Essential Writing Tools for Freelancers

It's the 21st century, and as freelance writers we have a wealth of new writing tools and technology available that will help us to do our jobs more effectively. Here are some of the tools I find most useful as a freelance writer.

Digital recorder
Remember the old days? You'd go to an interview with a tape recorder. It might or might not work and even if it did, you could ruin the tape getting it out of the machine. Those days are behind us, thanks to digital technology. Whether you have a tiny recorder that attaches to your belt loop or recording facilities on your PDA, you can now record your interview, transfer it to your computer and take excerpts to use as podcasts. As always, make sure your device is fully charged before setting off to do an interview, and take a power cable or charger just in case.

Voice-recognition software is the writer's friend. It's no longer a case of hoping that the software gets most of what you say. Many of the voice-recognition software packages work out of the box, which means that you can dictate your articles and save your wrists. This could be a lifesaver for writers who are prone to tendonitis. It also allows you to think aloud and still capture your best ideas.

Desktop PCs were a great invention, making computer power available to everyone. But since writers often have to go out to work, having a portable model is even easier. I couldn't do without my laptop, as I can work anywhere. Most freelance writers take their laptop on vacation so that they can check their e-mail and respond to any urgent requests.

Where would we be without wireless Internet access? Whether you can find a free access point or have to pay for a connection, having WiFi on your laptop or PDA means that you can connect anytime and anywhere. There are more and more access points all the time, in locations all over the world. That means that your location is no longer a barrier to making a living as a writer.

VOIP phone
Voice over IP (VOIP) lets you make phone calls over the internet. The calls are much cheaper and, since the advent of truly fast Internet, clear and comprehensible. For the writer on the go, there's no better way to be sure of not missing a call or being able to make one. A VOIP phone and an account puts you in control of communication with clients.

Portable storage
Can anyone still remember when no one had heard of a gigabyte, far less a terabyte? In those early days, backing up your writing was a painful process, consisting of trying to get all the files on your computer onto a floppy disk and failing miserably. The more technologically advanced had other types of drives, but there was a lot to do to make sure that you could have all the files you needed at your disposal.

With a portable hard drive, you can back up on the fly, take your work to clients' offices, upload files from other places and have everything you need with you. Hard drives are smaller than ever, and for daily use you can get a USB flash drive with a whopping amount of storage.

Notebook and pen

Despite all the technology, no self-respecting writer can be without a notebook and pen. These are your failsafe in case of technological failure. I still find it useful to be able to take notes and cross them out, and there are times when I'm not working and get an idea. Having pen and paper means I can write it down wherever I happen to be. It may be the 21st century, but these are two ancient inventions that we still can't do without.

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