Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why Freelance Writers Are Lacking When It Comes to Technology

. . . And What They Can Do to Get Caught Up

I'm constantly amazed at the lack of technology know-how among freelance writers - and I wholeheartedly include myself in this category. So, why do freelance writers lag in this area?

Following are my theories - based NOT on personal experience at all, of course :-)

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1) We are word people: NOT code people.

When writers get an idea, they want to write about it. We don't want to learn how to optimize it for better search engine placement, how to add pictures to it to generate more interest, or how to make (more) money from it by doing "x."

Anything that requires more than logging on and starting to write just takes too much time - time that writers would rather spend writing. And, although this is said tongue-in-cheek, I'm dead serious.

Writers, especially those who make a living from their craft, are often on deadline. By the time you grasp an idea, research it, write it, edit it and fact-check it, that leaves very little time for "figuring things out."

2) Technology Moves Too Fast: It seems like every time I catch on to one fad, another one has already sprung. Take blogging. I've been blogging since February of 2005. But, blogging has been around since the mid-1990s, almost a decade by the time I got around to it.

Now that I've got that down pat, social networking is all the rage (eg, MySpace, FaceBook, Digging, etc.).

And, let's not forget all of the technology around blogs, eg, Technorati (a blog tracking site); RSS feeds (technology that lets you distribute and promote your content); Pinging (basically a notification system that lets readers know your blog has been updated), etc.

There is so much more software, tutorials, affiliate programs, e-books and websites on the subject, that it can be overwhelming.

Tips for Staying on Top of Technology & Making it Pay (Literally!) for You

a) Be Judicious: Don't feel the need to jump on every new trend or piece of software that comes along. There are two advantages to this:

i) it gets out of the beta stage: Most new software has to go thru beta (a testing phase) before all the kinks are worked out. This can be a few months or a few years. Let the kinks get worked out on someone else's dime and time.

This leads to my next point:

ii) you can get a feel for how to make it work for you: usually, once a software or idea has been in use for a while, there is tons of feedback. Use this to your advantage.

Take the time to research as much about the software/idea/program as you can before you implement it in your freelance writing business. After reading the feedback, you might discover that what you had in mind won't work. Or, that this program is not something you want to implement after all.

My mother used to say, "The only thing wasted by waiting is time ... and if it's right today, it will be right tomorrow." So, don't worry about not being the first, ahead of the competition, or a market leader.

While being among the first can certainly pay off in the right situation, it's how you use a software/idea/program, not when you decide to use it.

b) Time: As in, carve out time. One of the reasons I think freelancers don't stay on top of technology as much as they should is that it takes time to learn the ins and out of a new program, piece of software, etc.

Usually though, it's not nearly as much as we think.

So, if you decide to set up a MySpace page for example, carve out a day or two to devote to getting it up. Instead of scheduling it in with a ton of other duties on a given day, do just that one thing.

Setting aside a dedicated amount of time to accomplish "x" is always better than promising to get to it "sometime this week."

Technology is something that all freelance writers must stay abreast of to be successful. And, as I just learned when I was forced to update my blog to the new system used by, my blog's host, if you don't do it willingly, sooner or later you will be forced to.
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Laura said...

Good article!

An important factor that you left out--money. Many freelancers are working from their homes on a shoestring budget. When the company paid for the training and software upgrades it was easy to keep up. When it comes out of your own pocket--well, it just might not be so easy.

Inkwell Editorial said...

Laura, how right you are! I've been freelancing so long that I just kind of take this for granted. Thanks for pointing out the all too obvious.