Monthly Archives: June 2010

5 Useful Online Writing Tools to Make You More Productive

In my more than two years of  writing for various blogs, I’ve grown accustomed to using various online tools that  helped me become a more efficient and more productive blogger.  Here are five of these useful online tools to help you with your writing/blogging chores.

Windows Live Writer – Never mind if you’re not a Microsoft fan. But Live Writer is definitely a very robust, useful and dependable blogging tool. It could be the best among the lot. Live Writer lets you set multiple blogs and directly publish post to them.

Microsoft Research ESL Assistant – A useful tool for non-English-as-a first-language bloggers.  This tool provides correction suggestions for typical ESL (English as a Second Language) errors including choice of determiners and propositions, as well as word choice suggestions.

Google Translate – If you’re like me who covers netbook news, I usually encounter news items in various languages including French, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, and others. And if a foreign-language site is your only source of information about a particular new gadget, you have no other recourse but to use Google’s Translation tool. It may not be the most accurate translation but it’s enough to give you the gist of what the news is all about. More than enough to you to compose  a decent news blog post.

Google’s Currency Converter – Again another useful online tool for tech bloggers. If you’re writing about new products and gadgets which you sourced out from foreign-language blogs, you simply type the price plus the currency’s name in Google’s search box,  hit enter and you’ll be given the U.S. Dollar equivalent.

Google Docs – Who doesn’t use Google Docs yet? Ever heard of cloud computing? Google Docs is a very good and useful example of a cloud storage service. I use it for drafting long posts which I need to edit from time to time even when I’m using different computers.

Honorable Mention:

Copyscape – If you’re not sure if you are plagiarizing other people’s content, especially true if you’re writing about original topics and not regurgitating news items, Copyscape is an invaluable tool.

Other Tech News
North Korea denies ‘righteous’ hack attack on Sony
The Japanese comfort women issue still rages on

How to Start Looking for a Better Job

LifeSpy, a site I used to own, has a great article on how to look for a new and better job. The article could be used for finding any type of job, even one in online publishing as a paid blogger.

Broadcast. Your boss is probably not the person to know that you’re looking for a better, higher-paying job, but tell your colleagues and friends that you are on the lookout for another job. Your friends/colleagues may know people who can help you get a job interview. If you’ve been wise enough, you should probably now have a good base of contacts. Some of the companies that you’ve dealt with may have openings here and there.

Surf. The internet has an amazing network of resources and you can maximize your internet connection by checking out sites which have regular job postings. If you feel guilty doing job hunting during office hours, do it in between breaks so you can search for available jobs without using up your work time. Now if you know that the office network’s a secure one, for the love of all that’s living, do it elsewhere. Your snotty network administrators may intercept your activity and get you fired in no time.

Searching for a job can be difficult, but if you take the time to search around online, there are some great resources. I know a few people that have found decent blogging jobs on the Problogger Job Board so check it out if what you are looking for is a problogging job. I, personally, couldn’t recommend this career path enough.

Secondary Benefits to Blogging

For many people, it is not the blog that brings about a change in the person’s life, but instead the secondary benefits of blogging.

Secondary benefits include book deals, invitations to speak at conferences, free products to review, and even employment opportunities.

I haven’t yet experienced most of the above list, but I have watched as the bloggers that I enjoy have continued to climb the social ladder and gain access to some of those great benefits.

I have, however, been given products, and access to services due to my standing in the blogging community, which was really exciting. I was able to give my opinion to my readers allowing them to make an informed decision. It also allowed me to “geek out”, which is something I don’t get to do often enough.

Why does blogging bring about such things? Blogs can allow a person interested in you, what you do, or what you have to say in a very quick, and focused way. Most blogs will give an overview of the writer’s work ethic, writing ability, and most importantly, your personality.

So, don’t think that just because you don’t know how to monetize a blog, that nothing will come from your efforts. From what I have read, more people are able to gain access to the secondary benefits of blogging than living off the money they make directly from their blog. Either way, it sounds like a good deal to me.

Starting a Blog: Idea Mapping

One of the things that happens to bloggers far too often is writer’s block. People run out of ideas, and almost always it is because they did not plan ahead.

Once you select a niche, you need to spend some time mapping out your ideas, goals, and things you need to do. For this site, I spent about two weeks creating a long to-do list of the things I needed to do to launch the site, as well as writing up around thirty sections, and hundreds of post ideas.

Some post ideas are just subjects, or titles, and others have a few sentences or bullet points to make sure I remember what I wanted to say.

Why did it take me so long?

I wanted to make sure I had enough source material to really make a go at this site. I didn’t want to be all dried up in a week, and leave you all hanging until I found something new or interesting to say.

So many bloggers skip this step and get right into producing content, and they eventually have huge gaps in their publishing, or close down their blog, and neither route will bring you closer to becoming a reasonably paid blogger.

How do you come up with ideas?

The simplest way to come up with ideas is to create a list of twenty or thirty keywords to describe what you want to cover.

Say you picked shoes as your niche. Well, brand names would be a keyword, manufacturing would be another, and you could keep expanding into sub-keywords. Some of these will become your categories, and others will just be articles within your site.

Another step that you can take is to look at competing sites. Many times you will see something your competition has missed, or their information is so old that it isn’t relevant. I have come up with dozens of posts thanks to my competition.

How many ideas do I need?

Well, this is definitely personal, but I would say that you should have enough post ideas to last you three months of posting, whatever your post schedule may be. So if you are going to do thirty posts a month, you might want to write out a list of ninety items that you want to touch on.

You don’t have to systematically go through the list you’ve created; in fact, you would be better off to only use list items when you can’t think of anything better to write about. This will mean that you will have a much longer lasting site with an idea well to come to.

I also recommend adding new ideas when you have less than a months worth left, as you never know when you will come across writers block, or a super dead news week.

Summary

So if you are going to start a site, and you want it to be successful, planning is the key, and a list of post ideas will bring you much closer to your goals as a blogger, and set you apart from your competition.