No, I’m not talking about a credit card promoted through TV commercials. This card is much more valuable. And, it’s vital for building your freelance web-writing business.
So, take that, Samuel L. Jackson!
Seriously, the card I’m talking about is the membership card for your local library. Mark Twain has often been credited with saying, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
While the exact quote is still debated, this one thing was certain. Mark Twain was definitely and most assuredly alive and kicking, in spite of what anyone alleged.
The same can be said about local libraries. While many people have written them off as irrelevant, the opposite is true. Libraries are alive and well and, in many cases, flourishing.
Yes… they’re as relevant as ever. Maybe more so.
We web writers thrive on words. They’re our hobby, our living… our passion. And, what better institution to help hone our skills than that venerable repository of great words, past and present.
I’ve been a card-carrying member of my local library for years. It’s been exciting to watch its evolution as it strives to keep up with the times. The Fayetteville Public Library has expanded its offerings — and its edifice — to keep up the pace and remain viable in this digital world in which we live and work.
The public library can be a great boon to your freelance business. Many freelancers forget that a library can be a valuable business-building tool.
I’d like to take you on a virtual tour of my local library and what it offers the freelance web writer. If your library doesn’t offer some of these options, take notes and see if they might add them.
They’ll appreciate the interest shown, and I’m sure they’ll try to help where they can.
This first suggestion, however, may surprise you.
A fortress of solitude
Superman had one.
It was a place where he could relax and gather his thoughts. Sometimes, he just needed to get away from it all and spend a little “me” time.
The same goes for the freelance web writer.
I have an office in my home. It’s a nice one, fully fitted to my business requirements. It even has a lockable door to keep the thundering horde (grandkids) at bay. Well, it’s supposed to, anyway.
But, sometimes I need to get away, to collect my thoughts, to give creativity a chance to strike. And sometimes, I just need a change of scenery!
I’ve written in local diners and coffee shops. I even wrote an article at the muffler shop where my truck was being serviced.
Almost everywhere you go, Wi-Fi is readily available. These days, I don’t recommend restaurants for the food… it’s the internet connection that inspires my praise and adoration.
But, there are times when I need to get away from the hubbub of daily life. To remove myself from the din of people chatting away or dishes clanking.
Or auto repair.
So, it’s off to the library I go. Surrounded by books and magazines… and words, I find inspiration just sitting there in the quietness. And, of course, they have great Wi-Fi.
[Editor’s Note: My library has the best Wi-Fi connection of anywhere I choose to go and write. I honestly get excited about a chance to duck into the library, because everything online loads so fast… it’s like magic.]
Our library has two floors with lots of windows. Sometimes I’ll sit quietly, laptop at the ready, gazing down at the street below. Watching the silent activity below, inspiration will suddenly hit.
And off I go… writing like a madman!
But, wait… there’s more.
The digital face of evolutionary libraries
I suppose I could add: revolutionary libraries.
To stay in step with current technology, our library has an online digital “wing.” I can access various sections of the library from the comfort of my home office.
Or anywhere I have internet access… like the muffler shop.
Of course, digital magazines and eBooks are standard offerings in most online libraries. And, the selection offered might surprise you.
Business-building books abound, both traditional and, well, not so traditional. I’ve read books from business guru Seth Godin through our library’s digital services.
And yes, they do come with a two-week checkout time limit. But, you can check them out multiple times.
In our online business reference section, you’ll find:
- Business ProQuest, for real world business research.
- Investment data from Morningstar.
- And my favorite, ReferenceUSA, a database and guide to local and not so local cities, towns, and businesses.
Both online and offline access to magazines and other periodicals means you can do quality research, even if you don’t have a subscription to them.
Online classrooms, open 24/7
Our library hosts various kinds of offline workshops on a wide range of topics. Everything from basket weaving to writing a novel.
A recent online addition really caught my eye, however.
We now have free access to many tutorials from Lynda.com, a trusted learning resource that’s been around for some time.
To gain entry, you log into their site through a portal on the library’s website. All you need is a library card number, your PIN… and a willingness to learn.
In fact, that’s how you access a lot of the digital content from the library. Through collaborations and joint agreements, the world wide web of information and learning continues to expand, right here in Northwest Arkansas.
And then… the re-discovered resource
I almost forgot one of the most important freelance-writing resources of all.
Books. Physical, paper-and-ink books.
Not just books on business or copywriting or marketing.
But, works of fiction and nonfiction from authors, both past and present. If you want to write “good”… read good books. Or is that, write “well”?
Either way, there’s no better tutor for spinning words than books that have already been spun.
I was reminded of this by a good friend, mentor, and A-list copywriter. In a recent newsletter, Bob Bly told of his preferences for books, movies, and music. I emailed him to tell him about my preferences, many of them similar to his.
However, when I wrote that all my books — particularly eBooks — were about copywriting, business building, and marketing, his reply was short and to the point:
“Steve, you really need to read books on other topics. You need some history, some biography, and even some good fiction. Your writing, even your copywriting, will improve immensely.”
Sage advice from one of my heroes in the business. So, who am I to argue?
Hi, ho… hi, ho! It’s off to the library I go!
A final word on libraries
I hope you’ve seen that a local library offers many resources to help you build your freelance business. Many are ramping up their services to keep pace and remain relevant.
But, some of you might be thinking, “Steve, there isn’t a library near me. At least not one that offers these programs and services.”
I get that. I understand we’re blessed in NWA with an amazing public library system.
I also realize not everyone has that luxury, so I called the customer service desk at Fayetteville Public Library. I asked if people outside the area can access our amazing online resources, even if out of state.
The CSR said it was possible. With a small, annual registration fee, online access can be granted for people outside Northwest Arkansas.
There may be some libraries closer to you that can offer the same option. Try a Google search for libraries with online access. I did… the results astounded me.
So, I’ll close with this…
Research the opportunities your local library offers for building your business. You may find there’s more out there than you ever thought available.
Wishing you the very best of web-writing success!