12 Tools You Need to Start Online Academic Writing

Last Updated: July 8, 2023


‘What one thing would you say is a must for one to succeed at Academic Writing?’ This is the question that my best friend Harry asked me.

I have thought long and hard about this question. The conclusion is that my opinion alone will not give the best answer.

To get the right answer, I have also included the opinion of four of my friends who are longtime writers.

Tool Set 1: Must Haves

AS it turns out, success in writing has nothing to do with having advanced writing skills. It boils down to something more fundamental. Something that you will need in order to succeed in any field.

# 1: Hard work

When I first started making money online, I thought it was going to be easy. In my mind, making money online was a question of clicking a few buttons here and there.  Do that, and you get paid a hefty sum of money.

Few weeks of doing online writing were enough to prove my first impressions wrong. On a typical day, I wake up in the morning. Have a quick bite, and maybe a shower. For the rest of the day, I sit at my desk typing furiously at my computer.

Ignoring all the distractions around, actually takes more energy than you would think. Many people try out online writing for a few months and they quit. Don’t be one of those people. You have to be willing to do what it takes.

If you are a hardworking person, then that’s it. You essentially have what it takes to successfully make money writing online. 

# 2: Persistence

We have all heard the saying, ‘Good things come to those who persist.’ There is nowhere where this statement is more relevant than in online writing. When I first started online writing I was super excited about getting started. For an entire month, I had been going over formatting styles, essay structures, sentence structure, citations and all other aspects of online writing that we will handle in this course. There was just one big problem.

I could not find any work. I tried talking to friends who had online writing accounts but they had no confidence in my skills. So they did, the right thing and politely turned me down. I did not give up, I kept pushing.

Within a month my labor started to bear fruits. A few of my friends were now feeling guilty turning me down. One by one they started sending me work. This too was not enough, I needed more.

And so, I made a decision to open an online writing account. This is something that many people believe is impossible. In the section where I talk about opening an online writing account, I will demonstrate to you the real power of persistence.

I probably had to persist more than you because I did not have this awesome guide to show me the way. With this course, you should be able to get by without having to persist a lot.

When you are starting you will meet obstacles. Things will look like they are not working.  Don’t give up.

Tool Set 2: Essentials for online Academic writing

Every business and trade makes use of specific tools. A farmer needs a tractor to dig and plant. A surgeon needs a blade and a theater to be able to open up and repair damaged organs. 

A teacher needs a piece of chalk and a blackboard to be effective. An Academic Writer also needs a similar set of items to work efficiently. 

#3: Laptop

As a writer, this is the tool you will use the most. You should, therefore, choose one that suits you best. Remember you don’t need a powerful or expensive laptop. In fact, it is quite the opposite. A laptop with Intel Celeron, 4GB RAM, and the 500GB hard disk is all you need. Below is one such laptop on Jumia at ksh 22,999

Lenovo Ideapad available on Jumia at 8% discount

If you are on an even tighter budget, then you can buy a used or refurbished laptop. A refurbished Dell latitude laptop on Jumia sells for ksh 10,599. Another cool place to look for a refurbished laptop is on OLX. I would, however, advise you to buy the brand new one since it will serve you for a longer time. 

Refurbished Dell Laptop on Jumia at 18% discount

If for some reason you cannot afford a laptop, that does not mean you cannot get started on online writing. Alfred one of my mentees was in such a situation. Using his creativity, he was able to come up with an ingenious solution. 

He went on Jumia and bought this android tablet selling for ksh 6,799. He also bought a simple keyboard (ksh 699) that was the real deal. Though this setup is not ideal, it worked. Alfred typed on this small keyboard for a month. 

When he received his first payment, the first thing he bought was this HP Folio laptop on Jumia. Whenever he tells this story he always laughs at how he had to rotate between plugging in the charger and the keyboard. He should probably have bought a Bluetooth keyboard and saved himself all the agony. 

As you can see, the options are many. You could even buy a used desktop Pc for a small fee. Just be creative. There is no excuse why you should not get started now.

#4: An Internet Connection

It is called online writing for a reason. You will need an internet connection 24 hours a day for your freelance job to thrive. Getting an internet connection in Kenya today is not a big problem. The issue is how do you get cheap access to the internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

That is a question that bothered me for the longest time. When I started out, I was dumb enough to use Safaricom bundles. I would buy 1GB for 250ksh promising I would use it scarcely and ensure it serves me for a week. 

Two days I would receive the dreaded message that my data bundle is below 2MB. This was not sustainable and I had to look for another service provider. 

cheap bundles for online writing

That is when I decided to try Airtel. The Airtel deal was better. I would buy the 2 GB daily package for 100 bob. Now with 700 ksh, I had internet access for an entire week. But there was still a problem with this arrangement. There were some days when I would get an order that requires me to watch videos. That day, I would have to buy another 2 GB package.  Then there were those days when I did not use 1.5 GB out of the 2GB package. On these days, I lost more than half of my bundles just like that. I needed to find something more efficient. 

I switched to Telkom, but the situation was more or less the same. Just when I was about to resign my fate to using a combination of both Airtel and Telkom, I found a breakthrough from an unlikely source. 

Faiba 4G cheap Internet for Online Writing

Jamii Telkom ( Faiba) announced that they would be rolling out their Faiba 4G at an affordable rate. The prices shown above are the actual prices of the different bundle packages. The favorite package for me was the weekly 8GB at 300ksh. Faiba 4G however does not work on many devices.  You will have to buy the faiba 4G wifi router that goes for ksh 6,499 on Jumia. Also check out the Faiba 4G store for devices that support Faiba 4G.

Eventually even 8GB of data fails to meet your internet needs. That is exactly what happened to me over time. I wanted more, an internet connection that allows me to browse without limitation. 

That is where the Zuku Home fiber and Safaricom home fiber comes in handy. With this home fiber services, you pay a fixed amount of money every month. In return you get unlimited internet access at a given speed. I am currently using the Zuku Home fiber service and paying 2,500 per month for 5mbps.

There is a catch with the home fiber connection.  It is only available in specific areas where the fiber optic cables have been laid. If you are outside Nairobi, then this may not be an option to you.

Feel free to use any of the above tactics to get cheap internet. Remember to use what is available for you. 

Tool Set 3: Grammar Tools

Most platforms that provide academic writing work insist that you should write like a native English speaker. A large percentage of people reading this course including me are not native English speakers. So how do you make your English sound like that of a Native English Speaker?

You use technology. I refer to these technological helpers as grammar tools. They are six in total.

#5: Grammarly

Grammarly is top of the list for good reason. Grammarly is an advanced grammar checking tool that will help you correct all the spelling, punctuation, and syntax. It is available in two versions. There is the free one that corrects basic mistakes. For most of the time this is what you will need.

The other version is the premium version that will show you even the advanced errors. If you can afford to buy the premium version, the better. By highlighting all the errors that you make, it will help you become a better writer. 

#6: Microsoft office Spelling Checker

Microsoft Office Speeling Checker

Though it is not as advanced as Grammarly, the Microsoft Office Spelling Checker has a role to play. There are some mistakes that Grammarly will not capture. The Office spelling Checker will remove such mistakes. As a general rule, anything I write has to go through both the Grammarly and the Microsoft office spelling Checker.

Tool Set 4: Referencing Tools

Each and every academic paper has to have References. It is what gives a paper academic authority. But where do you get references? Your local library?

Fortunately, you do not have to go to the library. There are numerous online resources that will find all the references for you.

#7: Google Scholar

Google Scholar: Referencing tool

 Google scholar is the best tool to find references online. Visit the google scholar page and search for material on a given subject. Just like that you will have thousands of references to pick from. 

#8: WorldCat

In full worldCat stands for World Catalogue. If for some reason you cannot find your references in Google Scholar, then the worldCat is your next alternative. Just like when you use google scholar, you get thousands of options. 

#9: Cite Fast

Cite Fast : tool to Create references for Online writing

Let’s say you have a specific item that you want to reference. Something like a blog article. Of course you will not find a referenced entry for an article on either google Scholar or WorldCat. These two giants are mostly focused on books and scientific journals. This is where Citefast comes in handy. It allows you to manually enter referencing information such as the authors name and date. The tool then uses this information to come up with actual acceptable references.

Tool Set 5: Extra Tools

There are other little things that many writer tend to overlook. In the long term this proves to be a big mistake. This little things add up to have a big impact on your productivity. 

Of course you know that the devil is in the details.

#10: A Good Desk and A Good Chair

As an academic writer, you are going to spend a large bulk of your time in front of your computer typing furiously. As I write this sentence, it is now 1:30 pm. I have been seated since 8Am in the morning. That means that in essence I have been seated for five and a half straight hours.

And you know what, I don’t feel tired. As a matter of fact, if it is were not for the hunger, I would do six more hours without breaking a sweat. That is because I have invested in a comfortable office chair and desk.

The table that I use only cost me a total of ksh 3,000. What I did was to buy a piece of ply wood from a nearby hardware. Using the DIY (do it yourself) table below, I made my own table.

Note that I did not follow the video instructions in its entirity. Instead of drilling I used hinges to hold the table legs and the table top together. 

The chair that I currently use is the one shown below that I bought on Jumia. Although it is expensive; it is totally worth it. 

Chair for Office Work and Online Writing

Available for ksh 11,250 on Jumia

There are other more affordable chairs on Jumia starting at ksh 8,000.

Can’t afford the brand-new chair? Don’t worry. My first chair was not brand new either. I instead bought it at the second-hand market in Ngara, Nairobi. I do not know where you live, but one thing is for sure. There has to be a place where you can buy a used office seat. 

In the rare case that I am wrong, then feel free to visit OLX and look for a cheap used seat. You will upgrade to the new one once you start earning serious money. 

#11: A PayPal or Skill Account

Skrill: Best method of payment for Academic Writign

When you finally have your own writing account, you will need a PayPal or Skrill account. Because this is the only way you will get paid. Skrill is hands down the best option. This is because it allows you to make payments to many online bookies. This is something that will be important when it comes to arbitrage betting. Using both, you can withdraw your money to your bank account or Mpesa account. Find out more about opening your Skrill and PayPal account here.

#12: Invest in Yourself

This should probably have come at the top of the list. It is no secret that the biggest asset you have is you. Many people make the mistake of overlook this simple fact when it comes to looking for money. Even I made this particular mistake when I started out.

We have already agreed that online writing is a demanding and tiresome task. You wake up in the morning and straight away you jump into writing. You will probably write all day. Just as you are about to go to bed, you get an urgent order. Then you have to work the entire night. If you are not careful, such a hectic schedule will wear you down.

So, what do you do?

Taking care of your body involves three main things.

1. Create time to exercise at least three times in a week. This will ensure you have more energy and you are able to stay focused on the task at hand.

2. Eat well, because you are 95% what you eat. As a general rule avoid junk, eat fruits, and drink plenty of water.

3. Have sufficient sleep. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that one sleeps for seven hours in a day. The recommended bare minimum is six hours. Sleep less than that and your productivity starts to decrease. You will be just wasting time.

This is no way an article on health. I am here to show you how to make money. I will later post a much more detailed article on how I personally make sure I keep my body in a state of good health. 

Tool Set 6: What You Don’t Need

One of the things that can hold you back in life is thinking you don’t have what it takes. We all have that one friend who always wants to start a business but never seems to take action. 

Ask them why they are not taking action and they will give you excuses. I don’t want you to give excuses. That is why this section discredits common excuses for not starting online writing. 

#1: I need a lot of money

Capital to Start Online Writing

Truth is you do not need a very little money to start online writing. In fact, if you have a laptop and an internet connection, then you do not need even a dime. The one thing that you would have had to pay for is this course. But that is free, for a reason.

I personally started my online writing geek without having to spend a coin. I have therefore made this course, free of charge to ensure you don’t have to spend a coin either. Read this entire course and act on what you learn. Before you know it, you will be earning money without having spent even a dime.

#2: I need to be good at English

At first, I believed this to be true. After all, writing is all about grammar and sentence construction. One of my mentees however made me question the entire basis of this belief. John (not his real name) came to me one day and begged to taught online writing. Seeing the passion and dedication in his eyes, I decided to help.

Straight away, I gave him an assignment that he could work on. The paper that he brought back was in horrible shape. Subjects were mixed with objects, sentences were super long, and the spelling were off. That was it, there was no way john was ever going to be a writer.

The next day, I sat down with John with the intention to dismiss him. However, looking at his willingness to learn, I gave him a second chance. We went through the basics of grammar (This is discussed in the grammar section) and the grammar tools available for him to use.

In just a week, John could write a perfect paper. This taught me on lesson. If you are willing to learn, the standard of your English does not really matter.

Take home message:
Invest in the right tools. Without the right tools it will take you much longer to be a professional academic writer.