Just as carpenters have hammers and doctors have stethoscopes, freelance writers have a few tools of their own as well. While the first writing tools that come to mind are usually things like pens, pads of paper, and a laptop computer, quite possibly the most important tools of the trade are not physical items at all. Given the nature of the Internet and how the vast majority of my freelance writing work is online, it’s understandable that some of the tools of greatest value are those that you can find online.
In my experience as a freelancer, these are some of the (free) online writing tools that I have come to use. It would be impossible to name them all, so I’ve limited the list to just five.
Online Word Count
You may have noticed that when you copy and paste text from Microsoft Word into WordPress, you occasionally get some rather odd characters that don’t display correctly. For this and some other reasons, I actually prefer to do most of my writing in Notepad. Yes, Notepad, possibly the most basic of Windows applications. One of the (many) shortcomings of Notepad is that it does not have a built-in word count. Thankfully, there is an online word count tool that accomplishes this little piece of functionality. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done.
Common Errors in English
Do you know the difference between affect and effect? How about when you should use whom instead of who? English can be a very tricky language, filled with all sorts of rules and then exceptions to all those rules. A professor from Washington State University has put together a webpage that lists several common errors in English. Chances are that if you have any uncertainty or ambiguity about how something should be worded, that page will clarify the issue for you.
It depends on the topic and you may be able to get the most exhaustive of explanations, but Wikipedia can serve as an excellent source of information. Just be sure to take the articles with a grain of salt, because Wikipedia is known to have some random people messing up the pages. By and large, though, they get the job done. It was through Wikipedia that I learned more about Boom Boom Satellites (Bun Bun Sateraitsu).
Firefox Web Browser
Remember how I said that I typically use Notepad for composing my freelance writing articles? Another shortcoming of Notepad is that it does not have a spellchecker… but Mozilla Firefox does. The whole multi-tab browsing thing and del.icio.us bookmarks integration (via a plugin) come in really handy too.
All Things Google
You knew that Google was going to make the list. You can use it to get your news from everywhere around the world. You can use it to search for information on just about anything. You can even use it to organize all your email in one convenient location. Going further, there are Google Docs, Calendar, Maps, Image Search… the list goes on and on. We may fight with Google over SEO and some of the company’s practices, so for this reason, Google is simultaneously my best friend and my worst enemy.
As I said, it is impossible for me to list all the free online tools and services that I use for my freelance work. There are some great stock photography sites, for example, that can come in handy when composing a feature keyword article. What are some of your favourite online freelance writing tools?