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Fishing for editors

Jul 30, 20032 mins
Enterprise Applications

* How tech tools help keep a freelance writer in business

Writing is an ideal home-base business. Editors rarely require face-to-face meetings, so you can live pretty much anywhere.  

But still there’s pressure. Beyond the actual writing and communicating with editors, freelancers are always seeking new assignments. They need to research article information quickly, constantly troll for new story ideas and keep track of their published articles so they can compile them into “clips” easily.

For long-time Austin, Texas, writer Mark Henricks, technology tools have lowered his stress level and made him much more productive. Henricks writes for business publications “Entrepreneur” and “Startup Journal,” but rarely has to leave his home office.

“I used to dream of having all the information I needed to write a story just using the computer at my desk,” he says. “Now I do.” 

To keep his published articles handy when editors request them, Henricks archived all his articles – a major accomplishment given he’s been a fulltime freelance writer since 1987.

Henricks uses ScanSoft’s Paperport Pro 9 ($200), a character-based recognition program that lets him convert scanned images to PDFs. PaperPort creates a thumbnail of each document and lets him stack, unstack, assemble and mark up documents as if they were paper. The program automatically generates keywords for scanned documents, so Henricks can search for specific business stories.

In generating story leads, Henricks finds the more e-mail queries he sends out, the better. So using Pegasus, a free e-mail client, and specifically the program’s template editor feature, Henricks creates templates to make multiple mailings faster and easier. Because each message looks handcrafted, he increases his odds of getting a response. To up the odds of finding new writing contracts, Henricks paid $189 for editor lists from Travel Publications Update, a service of

He also scans sites like for book-writing leads, Profnet for expert sources, the U.S. Census Bureau site to fact check names and sources, and corporate sites to review press releases.

The technology tricks have kept Henricks busy, but sometimes he wishes they weren’t so effective: “Some days I wish I could get out more – like when I used to have to go to the library every day.” 


John Brandon is a technologist, product tester, car enthusiast and professional writer. Before becoming a writer, he worked in the corporate sector for 10 years. He has published over 8,500 articles, many of them for Computerworld, TechHive, Macworld and other IDG entities.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of John Brandon and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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