The Way We Work
March 22, 2010 by Alex Hornbake

To be a successful freelance writer, you must be proficient at more than just forming sentences. A writer needs to know their way around a computer — or at least the computer’s word processing program — and needs  a working knowledge of email, so written documents can be both downloaded and attached. These are the bare minimum of skills a writer must posses, unless of course you’re a New York Times bestseller, and can afford the eccentricities of typewriter ribbons and handwritten copies. In which case, have your assistant take a memo, it should read as follows:

A wise freelance writer will not only be computer literate, but will also have a few other tech tricks up his/her sleeve. If you aren’t bringing in the freelance writing gigs you want, it may be time to sign up for a class or teach yourself one of the following writer-friendly tech skills.

blue-mWordPress – Learning the basics of WordPress is as simple as going here and getting yourself a free blog. There is a lot you can learn by trial and error, playing around in WordPress on your own time. Either build a blog around your portfolio or create one on a topic you love. Nail WordPress and — bam! — suddenly your writing skills have entered 2010. (Ditto for Blogger, but you will find knowing WordPress gets you further.)

For more see WordPress for Everyone, featured previously on the oDesk blog.

SEO Best Practices – While you will find various SEO schools of thought on the web, a basic understanding of how SEO works with Google is important if you want to land blogging jobs. To go a little deeper into the challenges, study up on articles like this over at Copyblogger.

Photoshop – You don’t have to be an expert, but being able to crop, resize, and optimize an image for the web is a great start.  Photoshop is like the Klenex, or Xerox, of image manipulation, so if you can, cite your comfort with the application.

If you can’t afford a Photoshop license for your freelance operation consider the open source alternative, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), or the less expensive Adobe Photoshop Elements, both can get you through most basic tasks.

HTML – Again, you don’t need to be an expert, but some basic understanding of commonly used formatting tags is a great start. Enough to truthfully state, “Basic HTML Skills” on your Resume.

Three tags that you should probably know off the top of your head:

  1. <a href=””>Your Text</a> – This creates a link from “Your Text” to “Your Link.”
  2. <strong>Your Text</strong> – This will make “Your Text” bold.
  3. <em>Your Text</em> – This will make “Your Text” italic.

For more visit the HTML tutorials at and

These are the skills I’ve found most helpful in my freelance writing career, for a more in depth look at tech skills for remote works, check out: Top 10 Tech Skills Every Remote Worker Should Know. In addition, feel free to share any skills you’ve found valuable in the comments!

Alex Hornbake

Freelance Tech Writer

Alex Hornbake is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. He joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, and brings more than a decade of technical expertise to his clients. Alex shares his point of view to help you make informed decisions for your personal and business technology choices.