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Essential Computer Tools For Freelance Writers
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If you are starting out in journalism, you may want to focus on freelancing to help build a portfolio and get noticed by editors. This means you'll have to provide your own computer. You may be wondering how to make the most of expense budget while still stocking your computer with the programs you need.
Writing software: Today even a word processing program is becoming passe with services like Google Docs and note pad software incorporating all the most necessary features. The simplest note-taking program that ships with your computer will have spell check and you can even find these programs on a tablet. However, if you want to present professional cover letters and articles to employers, Microsoft Word is a good investment. On the fly an editor would accept an article pasted into an email, but they may not be too happy about it.
Reading software: Most computers ship with Adobe Reader. If not, you can download it for free. This will be necessary because you'll want to read reports, budgets, minutes and other electronic documents. If you have a tablet computer or phone, there are free PDF apps. You may also want to be able to create PDFs so that you can email your portfolio to prospective employers. If you don't have Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat Pro, search for free PDF creator programs online. (There are a lot of them.)
Photo editor: Even if you don't plan to become a photojournalist, you'll probably need to take a photo at some point. Photo-editing software will help you sort, resize and improve your photos before submitting them to an editor. If you can't afford Adobe Photoshop, try Adobe Elements or search for online photo editors.
Recording software: Programs like Garage Band or Microsoft Sound Recorder are helpful for those really long meetings where you might get distracted by your Angry Birds app. However, as reporters are always on the go, it's more helpful to record with a digital recorder or a smartphone.
Database software: Many reporters overlook Excel, but it can be very helpful for organizing research and analyzing budgets and other numeric data. Consider taking a course on computer-assisted reporting to learn about the potential uses for Excel in investigative reporting.
Internet and email: Of course you will need these two essential tools plus a fast Internet connection. Don't forget to follow the major players on your beat on social media, as well.
Video-editing software: With internet users gravitating to video in increasing numbers, many news outlets are wondering how they can exploit this trend to build traffic. If you're comfortable with video, you might want to record some of your interviews and splice them with footage. There are plenty of free and paid options for this, such as iMovie or YouTube Editor, but remember to keep the quality high. If the sound is garbled and the picture dark, people won't be interested in watching.
If you decide to become a freelance journalist, you'll want to have a well-stocked computer to make your job easier, but don't overlook the free apps as they can be just as helpful when it comes to getting the job done.
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