Essential Freelance Writer Website Elements

If you’re a freelance writer, do you even need a website? What are the essential freelance writer website elements anyway?

Seven essential freelance writer website elements

Around the Internet I see a lot of advice and tips for author websites but I don’t see much out there to help freelance writers. Why oh why are we left out? Don’t worry. I’m here to help. Here are seven essential freelance writer website elements. Oh, and three things.

First things first, you need it. Every freelance writer needs a website. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. A website is the most critical tool in your freelance writing marketing arsenal. It’s available on-demand, year-round and is the one place you have complete control over what the message is. You want and need a website. (Which is why we’re going after the freelance writer website elements today.)

Next. There’s a common idea that social networks can replace a website—that’s where your readers and clients are anyway. But here’s the thing. You don’t own the platform and you can’t control the message. You can add to the conversation, yes. And I think you should be social networking. However, you don’t want all your eggs in the social media basket. It could go away at any time, and then what?

One more thing

Set goals for your website. Yes, I’m talking about S.M.A.R.T. Goals and yes, you need to set some. What’s the primary goal of your website? What do you want people to do when they land on your site? Who do you want to see your writing website? When you know what your goal is, you will know how to build it to help you achieve your freelance-writing goals.

Let’s get into it. What are the essential freelance writer website elements?

Less is more here

  1. Clear name. Look at your website. Is your name visible? Anywhere? Make it visible. If you write under a business name you can use that one, but make sure it’s easy to spot and read
  2. About page. This could be called something similar (bio, the company, meet your expert, experience, who I am, my story, profile, ETC.) and it should be on its own web page on your site
  3. Information about your products, services, or portfolio. Or all three. I have lots to say about portfolios (they drive me crazy…they’re out of date so fast in the freelance fast lane!) but I’ll refrain till further notice. Include as many links as you can to recent work and/or merchandise
  4. Social media icons. Do you have a few favourites? (I know I do.) Link to them and give your avid fans a chance to connect with you
  5. Contact page. Yup. You need to let people know how to get in touch with you. How do you want them to contact you? List that information in a clear and visible manner
  6. Email newsletter signup. Even if you don’t have anything to send, start an email list. Do it. You want to keep in touch with people who want to stay in touch with you
  7. Blog. I mean, I think you should have a blog. But I’ll leave it at the bottom so you know it’s not the first thing you do. Nothing allows your sparkling personality to come through like a blog. I don’t know what it is about the medium, but it WORKS! It serves as your pre-portfolio and helps you improve your writing. Oh, but you do need to keep it updated
  8. Around the Internet I see a lot of advice and tips for author websites but I don't see much out there to help freelance writers. Why oh why are we left out? Don't worry. I'm here to help. Here are seven essential freelance writer website elements. Oh, and three things

    Do you have freelance writer website elements to add? I’d love to hear about them!

How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically

I’ve written about why I write book reviews before but let’s flip the switch and concentrate on how to get great book reviews. Exciting, right!?

How to Get Great Book Reviews

Is reviewing a book on how to get great book reviews too meta?

I don’t care. If you’re an author you need this book.

First of all, this isn’t something you read once and memorize. It’s the text book of getting book reviews. Covering the gambit in six sections plus appendices, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically addresses everything from Your Review-Getting Arsenal to You Have Your Review. Now What?

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Why do you need great book reviews? If you’ve gone through the trouble of doing all the writing isn’t your work done?

Nope. Sorry. Now you get to do MARKETING!!! (My favourite part.)

Why You Need to Get Great Book Reviews

I’m borrowing from the book’s argument here, but I hold it as well.

  • Reviews are platform builders
  • Regardless of negative or positive, stars or lattes, reviews give you the chance to be a better writer, learn more about your genre, and know your target reader better.

  • Reviews are resources for endorsements
  • Blurbs, praise, bullets, whatever. Need some nice quotes? You can get the with book reviews!

  • Reviews can be networking tools
  • Both getting and giving reviews gives you contacts with editors of review journals, contacts with other reviewers who are potential reviewers of your books, contacts with other authors who need quotations for their books or referrals.

    Once you’re convinced you should get great book reviews, then you’re ready for the rest of the book. It walks you through alllllllllllllll the things you need to think through and plan for. It’s a lot, but they payoff is worth it. Not only that, but once you have the reviews the fun is not over! You can reap the benefits of past reviews for years to come.

    If it’s time to market your book, get this book.


    How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career Synopsis

    How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically is the culmination of a nearly two decades Carolyn Howard-Johnson spent helping writers avoid pitfalls, misconceptions, and out-and-out scams perpetrated on unsuspecting authors…and helping them reach their dreams of great reviews, great book tours, and great launches. It turns out that How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically is the essence for a successful marketing campaign that includes all those things and—more importantly—for building the readership necessary for a prosperous writing career.

    Is reviewing a book on how to get great book reviews too meta?  I don’t care. If you’re an author you need this book.  First of all, this isn’t something you read once and memorize. It’s the text book of getting book reviews. Covering the gambit in six sections plus appendices, How to Get Great Book Reviews addresses everything from Your Review-Getting Arsenal to You Have Your Review. Now What?

How to Avoid Social Media Overwhelm

Overload. Burnout. Addiction. Whatever you call it, social media overwhelm is real and reduces our capacity to connect…ironically.

How to Avoid Social Media Overwhelm

I heard a stat the other day saying we look at our phones an average of 150 times per day. I don’t know if it’s true but when I’m deep-down honest with myself I wonder how many times I look at my phone. A lot. And why? Much of the time I’m not doing anything. Opening apps, refreshing feeds, seeing if that was my phone that buzzed.

And that’s just checking what other people are posting. What about posting itself? How much time do I spend thinking about social media? If I’m deep-down honest…more than 150 times per day. Thinking about strategy, researching tactics, and testing tools can be a full-time job if you let it.

So what can be done about social media overwhelm?

Oh, lots. First of all, you can take the extreme approach by avoiding it, banning it from your life, removing apps from your phone, or doing a social media detox. All those things are fine—but extreme. If you’re trying to grow your platform going off social media, although good for your mental health, doesn’t help you grow. What if there was a way to have the best of both worlds? Limit the time you spend on social media/in the digital world but be present when you’re there?

Yes, I’m trying to paint a picture of you being intentionally social rather than mindlessly scrolling. Not a crazy thing! I think you can do it!

Grab these 125+ hashtags for writers

* indicates required


Here are my top five tips for avoiding social media overwhelm

  1. Create a strategy
  2. I do this for a living so of course I’ll recommend building a social media marketing strategy. This isn’t hard but you do need to spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of social media. Why are you there? What are your goals? Who do you want to connect with? Figure these things out and everything gets easier from here. (Want some help? Here’s my Five Step Social Media Strategy for Writers.)

  3. Create a posting schedule
  4. Your posting schedule (also known as a content calendar or social focus) is a lifesaver. Instead of showing up going “I need to post today but I don’t know what to dooooooo,” you say “OK, so my focus today is encouragement so what do I have that’s encouraging? On one of the accounts I manage I created a basic posting schedule to help me come up with content but to also remain consistent. Mondays: Contests or opportunities, Tuesdays: General knowledge, Wednesdays: Ask a question, Thursdays: Contests or opportunities, Fridays: Article share. See? There’s a posting schedule, just like that. (If you want to go deeper, here’s my article on how to create a content calendar.)

  5. Choose your focus (ahead of time)
  6. You can’t be everywhere. So which network will you focus on? There is a lot of advice out there for which networks have the biggest payoff but you will need to decide for yourself what works. A couple questions to consider when choosing your social networks: Where are you most comfortable online? Where are your clients/readers most comfortable online? (You can go deeper on choosing your social networks here.)

  7. Get help
  8. Whoa. But we writers are solitary creatures! Yes, but we also tend to get in our heads and spiral. When you’re feeling social media overwhelm creep up, get help. This could be by speaking with a mentor or colleague, taking a course/learning a new skill, or hiring someone. The point is, get help. (Here’s a great story about a time I was asked for help and we ended up re-launching JenniMarie’s photography business.)

  9. Use scheduling tools
  10. Use them like they’re going out of style. USE TOOLS! They not only help you organize your social life, but if set up right, they allow you to focus on what you need to and filter out the rest. The right scheduling tools will keep social media overwhelm at bay and help you reach your social and business goals. (Here are my 15 best apps for freelance writers, including my favourite social media scheduling tools.)

    OK! That wasn’t so hard was it? Now get out there and be social!

    I heard a stat the other day saying we look at our phones an average of 150 times per day. I don't know if it's true but when I'm deep-down honest with myself I wonder how many times I look at my phone. A lot. And why? Much of the time I'm not doing anything. Opening apps, refreshing feeds, seeing if that was my phone that buzzed. And that's just checking what other people are posting. What about posting itself? How much time do I spend thinking about social media? If I'm deep-down honest...more than 150 times per day. Thinking about strategy, researching tactics, and testing tools can be a full-time job if you let it. So what can be done about social media overwhelm? Here are my top five tips for avoiding social media overwhelm.

Natural Homemade Skin and Hair Care Products

Looking for 175 recipes for creams, balms, shampoos, and more? Look no further than The Best Natural Homemade Skin and Hair Care Products.

The best natural homemade skin and hair care products

I’ve always been curious about how skin and hair care products are made. Maybe it’s because I can’t understand how there are so many products on the market or how they’re all so different. Or maybe it’s because I don’t know any of the words they use in their advertising, which are supposed to be a cure for all the things I struggle with.

And I’ve also wondered, do I even need to use shampoo? And, will skin cream really keep wrinkles away? And, will making my own cosmetics save money?

When Mar Gomez’ The Best Natural Homemade Skin and Hair Care Products came across my desk I was all in. Have I ever made my own skin and/or hair care products before? No. Did I know what any of the ingredients were? I have a passing familiarity with essential oils. Did I know where to purchase these ingredients? No, but I have a sister-in-law who does!

When I mentioned my book-review-slash-investigative-journalism-project to my sister-in-law she sent me in the direction of a local cosmetics supply wholesaler. After seeing how many decisions I needed to make I felt overwhelmed and realized I needed a strategic plan before jumping in. First: read the book.

How do you read a recipe book? Same as any other book, one page at a time. The great thing about this book is there aren’t just recipes. There are helpful articles all the way through offering tips and tricks for making creams, ointments, oils, shampoos, and gels—as well as the best ways to work with certain ingredients. Lifeline! I have no idea what I’m doing!

The recipes are organized by their base ingredient, oil. Think flaxseed, baobab, pumpkin seed, etc. As I read through each recipe I realized I could create several from the same ingredients and since I was a first-timer, this would be a lesser investment than purchasing ALL THE THINGS and then being committed to making my own cosmetics for the next however long. My fear: what if I’m terrible at it and make a huge mess and am stuck with all these ingredients forEVER? The truth: I have a sister-in-law who can help me out.

So I chose three recipes, created a shopping list, and returned to the cosmetics wholesaler. This experience was much better. In fact, I ordered everything online in the quantities I needed so I just had to pick it up when they called.

Trying out The Best Natural Homemade Skin and Hair Care Products

To say I was nervous about attempting this is an understatement. I don’t know why I find it intimidating but I do. However. The recipes are SO straightforward. Anything I could have been tripped up on (and used as an excuse not to try) was explained and most of the recipes had three or less steps. I couldn’t wimp out.

So I did it. I measured out the ingredients using my handy food scale (yes, you’ll need one of those) and followed the instructions. It didn’t take long, just heating up a few things and then mixing them together (yes, you’ll need a mixer). After a cooling-off period I put my concoctions in glass jars (not plastic, I’ve learned!) and hoped for the best.

The results…

My first attempt didn’t go so well. Yes there were only three steps but my oils and my solids never merged into cream. Why? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I waited more than 10 exact minutes for the cooling off. Maybe my house is too cold. Maybe I bought the wrong wax.

So I tried again.

Results? Better! It’s a usable concoction, although there’s still room for improvement.

I thought I purchased what I needed but I have a lot of leftovers so I can make these three recipes over and over—and I’m glad because I need the practice. I’m thinking if I can get good at this, homemade face cream would make a great Christmas gift. I can get pretty jars…nice-smelling oils…and give my friends something they won’t get from anyone else. How exciting!

In total I spent about $50 on ingredients. It felt like a lot but now I see this will be in stock for my next 30 creams and shampoos. When I do the math I know I’ll spend more on drug store face cream and hair care products. Plus I now know what all the ingredients are and know they won’t harm my body in any way. Everything is natural and easy to source. I trust it.

If you’re curious about how to make handmade cosmetics or if you’re looking for some new recipes to add to your collection, please let me recommend The Best Natural Homemade Skin and Hair Care Products. The formulas are easy to follow and require regular kitchen equipment plus a good scale. I found this entire experience beyond satisfying, and I’m not even very good at it yet!

The best natural homemade skin and hair care products by Mar Gomez


The Best Natural Homemade Skin and Hair Care Products: 175 Recipes for Creams, Balms, Shampoos and More Synopsis

Health-enhancing oils from around the world form the base for all natural cosmetics. With these easy-to-follow recipes and widely available natural ingredients, creating effective, soothing and above all natural creams, balms, face and body oils, exfoliating scrubs, shampoos, shower and bath gels and lip balms is easier than ever.

Mar Gomez features really lovely oils such as monoi oil (a coconut and flower oil that is a staple in beauty and skin regimens in Tahiti), soy oil, nut oils (such as macadamia, almond and peanut), seed oils (such as sesame, hemp, pumpkin seed and flax) and some really beautiful exotic natural oils such as piqui, andiroba, prickly pear seed, tamanu and argan.

All these oils have wonderful skin-care properties, and there are specific formulas for all sorts of skin conditions, from dry to oily, from acne-prone to wrinkled, from young to old.

Each formula is very easy to make and only requires normal kitchen equipment and a good scale. There are formulas for anti-aging creams, firming recipes to fight against cellulite, freckle- and spot-removing oil, moisturizing facial wrinkle cream, anti-dandruff shampoos and many others.

Making luxurious, heavenly-smelling homemade cosmetics is surprisingly simple and satisfying with this book.

Looking for 175 recipes for creams, balms, shampoos, and more? Look no further than The Best Natural Homemade Skin and Hair Care Products.

15 Best Apps for Freelance Writers

Here’s my roundup of 15 best apps for writers. Let me know if I’ve missed anything!

The beauty of smartphones is you can work on the go and have amazing tools at your fingertips to keep you at the cutting edge of the writing game. The downside of smartphones is the sheer volume of options. How do you know which apps are time savers and which are time wasters?

Best Apps for Writers

I should say right off the bat these are my personal choices, customized for the type of freelance work I do. So know that when I say “best” this is subjective. They may not work for you—fair! But if you’re looking for some apps to try out I hope this is an awesome point to help you cut through the overwhelm, maybe save some time testing apps, and get back to your writing!

Content Planning

There is so much pre and prep work for freelance writers. If we don’t stay organized we’re doomed! These are my best apps for freelance writers who want to keep their stress levels down and their desks clutter-free.

Trello

I wrote about my love affair with Trello and how it is helping me stick to my blogging content calendar. However, I also use it for my freelance writing. I create a board for each client and include due dates, assignments, research, etc. and another board for one-off freelance gigs. It’s so much better than flipping through my notebook or digging through email threads trying to remember the focus of an article, when it’s due, or who to send it to.

Basecamp

I didn’t choose Basecamp, Basecamp chose me. This project management software is perfect for teams, so if you’re one of a team of other writers, editors, project managers, designers, developers, etc. you will LOVE this tool. Each project has it’s own space and to-do items and discussions live within the project so you don’t have to do a lot of emailing (I mean, you can if you want). I love that you can put your thoughts into the Basecamp project when you have them, then come back to it when you’re working on it and see all your brainstorms, uploads, photos, (whatever!) in once place.

Feedly

Part of my content strategy is sharing useful articles with other freelance writers and also seeing what people in my industry are talking about. Feedly is how I discover and track content from around the Internet. You set up your lists based on RSS feeds from blogs you want to follow or allow Feedly to suggest blogs based on keywords. As new posts are available, Feedly pulls them into your feed and you devour them as you have time. You can save articles for later, push them to your social sharing apps, and more.

Editing

Even if you’re working with editors you still need your writing to be as clean and correct as possible when submitting work. There are loads of tools you can use but I like to keep my editing simple. These are my best apps for freelance writers to help with editing.

Microsoft Word

For the most part I use Microsoft Word for writing, and I keep my language and grammar checking on with my customized settings but off for auto-correct. Part of my process is to go through my work, reading aloud before submitting.

Hemingway App

This is such a neat tool for helping you rework long, rambling sentences and making stronger word choices. It also helps you change passive voice to active voice (IMPORTANT!), which not only strengthens your writing but also communicates your message better.

Grammarly

Yes. You need to care about grammar. You don’t need to go out and police others’ grammar, but you do need to check your own. This app helps you find mistakes and improve your writing.

Images

When I started freelancing I didn’t need to provide my own images, but these days it’s more like 50/50. You don’t need to be a graphic designer to produce high quality images, you just need to know which tools to use. Here are my best apps for freelance writers for creating awesome images.

Canva

The moment I heard about Canva I knew it was for me. It’s a web-based photo editing tool where you can create branded images, beautiful graphics, and more using pre-made templates or designing your own. It’s easy to use—kind of like a scaled-back Photoshop—and allows you to store your brand colours, images, and templates to use over and over.

Pixabay

Can’t take your own photos? Don’t have time to shoot? No problem. This free stock photography site offers more than a million images and videos including illustrations and vector graphics. It’s worth checking out.

Social Media Planning and Scheduling

I don’t know if you’ll ever get the same answer when asking what someone’s favourite social media tools are. People’s needs and preferences range so much, plus there are always new apps to check out. I’ve tried a LOT of them and will give you my personal best apps for freelance writers who are trying to plan and schedule their social media.

Hashtagger

I wrote about this app when I explained how to find and use hashtags but it’s worth mentioning again here. It’s such a great tool! There are lots of hashtag discovery apps, but this is the one I like for finding popular hashtags around a certain word or phrase when I’m on the go. As in, I’m in the middle of posting and I need hashtags! The app is minimalist—your only option is to search for hashtags. You do this by typing in a word, pressing search, then selecting the hashtags from the list. You can copy up to 30 then paste them all at once into your post or comment on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc.

Hootsuite

There’s a lot to love about Hootsuite. I used to use it for all my social media but I’m finding it has certain limitations so I’m using a couple new tools, which I’ll outline below. However. I’m still team Hootsuite for all of my Twitter management. I schedule posts, track analytics, and keep an eye on the Twitter lists I follow. It’s easy to organize and keeps me sharp.

Recurpost

This is a new tool in my arsenal but I’m done with my testing and think it’s a keeper. This is a “productivity enhancement tool,” which is a fancy way of saying you can manage your social media for multiple platforms from its dashboard. In this way it’s a lot like Hootsuite but where it has a leg up is the content library. Here, I can add evergreen posts and create a schedule around the different libraries. What does this mean? I can not only schedule my social media but I can have it repeat on whatever schedule I desire. I have all my evergreen blogs set up in Recurpost and they now drip out to my chosen social networks on the schedule I set. It is awesome!

Later

Like Hootsuite, this is a social scheduling and planning tool. Unlike Hootsuite, it’s a visual planner. What does this mean? You can plug in your social media posts for the next week, month, whatever, and see how it looks as a collection—this is especially powerful for Instagram. You can also save images, captions, and hashtags in the tool for easy re-use. Once your post is scheduled it either publishes it for you sends a push notification (on Instagram) when it’s time. I’ve used this tool for the past month or so and so far, I like it. The visual plan helps me see how each image works together and helps me stay on brand.

File Storage

If you’re like me, then you’re working on multiple computers, devices, and networks on any given day. What this means is you need everything within easy access. Yes, you can drag your external hard drive around but you can also put everything you need in the cloud. Here are my best apps for freelance writers for working in the cloud.

Google Drive

If you use Google Docs, Forms, and Sheets, then you already know how awesome a partner Google Drive is. You can keep all your documents, images, and whatever else in one web-based place. You can share documents or folders with the click of a button and you can collaborate on documents with ease, adding comments and track changes as needed.

Dropbox

This is similar to Google Drive but more people use it (at least in my circles). Used more for file sharing than anything else, this is a great way to send huge files back and forth. I use it in my podcast editing work and find it not only easy to use but quick and efficient. I have multiple Dropbox folders for different reasons and I can customize which folders download to which computer so it stays clean and simple.

LastPass

You need secure passwords and you also need to log into different accounts a zillion times per day on different devices. And, if your day-to-day work is anything like mine, then you’re logging in and out of various client accounts all the day long. There is NO WAY you’re remembering all those passwords and you are NOT keeping them in your phone or on a notepad. You need them in a password safe. I love LastPass because I can use it on any computer or device and only need to remember ONE password. All the rest are stored in the password safe and are there when I need them.

The beauty of smartphones is you can work on the go and have amazing tools at your fingertips to keep you at the cutting edge of the writing game. The downside of smartphones is the sheer volume of options. How do you know which apps are time savers and which are time wasters?

Well, that’s my roundup of best apps for freelance writers. Hope you can find something awesome to help make your writing life more efficient.

Do you have any suggestions for best apps for freelance writers? Let me know! I’m always looking for new favourites.