It is virtually impossible to be a full-time freelance writer without being computer literate. Moreover, it is becoming impossible to sustain yourself in this business unless you are on-line, with e-mail, both home and away. It goes without saying that you have a cell phone and a pager (preferably all in one), a fax machine, a second phone line, a laptop, and the ability to cross computer platforms. You may also own a scanner, a copy machine, a dependable back-upsystem, a Palm Pilot, a portable e-mail device, and countless software programs.
If you are at the stage of merely contemplating going into business, that list may seem daunting. First, there is the cost; second, there is the necessity to set up and use all of that can't-live-without equipment. When I started my business some of that technology didn't even exist; or, if it did, it wasn't absolutely necessary for survival. What is so astonishing is how much has changed in so short a time. I have added one piece of equipment at a time over the years because I felt it enabled me to better serve my clients. From one now-extinct Osborne computer and a dot-matrix printer, I have upgraded to the point of having barely any open desk space and a floor full of twisted, overlapping electrical cords. And I suspect I'm not finished "adding."
Any major corporation that is not set up to compete in the era of e-commerce will be at a distinct disadvantage in the 21st century. Like it or not, that is tomorrow's reality, and tomorrow has a way of coming around before we are ready. While you may never be connected to a WAN (wide area network) or have your clients pay you with credit cards or electronic checks, there are other things that will be expected of you as a businessperson. Here are some steps you should take, if you are to meet those expectations.
- Upgrade your computer (or buy a new one) so that it functions at the optimum level for your particular business. That may mean adding more memory, a second external hard drive, or a better back-up system.
- Check, optimize, de-fragment, and generally clean up your hard drive. Use Norton Disk Doctor or any trouble-shooting tools you may have to be certain everything is in working order. Be sure your virus detection program is up to date.
- Clean up your files. Get rid of the junk or applications you have never used and never will; games that came with the system, especially if you don't play games; and anything else that is taking up space but serving no useful purpose. Put all of your inactive clients and projects, old research, and infrequently used files on a second hard drive or a remote server. Just get them off your hard drive.
- Back up everything that's left, including the system, on tape, on CDs, a second hard drive, or any place you have designated for back up. If that requires special software, buy it. If you've ever had a hard drive crash, you know it is well worth the investment. If you haven't, there is a 92 percent chance that you will.
- Make sure your operating system and software are compatible with your clients' or publishers' or can be reconfigured to interface, if it is not. You may need to make some changes by adding software packages, upgrading your system, or even purchasing a second computer. If you are a died-in-the-wool Mac fanatic, as I am, even with OSX, you still have to add software to access Windows.
- Take inventory of your equipment. What do you have, and what do you need that you don't have? If your clients are aggravated by not being able to send a fax because you are on the phone or the Internet, you need a second phone line. If you don't get messages because your answering machine breaks down or your voice mail box is on overload, that is a problem you must fix. If everyone is on e-mail and you're still resisting, you are, in effect, cutting yourself off from the world. If you are out more than you're in, you have to remember to either check your voice mail every hour, or buy a pager or a cell phone. The point is to make it easy for others to do business with you in this electronic age.
- Finally, as you add all of this paraphernalia, learn to use it correctly. Having all the bells and whistles but not knowing how to make them work for your business does not increase your responsiveness; it just decreases your bank account. The name of the game is not, he who dies with the most toys wins; it is, she who best meets her clients' needs succeeds in business.
Bobbi Linkemer is a ghostwriter, editor, and the author of 12 books. She works with executives and entrepreneurs who want to enhance their credibility and increase business by writing books. Visit http://www.WriteANonfictionBook.com or call 314-968-8661.