Every professional needs “tools of the trade” to complete the job at the highest level. Writer’s need help crafting their words so their content can be clear, concise, and creative on a consistent basis. I’ve gathered my favorite editing tools that help me create content faster allowing my business to be efficient.
The faster and more efficient you become at your craft the more confidence grows and soon enough you’ll have no insecurities.
(Leave a comment and tell me what you think. Please provide any additional tools).
Grammarly is my go-to because it is a free writing assistant that can be used as an online editing tool, a spellchecker on your phone, WordPress, and your Google Docs. It quickly lets you know what errors there are and gives you a score as it focuses on correcting over 250 types of grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, and vocabulary usage.
There is a free version but there is also a paid version that offers more features.
Grammarly has a blog that provides writing tips.
I love to use this tool to quickly edit and proofread my content, social media post, text messages, emails, and everything else that gives written communication.
I use this editor to get directions on my sentence structure as its strength lies in its ability to highlight long hard to read sentences. It also lets the writer know if there are too many adverbs, if there is too much use of passive voice, and if there is a better word choice. It is an online tool that gives writers tips on creating a better document by providing a readability score (based on grade level). It also has a counter for words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences.
I love using this tool to ensure my writing is tight and simple.
This online editor aims for precise editing to assist with crafting strong prose. It provides information such as the amount of time it would take to read your content but there is no grammar checking. It offers stats like word and character count.
The company also has a blog.
I love this online editor because it has text to speech so I can hear content out loud.
A well-written reference book by on how to proofread. It provides a formula for dead/live versions of the document that ensure accurate and consistent editing. She walks the reader through a step-by-step process for editing and proofreading.
I learned from the WELL-FED WRITER, Peter Bowman, that if your market yourself on a consistent basis, you will put yourself ahead of about 95% of your competitors.
About a year ago, I moved into my first property (a small condo just outside of Atlanta). I negotiated with the seller to have them give me money to fix a simple leaky faucet in the bathroom. I hired an older gentleman that actually bought the first condo ever built in my community. He found out I was a freelance copywriter, so he recommended I read this friend’s book. I paid him no mind as he seemed to be a very talkative person.
It just so happens his friend was Peter Bowerman, author of The Well-Fed Writer. Once I read the book and got a chance to meet Peter I realize my approach to getting clients was backwards. As a former salesman who started a commercial writing business, he was never concerned with the essence of being a “creative.” His only concern was to make money. His secret was prospecting! Now that is my focus when it comes to marketing my business.
Below is a quick guide to what I learned about prospecting, which for a creative/writer is a little different than a small business and corporate America.
Prospecting is Finding and Pre-Qualifying Appropriate Prospects
Prospecting for me is finding the best opportunities to get paid well for my skills. Since the services I offer are content marketing and business writing I search for people (prospects) who need writing work done and are willing to pay livable rates.
I had to systemize the process of prospecting for my business to become successful because it is time-consuming and a never-ending endeavor.
Developing a Basic Prospecting System
I had to systemize the process of prospecting for my business since I have to spend time working on projects but can’t stop marketing since I am a freelancer (The Purpose Paradox).
Build a List of Quantified Prospects
Use tools (details below) to find people who will need your services and compile all their information in a spreadsheet.
Personalize Your Approach Based on Your USP
Show the prospect you care by doing research and pinpointing what they may need help with.
Ensure the prospects that you are a legit business and interested in taking care of their needs.
Be Ready to Deliver the Best Work You Ever Did
Be prepared to do a good job if you want to win the prospect over so you can keep them as a regular client.
Always be prepared to follow-up.
Knowing 80 percent of people out there will not need my business, I decided to create formulaic ways of going about the process so valuable time doesn’t get wasted.
It starts with studying your market (Research, Research, Research)!
You find prospects that need your services by building a list of prospects by using tools (see below for a quick list).
Reach out to the prospects and then follow-up.
Pay the number’s game.
How to Build a List of Prospects
I developed a “search” criteria based on my prior experiences, my skills, and my interest/hobbies/passions to narrow down the markets I reach out to (this is my unique selling proposition).
The main component I look for is if the opportunity pays well.
Quality is better than quantity so I target high-quality prospects.
Tools to Find Prospects
The Writer’s Market
a Lot of Blogs Have “Best Paying List”
The Yellow Pages
I Network at Local Events
Local Business Directories
Who I Prospect
Coporate America, Major Universities, Government Offices may need to outsoruce their workload, so always keep in touch with them.
Responsible for different literature, brochures, product information, videos, ad campaigns, promotional material, internal newsletters, etc.
I reach out to publications that pay writers well for their work to keep a steady flow of income that is tied in with exposure.
Agencies/Firms – Graphic Design, Digital Marketing, Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations
Others – Event Production Companies, Agents/Brokers
I follow the submissions guidelines (which usually includes pitching your story idea).
I find the editor’s email and then send a query letter with at least 2 clips to pitch my story idea.
I find the editor-in-chief or top editor’s email and them send a letter of introduction with at least 2 clips and a limited breakdown of the idea(s) I have.
I also reach out to businesses to see if they work with freelance copywriters because they usually pay better for writing jobs, but the amount of exposure is much lower (very little social proof).
Small & Medium Businesses
Small Ad Agencies/ Marketing Agencies
Ways to Prospect (The cornerstone of any business).
I aim for at least 50 calls a week but will make up to 500 calls (to different businesses) depending on the niche.
When I call I ask to speak to Marketing Managers, Chief Copywriters, Media Contacts, Public Relations/ Communications Directors, or Creative Directors (Marketing or Ad Agency).
If it is a small business, I’ll ask for the owner or manager.
When I call I don’t do much selling, instead I get the email address so I can send a letter of introduction.
I network with entrepreneurs I met in social groups and do work for their businesses.
Networking with Other Creatives (Referrals):
I also network with other writers to see if they have any leftovers.
If they do, then I follow up with an email containing a letter of introduction along with 2 “leave-behinds.”
I also try to partner with 4 to 5 Local graphic designers (I got this from the Well-Fed Writer).
I reach out to web designers, illustrators, traffic specialists, marketers, videographers, and photographers.
I had to play it by ear at first to find out the most effective way to market my services, when to market my services, and how much marketing I needed to do.
60% of my time is spent looking for business and 40% actually doing it.
Right now I spend most of my time marketing and do gigs as they come.
The moral of the story is you never know where an opportunity will come from. Obviously, there is no telling where your chance will come from but to become financially self-sufficient you have to take calculated risks that separate starving artist from profitable creatives. It is definitely hard work and with a smart approach it’s manageable, so apply yourself and stand out from all the freelancers. Free yourself from being a slave to your employee and that barely livable paycheck.
According to The Urban Institute via CNBC, millennials are less likely to be homeowners due to student loans, waiting to get married until age 30, and paying high rent for long periods of time.
Individuals without a ton of money (like myself) don’t buy homes because:
The Closing Cost
The Down Payment
The Cost to Move
The Getting Settled Cost
The Cost of Property Taxes
are expensive altogether.
However, purchasing a home is still a great investment in the long run especially if you buy in an up and coming area where the value of your property can rise over time.
I just had a scare. When the property taxes were right around the corner in Cobb County, Georgia I wasn’t sure I’d make it to Halloween. My heart dropped when I opened that bill from the county even though everything was explained to me by my mortgage company and my real estate agent (Hey, Michelle).
However, all of my future pain was eased by simply reading about my escrow account.
Read below to see what I found out.
Mortgage companies/ lenders are not willing to take the risk the homeowner will not pay their property taxes, which are usually due once or twice a year.
To help combat the issues of borrower’s having issues with paying the taxes, mortgage companies tend to set up an escrow account in their name and it is usually mandatory under the mortgage terms.
Lenders establish the escrow account to pay:
Your monthly payment includes the escrow account amount as well as the principal and interest portion of the mortgage account, however, the money for the escrow account is deposited separately.
The amount of money that goes into the escrow account is estimated by the mortgage company/lender on a yearly basis.
If the lender underestimates you have to pay the difference (typically, the lender will spread out payments over a year).
If the lender overestimates, you get a refund.
Property taxes will change over time so will your escrow.
You can claim the deductions on your taxes (along with your mortgage interest).
The funds are handled by an escrow agent.
If you have any questions or issues, contact your lender immediately as the payment is your responsibility.
Once you build up enough equity in your home (at least 20%) and are current on your payments you may have the option to cancel your escrow payment. If done, paying the property taxes and insurance, on time in full, is now your responsibility.
Luckily for me, I’ve paid my mortgage on time every month so I just stuffed the property tax bill in my property binder and starting writing this.
They say purchasing a property is the biggest purchase one will ever make so why not make it as simple as possible. Use these steps as a guide to ensure you make the best possible decision.
1. Get a Pre-Approval Letter.
It’s free and shows the listing agents you are serious.
Many blogs will tell you to start with research but the key is to see how much you can afford first. There is no better way to find out what you can afford then getting preapproved by a lender. Find a lender by looking for financial institutions that will provide a mortgage.
The lender will:
Be able to help you decide what amount you can spend on a new home.
Check your credit score, ask your income, your savings, and debt.
Ask if you expect financial help in the form of gifts.
You are building a relationship with the lender, which will come in handy later on.
At the same time don’t feel like you have to go with the lender you got the pre-approval letter from.
Continuing looking for the best lender no matter what.
Please be advised:
When the lenders check your credit it will affect your score
Factors to keep in mind are:
Find a home that is no more than three to five times your annual household income.
There are national down payment assistance programs.
There are local down payment assistance programs.
Some lenders will provide credits(money) for down payments.
2. Do a Little Research
The lender will provide a real estate agent they work with, but you do not have to use them just yet.
Now that you know your spending power, get online and start using sites like Zillow, Realtor, Trulia, and Realestate.com to find your areas of interest. What’s available will be solely dependent on the market condition, which varies drastically depending on significant factors.
Look at properties within your price range.
Weight the pros and cons of your areas of interest and the types/styles of property you want.
Check off as much as you can on your “must have” list.
Check out Craiglist and county property auctions to get a good idea of what is out there in your areas of interest but often those properties are unique circumstances.
3. Find an Agent or Agency
An agency will have more access to properties and can grant you access to an “MLS” database.
In Atlanta for example, a lot of the properties on Zillow are already gone by the time you contact someone or someone is close to making an offer. Your agent has relationships and contacts with other realtors that can help find properties that just went on the market or the buyer backed out of, etc.
4. Schedule a Day to View Multiple Properties
(Preferably within Miles of Each Other)
If you have a good agent, they will ask what date and time works best for you and can set up appointments to few multiple properties on the same day and hopefully around the same time in the same area.
Make sure you think about:
The down payment
The closing cost
The home association fees and other monthly costs besides the mortgage.
Make sure the home association’s rules and regulations are manageable for you.
5. Make an Offer
You found your new home, so now it’s time to get it.
Get approval from your support group (parents, significant other, friends, coworkers).
Consult with your agent if you go under, right at, or above the asking price.
Make your offer!
– Due Diligence Period –
Before completing the purchase have the property investigated for potentially costly problems. If you find issues you can negotiate the price with the seller.
6. Earnest Money
You will be required to provide a payment of 1% of the total cost of the property. It is a sign of good faith. The money is held in an escrow account and can be refunded during the Due Diligence period. If at any time you feel like you want to walk away you can without penalty and you get the deposit back.
7. Inspection/Appraisal /Home Insurance
Hire an inspector to look through every inch of the home to ensure there are no major issues including the foundation, HVAC systems, termites, and/or a leaking roof.
The lender will usually require an appraisal to ensure the property is worth what the seller is asking for. He/She will let you know what the property is worth in a fair market. The appraiser is chosen by the lender to maintain a level of independence from the buyer and seller.
You will receive a detailed report about the property and it will have comparisons to similar ones in the neighborhood.
Call your car insurance and get a quote. If there is no discount or you are not satisfied with the price, shop around.
Now is the agent’s time to shine. You have all the information you need about the property, now is the time to try to get the best price.
9. Don’t Use Your Credit
The lender will be watching your credit while the process of the purchase is still going on. A big purchase could change your debt-to-income ratio. A huge change could result in you not getting the mortgage loan. A lot of people rush to the furniture store to furnish their new home and end up not getting the loan needed for the home they wanted since their debt-to-income ratio changed negatively.
The closing attorney will schedule a date, where the buyer and seller will sign all the paperwork.
You will meet the seller, the seller’s agent, your agent, and the closing attorney to sign all the paperwork for the lender, the closing attorney, and the seller.
Things to Have On Hand:
The Down Payment
The Closing Cost
Just in case you need it, here is my 5-star agent’s info:
Michelle Barraclough is a licensed Real Estate Agent from Mark Spain Real Estate in the Greater Atlanta Area.