In the life of every freelance writer, there are certain things that are must-haves. The list of must-have essentials is really rather short. For the most part, you need a computer, an internet connection, and a word processor. Having a website and all that other good stuff is necessary, too, but the real bare bones of a freelance writer’s toolbox is really in those three things. Outside of the ability to write, of course.
But in my humble opinion, there is one major resource that freelance writers overlook. And I think it’s a pretty big oversight. Of course, the only reason I know this is because I myself overlooked it for the first three months of my freelancing career, and once I discovered what an asset it could be, I kicked myself for not realizing it in the first place.
So what is this big asset? What is this amazing resource? And does it cost a lot?
Actually it’s free.
It’s your local library.
This is a picture of my local library, which I love dearly. I also go to a few of the other libraries around me in my county. I’m sure that most of you are familiar with the concept of a local library so I won’t go into detail about how to find yours, etc. But if you’ve never actually visited your local library, you should start now if you are a freelance writer.
How do I love my local library? Let me count the ways.
No really, I’m going to count them. Not all of them. But for the purposes of this post, I’ll count down the top 10. In no particular order.
1. It’s Free
I mean really, come on now. Anything free is usually great. (Usually). But to have free resources and books available to you is pretty awesome. If you had to buy all the books you needed to conduct research, you’d go broke. But the local library has a wealth of resources right in front of you for free. Amazing.
2. It Gives You a Fresh Outlook
Everyone thinks that research done online is the best option and will give you up-to-date information. This is kind of true in some cases. For instance, your local library probably doesn’t have the best information on the latest SEO trends. But when it comes to things like home improvement projects, animals, history (I mean come on, it’s not going to change until we invent time machines), biographies, sports teams, mathematics, science, and about a million other topics, the library has great information. And using books also helps ensure you won’t be writing duplicate content from what you found online.
3. You Have Access to Amazing Online Resources
You may not know this, but having access to your local library also provides you access to many online resources. You can usually look up scholarly articles, get access to reference sites that have business information, and many other resources that would normally cost you quite a lot to subscribe to on your own.
4. You Meet People
The local library, especially nowadays, usually is home to the same group of people and/or people with similar interests. It’s a lot of fun to discuss a book or an author with someone or even get and give tips on what books are helpful for what subject areas. You never know who you’ll run into at the library, and it’s actually a great place to network.
5. It’s Quiet
Aside from the resources, the library is usually really quiet, which can be an absolute gift for a freelance writer. If you’re doing a lot of research or writing a high volume of articles and you just want to go somewhere quiet to write like crazy, the library is the perfect place to do it. Sometimes they host children’s activities and whatnot, but as long as you don’t choose that time to go, you’ll be in for a treat.
6. It’s Marketing
Believe it or not, your local library is actually a great place to market your services. Most libraries function on donations alone, especially since government support for services such as libraries and parks is often the first to go in a budget cut. By offering your writing services to the library website or newsletter or covering your library’s awesome programs in a story, you are marketing while providing a much-needed service.
7. It’s an Idea Farm
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked into my local library needing one or two books on handmade soap and walked out with 20 books on everything from mathematics to Mozart to marriage counseling. Many times, the library itself offers you a lot of ideas regarding what to write about. If I’m ever at a total loss for ideas, I just walk over to my local library and start milling about, looking for books, and almost always I come away with many ideas.
8. You Keep Up On Research Skills
Let’s face it, much of the time when we research all we’re doing is Googling a subject, reading a few headlines, and jotting down an outline and then filling it in with bits and pieces of common sense and maybe a few more pieces of Googled information. That’s not really research, though. That’s skimming.
The days where people actually sat down with *gasp* books, looked through them, used things like tables of contents and glossaries and indexes, and had to really go digging for information in physical pages is almost ancient history to some. I mean when I was in school we actually had card catalogs and now elementary school kids don’t even know what that is. And I’m only in my twenties!
Research is changing rapidly and with a world of information available with a few clicks, people, even writers, tend to take the easy way out. But by digging through books, not only do you find awesome information that isn’t always available online, but you keep your research skills fine-tuned. Even if you’re using a computer to look up the books you need, you still have to utilize the books for information, and that’s a skill you want to hang on to and keep sharp.
9. You Give Your Eyes a Break
I don’t care what anyone says, it cannot be good to look at a computer screen for as many hours a day as most freelancers work. I make it a point to get off the computer and read actual books several times a day. In fact, I really prefer to do the majority of my writing and research offline. I even hand-write some of my articles before typing them up. The benefits of that are many and I’ll go into it later, but I can guarantee you that a day spent searching through printed pages and a day spent staring at a computer screen will make it clear to you that pages are easier on the eyes. I have found that I can work up to 5 hours longer working from pages than from the computer screen. No joke. So go ahead. Go over to your library, find some books, and give your eyes a break. 🙂
10. It Slows Life Down
In this day and age, everything is rush rush rush. Even in freelance writing, it can seem like all there is to do is find information as quickly as possible, throw together an article or a query, and move onto the next task. But this is no way to live. Slowing life down is really okay, and much of the time you can do better, higher-quality work when you take a step back. I know it sounds counterproductive, but I promise you it’s not.
Slowing life down and taking time to write really great articles that are sourced mostly from books and resources that aren’t blogs, Wikipedia (not that I don’t love it sometimes), and one-click-away information gives you the chance to write highly unique articles that are also high quality.
Why does this allow you to slow down? Because you’re no longer competing with a million other writers that are searching a term on the internet, taking the first page of results, putting together an article that sounds a lot like the ones they just read, and are posting it or trying to sell it.
By taking the time to search through books, academic articles, and really dig for quality information on your subject, and then take that information and write high-quality work, you will sell articles. And not only that, but you can very easily rise to the top of your field, if you have a specialty, or even just as a freelancer.
I’m all about quality over quantity. And I think taking the time to go to the library will afford you many, many benefits in your writing career. 🙂
Tomorrow I’m starting to post a video segment called Words of Wisdom Wednesdays. I think videos are great because you can really talk to your audience and engage with them without making them read tons of information, and I’m hoping you guys like it and can get to know my personality a bit more, too.
I’m also hoping to get some more interaction here, as well. I really want to know what you all have to say about freelancing, your questions, etc. We’re a community, so join in! 🙂
Grab your coffee tomorrow morning and sit down with my little video and let me know what you think. 🙂
Until then…happy writing!