up Evernote, work on the thing I need to write, and it syncs with the rest of my devices.

I can go home, pull up Evernote on my laptop, and pick up where I left off on the iPad, and vice-versa. Huge time-saver for me, since I can do projects in bits and pieces rather than having to transfer partially completed stuff from one device to another.

Ginger grammar and spelling software (Free version)

Anyone who knows me knows that I am *cheap*. I have to be, I have three kids, three dogs, two cats and a mortgage, plus a husband with expensive tastes! Ginger is like the poor-writer’s professional editor. It reads what you type, as you type it, and lets you know if you make any spelling or grammar mistakes.

It’s not completely fool-proof, but it’s pretty darn good for free software. And, if you’re writing blog posts or web content, you don’t have to have college professor-good grammar. Ginger does have its quirks (it likes to correct EVERYTHING), but you can make some adjustments in the settings to fix that. Before Ginger, I mostly used Paperrater to check my shorter pieces, but I like Ginger much better. Try both, see which you prefer, or use them both interchangeably.

Google Documents and spreadsheets

I have a confession to make. I hate spreadsheets. In fact, I can barely manage with them. But, Google spreadsheets seem to understand my deficiencies in this area, and I can, so far, manage quite well with their free spreadsheets. And their word processing for documents is perfectly adequate, though I must confess I use OpenOffice more for that. However, OO has a really bad tendency to crash in the middle of whatever urgent thing I’m working on, so Google Docs has the edge here. It automatically backs up everything you type in real time, and you can save it offline, if you want, so you can work on it even if you lose internet access.

A place to keep notes

Okay, so this one is a bit vague, but that’s because there are a LOT of good ways to keep track of the important information you’ll want to refer back to when writing.

If you are good at keeping your bookmarks organized, use this method. I am not good at keeping mine organized, but I’m getting better. I’ve started making folders in my bookmarks tab (I have Windows 8 and use Chrome, for what it’s worth), and I try to remember to file new bookmarks in the appropriate folder.

Pinterest is good for this, too, especially if you are using articles with lots of images, because they tend to stick out more in your memory, or at least they do in mine. I put internet marketing articles, craft articles, and other odd stuff I find in my Pinterest feed. It makes it easier to find stuff if you’re a visual thinker, like me.

I also just write stuff down. It’s not very high tech, but I keep several notebooks to jot stuff down as I think of it. This is a great way to outline stuff, so you can write faster.

Inspiration

Sometimes, it’s hard to come up something to write about. If you’re writing an article for a content mill and only have a keyword to go by, you need some instant inspiration. I like to go hit up Quora, a question and answer site that usually has lots of good industry topics.

Recently, I found a site called Soovle, and it is pretty neat. You simply type a word or phrase into the search box, and it produces the top searches from all the major search engines. This lets you see what other people are searching for, so you can write about something that people want to read.

Another fun tool is Portent’s content idea generator. You plug in a subject, and it comes up with a suggested title, so you can write your article around the title. Some suggestions are hilarious, some downright stupid, but it’s a great way to get your creative juices flowing.

Okay, so maybe I just gave you more than 5 tools for your writer’s toolbox. I’m generous like that, lol! Now, go write something, and make some money while you’re at it!

Do you have any favorite tools you use to get your content created? Share it with the rest of us in the comments section below!

February 15

Hey, Mom, Look What I Made (Minibook Empire)

Well, it’s freezing cold here in South Carolina, and they’re calling for three inches of snow, followed by a half-inch of ice. Nice. So, it looks like I’ll get plenty of time to snuggle with the kiddos, and try to find some time to get some work done!

I’ve been pretty busy this past two weeks…I meant to post sooner, but didn’t have a chance to sit down and finish a post (I actually started twice, but got distracted and gave up), but I’m here now! (As I write this, my youngest daughter is pulling on my chair, asking me to put her sister’s belt on her tiny little waist…can you see how easy it is for me to get distracted?)

I’ve been working on stuff for clients mostly, but I also achieved something pretty big, for me, anyways. I completed a challenge, which was to create a short infoproduct and put it on sale at JVZoo. I wrote a report of just over 5000 words, and put it on sale for $5. I haven’t sold any copies as of yet, but I’m not worried. If it doesn’t do well, I’ll just find another use for it, but the main thing that has me so excited is the fact that I set a challenge, and completed it successfully, in the timeframe recommended!!! 

Power of Words

You may be thinking, “wow, big deal,” but I am super pleased with myself for deciding to do something, and just actually doing it. I get distracted too easily, and focus is crucial to online success. Ergo, I’m taking steps to increase my business’ success!

My product is called Minibook Empire: Building a Kindle Empire One Minibook at a Time. It basically walks you through creating short ebooks in order to make money on Amazon’s Kindle platform. It’s short, easy to follow, and hopefully it will inspire some great successes for people who want to make money writing for a living.

I’m also in the process of changing the name of this blog to one that is just my name. I realize that most marketers do this in order to establish themselves as a brand, and it just makes good sense. Additionally, I’m beginning to feel that my calling as a content creator is leading me to write more about writing for a living, including things like ebooks, Kindle, and PLR. It’s taken a little time, but I’m starting to feel myself really settling into a niche that suits me. I love it!

Before I end this post, I want to give  a plug to the product that inspired my product creation. It’s called 10 Challenges by Dennis Becker, and it is AWESOME. Dennis is a guy who has been there, done that, and has the T-shirt when it comes to struggling to make a living online. He’s a genuine, honest guy who always gives you way more than you expect in his products, and he’s just super-motivational. I really recommend that you check his stuff out if you want real advice on making money online.

Okay, I’m off to shower and run to the store to fill up the propane tank before the snow arrives. If we lose power, I’ll be standing in the snow, firing up the grill to cook for the family! Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that…I’m a terrible griller!

Have you done anything that you’re particularly proud of in order to boost your business? Let me know in the comments section below!

February 2

Working For Yourself Is Hard, In More Ways Than You'd Expect

It took me a little longer than I’d like to get around to writing this post. I’ve been insanely busy, which is both good and bad if you work for yourself. I was sick most of last week, as I’ve been suffering from some weird sinus illness that has kept me in near-constant pain for weeks. A heavy dose of steroids and a $400 CT scan later, and I’m still waiting on answers.

I am lucky to be able to schedule appointment for myself at almost any time, that’s the beauty of working for yourself. The downside is, with the majority of my work being tied up in ghostwriting, if I’m not actively working, I’m not earning. I was really lucky last week to pick up a TON of work from some really excellent clients, then abruptly fell ill and had to work through it anyway. Yuck, lol!

Very sadly, I also had a death in my family this past weekend. My stepfather, who was really like a father to me for half my life, passed away. Because I work for myself, I had no problems taking off to go be with my family, and luckily my husband’s work let him off as well. Of course, we still have to work around the kids’ schedules, but these types of situations are rare, and their schools understand that.

So, while I’ve been ghostwriting for clients, planning PLR, getting (hopefully) better from this illness, promoting my children’s books, and grieving with my family, I feel pretty run down. But…as hard as it is to have to keep up with it all, I really wouldn’t change anything about my job, unless it was to make more money, lol!

You see, when you work for yourself, you decide how much you want or can do. If you don’t want to work, don’t. Just don’t expect your bill collectors or empty stomach to understand when you tell them that you didn’t feel like working on your business. But, if you want to work all night and sleep all day, or work while your kids are at school and be off with them every weekend, you have the flexibility to make it happen.

I’m not saying it always happens the way I’d like. I’ve spent way too many late nights and early mornings trying to play “catch up” with work while making sure that the kids got to their activities and doctors appointments. In fact, I’m writing this while sitting at a weekly meeting my child attends! But, I’m getting it done, right?

Working for yourself often means you don’t have anyone to directly ask for help. It means finding stuff out on your own, actively looking for work when there is none to be found, getting creative with your time, making the most of every opportunity, and managing your time like a ninja juggler on speed. And, for me, it usually means doing it all on less sleep and more coffee than most people, but I love it.

I know this post was a little random, but I wanted to touch base while I was sorting out all my work for the week. I promise my next post will be more helpful and inspiring, after all, you are reading this because you want to work form home, not because you want to see how hard it is, right? But, I just want to make sure that you know the good and bad sides to working for yourself before you make any decisions. Trust me, there’s waaaay more good than bad, but sometimes you have to dig a little to find that out.

Why do you want to work from home? Do you have what it takes? I’ll bet you have more of what it takes than you realize! Stick with me, kids, and we’ll go places, lol! 🙂

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