5 Timesaving Tips for Freelance Writers

I started work at noon today and finished just before 22:00. I didn’t put in a solid 10 hours, but I spent at least half of that time working very hard. I’m exhausted from the effort and proud of the work I produced.

But, after I submitted my article, I realized I spent all day working for $50. Admittedly, I wasted time this afternoon because I knew I was going to finish well ahead of deadline. And truthfully, I feel like I was fairly compensated for my work. I accepted this particular project for reasons other than money, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask for a raise in this situation. But, it’s not possible to support our life and loans on $50 per day in Connecticut.

With that in mind, I’ve been tweaking my work habits over the past couple of weeks, and I’ve come up with a number of ways to write blog posts and articles as fast as possible. I’m not talking content mill speed here, but fast enough that I can earn a living even on days I’m only writing $50 blog posts. I hope my tips will help you maximize your earnings, too. Let’s get started…

1.  Use split screen (or dual monitors) as much as possible.

My life changed for the better when Apple introduced the split-screen function to OS X. Now, even on my 15” laptop, I rarely have just one full-screen active window. Everything is so much simpler when I can work on two programs side-by-side.

It always was possible to do split-screen, sort of, even with just one monitor. Simply arranging your most-used windows next to each other can make you more productive. But split screens make work so much faster, particularly on a laptop.

No longer do I continually click the wrong window and lose my place. And, I can take advantage of the full screen without the dock getting in the way. Sometimes, I have two versions of the same document open, particularly when I’m trying to edit and change formatting at the same time. More often, though, I have Word or Safari open on one side of the screen, and my note-taking app on the other. And that brings me to my next tip…

2.  Use software designed to make note-taking easy

Forget flash cards and notebooks. Forget trying to keep bookmark folders organized. Research is so much easier with a dedicated program. It makes organizing a breeze. And even more importantly, you will be able to access information so much faster. Each of the programs I use is worth a full post, but for now, I’ll just touch on the highlights. These are my favorites:

OneNote – I keep one notebook going, and have several different tabs, including one for blog post ideas, one for each current writing project, and one catch-all tab for completed writing projects. Everything is all in once place, and all my research is accessible. I can reorganize it as much as I need.

I prefer to highlight text in Safari and send it to OneNote with my browser extension. If I choose to send the entire page this way, the program takes a screenshot. If necessary, I can then extract the text from that screenshot. But, it’s not perfect, and it doesn’t preserve links.

If I want to preserve the links within the text, the only way is to copy the text and images and paste them directly into OneNote. This usually takes 10 or 15 seconds more, but it means that I have an almost-full webpage in OneNote. When I go back to review research, I can click on links which take me back to the source, or on towards new information.

Evernote – I used to use this program regularly. But I got lazy, and now my notes are a mess. Instead of trying to organize years worth of junk, I opened a new account. The browser extension is robust, and it works faster than the one for OneNote. Articles format nicely, but if I don’t want the entire page, it’s easy to highlight a selection instead.

I have nothing bad to say about Evernote, but for some reason, I have never taken to this program. Last week I used it for a research project and was pleased with the results, but I usually click on OneNote instead. My biggest gripe is the small limit on data transfers. Even with infrequent use, I regularly get “locked out” until my data resets the following month.

Pocket – last but not least is my all-time favorite program, Pocket. Last year, I was in their top 1% of users and read the equivalent of some enormous number of books; right now, I have 1,349 unread articles.

By sending links to Pocket, I don’t lose them when I close tabs and windows, or when the email drops out of sight in my inbox. Pocket is not the best for research, but I use it to read everything else. It’s simple to make notes, add tags and share articles, all without opening the program. It’s always easy to find what I’m looking for, even with a free account, because the search function is excellent.

3.  Summarize articles as you read them

When I read an article that’s worth saving into OneNote, I always add a quick one-sentence or paragraph summary at the top of the page. This allows me to find critical information and helps jog my memory without having to scroll through the page. Frequently, my summaries end up verbatim in the final article.

If you work on tight deadlines, you know research for blog posts is nothing like researching a college paper. Summarizing the articles allows me to save time without cutting corners.

4.  Don’t forget to use outlines!

My 20th high school reunion is coming up in May, and until recently, it had been almost that long since I made an outline. But when I began freelancing, I picked up the habit again. As I research, I make a rough outline in Word of all the topics I need to address. If I happen to come up with a good line, I type that into the proper section of the outline, too.

I rarely write from beginning to end. Instead, I can jump back and forth between sections of the outline. The other day, I was working on a painfully boring story. I outlined it from start to finish, then went back and started writing the section that most appealed to me. When one paragraph was complete, I looked for another section that I could stand to write. Soon, I had tricked myself into drafting the whole piece, one paragraph at a time.

Take plenty of breaks – do something else at least once an hour

This final tip seems counterintuitive, but it works. Writing is tough. It may not look that way to an observer, but I find myself drained if I write more than 8 hours in a day. To keep myself focused, I stop once an hour. Sometimes I just run to the kitchen for a glass of water, but usually, I take a quick walk around the block.

I find I get more done with regular breaks than if I try to work in one large block. After a couple of hours without a break, I find myself frequently staring off into space, or staring blankly at my screen. Getting away for even a minute is refreshing. I don’t get so tired, and I’m able to get more done.

I hope these tips help you increase the speed of your writing. Don’t get me wrong – speed isn’t everything. But, working fast allows you to earn more and have more free time. What ways do you pick up the pace? Let me know in the comments.

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5 Timesaving Tips for Freelance Writers

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