This is a funny page for me to be writing. I never thought I’d sell anything to anyone! I was a reporter, y’know.
Since that’s what this blog is all about, I’m proud to recommend the products below.
My policy: I only recommend products and services I have personally used or thoroughly reviewed. The books and tools below are all created by mentors and teachers I really trust. I’ve used them, loved them, and they helped me build my business.
With everything it takes to be a successful writer online today, you need really useful, affordable tools that make you look professional. I’m frequently asked how I manage my busy freelance-writing career — so now you know what’s behind the curtain.
If you click on the product links below, I will get a commission. I have some affiliate links in my blog posts, too. Want to be up-front about that.
If you are considering using these tools and products, I appreciate your using my referral links. Won’t cost you a dime extra, and it helps keep this blog cranking out the free, practical tips that help you earn more. (If you’re looking for books I recommend, click here.)
Recommended Products & Courses
My experience: In 2010, Jon Morrow noticed one of my articles on Twitter and asked me to guest post on Copyblogger, where he’s associate editor. He worked with me on my first guest post for them, and I do mean worked…I actually ripped up the first try on his advice and wrote a whole new one. Which, with his guidance, went on to get over 1,000 retweets and be included in Best of Copyblogger 2010.
Which is my long way of saying: Jon Morrow is a genius when it comes to blogging. Did I mention he literally wrote the book on how to write Internet headlines? Yep, he wrote Copyblogger’s famous Headline Hacks report. So when I found out he was doing a group-coaching course for bloggers, where he works with you for three entire months, I thought…wow. He worked with me once, for like an hour. I can’t even imagine what would happen to your blog and your writing career if you had three months of his time!
This program is insane, honestly — you get headline-clinic calls with him, Q&A sessions…and at the end of the course, he introduces you to other top bloggers who’re looking for guest posters. I’m unaware of any other pro blogger who is performing this kind of service.
If you’d like a taste of his brilliance, check out this free step-by-step guide for writing blog posts that go viral. If you need to learn how blogging *really* works and how you can start building an audience, Jon explains that all for you brilliantly.
My experience: I joined an earlier iteration of the A-List classes, called A-List Blogger Club. It was really affordable, and I’d learned a lot from co-founder Leo Babauta’s free eBook on how he got 150,000 subscribers on his Zen Habits blog. I thought I’d quickly read all their content and go on my way.
But what I found in A-List, both in quantity and quality of information, totally blew me away. If you want gritty details about real-life changes I made to this blog as a direct result of being in A-List, I’ve blogged in detail about why I joined and what I learned about blog design, and about how A-List helped me with technology.
Now, A-List is better than ever, and has several specific programs, including A-List Blogging Masterclass and Blog-Writer’s Bootcamp. This setup is less overwhelming and allows you to work on exactly what you need to learn, either as a new blogger or one looking to grow and refine your blogging.
When you’re serious about blogging and freelance writing, you need a robust platform for presenting yourself online. That’s where WordPress comes in. You want to get off the free version and pay for hosting, because you’ll have a lot more flexibility, and the ability to sell things from your sites (you want that, right?).
I run all my sites on WordPress. It’s the dominant blogging platform, which means it’s got many awesome plugins that increase its functionality. It’s also easy to learn. I’m totally non-technical, and I can change my sidebar stuff and write and schedule posts. WordPress allows you to easily do most tasks yourself, and save a bundle.
My experience: OK, this is embarrassing. But until around 2011, I had no real bookkeeping system for my freelance writing business. I wrote my assignments down in a Word document, and I threw them into another part of the document when they got paid. I know!
Thankfully, a writer-friend introduced me to Freshbooks. They let you get started free for your first few clients, so you have a chance to try it out and see if it’s for you, which I really liked.
If you decide to use it, Freshbooks is low-cost, and it’s intuitive and easy to use. And man, does it make my invoices look a heck of a lot more professional! I was just sending lame Word document attachments before.
When you’re a freelance writer, you need a website — a writer website, or a home for your blog. Or both. Otherwise, it’s like you’re invisible.
I’ve been talking to freelance writers for a decade now about their web hosts, and I hear a lot of complaints about service (or lack of it) on most of the big-name platforms.
Know the ONE place I only hear good things about? BlueHost. As you can see from that graphic, BlueHost is also dirt cheap, and offers 1-click WordPress installs. Also, Smart Passive Income’s Pat Flynn, who I think is superb, recommends BlueHost. So that’s another big vote for BlueHost in my book.
My experience: Full disclosure: I already had my site set up when this service from GhostwriterDad (and now Amazon fiction phenom) Sean Platt launched, so I did not set up my site through them. BUT…when I started reviewing writer websites OutstandingSETUP created for members of Freelance Writers Den and had a chance to check out their work, I was sold immediately on this low-cost WordPress website design/hosting/support service.
If you’re considering hiring some fancy-pants designer for many hundreds because you want a really great-looking site, and you’re grappling with learning WordPress and wondering who will help you when things break, this could be a simple, affordable solution. This team knows how to set up an attractive, clean site that’s a real sales tool for your writing services. And OutstandingSETUP was recently upgraded and revamped to be even easier to use.
It kills me when writers show me an expensive site they’ve had designed that has to be REdone because it’s a mess…so avoid all that and check this service out. If you do…use the code ‘carol-tice’ to get the first month of service for just $1.
My experience: Writer’s Residence came to my attention fairly recently as a new alternative for freelance writers. Big plus: These folks do nothing but create writer websites!
I checked out their site and their pricing and think they represent a great new option for getting up a quick, simple WordPress-based writer website.
Things I love here include a handy portfolio-building tool, and a 30-day free trial. They’ve got a great intro video that quickly shows you how to use their platform. And after that free trial, it’s just $8.99 a month US to use the service.
Once I learned how important it is to stay in touch with readers through an email list, I quickly discovered you can’t email a big list from inside your regular email program — it gets blocked. It also looks like crap.
You need a pro email provider so that you look pro to your blog readers. The premium provider, Aweber, was way too intimidating for me — and you have to pay from the start. Mailchimp is free for the first 2,000 subscribers. So as far as I’m concerned, every beginning blogger should be on it! You have nothing to lose by giving it a try.
Now, email marketing is one of the easiest parts of my life as a blogger. Mailchimp gives you super-easy tools for creating and replicating campaigns and autoresponders (they’ll teach you what those are if you don’t know). It’s a snap to create an RSS campaign that sends out your blog posts. There’s tons of helpful support on email and in their forums and other materials. You can make your campaigns look just the way you want and change them in a minute flat.
Finally, their help desk is super-responsive. I think they feed them extra bananas.
Many of the books listed below were instrumental in helping me build my freelance writing business. Others are from top teachers I’ve gotten to know in recent years.
These are all books I’ve read, highly recommend…and affiliate sell. Thanks for buying through me — you won’t pay a dime more, and it helps me keep this blog stocked with a constant supply of fresh, free advice on how to grow your writing income.
The Writer’s Market
I’ve been talking about this book since way before the several recent editions, in which I have an article…and am mentioned on the cover. Really, that’s a total coincidence.
I’ve read this reference book for years in my own freelance-writing quest for new markets.
Online, you get constant updates about new listings and editor changes and you can sort their database instantly by publication type, key word, pay level, and more. Really the essential resource if you’re interested in breaking in to new publications. Here’s my post on all the ways you can use The Writer’s Market.
The Well-Fed Writer & The Well-Fed Self-Publisher
My experience: I’ve been benefiting from Peter Bowerman’s advice for years now and love his Well-Fed Writer philosophy. Lately, I’m using the newly-updated sequel, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, to help me sell my own ebook. It’s really been my bible for learning how to sell a product, which was brand-new to me.
I recently blogged about how his advice on how to break into copywriting helped me take my family on an Alaska cruise, as I added so much additional income. His new eBook is Profitable — By Design!, all about how to use partnerships with graphic designers to send you a steady stream of juicy gigs.
Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race and Step Into a Career You’ll Love
My teaching partner, the incomparable Renegade Writer author and blogger Linda Formichelli, has a great new book out for writers trying to make the leap from day job to freelancing. I got to read a preview copy and even contributed a few tips on how to screw up your courage and go for it, along with dozens of other writers. This one allows you to hear many real-life stories of how the switch was made, and how to succeed in launching your freelancing from scratch.
Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race is the practical book you need to help you stop dreaming about quitting the job and make it happen.
Also…Linda’s got another couple of great co-written books:
The Renegade Writer & The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock
My experience: I’ve been lucky to get to know Linda. I think she’s whip-smart. First we did a call together, and the next thing you knew, we teach several different classes together, including Article Writing Masterclass, Pitch Clinic, and 4-Week Journalism School. We’ve had Diana as a Freelance Writers Den guest, and she is whip-smart as well!
Along the way, I’ve learned that many writers don’t have strong querying skills. Linda and Diana offer great advice gleaned from their many years scoring assignments from more than 100 publications. You really get it from the horse’s mouth in The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success and The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Selling More Work Faster.